A 1954 BN1 fitted with the Le Mans kit from new is even rarer than the
"factory" 100M model of 1955
"factory" 100M model of 1955
Following the Austin-Healey 100's sensational debut at the 1952 Motor Show, the Works entered two mildly modified cars in the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hour race. They finished in 12th and 14th places, a praiseworthy achievement for what were recognizably production sports cars.
Accordingly, the name "Le Mans" was chosen for a bolt-on tuning kit offered through Austin-Healey dealers, by means of which private owners could bring their cars up to a specification approaching that of the Works entries. The kit included a pair of 1 3/4 inch SU HD6 carburetors, plus special inlet manifold and cold air box, high-lift camshaft, stronger valve springs, and a distributor with an alternative ignition advance curve.
With the kit installed, power increased from the standard 90 hp to 100 hp. From 1955, the conversion was available factory-fitted on the successor BN2 model in the form of the 100M. In addition to the Le Mans kit, the latter boasted high-compression pistons, stiffer front anti-roll bar, and special Armstrong front dampers. Power increased to 110 hp and top speed, with windscreen folded flat, to within a whisker of 120 mph. The number of BN1s converted by their owners is unknown, but 1,159 cars, mostly BN2s, were built or converted to 100M specification by the Works in 1955 and 1956.
We are advised that this Austin-Healey 100 (BN1) roadster has been fitted with the Le Mans (100M) kit from new. Owned originally by one K.W. Fraser of Glasgow (a director of A & D Fraser Ltd.), the car was first registered "JUS 2" and competed in the 1954 Tulip Rally, one of the first "Big Healeys" to do so.
The Austin-Healey 100 Roadster was registered "PGB 505" when Fraser sold the car in November 1955, and has remained in the same family ownership since 1957, coming into the vendor's possession in 1971. Preserved in original condition and offered with original bonnet, it has covered only 44,547 miles from new and comes with documented history from delivery to the present day, including details of an engine rebuild in 1956. (It is interesting to note that the car had covered 22,000 miles-half its total to date-by December of that year.)
"PGB 505" has had an updated MoT annually and comes with all expired certificates, while we are advised that no major work has been required during the current period of ownership and that the engine is "running well." Offered with old-style logbook, current MoT, and Swansea V5 registration document, "PGB 505" represents a rare opportunity to acquire an iconic first-of-the-line "Big Healey" boasting desirable Le Mans kit and preserved in remarkably original condition.
|Vehicle:||1957 Chevrolet Corvette 283/283|
|Original List Price:||$3,176.32 base|
|Tune Up Cost:||$250|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad at rear of ignition opening|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45252|
This 1954 Austin-Healey 100 Roadster sold for $44,137 at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction in Chichester, England, on August 31, 2007.
There is no model of the Austin-Healey that creates more confusion than the 100M. Basically and briefly, a “Le Mans Engine Modification Kit”-Austin Part No. P.280-was available from late 1953 to allow owners to upgrade their cars to the specification of the Austin-Healeys that raced at Le Mans earlier that year. These kits were fitted by either owners or dealers.
Then, in mid-1955, coinciding with the introduction of the BN2-series 100 (4-speed gearbox), an organized program was undertaken jointly by Austin and the Donald Healey Motor Company. It offered new cars fitted with the “kit” plus high-compression pistons and suspension mods, and a louvered bonnet with Le Mans-regulation bonnet strap. It is only this model, which was sold new as part of a factory modification program, that is properly called a 100M.
Despite the auction catalog statement of “1,159 cars. built or converted to 100M specification by the Works,” the basis of the oft-cited figure of 1,159 is lost in history. What is known is that the microfilm record of the original Job Production Cards held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust indicates that only 640 cars were modified to 100M specifications, and all of them during BN2 production between September 1955 and July 1956.
Should not be labeled a 100M
The car described here, as a 1954 series BN1 example, is obviously not one of those 640 and should not be labeled a 100M. Rather, it is an earlier example of a standard car that was fitted with the Le Mans kit. That said, as a 1954 BN1 fitted with the Le Mans kit from new, it is even rarer-if not more desirable-than the factory 100M model that debuted in mid-1955.
Any surviving “home market” 100 (that is, a RHD 100 sold new to a U.K. customer) is rare. With approximately 80% of Big Healeys exported, RHD models are relatively few, and even fewer of the early home market Austin-Healeys, such as this example, survive.
In addition, the completely known ownership history of this car is noteworthy. Few cars 50+ years old come with such records, and so it is unusual among an already-rare model.
The auction catalog notes this car competed in the 1954 Tulip Rally. Records show that K. Fraser and C. MacIntyre drove an Austin-Healey as a “privateer” in the April 1954 Tulip Rally, but it was also the only Austin-Healey to crash, and apparently has no other notable competition history. So the Tulip Rally shunt is a minor, albeit interesting, footnote to the car’s history.
This 1954 Austin-Healey 100 Roadster is a relatively rare model in original RHD, with the desirable Le Mans kit fitted from new, and with a completely known history. Its most minor of competition records and mostly original condition also combine to make it desirable, and at this price, it was definitely well bought.