Dealers were using the Le Mans kit to tart up cars and help move them off the showroom floor


This is a rare Austin-Healey with factory Le Mans options, finished in beautiful Reno Red and black. Notice the vented hood with leather strap, fold down windshield, and original dual carbs with original 100M Le Mans tag intact.
Equipped with all options including overdrive, its credentials include scoring 96.1 points at the Conclave in Rockford, IL, where it finished first in class and was named Best of Show. The car was also featured on the cover of Austin-Healey Chatter magazine.
This 100 Le Mans is as new, and its quality speaks for itself. Subjected to a complete rotisserie restoration, this could be your only chance to own a BN2 with the Le Mans options.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1955 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
Years Produced:1955-56
Number Produced:640 documented, 1,159 possible
Original List Price:$3,275
SCM Valuation:100/M (factory): $45,000-$60,000; 100 Le Mans (non-factory): $30,000-$42,000
Tune Up Cost:$500
Distributor Caps:$75
Chassis Number Location:plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:plate on right side of block near distributor
Club Info:Austin-Healey Club of America, PO Box 3220, Monroe, NC 28111; Austin-Healey Club USA, 8002 NE Hwy 99, Suite B PMB 424, Vancouver, WA 98665
Alternatives:1955-57 Triumph TR3, 1954-57 Jaguar XK140
Investment Grade:100/M: B,

This 1955 100 Le Mans sold for $61,560 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction held Jan. 26-30, 2005.
The SCM Price Guide lists 1955-56 Austin Healey 100-4 BN2’s between $25,000 and $40,000, with the factory 100M models between $45,000 and $60,000, and the non-factory 100 Le Mans at $30,000-$42,000.
So if you were on the block when bidding for the car pictured here started moving past that $40,000 barrier, what should you have done? Stay in? Or tuck your bidder’s card back in your pocket and head for the bar? What exactly is a 100M or 100 Le Mans, anyway?
Let’s review a little Healey history. In 1953, to gain publicity for its new sports car, the Donald Healey Motor Company prepared four pre-production Hundreds for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Though the cars ran with stock windshields, interiors, and even bumpers, performance was tweaked ever so slightly to bump horsepower up from the stock 90 to just over 100. Astonishingly, the Healeys came in 12th and 14th. Combining straightforward design with workhorse reliability, it was a great result for an inexpensive car in virtually showroom condition.
To meet homologation requirements, the Le Mans modifications had to be available for sale from the factory, so a “Le Mans kit” went into the BMC catalog as Healey Part P-280. The kit included two 1 3/4-inch SU carburetors with special intake manifolds, a carburetor cold-air box and duct, a high-lift camshaft, a distributor with modified advance curve, and a steel-faced competition head gasket.
Donald Healey soon started modifying and selling Healey 100s with the Le Mans kit through his own dealer showroom. (As part of its agreement with BMC, Healey Motor Company was also BMC’s dealership in Warwick, operating a regular showroom selling MGs, Healeys, and other BMC cars.) Based on its experience with the prototypes, Healey also fitted the cars it modified with higher-compression pistons, a heavier (half-inch) front anti-sway bar, and a Le Mans-regulation leather bonnet strap. To aid engine cooling, it sent the bonnets of the cars it was modifying back to Jensen to have louvers punched in them.
These modified cars were selling so well that they must have caught BMC’s attention, because when the revised BN2 was introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1955, one version was advertised as the “100M.” These were standard cars taken off the assembly line, sent to Healey for modifications, and then returned to the Longbridge works to be finished and shipped to dealers. The only real difference between these and the non-factory Le Mans cars was that the factory bodies were ordered from Jensen with the bonnets already louvered to simplify the process.
This is where the confusion over factory and non-factory Le Mans models lies. Not only had Healey been modifying cars before the 100M was announced, but other dealers were using the Le Mans kit as well, to tart up cars they already had in stock to help move them off their showroom floors. In addition, the Le Mans components could be ordered through dealer parts counters for owners to install themselves. As such, there are no records of how many of these modification kits were sold to dealers or directly to customers. Even today, an owner who wants to improve the performance, appearance, and value of an original 100-4 can buy close reproductions of all these mods.
But there are records to indicate how many 100Ms the factory built. BMC noted whether a car was shipped with the louvered bonnet or not, and a careful count of these production records indicates that only 640 Healey bodies came from Jensen with the louvered bonnet.
To make things even more complicated, one of the books written by chief engineer Geoffrey Healey lists 1,159 as the total number of 100Ms. Since this figure doesn’t agree with the factory records, many Healey historians believe that it may refer to the total number of Hundreds that passed through the Healey Motor Company to have the Le Mans modifications installed, including not only the factory 100Ms, but also those cars that were upgraded before the 100M was announced, and earlier Hundreds that owners brought back to the Healey works for the upgrades.
Among Healey aficionados, however, the only cars that should properly be called 100Ms are the ones that were originally built at the factory with a louvered bonnet. Others cars, regardless of where and when they were modified, are generally referred to as “100 Le Mans” cars (no “M”), or “100s with Le Mans modifications.”
So where does that leave a buyer who confronts a Healey with the louvered bonnet, leather strap, larger carbs, and cold air box with the Le Mans label? How can you tell whether it’s an aftermarket-upgraded car or one of the 640 100Ms that are worth considerably more?
To answer this question, it’s essential to see a car’s British Motor Industry Heritage Trust certificate. The production certificate for a real 100M will show that the car came from the factory with a louvered bonnet. The body number of the car (located on a plate on the firewall) should match the number shown on the certificate. This number should also be stamped on the bonnet, on the boot lid retainer, on the front splash panel, and-importantly-on all four cockpit surround alloy trim pieces (rails), which can be easily removed for inspection.
Fortunately for the buyer of the 1955 Austin-Healey pictured here, several Healey specialists, including the former president of the Austin-Healey Club USA, were on hand at Barrett-Jackson. They could confirm that this car was well known among club members, since it was the first one to earn a Gold level award from the Austin-Healey Concours Registry. It was not a
factory 100M, nor did the seller claim that it was.
But even as a non-factory 100 Le Mans, it had accumulated only 8,000 carefully maintained miles since its award-winning restoration and was in excellent condition. Given the superheated atmosphere for Healey sales at Barrett-Jackson, the nearly $62k price paid here wasn’t entirely out of line. Of course, this would be as much as $15,000 too high for a non-factory car anywhere else in the world. But a large part of what Barrett-Jackson is about is immediate gratification rather than shopping for the best deal. In this case, being able to walk away from the weekend with the car of the buyer’s dreams trumped saving a few thousand dollars. While it may not be the same choice you or I would have made, given the dynamics of this auction, it’s certainly understandable.

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