Courtesy of Mohr Imports
The 100M “Le Mans” was introduced in 1955 as a higher-performance version of the Austin-Healey BN2, featuring larger carburetors and a high-lift camshaft, as well as high-compression pistons and a number of other upgrades that increased engine output from 90 to 110 horsepower. It was also equipped with an upgraded anti-roll bar and a louvered bonnet secured by leather straps. While some BN2s were retrofitted with performance parts to obtain 100M-like performance, only 640 examples of the 100M were produced by the factory in 1955 and 1956, making them among the most sought-after of British sports cars by collectors and enthusiasts today.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1956 Austin-Healey 100M
Years Produced:1955–56
Number Produced:640
SCM Valuation:$143,500
Tune Up Cost:$400–$500
Chassis Number Location:Embossed in an aluminum plate screwed to the firewall, right side
Engine Number Location:Stamped in an aluminum plate riveted to the engine block, just below the head, right side
Club Info:Austin-Healey Club of America
Alternatives:1955–56 Austin-Healey 100 BN2, 1951–54 Jaguar XK 120 roadster, 1958–60 MGA Twin-Cam roadster
Investment Grade:B

This 1956 Austin-Healey 100M “Le Mans” is a factory-built model that was completed on April 12, 1956, and delivered new to the United States. A comprehensive restoration is said to have been performed in 1997 by Spyder Autowerks of Fresno, CA, that included refinishing the exterior in its original color combination of Healey Blue and Ivory White. The factory 2,660-cc inline 4 was also replaced with a different 100M engine that was reportedly sourced from another 100M (note that at this time, the tag bearing the original engine number was affixed to the replacement engine), and the electrical system was converted to 12-volt. Other additions include a Weslake cylinder head and 15-inch chrome wire wheels secured with two-ear knockoffs wearing Vredestein Sprint Classic tires. The car was reportedly refreshed again in 2007 by British Car Specialists of Stockton, CA.

This car presents a rare opportunity to acquire one of few fully documented and factory-built 100M “Le Mans” examples that survive today.

This car, Lot 2073, sold for $236,500, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Online Only Open Roads Fall sale on November 20, 2020.

There is perhaps no model of the Austin-Healey range that is less understood — or more misunderstood — than this one. The 100M was conceived as a factory-produced variant of the standard 100, incorporating the previously available “Le Mans Engine Modification Kit,” as well as additional mods. It was formally introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1955, several weeks after production had begun.

The confusion arises in that most of the special engine enhancements were already available from Austin in kit form, and could be retrofitted to standard cars by owners, mechanics or dealers. It became commonplace to refer to such kit-equipped cars as “Le Mans models.” In fact, such a car was not a separate model, but merely a standard car with a set of aftermarket components installed.

On the other hand, the 100M is a distinct model that passed through the Donald Healey Motor Company in Warwick for installation of the Le Mans Kit. But also — and quite importantly — high-compression pistons as well as the trademark louvered bonnet and leather bonnet strap. Further confusing the issue is that the louvered bonnet and strap could also be purchased separately and fitted to standard cars. Thus many assume that any 100 with a louvered bonnet is a 100M. Caveat emptor.

Factory or aftermarket?

Contemporary production records indicate that 640 100M models were produced. There are no such records of which cars may have had the aftermarket Le Mans Kit installed, whether in period or later, even up to the present. The tendency among some to lump all of these cars together — the genuine 100M models and the standard cars with the aftermarket Le Mans Kit — is not helpful in understanding a car’s true provenance and rarity.

Fortunately, in the mid-1980s, a microfilm record was discovered of the original factory records that substantiates which cars are genuine 100M models. It is possible to obtain a certificate from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust listing a car’s original specification, although it is also important to understand that the certificate says nothing about a particular car. You merely provide a chassis number and are told what the microfilm record shows for that chassis; it is not any kind of authentication of a particular car, just a records extract. This is still an important document, but know that chassis-number switching is not unheard of. Caveat emptor, again.

Getting registered

More reliable is the meticulous Worldwide 100M Le Mans Registry that goes to great pains to authenticate cars purported to be 100M models. Fakes began to appear when 100M prices started rising 20 or more years ago, and there was a time when it was commonly said that of the original 640 100M models, only 2,000 survive. However, due to the efforts of the registrar, Bill Meade, it is now virtually impossible to fake a 100M and get it authenticated. Potential buyers are well advised to check with the Registry before a purchase if the car does not already have a certificate identifying it as “Registry-Confirmed.” Our subject car has such certification.

Interestingly, last August in a Bring a Trailer online auction, this same car was bid to only $137,000, not meeting its reserve. That it made nearly another $100,000 in a different online auction just three months later is staggering. I guess sometimes it really is all about the venue.

The BaT auction brought out the usual sniffing from the peanut gallery about the replacement engine block with a number tag stamped with the original engine’s number. Yet the matching-numbers virus that infects so many people in the collector-car community has limited lethality in the Austin-Healey world. For those who just have to find something to grouse about, it makes an easy, if not substantive, target.

The engine numbers on these cars were stamped on an aluminum plate that is riveted to the block, and authentic-looking replacement number plates are available. How many “matching-numbers” Healeys are not really matching at all, except in the sense of wearing an engine-number plate with the “correct” number? Answer: A lot.

Original equipment

The catalog description for our subject car amusingly includes a note that “additions” include a Weslake cylinder head when they all had that head, and a “12-volt electric conversion” when they were all always 12-volt systems.

The chrome wire wheels are not original, but many consider them an improvement on the painted wheels originally supplied. The side-exit exhaust is likely something that will be changed soon — that is, if the new owner actually drives the car and doesn’t want to lose the hearing in his left ear. If we wanted to wander down into Class-C nitpicks, we could mention the wrinkled boot lining, the modern knockoff hammer, an apparently incomplete toolkit, and a handful of other micro-transgressions.

But let’s not. This is a very lovely 100M — one of somewhat over 200 in the registry — that should please the new owner whether it is driven or goes the route of museum piece and show car. Still, with prices for the model falling back noticeably from the peak in 2013–15 when $200,000-plus sales of good examples of the 100M were the rule, at $236,500 this is the highest price for the model listed in the SCM Platinum Auction Database in over six years, and the first sale over $200,000 in more than two. I would call it staggeringly well sold. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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