16-17 January 2014
1956 Austin-Healey 100M 'Factory' Le Mans BN2 Roadster
- Chassis no. BN2-L/230818
- Engine no. 1B/230818
- Body no. 12340
$180,000 - $230,000
- One of 640 factory-built 100M models
- Meticulous one-and-a-half-year restoration
- British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate of Origin, 100M Le Mans Registry Certificate, and Gold 100M Certificate
Donald Healey, a top rally driver before World War II, had been the technical director of Triumph and built his own line of Riley-powered sports cars after the war. Looking for a more modern design, he worked up a new car by using the powertrain from Austin’s A90 Atlantic, which was a baroque-looking convertible that was intended for American consumption but had received a disappointing reception. The new car’s engine was a 2,660-cubic centimeter four-overhead-valve unit that could produce 90 brake horsepower, and the transmission was a three-speed version of the Atlantic’s that was coupled with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive. Healey had negotiated the supply of components with Austin’s chairman, Leonard Lord. When the car, badged as the Healey Hundred, appeared at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show, Lord was so taken with it that the two men immediately struck a deal for Austin to produce it. The first cars, re-named Austin-Healey 100, appeared the following spring.
Donald Healey himself was timed at 142.636 mph in a lightly modified example at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1953, and he set a number of speed and endurance records, allowing the advertising department to proclaim: “It’s fast! It’s dependable! It’s record breaking!” Production topped 10,000 in three years, with more than half of them being exported to the United States.
In 1955, a new BN2 version of the Austin-Healey, which had a four-speed transmission, was introduced. At the same time that the BN2 was introduced, a new model, which was based on the BN2 and named the 100M, was also introduced. It featured larger carburetors, a high-lift cam, and a higher 8.1:1 compression. Stiffer front suspension was fitted, with hood louvers and a leather strap completing its bona fides. The engine mods, with the exception of the high-compression pistons, could be dealer-installed as the Le Mans kit, or it was also available at the parts counter for owner application. The factory-installed Le Mans package raised the 100’s 90 brake horsepower to an impressive 110.
This 1956 100M is one of 640 made by the factory, and it was purchased by the current owner in the summer of 2011. A complete restoration commenced after the purchase, which included taking the car completely apart, including the body, frame, engine, transmission, brakes, and steering. Everything was then rebuilt, including a new fuel tank, with new parts where the old ones were not deemed 100 percent correct and in top condition. During inspection, the car was found to have all the criteria necessary to authenticate a factory 100M: all four cockpit surrounds are correctly stamped, as are the boot lid and bonnet, with the latter being the original louvered one. There are correct, marked carburetors and an induction manifold, and the engine compartment has been modified to make room for them. Additionally, this 100M retains its original and correctly stamped distributor. The engine was completely rebuilt with some performance upgrades, such as a lighter flywheel. The original four-speed overdrive gearbox was rebuilt, too.
The seats were very good, with a little bit of patina, which the owner preferred to new leather, and they have been retained. The car is painted in correct Healey Blue over white, with a dark blue interior. New high-quality paint was applied, and new carpets have been installed throughout, including a new boot lining. Extra driving lights were also fitted. A new, smaller wood steering wheel was installed to facilitate entry and exit, but the original steering wheel also accompanies the car.
The restoration was done by Greg Perry at Vintage Motor Cars, of Mesa, Arizona, and it took a year-and-a-half to complete, at a cost of about $90,000. The engine was air flowed and tuned by Jim Unsworth, of flow bench fame.
This Healey has a 100M Le Mans Registry Certificate, a British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate of Origin, and a Gold 100M Certificate, as well as all of its correct factory stampings, tools, and side curtains. It is surely one of the best and most desirable examples.
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