Amelia Island

14 March 2015

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Lot 167

1955 Austin-Healey 100S

  • Chassis no. AHS-3504
  • Engine no. 1B222705
  • Gearbox no. 1013
  • Body no. 32

Sold for $1,012,000


132 bhp, 2,660 cc pushrod inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front independent coil springs, rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel Dunlop hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90 in.

  • The first chassis of just fifty built of this special alloy-bodied racing model
  • The fourth car to be finished; custom-ordered for actor Jackie Cooper
  • Delivered to Cooper at the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring race
  • Driven by Cooper, with co-driver Roy Jackson-Moore
  • The only 100S delivered in Spruce Green


The story of Donald Healey and his motor company, which was founded in the English Midlands town of Warwick immediately following World War II, is well-known. It was an era when a small group of dedicated and talented people could create great automobiles, and Healey’s tiny company did just that, even during an era of post-war shortages and an economy still struggling to recover.

In 1952, Healey had struck a deal with Austin for them to assemble his “Healey Hundred” in far greater quantity than his tiny Warwick-based company ever could have. As part of that arrangement, Healey continued development of the car and embarked upon a competition and record-setting program to garner publicity to boost sales. The key element of that effort was the development and creation of the 100S, a car conceived not to make a profit but rather to advance the marque’s sporting image by its appearance on race tracks around the world.

The 100S was developed throughout 1953 and 1954, and what emerged was a car that looked very similar to the standard 100 but was, in fact, built by hand at the Healey Works in Warwick, where scores of improvements and modifications were incorporated to make it more competitive in racing. As with any race car, weight was always a principal concern, and to lighten the 100S, an all-alloy body was used, along with an alloy substructure. To further contribute to weight savings, the standard car’s bumpers were shed, as was the large glass windscreen and the “weather equipment,” which included the top and side curtains. The result was a curb weight of just 1,876 pounds. The 100S was a purpose-built racing car from the beginning.

The engine was also highly modified, resulting in a power increase from 90 to 132 brake horsepower. This was achieved by dozens of modifications, with the most apparent being a specially designed aluminum Weslake cylinder head that required the intake and exhaust manifolds to be on opposite sides from those of the production cars. Although ostensibly still an “Austin” engine, they were actually built at the Morris engine plant in Coventry.

Among other notable features of the 100S are the brakes. Dunlop hydraulic disc brakes at all four corners were cutting edge in the mid-1950s. The early Dunlop systems used a Plessey mechanical pump to energize the braking system. However, with advances in disc brake design, the pump was believed to be unnecessary, and Healey and Dunlop installed a new design in the Cooper 100S chassis. Through trial and error, the final set-up was determined and used on the subsequent 100S Healeys.

THE JACKIE COOPER 100S: CHASSIS AHS 3504

While this was going on in Warwick, American actor Jackie Cooper was racing his standard Austin-Healey 100, which was painted Spruce Green. At this point, he had already become a huge fan of the marque and was also a great friend and supporter of Donald Healey. Cooper had begun his acting career as a child star in the 1920s, and at age 9, he became the first child actor to receive an Academy Award nomination. He joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, and afterwards, he returned to acting. He remained involved with the Navy as a line officer and jet co-pilot, which lead to a distinguished career and him eventually achieving the rank of captain. Cooper’s dedication to the Austin-Healey marque was such that he traveled with the Donald Healey Motor Company to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the record attempts in 1954. Cooper even narrated the British Motor Corporation’s publicity film of the venture, concluding it by stating that Donald Healey was the “Wizard of Warwick”!

Thus, when the 100S was announced, Cooper was a ready customer. The car offered here is the one he ordered, which was produced in the first batch. It is the first production chassis and the fourth 100S completed. It was used as a test-bed for the new upgraded Dunlop disc brake system, and various brake system components are uniquely stamped, with some even being hand-engraved with numbers to help with the initial layout of the braking system. Chassis 3504, used as a guide for building the first three cars, was finished just in time for shipment to Florida for the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring race, where Cooper took delivery of the car. At Cooper’s request, it is the only 100S finished in his signature Spruce Green, and its interior was also in a unique and matching green. Additionally, while the other 100S cars wear a dash plaque that attests to their specifications being similar to that of the Austin-Healey 100 that raced at Sebring in 1954, this car, the first chassis, was not originally fitted with that plaque, as stated in a memo written by Cooper to a subsequent owner, Bill Wood. Also unique to 3504, and also at the request of Cooper, this 100S was equipped with a YCM Mallory distributor, which remains with the car today.

For the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring race, Cooper teamed with Englishman Roy Jackson-Moore, an Austin representative then living in the U.S. This was the first Sebring race to include a Hollywood movie star, and seven 100S cars were entered, including one driven for the factory by Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin. Cooper and Jackson-Moore were holding onto 7th position overall and would have finished as the second 100S in the race and 2nd in class, to be beaten only by Moss and Macklin, but as Cooper wrote, “In Sebring, faulty wiring caused battery failure, and I had to push the car over a mile!” The extraordinary effort resulted in a 42nd place finish, but it got him named Auto Sportsman of the Month and pictured on the cover of Sports Car Illustrated magazine. As such, Cooper and AHS 3504 entered Sebring legend. (Cooper, already an active member of the California Sports Car Club and the British Auto Racing Club, began his competition career at Pebble Beach in 1951 with his completely stock Jaguar XK120.)

After that first outing at Sebring, Cooper went on that same year to race 3504 at Thompson Raceway in Connecticut, the Edenvale airport circuit in Ontario, at Beverly in Massachusetts, at Watkins Glen in New York, and at the Nassau Trophy Races in the Bahamas.

Subsequent owners of the car continued to race 3504 for a number of years, and in 1976, it was acquired by Austin-Healey collector Bill Wood, of New England. Originally, Wood had purchased another 100S that was missing various items, and so he placed an ad in Road & Track magazine in search of a 100S grille. He subsequently received a call offering him a 100S engine and gearbox. Wood made the purchase and later discovered that it was the drivetrain from the Cooper 100S. Sometime later, Wood discovered an engineless 100S being prepared by for the installation of an MGB motor by its owner. Wood acted quickly and was able to trade a motorcycle for the car, which turned out to be the Cooper 100S. Thus, the car and motor were reunited, and in 1989, Wood sent the somewhat disassembled but quite complete car to Fourintune Garage in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, for a full and correct restoration. Fourintune restored no fewer than four of this rare model, and in 1990, it was finished just in time to compete in the Meadow Brook Hall Concours for the Peter Helck Trophy in the Race Car Circle.

Wood then sold the car in 1997 to Italian Tommaso Gelmini. Gelmini shipped the car to Italy and raced it at the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia Storica in 2001 (as car #174). In 2002, chassis 3504 was purchased by Joe Hayes, of Chicago, Illinois, and he returned it to the U.S.A. In 2003, it was purchased by Bruce Earle, of Pennsylvania. Earle used the car in numerous vintage races, and in 2008, he sold the car to William Story, of California. This unique car was featured in the 2009 Austin-Healey Club of America calendar for the month of April, and it appeared at the 2008 Austin-Healey Club USA’s annual Rendezvous. In August 2009, it was the featured car at Botham Vineyard’s 14th Annual Vintage Celebration in central Wisconsin. The current owner purchased the car in 2010 and has taken it to several British car shows for charitable causes.

This 100S retains its original engine, chassis, and all-alloy body, and the left front fender was replaced with a NOS fender from a New Jersey dealer after being damaged at Evendale in June 1955. Today, this unique automobile embodies the magical age when a small team of talented and inspired people could develop and create such a car, when a Hollywood celebrity could race one against the likes of Stirling Moss, when the racing circuit included the glamor of Nassau, and when speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats figured prominently in automobile advertising.

The car has been put aside for preservation during its prep for contemporary vintage racing, and included with its purchase is the original Weslake aluminum cylinder head, an original “hippo-type” aluminum oil cooler, and other spares and original parts, which are too numerous to list here but will be available for inspection on site.

This unique car, one of only fifty produced and the first chassis among them, has unique brake parts, and it would make a stunning centerpiece in any high-grade collection of sports cars. Add to that its period racing history, which includes Sebring, and its legendary “press on regardless” finish, and something very exceptional becomes rarer yet. Then account for the celebrity/sportsman original owner and his relationship to Donald Healey, as well as its specially ordered color and features, and one can most certainly consider AHS 3504 among the world’s most significant competition sports cars. This extraordinary Austin-Healey is ready to continue to provide adventure on the road and would be enthusiastically welcomed at innumerable prestigious events worldwide.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more