The ex-Turin Motor Show 1953 Austin-Healey 100 Pre-production Prototype Registration no. AHX 11 Chassis no. BN1L 134370 Engine no. 1B 136788
The historically significant Austin-Healey 100 offered here is a rare pre-production prototype. One of only 19 such two-seaters completed at Donald Healey's Cape Works in Warwick, left-hand drive chassis number 'BN1L 134370' is the first of the second batch of (ten) pre-production cars and only the sixth road car completed. Stylist Gerry Coker, who had joined Healey from Rootes in 1950, was responsible for styling the '100' and this car's body - number 'JM4 106-10' - is the tenth in this style built by Healey's sub-contractors, Jensen Motors. Registered on 1st April 1953, 'AHX 11' is the second oldest of the ten surviving Austin-Healey 100 pre-production prototypes, the oldest being 'AHX 3'. The oldest known Austin-Healey in Europe, it is sister car to the four 'Special Test Cars' - including 'NOJ 391', 'NOJ 392' and 'NOJ 393' - that led to the introduction of the 100S competition version. Octane magazine's latest edition features the car's restoration and tracks its life since 1953, including its use as Geoffrey and Margo Healey's honeymoon transport to Italy and its appearance at the Turin and Frankfurt Motor Shows that year. The 100's international debut had taken place some months previously at the Earls Court Motor Show in London where it caused a sensation. Intended as a low-cost, high-performance, limited production sports car and aimed at the US market, which took almost 100% of production initially, the Austin-Healey 100 sourced its major components from the Austin Atlantic saloon. In fact, the car first appeared at Earls Court badged as a 'Healey Hundred' and was re-badged 'Austin-Healey' while still on its stand after Austin boss Leonard Lord bought the rights to the design. It was just as well that he did, for Healey would take over 3,000 orders during the Show yet his company had never made more than 200 cars in a single year! Lord had been happy to agree to supply Austin Atlantic components as the model had not been selling well in its intended market - the USA - and was scheduled for deletion. Low-revving and torquey, the Atlantic's 2,660cc four-cylinder engine produced an unremarkable 90bhp but when installed in the lighter and more streamlined Healey the result was a genuine 100mph-plus car capable of reaching 60mph in under 11 seconds. A three-speed gearbox equipped with overdrive on the top two ratios was an unusual feature of the original BN1, which was superseded by the short-lived, conventional four-speed BN2 for 1956. In 1953 a team of drivers including Donald Healey and George Eyston set a host of international and AMA speed records at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats driving two Healey 100s. Highlights including a maximum speed of 143.626mph and 1,000 kilometres at an average of 127.00mph achieved by the tuned car and 24 hours at an average of 104.3mph set by the AMA-selected 'off-the-showroom-floor' example. A muscular sports car to delight the purist, the 100 was not bettered by its six-cylinder successors in terms of outright performance until the introduction of the Austin-Healey 3000 in 1959. Previously resident in the USA, this famous car returned to the UK and after a period 'in the wilderness' was acquired by the current vendor in 2004, since when it has been fully restored by respected marque specialists Cape International. Particular care was taken to retain as much of the original car as possible, with any new panels being faithfully reconstructed following lengthy research and reference to other pre-production cars. The original engine - number '1B 136788' - has been retained as has the original gearbox and rear axle. Pre-production models feature over 50 differences from the production '100'; many are hidden within the car's construction or are not immediately obvious, such as the all-alloy bodywork, but a few clear differences are clearly visible such as the cable-release boot lid and absence of a boot handle, 'AHX 11' being the only Austin-Healey ever produced with this feature. The 'ice blue' metallic paintwork was carefully matched from an original body panel shipped from Canada and is slightly different from the blue we all recognise as being typically Austin-Healey nowadays. The swage-line along each flank is slightly deeper than standard and the wing flashes are hand fabricated in brass, not cast mazak. Piping was not fitted between the wings and the shroud between the front lamps, and the weather equipment consists of a unique hood and ultra-rare fixed Perspex side screens. Technically there are many changes including the use of cast alloy spacers under the front shock absorbers. The engine and gearbox are painted duck-egg blue, not the usual metallic green, and the gearbox is fitted with the rare 32% overdrive to name but a few other differences. The restoration was completed in 2009 at a cost of £130,000. All bills and a photographic record of this most painstaking rebuild comprising some 700 images are included in the sale. The car also comes with fresh MoT and Swansea V5C document. Finished just in time to enter the 2009 National Concours finals held by the UK Austin-Healey Club at Warwick, 'AHX 11' was placed 2nd, a most creditable result as this was the first appearance of a prototype and its pre-production detailing puzzled a few of the judges! Eligible for the Le Mans Classic and many other prestigious historic motoring events, 'AHX 11' represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a unique piece of Austin-Healey history.