The ex-Earls Court Motor Show demonstrator 1955 Austin-Healey 100M Roadster Registration no. TAC 620 Chassis no. BN2/228897 Engine no. 228897M
The historically significant car offered here, 'TAC 620', is one of two used to launch the new Austin-Healey 100M at the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show. They both sported eye-catching liveries with the black-and-pink sister car on the Austin-Healey stand, and 'TAC 620', painted Florida Green over white, used as a demonstrator for prospective customers.
Following the Austin-Healey 100's sensational debut at the 1952 Motor Show, the works had entered two mildly modified cars in the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hour Race, which finishing in 12th and 14th places, a highly praiseworthy achievement for what were recognisably production sports cars. Accordingly, the name 'Le Mans' was chosen for a bolt-on tuning kit offered through Austin-Healey dealers, by means of which private owners could bring their cars up to a specification approaching that of the works entries. The kit included a pair of 1¾" SU HD6 carburettors plus special inlet manifold and cold air box, high-lift camshaft, stronger valve springs and distributor with alternative ignition advance curve. With the kit installed power increased from the standard 90 to 100bhp.
From October 1955 the conversion was available factory-fitted on the successor BN2 model in the form of the 100M. In addition to the Le Mans kit, the latter boasted high-compression pistons, stiffer front anti-roll bar, special Armstrong front dampers and a louvred bonnet. Power increased to 110bhp and top speed, with windscreen folded flat, to within a whisker of 120mph. The number of BN1s converted by their owners is unknown, but 1,159 cars, mostly BN2s, were built or subsequently modified to 100M specification between 1955 and 1956. Of these, approximately 640 were completed at the factory, some 544 of which were exported to the USA. When one considers the other left hand drive markets, it would appear just over 20 BN2s were to right hand drive specification, with as little as eight, yes eight, for the UK home market.
'TAC 620' is unusual in having been fitted when new with an un-louvred bonnet, although otherwise it was built to full 100M specification. The car features extensively in the definitive work on the model, 'Austin-Healey 100 In Detail' by Bill Piggott. Piggott comments: 'Years later, Healey staff recalled that this particular car had very much above average performance.' Clearly, the factory had been determined that their demonstrator should impress!
After around nine months as a demonstrator, during which time it was occasionally driven by Donald Healey's son Brian, 'TAC 620' was fitted with a model-correct louvered bonnet and sold to the Goodwin family in nearby Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, who kept it for over 20 years. In 1978 the car was discovered and rescued by Austin-Healey Club member Hugh Ferris. Fully restored by him, the 100M became a regular concours winner at Austin-Healey Club events, and also benefited from further cosmetic and mechanical refurbishment by marque specialists MPH of Blockley, Gloucestershire. In more recent years, the car resided with a collector in Sussex, very near to Goodwood. The vendor acquired the car from him, via an intermediary, in 2010.
'TAC 620' is finished in correct Florida Green over Old English White with matching 'Special Green' interior trim and upholstery. It retains its original 'Motor Show finish' vinyl-covered dashboard (the stock item was painted) while other noteworthy interior features include a period-style Moto-Lita steering wheel, Halda Tripmaster and a fire extinguisher, the latter mounted in the passenger-side foot well. FIVA registered (number '038041'), the Healey took part in the 2010 Rallye International des Alpes (competitor number '820').
Although an older restoration, 'TAC 620' still presents well, with straight bodywork good shut lines and very clean unmarked brightwork. The interior too is holding up well, with minimal signs of use and wear.
Last taxed to Sept 2013, this historic Austin-Healey is currently owned by an Australian collector who has kept the car in the UK for occasional use. It has been well cared for by Mark Knight and his team at RetroMarques Ltd, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. Works include an engine strip/rebuild and gearbox overhaul in 2012 for which invoices are available. Currently taxed, and offered with the aforementioned invoices, FIVA card, old style log-book (continuation book dated 1962), BMIHT certificate, and its V5 registration document.
'TAC 620' represents a rare opportunity to acquire an iconic first-of-the-line 'Big Healey', built by the factory to the desirable 100M 'Le Mans' specification. A UK delivered right hand drive 100M is about as rare as it gets and TAC 620 is arguably the most important of them all.