'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé

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Lot 14
1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé

Sold for £ 639,900 (US$ 794,426) inc. premium
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey
1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé

*Donald Healey's personal car, two private owners from new
*Unique motor car with 100S mechanicals
*From the Arthur Carter Collection, owned since 1972
*Arguably the most desirable Austin-Healey ever produced

Footnotes

  • Offered here is one of the most historically significant Austin-Healeys, a prototype and one of just two 100s built in Coupe form by the newly formed partnership between Austin Motor Co. and the Donald Healey Motor Co. On its completion this coupe was to become the personal and preferred transport of Donald Healey. Importantly, his car was included in the Special Test Car development program acquiring Dunlop disc brakes, 100S mechanicals and other innovative modifications, of which many ultimately found their way into production Austin-Healeys.

    Donald Healey
    Donald Mitchell Healey was born in 1898, apprenticed with Sopwith and served in WW1 as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he set up his own garage business in Cornwall and early successful forays in rallying led to a role with Riley. His methodical approach to rallying produced consistent results including a win in the gruelling 1931 Monte Carlo Rally with an Invicta S-Type Low Chassis Tourer, an example of which is also offered in today's sale. In 1933 his career took off with a move to Triumph as Development Engineer and later Technical Director. Stints with Claudel-Hobson and Humber during WW2 helped him decide his future and post-war he took the bold step to become a sporting car designer and manufacturer and ultimately achieving international success with circuit and road racing, as well as rallying. Moreover, the car's that carried his name achieved multiple titles as a speed and endurance record breaker. Any one of these achievements guarantee 'legendary' status, however, despite a CV few could equal, Donald Healey is best known for conceiving the much loved and admired range of sports cars known as the Austin-Healey.

    Austin-Healey 100
    The Healey 100s international debut took place at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show in London. An overnight sensation, it was intended as a low cost, high performance, limited production sports car primarily aimed at the US market. The Healey 100 sourced its major components from the less than successful Austin A90 Atlantic saloon. It was re-badged as the 'Austin-Healey 100' after Austin boss Leonard Lord negotiated the rights to the design with DMH on the launch day. Low revving and torquey, the Atlantic's 2,660 cc four-cylinder engine produced an unremarkable 90 hp but when installed in the lighter and more streamlined Austin-Healey 100 the result was a genuine 100 mph-plus car capable of reaching 60mph in under 11 seconds.

    As part of their agreement, Austin supported a development and test program by Donald Healey, a euphemism for motor racing! Future potential was ably demonstrated when two lightly tuned Special Test Cars achieved outright 12th and 14th at the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Following on from this success a team of drivers led by Donald Healey and George Eyston set a host of international and national AAA speed records at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats driving stock and modified versions of the 100. Highlights included a maximum speed of 142.626 mph and 1,000 kilometres at 127.00 mph achieved by the modified 100. Additionally, an AAA selected stock, "off the showroom floor" 100 averaged 104.3 mph over 24 hours.


    Coupe build and body detail
    By mid 1953 sufficient Austin-Healeys were rolling off Austin's Longbridge production line to begin to satisfy demand. With production underway, Donald Healey - often referred to by his initials DMH - turned his attention to racing and development, promotion of the 100 while winding down production of the Healey Cars that his company had been producing. It was a very busy year but far from resting on his laurels, he was conscious his business was now focussed on just one model, a sports car instead of a moderately extensive range of Healey cars as before.

    In an effort to expand his model range DMH asked Gerry Coker, his designer, to develop suitable concepts. In his book The Austin-Healey, Geoffrey Healey quotes as follows "Gerry Coker styled a number of beautiful fixed head coupes on the basic 100. Two of these were built at Austin in Dick Gallimore's shop. The first built was chassis no. BN1 142615 and was finished in red with a black top. The second was finished in ice blue. The red and black car became DMH's personal car. It later acquired a 100S engine and disc brakes and was used as a support vehicle at races. Stirling Moss drove DMH on a recce of the Mille Miglia course in it. The one-piece top added considerable rigidity to the chassis and improved road holding. This car was used in an attempt to develop the 100S engine as a replacement unit for the 90 bhp 4-cylinder engine."


    From the BMIHT Heritage Certificate on file, the coupe offered here, chassis no. BN1 142615 has a build date of 25 August 1953 and carries body no. 'Prototype No. 1'. The chassis strengthening present is particular to Special Test Cars and occurred during the initial build. In all other respects it received Special Test Car upgrades with the exception of alloy panels. However, the alloy sheeting to the engine bay bulkhead reflects a very determined effort to deliver 142615 to that specification. In the build no engine number was recorded, however the body was delivered to DHMCo at Warwick where mechanical work such as the installation of a Le Mans conversion was completed.

    As a special build, several components included in 142615 were of an up-rated specification. Items such as the distributor, starter and dynamo, the latter catered for fitted and planned equipment such as spot and fog lights and Becker self seeking radio. Other components specified were well in advance of production line scheduled inclusion, such as up-rated front and rear springs. As part of the build instructions to Jensen for the two chassis was for aluminium 'hard tops' based on drawings supplied by Gerry Coker. From the DHMCo, 142615 was sent to Austin's Longbridge works where the 'hard top' was incorporated into the coupe body shell in Dick Gallimore's experimental workshop. Gerry Coker in his own words 'had very little to do with the coupes' yet he famously styled the 100 body, the coupes 'hard top' and at DMH's request he also chose the colour schemes for both coupes. The colour scheme for 149458 was ice blue with a dark blue roof and for 142615, carmine red with a black roof. Gerry remembers the coupes coming back to Warwick completed and their subsequent role in development. 149458, the 'blue' coupe although numerically 6,843 chassis later received its coupe conversion at Austin and was registered on 3 November 1953 as OAC1.


    Chassis number 142615, the red and black coupe, was registered by DHMCo on 3 December 1953 as ONX 113 a full month later than OAC1. ONX 113's original 'buff' logbook is offered with the car and shows and shows "Type of Body" as "Saloon" where all other 100s were described as a 'Sports'. ONX 113's logbook also notes engine number 1B 139174 was fitted. Curiously, the chassis number, incorrectly stamped on the engine bulkhead HEALEY Identification Plate as 1B 2615 instead of the correct number, 1B 142615. (Noting that there is no 190000 series in 100 chassis numbering.) The original chassis plate is present on the top of the driver's side chassis rail and shows 1B 142615. Curiously, the 100S water rail fitted to the 100S engine now installed is numbered 1B 139714 and this matches the engine number stamped on the HEALEY ID Plate. The error in transposing the 1 and 7 is on the logbook.

    ONX 113 build card nominates its body no. as 'Prototype No.1' and Geoff Healey may have relied on this when stating that it was the first coupe built. Gerry Coker maintains ONX 113 was in fact built second and there is evidence to support this contention. Key build differences between the two relate to the windscreen mounting method and treatment of the rear bodywork. In relation to ONX 113 Gerry says after OAC1 was completed the decision was made to "lift the rear deck to make the hard top more proportionate". The subsequent rear window treatment allows a more pleasing flow into the rear body contours and rear window placement, shape and size is significantly different as is method of activation, which for ONX 113 is via an over centre latch.

    While the interior of OAC1 is essentially standard 100, by comparison ONX 113 became both elegant and sumptuous. What is clear is that DMH and Austin took the opportunity to ratchet both design aesthetics and level of finish up several notches with ONX 113. Quite apart from the registration dates, there is no doubt ONX 113, a styling exercise in the true sense of the words, was completed after OAC1. Although in the original build now almost gone is the production dashboard though still familiar though the retention of the 100 item extremities, fittings, switches and instruments.
    The white leatherette covering helps as does a centre console dominated by a then state of the art Becker Mexico self-seeking radio, a feature DMH always fondly remembered. This, together with the balanced placement of Austin A55 heater switches, conveys functionality and overall presentation leans towards being of appeal to the American market. Instrumentation is complemented by the inclusion of a 140 mph speedometer, a Le Mans conversion accessory becoming standard in the 100S. Security was via internally lockable sliding windows and doors while access by a separate unobtrusive push button and key lock. The 'Anti burst' door locks of the type fitted were also not introduced until the 3000 Sports Convertible in March 1962!

    ONX 113's trim covered dashboard was to carry through into production. Initially as an option with some 100s thus sold or modified by DHMCo, and they also often featured trim covered dashboards and cockpit surrounds. Appearing first in the 100S then in six cylinder Austin-Healeys trim covering added a touch of elegance over the 100's painted finish. In the same vein ONX 113's useable luggage space behind the seats was later a feature in 3000 Convertibles. The beautiful wood rim aluminium steering wheel was hand-made in the DHMCo Experimental Department and was a type only fitted to the 1953/4 Special Test Cars.

    Development
    Almost immediately after WW2 DMH started the Donald Healey Motor Company to build and market Healey cars. His sons Geoffrey and Brian were to join him later, Geoff as Development Engineer and Brian (Bic) responsible for sales. DMH and Geoff were to work closely on engineering issues, DMH's extensive engineering background at Riley, Triumph, his war experience as Works Manager for Claudel-Hobson and then Humber Car Company helped to make them a formidable team. There was a constant flow of ideas and feedback on issues while DMH was travelling or at races, a significant amount of this correspondence surviving in the Healey Museum and elsewhere. This in turn was formally fed back to Austin by Geoff. DMH was integrally involved with every aspect of his business, confident he could rely on his key managers within his small team at Warwick.

    Post-war DMH's focus shifted from rallying to racing primarily and the DHMCo became a regular competitor with Healeys and Austin-Healeys. His DMH's six drives in the Mille Miglia underline his ability to get the best out of his cars, yet perhaps more famously, it was the high speed records and endurance records in 1953, 1954 and 1956 where he achieved the most satisfaction. In 1956 DMH was proud to join the "200 Miles Per Hour Club", at the time a very exclusive group, using a car of his own design, a modified 100-Six with a speed f 203.11 mph.

    Late 1953 through 1954 was both a busy and difficult time for the small team at Warwick as Special Test Cars were also being built for the 1954 season and component availability from both Austin and Dunlop were problematic. The relatively small number of components initially available to support both the current and forward racing and development program was tight and it wasn't until 1955 that the 100S components became available for ONX 113.

    Turning to the engine and internally this 100S engine specification is similar to that of the four cylinder 100 with a bore of 87.3 mm and stroke of 111.1 mm giving a capacity of 2,660 cc, but that is where the similarity ends. An up-rated block carries a nitride-hardened crankshaft, polished connecting rods with fully floating wrist pin and all running on tri-metal bearings. Assisted by an up-rated camshaft, a carefully assembled Special Test Car engine would develop a little over 140 hp even with a somewhat conservative compression ratio of 8.3:1.
    The Westlake designed 'four port', four inlet, four exhaust, aluminium alloy cylinder head used larger silicone chromed steel inlet valves and exhaust valves in 'KE965' steel. Fed by twin 1 3/4 Inch H6 SU carburettors with an integral cold air box receiving fresh air fed directly from the grille. Exhaust is by cast headers into a 'high efficiency' twin pipe system to assist cooling a Tecalemit brand combined oil cooler/filter was mounted forward of the chassis front cross member.

    The 100S engine as fitted to ONX 113 is block no. SPL 226 BN, a mid-1953 block used in the Special Test Car Program for 1953 and 1954 events. Although a 1953 spec. engine, SPL 226 BN was fitted to X191, the 100S displayed at the 1954 Earls Court Motor Show was for the model's public release. The cylinder head fitted carries the no. SPL 228 BN, an ultra-rare aluminium 'angle face' type. This type is pre-production and more reliable as the production items were, unfortunately, cast in softer aluminium. Geoff wrote that "The S engine was seriously considered as a replacement for the 90hp 100 engine..." and while DMH was unsuccessful in this regard, the Westlake design influence did make it into the production 100-Six in October 1957 when the 12 port head, then referred to as a 'six port', was introduced. In the end DMH got his way as it is essentially a 100S head in cast iron plus an extra two cylinders with the troublesome tubular pushrod tubes cast in. An aluminium version for competition was soon to follow thus completing the circle.


    Special Test Car chassis no. SPL 227/B ran as the modified 100 at Bonneville in 1953 with engine no. SPL 228 BN fitted, and the actual cylinder head from that car was installed in ONX 113. 1953 Bonneville was the first time out for Harry Westlake's just designed 'four port' aluminium head, and great care was being taken to conceal it. The "RA 104" stamped to the head front face indicates a Westlake test component. In preparation for this Bonneville attempt, Westlakes would have had the engine on test for 24 hours. After this they would have stripped the engine and head completely, checked and rebuilt it, then run the engine up in preparation for the record attempt. Endurance records were attempted on a ten mile circular course usually with a target of at least 24 hours. The modified 100 endurance attempt was curtailed at 17 hours, not due to poor weather as reported but rather engine failure when a connecting rod broke. On the modified 100 return to Warwick the engine block was found to be unable to be repaired and so was buried at DHMCo's Warwick Works. Engine failure aside, results achieved in the modified Healey were outstanding, DMH's outright speed was 142.64 mph for the Mile. On the ten mile endurance course it took records from 122.66 kph to 127 mph. The 'stock' car, a standard 100 in Geoff Healey's words "ran with absolute reliability for 30 hours. By then, we felt we had collected all the records that mattered." and the Austin Publicity Department were to make good use of the records to promote the 100.

    While ONX113's 100S engine is very special, the remainder of the power train is of interest with 100S Gearbox no. 1083 being a late "production: 100S unit, in this case unusually fitted with an overdrive. The reason for the overdrive being the rear axle carries a 3.66:1 differential ratio, optional for the 100S and suitable for short circuits and hillclimbs. This combination providing spirited performance with the overdrive extending the Healey's legs quite handily. The rear axle treatment is 'state of the Healey art' for its day. The original production springs increased to the DHMCo preferred 14 leaves with dampening by adjustable Armstrong shock absorbers, from the driver's seat no less. Incredibly, where the rear chassis rails pass under the rear axle they have been modified to drop down, allowing greater suspension travel. This very worthwhile feature did not reach production cars until May 1964! Geoff mentioned the four wheel Dunlop disc brakes were an early modification, which were upgraded to 100-Six type as they became available. Finally, to decrease unsprung weight, beautiful Dunlop 60 spoke aluminium rimmed wire wheels were fitted.

    With this specification, ONX 113 would possess excellent performance, handling and braking. Output of Special Test Car engines was often not much more than 140 hp, but the focus was very much on reliability as even from the beginning of the Special Test Car Program relatively few 100S spec spares were available. By the early 1960s these were largely exhausted. Around that time the remaining 100S stock was sold as a lot and the model no longer supported by DHMCo. Subsequent parts enquiries were referred to the third party. DMH kept the coupe until 1962, advertising it in the April 6, 1962 issue of Autosport as illustrated on these pages.

    Quite extraordinary, and relevant to today's market values, advertised on the same Autosport page was Aston Martin DBR1/1, at £1,750 for a three year old World Sports Car Championship Winner and value today pretty much priceless.....! At the time ONX 113 was almost 10 years old and only half as much? In any event, and even at that asking price, ONX appears to have been advertised only once and snapped up by the first private owner, a Mr Alexander Hamilton registering the car on 19 June, 1962.

    As a mid-1953 snapshot, Austin clearly supported the two coupe proposal with 100 production now satisfying the strong demand which was of course the primary focus. Each week an average of 150 were rolling off the line with a seemingly endless USA appetite for them. Timing is everything and perhaps it was simply just too early for a coupe variant. Regardless, Austin felt that "there would not be a market for a coupe" and that was it. Leaving us with just two 1953 100 based coupes, there would be few Healeys or Austin-Healeys attracting the same level of desirability or sheer charisma as DMH's personal 100S Coupe.


    Within the classic car movement it is generally regarded as the ultimate Healey to own. The unique Gerry Coker styling many believe takes the original 100 to the next level plus incorporation of the pick of the Special Test Car and development program, with many individual components with a history all of their own..... This is where the appeal of ONX113 transcends Healey and Austin-Healey enthusiasts. By any standard it is a handsome motor car and the addition of its famous owner, Monte Carlo Rally winner, racing driver, sports car manufacturer and WW1 Royal Air Corps aviator, where does it stop? The lack of public awareness of DMH's coupe, seen only on rare occasions, appears to have only added to its mystique.

    ONX113 has in the past not always been regarded by some as a 100S, rather as a car upgraded to '100S specification' by add-ons and cast-offs for DMH's personal transport. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Close inspection of it and relevant documentation there is no doubt that ONX 113 became a 100S in an identical way to the 1953 and 1954 Special Test Cars did, through metamorphosis. Identically, each 1953 and 1954 Special Test Car started its life as special build 100s prototype 100M" and then 100S specification emerging in the majority of cases as a 100S. The exception was the Special Test Record Cars where development continued on.

    Austin-Healey prototypes most often featured a higher level of finish, innovation and performance. For this reason they were usually sought by and sold to DMH's friends or industry acquaintances. ONX 113 was essentially the first and it set the bar high! DMH kept his coupe for nine years and, considering what other Austin-Healey's were available to him to drive during that period, it is an indication of the great deal of satisfaction he derived from driving ONX 113.

    Since joining the Arthur Carter collection in 1972 – who acquired the car direct from Mr Hamilton, the first private owner – ONX 113 has had a relatively sheltered life with occasional appearances and work as necessary. Condition is good overall and showing signs of age and patina under closer scrutiny. Bodywork and trim both present well showing little wear and the 1962 Autosport advertisement noting that the trim had been recently replaced appearing to be the case. The engine has also received attention during Arthur's ownership and while underbonnet could benefit from a little detailing, the overall impression is consistent with the car's development role and light use. ONX is fully operational and underbody there is evidence of some light corrosion, with subsequent protective coating.

    We at Bonhams have been privileged to have offered some of the most important Austin-Healeys and, to many, ONX is perhaps the most sought after and desirable Austin-Healey of all. Here is an opportunity to put yourself behind the wheel of a time warp and travel down the road of a not just a British, but a true international legend's, beloved 100S Coupe.

    Bonhams would like to thank Joe Jarick for his research and cataloguing of ONX 113.
Contacts
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
'ONX 113'- The ex-Donald Healey,1953 Austin-Healey 100/'100S' Coupé
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