NOJ 393 – the ex-Works 1953-55 Austin-Healey Special Test Car/100S – realized a world record £843,000 when sold by Bonhams in December 2011, despite being untouched since the 1960s and presenting in 'barn find' state. Now, after a comprehensive and sympathetic restoration by marque specialists in Australia, NOJ 393 has returned home.
The story of NOJ 393 is well known. It was one of the Works Special Test Cars that ran in the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hours, later became the 100S prototype – racing at Sebring, the Carrera PanAmericana, and Nassau – and was involved in the ill-fated 1955 Le Mans accident.
After its factory works team career, it spent a few years club racing before being acquired – in a very tired state – by Jack Scott in 1969. Jack always meant to get around to restoring the car but work and family commitments prevented him from doing so. In 2011 Jack contacted James Knight at Bonhams and said that, after 42 years, he felt it was time to sell the car to a collector who would do it justice. At the resulting auction in December that year NOJ 393 attracted much interest from around the world, selling for £843,000 – establishing a new world record for any Austin-Healey by some distance.
World Sports Car Championship pedigree aside, NOJ 393 is one of only two surviving Special Test cars from 1953. It is the only survivor that, competing for three seasons as a Works entry, is able to reflect development in prototype form across the Austin Healey 100 model range: from a pre-production 100, through to a 100M, in this form success at Le Mans in 1953 and from there as a 100S, where at Sebring in 1954, its wonderful result cemented both the 100S model name and specification.
The car was bought at the auction by a European collector and committed Austin-Healey enthusiast, who entrusted Steve Pike of Marsh Classic Restorations in Australia to restore it to the zenith of its history – the start line specification for the 1955 Le Mans race.
Following an exacting and sympathetic restoration, NOJ 393 has re-emerged onto the world stage, prior to featuring at various events in the UK over the coming season.
James Knight, Group Motoring Director of Bonhams, handled the sale of NOJ 393. He said: "It gives me great pleasure that Bonhams was able to host the special viewing to re-introduce this significant motor car to the collectors' motor car fraternity. As a Healey 100 owner and enthusiast of the marque, it is very much a personal privilege as well. I look forward to seeing the car on both road and track over the coming years."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com