The first time NOJ 392 and NOJ 393 have been seen in public since competing at the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours
Two Austin-Healey motor cars that competed as the factory entries in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours Race have been reunited after almost exactly 60 years apart.
On Wednesday 8th May the Bonhams headquarters in New Bond Street, London, saw the unveiling of 'NOJ 393', the ex-Works 1953-1955 Austin-Healey Special Test Car/100S, after its comprehensive restoration by marque specialists. The car realised a world record £843,000 at a Bonhams auction in December 2011, despite being in 'barn-find' condition, having been untouched since the 1960s.
Joining 'NOJ 393' at the unveiling was its sister car – 'NOJ 392' – which Bonhams is to offer for sale at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday 12th July. The only Special Test Car remaining in its original form, the car is estimated to realise between £500,000 and £600,000 at the auction.
Together the two cars formed the Works entry into the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hours but for one – 'NOJ 393' – it was so nearly not to be. Originally journalist Gordon Wilkins had been assigned to co-drive 'NOJ 391' alongside Belgian Marcel Becquart but, on the drive back from scrutineering to the hotel, the car was hit by a truck and suffered severe damage that would prove impossible to repair in time for the race.
Consequently the team set about transferring the car's engine, brakes and all scrutineer-stamped components into the spare Special Test Car – 'NOJ 393' – which had been brought to the race "as insurance". The necessary registration and race numbers were painted onto the car and it competed in the race masquerading as its compatriot.
Both cars finished strongly, with 'NOJ 392' coming in 12th overall, second in class, and 'NOJ 393' finishing 14th, third in class.
James Knight, Group Motoring Director of Bonhams, handled the sale of 'NOJ 393' and will preside over the sale of 'NOJ 392' in July. He said: "It suddenly dawned on me that these cars had been like two comets, each in their orbit since the '53 Le Mans race - and we now had an opportunity to bring them together. For many years both cars had pretty much languished in garages at either end of England, with '392 then heading off to Australia. I think it is great we can re-unite them here today."
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