1953 Austin-Healey 100 Special Test Car Sold for $1.3 Million

An unrestored works racing team 1953 Austin-Healey ‘100’ Special Test Car, which was campaigned in period by racing drivers Lance Macklin, Gordon Wilkins and Marcel Becquart, sold for a world record £843,000 ($1.3 Million) at Bonhams’ December Sale. The car, which was offered in barn find condition for the first time in 42 years, was bought by a private buyer within the room at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge, Surrey. One of the illustrious Warwick factory’s very first batch of only four Special Test Cars, the precursor to the legendary 100S, and still bearing its iconic works racing team road registration NOJ 393, the car  packed a 140-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine with a massive cam and dual carbs.

1953 Austin-Healey '100' Special Test Car 
This 1953 Austin-Healey 100 Special Test car sold for $1.32 million, including buyer's premium, during Bonhams' December Sale.

After staying in the garage for more than 4 decades, this car has once again rekindled the historical journey that it had undergone within this time frame. Many accolades including the 1953 and 1955 Le Mans 24-hour races, along with the Pan Americana Mexico and Bahamas Speed Week adorns the achievements of the car. But it was the 1955 edition of the Le Mans race when destiny took a turn for the worse.

When driven by Lance Macklin at Le Mans ’55, this was the Austin-Healey involved in the catastrophic Le Mans Disaster, when it was rammed from behind by Levegh’s works Mercedes-Benz 300SLR. The Mercedes-Benz catapulted into a retaining bank and disintegrated, spraying the crowd with flaming debris, including the vehicle’s engine. A total of 84 individuals died as a result of the crash, including Pierre Levegh, the driver of the 300SLR. A further 120 people sustained injuries of varying severity, and the crash prompted an international revision of safety precautions at race tracks.

This historic ex-works Austin-Healey was subsequently impounded by the French authorities for some 18 months, before being released blame-free back to the Donald Healey Motor Company.  It was then restored to its former glory yet again for other important events, and finally landed in the hands of the current owner in 1969, after which it remained untouched. The only up gradation which occurred during the period, was the 1954-55 job when the configuration was changed to the 100S specification.

Other top sales include a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 coupe that sold for $424,684, a 1990 Ferrari F40 with only 200 km on a fresh restoration that achieved $338,494, and a 1937 Bentley 4¼-Litre all-weather tourer that earned $212,655. Meanwhile, a heavily publicized and meticulous recreation of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car failed to reach its $125,000 low estimate.

Bonhams’ next British automotive auction will be in Oxford on March 3, while U.S. operations will resume with the the firm’s first foray into Arizona on January 19.

1953 Austin-Healey '100' Special Test Car
An Austin-Healey racing car in pristine condition at a pre-race scrutineering soon before it was involved in a historic crash during a race in Le Mans, France, 1955.

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