Top sale at the 2011 Bonhams Mercedes-Benz World auction went to an unrestored works racing team 1953 Austin-Healey ‘100’ Special Test Car that sold for a world record £843,000. The works Austin-Healey, campaigned in period by racing drivers Lance Macklin, Gordon Wilkins and Marcel Becquart, was offered in ‘barn find’ condition for the first time in 42 years.
While much interest has been shown in the car’s Le Mans history (it is a veteran of both the 1953 and 1955 Le Mans 24-Hour races), for enthusiasts its appeal is much broader. It is the car that finished third in the Sebring 12-hour race, one of the most prestigious achievements of the entire Austin-Healey marque, which put the ‘S’ in its 100S model name. In addition, it took part in not only the amazing week-long Carrera Pan-Americana road race through Mexico, but also the exotic Bahamas Speed Week.
When driven by Lance Macklin at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, this was the Austin-Healey involved in the catastrophic Le Mans Disaster, when it was rammed from behind by Pierre Levegh’s works Mercedes-Benz 300SLR. It 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 repaired and restored at their Warwick factory and returned to competition in private hands through the late 1950s and into the 1960s. It was acquired by the current vendor in 1969, since when – for 42 years – it has been stored, untouched.
The vendor said he was “delighted” with the result while James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams Motoring Department, who took the sale, said “As an unashamed Austin-Healey fan – and owner of a ‘100’ myself – I’m thrilled with today’s result. The ‘100S’ is, to me, the most desirable Healey of all and to have sold an ex-works example with Special Test Car lineage and such significant racing history for such a magnificent price is a dream come true.”
Other highlights of Bonhams’ December 2011 Sale were a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 Sports Saloon (£271,000); a 1937 Bentley 4¼-Litre All Weather Tourer (£137,500); the property of a titled gentleman, a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupé (£113,700); and a 1912 Lanchester 38hp State Limousine, which was made for the Maharajah of Rewa in May 1912 (£84,000).
For complete results, visit www.bonhams.com/mbw.