Following World War II, Donald Healey struck out on his own and from his base in Warwick, UK, began building very high-quality sporting cars using Riley running gear. There were roadsters, dropheads and coupes. These were cars that an upper middle-class owner could drive to work and rally or race on the weekends. But they weren’t cheap. Next came the Nash-Healey sports car. But despite modestly priced-running gear from the American independent manufacturer, the chassis, suspension and coachwork still resulted in a car that cost more than $4,000.
Healey was well aware that he needed a car that could be built in larger numbers and sold at a lower price in the rapidly emerging sports car market in the new world. MG and Jaguar were selling the bulk of their production to North America and Triumph was readying the TR2. Using the four-cylinder 2.6 litre Austin A-90 engine and transmission, as well as other components from the parts bin of newly-formed BMC (a merger of the Austin and Nuffield/Morris companies), Healey produced a sleek and beautiful prototype styled by Gerry Coker. Healey showed his “Healey Hundred” at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show in the UK and caught the eye of BMC supreme Leonard Lord.
Healey’s timing was perfect. Lord selected his car over a new MG prototype, thus delaying the replacement of the old-fashioned MG TD, which was also in the BMC family. When it went on sale in 1953, the beautiful Austin-Healey 100 cost less than $3,000 in the United States and would top 100mph. Those first cars, designated BN1, used the 90bhp Austin engine, a three-speed transmission with overdrive and were happily received in the United States, which took most of the 10,688 cars produced.
The M specification included a louvered bonnet and leather strap, a cold air box, larger 1 ¾” carburettors, higher profile camshaft, stronger valve springs, steel-faced competition head gasket, larger anti-roll bar, front disc brakes and a free-flow exhaust manifold which gave higher compression using special pistons. A special distributor was also used, improving the advance curve, and when combined with all the other upgrades boosted the standard cars performance from 90 to 110bhp, which took top speed to nearly 120mph.
This wonderfully presented Healey was purchased via Donald Healey Garages in Warwickshire by a prominent member of St Louis, Missouri society and Senior Officer in the Sports Car Club of America, Lester Seasongood.
Seasongood was a national secretary of the SCCA, and an area steward, and was prolific in their activities through to the middle 1970s. An active competitor and leading light in motorsport in the period.
Subsequent to Seasongood campaigning the car, it was sold to the Editor of the St Louis Post, James Lawrence, who also campaigned the car in Club events, and he retained the car until 1968.
Documentary records and films from the period show what a fascinating and vibrant motor racing culture the SCCA engendered. Grids comprised of all the great European and American sportscars of the period, all racing together by enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals alike, with fabulous variety – with Porsche 356s, MG As, Austin Healeys, Chevrolet Corvettes, Ferrari 250 GT TdFs, TR3s… The list goes on and demonstrates what a fascinating cauldron of competitive spirit and legend the SCCA was in the United States in the mid-late 1950s.
In later years, the car returned to the UK, and in 2003 a comprehensive restoration of this charming sports racing car was commenced by its then-owner, a Mr Barnes.
The current vendor purchased this exceptional matching numbers Healey a numbe of years ago. The car is finished in Old English White over Lobelia Blue, one of just 108 cars finished in this colour scheme, and is also fitted with both a heater and laminated windscreen. This Healey has been fitted with lightened and balanced Denis Welch flywheel, which significantly improves throttle response and tick over. The car is quick and agile, and with a fantastic exhaust note. All the elements of the drivetrain have been recently restored including new U/J’s, competition clutch and thrust bearing, with the car covering only a handful of miles since. It also received at the same time a service plus engine and gearbox detailing. The car has also been fitted with lightweight Dynolite alternator.
The car comes complete with an excellent history file with many of the receipts from a fastidious owner, as well as some photographs of the restoration work and Heritage Certificate. There is also a copy of the 2011 article in Classic Car Buyer where the car was road tested.
This stunning car in excellent condition qualifies for historic car rallies and has been fully prepped for the Mille and fitted with the necessary upgrades. Most recently the current vendor completed the 2017 GP Nuvolari without any faults. Complete with UK V5C registration this Healey is ready to be campaigned on the Historic circuit or driven enthusiastically down country lanes.