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. The disaster at the Le Mans 24-hour race resulted in 84 people being killed after a Mercedes launched off the back of the car and then flew into the crowd.
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 on 1 December 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.
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 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. 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.