1955 Austin-Healey 100M Le Mans Conversion Roadster

1955 Austin-Healey 100M Le Mans Conversion Roadster

Conceived as a means to reach the lucrative market in the United States, the Austin-Healey 100 combined Donald Healey's experience in effective chassis design with Austin's reliable drivelines. Introduced in 1952, just three years after Jaguar's ground-breaking XK 120, the A-H 100 combined the utilitarian long-stroke 4-cylinder Austin A90 engine with a Healey-designed underslung chassis frame and sleek full envelope bodywork designed by Gerry Coker with a cleverly designed articulated windshield that folded back, effective at both reducing frontal area and adding driving excitement.

It became a sensation, as it remains seventy years later.

Over 14,600 four-cylinder Austin-Healey 100s were built between 1953 and 1955. Most were the original 3-speed with overdrive BN1 models. About 80% of those built went to the U.S. where enthusiasts quickly realized their competition potential and took to the track, emulating the factory which entered a 2-car team in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. Mildly modified, these cars finished in 12th and 14th overall, far and away the best finish by any production-based cars in the 60-car field.

The 1953 Le Mans success of the two Austin-Healey 100s as well as privateer racing successes in the U.S. led Austin-Healey to develop a "Le Mans Kit" consisting of larger 1¾" SU carburetors, a cold air box and high-lift camshaft that brought the 100's engine to 100 brake horsepower or 110 horsepower with high compression 8.1:1 pistons.

After introduction of the 1955 BN2 upgrade at chassis number 228047 with 4-speed gearbox, the Le Mans configuration, now identified as "100M" began to be supplied by the Longbridge and Warwick factories with a characteristic hood ("bonnet") with two rows of louvers following the hood edge in a vee pattern having 14 louvers at the front and a leather hood strap followed by six louvers at the rear.

The Le Mans Kit remained as a standard Austin-Healey parts package, part number P.280, and proved to be practical, cost-effective and equally applicable to both the BN1 and BN2 Austin-Healey 100s.

Descriptions and pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1955
Country of origin Great Britain