Austin-Healey is the ideal of the post-war period British automobile. The formula that inspired its thousands of enthusiasts was the combination of Roadster architecture, a certain rustic charm, an engine sound that turned heads and a production run that made it accessible to many people.
As is often the case in the automobile industry, the Austin-Healey has at its roots the vision of one man. The story begins in 1952, on the Jabekke motorway in Belgium, a testing ground for speed records where the Jaguar XK 120 had already excelled in 1948. This is where Donald Healey presented the Healey 100 prototype, an automobile true to the tradition of English sports cars. The classically and economically designed steel chassis was made up of a structure of beams and spacers; the engine was a big 2660 cc 4 cylinder affair, and the drive shafts came straight from an Austin A90. In his bodywork design, a masterpiece of balance, purity and simplicity, Gerry Coker produced a truly authentic roadster.
At the Earl's Court Motor Show of October 1952, the director of the British Motor Corporation, Leonard Lord, set his eyes on a prototype that he was convinced could compete with MG and Jaguar on the American market, and so Austin-Healey saw the light of day.
Under the moniker of the 100BN1, the first series of the Austin-Healey 100 was produced in a run of ten thousand, until August 1955, when it became the BN2 (of which around four thousand six hundred were made). The main modification was the inclusion of a four-speed gear-box. The commercial risk paid off, as 80% of production models were distributed in North America, where the brand had also acquired a strong reputation in competition. After a notable performance in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours, where the two Healeys finished 12th and 14th, the factory commercialized, for its speed-loving clients, both a "Le Mans kit" which increased the performance of production models, and the 100M model developed from the 100BN2. The 100M was launched in October 1955 in a run of one thousand one hundred and fifty nine. To this can be added the upgraded models equipped with the kit by local dealers.
To be continued...