1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 BN1
Donald Healey is an icon of the British motor industry. He was born in Perranporth, Cornwall, in the south west of England on the 3rd July 1898. He studied engineering and had a passion for all things mechanical, including aeroplanes and motor vehicles. In 1945 he founded the Donald Healey Motor Company and its mission was to build excellent quality performance cars. In 1946 the company introduced the Healey Westland Roadster and the Healey Elliott Saloon, both built through until 1950. Other subsequent models included the Healey Sportsmobile (1948-1950), Healey Silverstone (1949-1950), Healey Tickford Saloon (1950-1954), Healey Abbott Drophead Coupe (1950-1954) and Healey G-Type Roadster (1951-1953). The most successful car built in this era was the Nash Healey of which just over 500 examples were built from 1950 – 1954. Healey’s cars were good and they enjoyed much success in competition, including class wins in the 1947 and 1948 Alpine rallies as well as the 1949 Mille Miglia. They were also expensive and business was tough going.
The Donald Healey Motor Company struggled and Healey decided that he needed to build a cheaper sports car in far greater numbers to be successful. In 1952 Healey built a Healey Hundred which was shown at the London Motor Show. The design caught the eye of Leonard Lord, the managing director of Austin. Austin was looking for a replacement of their rather unsuccessful Austin A90. A deal was struck and the Austin-Healey 100 was born. The bodies of the new Austin-Healey were made in the Jensen factory and the car was given Austin mechanical components. As they say ‘the rest is history’, Austin-Healey was formed through a joint venture between the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and the Donald Healey Motor Company (Healey). Austin-Healey then went on to become one of the world’s most successful sports car manufacturers.
In 1953 Austin-Healey officially introduced the Austin-Healey 100 to the public. These were true sports cars in every sense of the word, an open two-seater with minimal weather protection. They were powered by a 2,660cc 4 cylinder engine generating around 90 bhp, enough to propel the car to a top speed of 100 mph, hence, the designation Austin Healey ‘100’. The first series cars were designated BN1 and in 1955 the second series or BN2 was introduced. The BN2 had a four speed manual gearbox (compared to a three speed in the BN1), with overdrive on the top two gears. The BN2 has slightly larger front wheel arches and a different rear axle. Interestingly, the BN2 was the first Austin-Healey to offer optional two-tone paint. A total of 10,030 BN1’s and 4,604 BN2’s were produced during the three years of production. It is understood less than 10% of these were right hand drive cars.
In 1955 Austin-Healey introduced the 100S, which was built for the race track. Featuring light aluminium body work, engine improvements that delivered 135 bhp, a strengthened chassis, disc brakes on all four wheels, suspension upgrades and no bumpers (to keep weight at a minimum) the Austin-Healey 100S was a great success. Only 50 cars were ever built and they are today amongst the world’s most desirable and collectable cars. Hot on the heels of the 100S, Austin-Healey introduced the 100M, a high performance road going model with engine modifications that increased power from 90 bhp to 110 bhp. In total 640 Austin-Healey 100Ms were built in 1955/56.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 BN1.
The Heritage Certificate on file confirms this is a factory right hand drive home market car which was delivered new on the 3rd February 1954 in the UK. The car’s original colour scheme was black with a red interior. The Heritage Certificate also confirms that the chassis, engine and body number tags all match.
Little is known about the very early history of this particular car. There is an original replacement registration book with the car which was issued on 31st July 1969 in Wolverhampton, UK. At that time the car was registered as OLX 290. The registration book shows the names of 5 owners before the registration was cancelled on the 8th of May 1980.
This Austin-Healey subsequently found its way to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. The car was in Noosa by at least November 1986 and in the ownership of a Mr Hugh Ramsay. Ramsay undertook a comprehensive restoration to bring the car back to its former glory. There is a photo book with the car detailing the restoration, however, it is unknown how long the restoration process took. The photos show the car had clearly been neglected for a few years before the restoration started. The car then passed through a few owners before the current owner acquired the car from a deceased estate around a year ago. When he acquired the car, it came with a thick file receipts showing work done over the past 10 years.
In 2015, the prior to current owner had the engine reconditioned. At that time a new alloy cylinder head and fast road camshaft were installed and new extractors were fitted.
In 2017 the prior to current owner had the standard BN1 3 speed gearbox replaced with a more usable 4 speed BN2 gearbox with overdrive. In 2019 new leaf springs were installed. Just prior to the sale of the car to the current owner a new fuel pump was installed and the overdrive was repaired
When the current owner acquired the car it hadn’t been used for some time and it required light recommissioning. To be more comfortable driving the car he purchased and fitted a new 15” Moto-Lita steering wheel.
Unfortunately, when he started using the car it wasn’t quite performing the way it should. He took the car to the Classic Car Clinic on the Gold Coast who determined the previous engine rebuild hadn’t been done correctly and a decision was made to rebuilt the engine again. The engine block was given to Wynnum Engine Reconditioning and the cylinder head was given to P&A Gilbert Cylinder Head Service in Southport. Various parts were ordered from The Healey Factory in Melbourne, Victoria as well as AH Spares in the UK. The Classic Car Clinic then rebuilt the engine and reinstalled it in the car. Since that work was completed, the car has travelled around 500 miles.
Today this Austin Healey presents beautifully. Despite wearing an older repaint, the bright red paintwork still presents well with a strong depth of colour and a high gloss finish. It has clearly stood the test of time and defects are hard to find. The chrome work, especially the grill, is a feature on these Austin Healeys and all of it is in good condition. The same can be said about the lenses and the glass.
The overall presentation of this car is a credit to its previous owners and demonstrates that it has been very well cared for.
The interior on the early Healeys is minimalistic. On this car everything inside the cabin is in good condition and its presentation is consistent with the rest of the car. The seats show some light patina but there are no tears in the upholstery and the seats are still very supportive. All the instruments and controls are in good working order.
The soft top is generally in a good condition, however, it is a tight fit. It is likely the soft top has been sparingly used, if at all, so it would benefit from some time in the sun to stretch.
This would make putting it up an easier task. We also noticed two very small marks on the soft top. Both are on the driver’s side – one is on the edge and the other next to the rear window. The side screens are with the car and in good condition. There is a tonneau cover with the car which is also in good condition The car is fitted with 15-inch painted wire wheels which present really well. The wheels are shod with 185/80/R15 Hankook Optimo K715 tyres. These are date stamped week 43, 2010 and whilst they are still in good condition they probably will need to be replaced in the near future.
The engine bay is very clean, dry and well presented. The boot is also neat and tidy and presents with a rubber boot mat, strapped in spare wheel, tool kit, jack and mallet.
Out on the open road this Austin-Healey 100/4 BN1 is a very nice example of what is considered to be a quintessential British sports car. The early Healeys are designed and built to simply enjoy the driving experience. There are no frills that could distract you from doing so. This car starts easily. It requires full choke when the engine is cold and it starts pretty much at the first press of the starter button. The engine warms up quickly and soon settles into a smooth idle. First impressions are all good . . . in fact, really good! The engine is very responsive, the gear changes are precise and the car just goes about its business in that typical English way. The steering is direct, the suspension is tight and the car feels solid on the road.
This car is fitted with an overdrive which works on third and fourth gear. It works well and makes the longer journeys or motor way driving more comfortable.
Unfortunately, the current owner of this fabulous Austin Healey 100/4 BN1 has only been able to enjoy his car for a short period of time. A change in circumstances has resulted in him moving overseas and he has made the difficult decision to sell.
This is good news for the car’s next owner! This Healey presents beautifully and with a freshly rebuilt engine it is ready for a new owner to use and enjoy. This is really the car you can just get in, turn the ignition on, press the starter button and drive away. What a great way to spend Sunday mornings!
In addition to the items in the boot mentioned above, accompanying this car is the original steering wheel, the original cylinder head, a few miscellaneous spare parts, tonneau cover, car cover and a comprehensive history file.
- Factory RHD example.
- Matching numbers as confirmed by the Heritage Certificate.
- Engine rebuild completed by marquee specialist about 500 miles ago.
- Good history file with a photo book of the restoration.
- Ready to use and enjoy.
- Austin Healey 100/4 BN1
- 23,798 miles
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