Sales that Teach

Was This 1955 Austin-Healey 100S A Steal At $758,000?

by Conner Golden
12 December 2021 3 min read
Image
Photo by Bonhams

Wowza—someone just swapped $758,959  (£575,000) for an Austin-Healey 100S at this year’s Bonham’s Bond Street London sale. That’s a lot of scratch for a breed of roadster historically priced above MGs and Triumphs but below Jaguar roadsters. Are Big Healeys about to have a moment?

Nah. What we’re actually seeing here is the value of racing pedigree and rarity. Logically, the mythos of the 100S began with the standard production Austin-Healey 100 roadster, with a crate of competition-spec hardware levied onto the chassis and under that alarmingly handsome front clip. A lightweight aluminum body replaced the standard steel, the driver unprotected from the elements by anything save a low screen cut from Perspex. Dunlop disc brakes stopped the feathery 1,960-pound roadster, with an extended 20-gallon fuel tank to keep the modified 132-hp 2.6-liter four-cylinder on boil.

This was enough go-fast to claim first-in-class and third overall at the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring, a strong finish that inspired the “S” in its new name and a fleet of both amateur and professional racers who sought to campaign the new competition-tuned Healey around the world. The 100S’ family race history is extensive, having clocked a healthy portfolio of overall wins at small- and medium-scale motorsport events, to a class win at the Mille Miglia and strong showings at Le Mans—the 1955 disaster notwithstanding. Excluding prototypes and retrofitted roadsters, only 55 100S’ were produced, which Bonhams estimates only 38 of which exist today.

It’s a sure bet to assume the values of workaday Big Healeys have little to no bearing on the Monaco sums paid for the ultra-desirable competition-spec 100S roadsters used for AH’s extensive motorsports efforts. Compared to standard production Big Healeys—a colloquial catch-all for top-line AH 100- and 3000-series roadsters produced between 1953 and 1967—values of the rarified 100S have long since spiked.

The cool three-quarters of a million bucks is somewhat consistent with rare competition Healeys of the same ilk; in fact, $758,559 is a sharp discount when compared to the $888,459 paid for the exact same Healey at Bonhams’ 2014 Goodwood sale. Accounting for inflation, that $120,000 discount climbs to a gutbusting $279,108.

Still, it’s a bit disconcerting watching any Austin-Healey hammer for over $750,000 when a production-spec Austin-Healey 100 in Hagerty Price Guide Condition #3 (Good) averages $77,000. Even a better-than-new, concours-ready 100 in Condition #1 pales against the 100S at an average of $180,000.

Like many aged British race cars, the 100S never really went into retirement. Its perfect blend of usability and competitiveness made it a star on the vintage racing circuit, alongside regular showings at prestigious rallies and concours. Provenance and originality is king; the bigger the trophy case and the more authentic the driveline, the more cartoonish sacks of cash are dumped on the hood.

As such, it’s difficult to put a finger on the 100S market. Scarcity seems to be the biggest factor at play here, as roughly only one 100S makes it to market every year-and-a-half. An impressive restored 100S sold for $632,500 at Gooding & Co.’s 2011 Amelia Island sale, with a barnfind condition 100S claiming a whopping $1,112,103 later that year through Bonhams. 2013 saw an ex-works 100S with Le Mans and Mille Miglia pedigree hammer for $1,036,248; 2014 saw at least two 100S sold, with the sale mentioned above bookended by Bonham’s second 100S at a strangely identical $888,495.

2015 saw a 100S return to the seven-figure club, with an ex-Jackie Cooper Austin-Healey trading for $1,012,000. The next successful sale was 2017, where a restored 100S without numbers-matching drivetrain claimed just $539,000. Four years passed until the next completed 100S public sale, with a restored roadster seeing $836,257 including buyer’s fee at RM Sotheby’s St. Moritz sale this past September.

Our folks on the ground at Bonham’s Bond Street sale had a good visual go-over on the star 100S in question. Despite being an older restoration, it presents well in Hagerty UK Price Guide Condition #2-, with only minor stone chips in the mostly excellent paint. Most of the exterior accessories—lighting, brightwork—matches the paint for condition, and the interior upholstery is tight and well-maintained. Finally, the engine bay and chassis appear “well-prepped and impressive.”

So, a good car bought at a seemingly great price, considering its sky-high original sale back in 2014. Maybe, maybe not; this 100S sold right at Bonham’s set estimate, and is right in-line with Hagerty UK Price Guide’s value for a 100S in this condition. In this case, it seems the market for the 100S has cooled slightly, particularly when you look at the close-ish value paid for RM Sotheby’s Austin-Healey at the recent 2021 St. Moritz sale. If you have the cash and the itch for a do-everything, go-anywhere blue-chip vintage race car, now might be the perfect time to pick up an Austin-Healey 100S—at least, the next time one comes to auction. We’ll keep an eye out.

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Comments

  • Bill Lawrence says:

    To put this in perspective a 100-S is to other Austin Healeys as a D Type is to a Jaguar saloon. It was a bespoke racing car with an all alloy lightened body and a special engine featuring a Weslake cross flow head and other features not present on their production cars. Only 50 were produced in 1955 although 5 of their works competition (Special test) cars were converted to the spec after the fact. Nearly all of these cars are accounted for and jealously guarded by their owners. Cars with this spec. Ran a t Bonneville in 1954 setting numerous class D records and were capable of 143 MPH. To Healey enthusiasts they are the Holy Grail.

  • Angus Grant says:

    This type of Austin Healey has a near perfect pedigree and I doubt it sees much regular street use , no disrespect intended.
    For myself, and many other Austin Healey enthusiasts, the joy of ownership is not all about monetary value but moreso includes the stewardship responsibilities; driving , maintenance, etc and developing a kinship, an awareness and respect for these fine automobiles , and in the end passing on this enjoyment to the next generation at a reasonable price.

  • Derek Snead says:

    Jag D type and Jag Saloon is a bit of an exaggerated analogy when comparing the 100s to a Healey 3000 however I understand what you’re saying, the 100s is the holy grail for sure

  • Oran J Sands says:

    The low angle pic shows how handsome this car is. In motion, slipping thru the air and roaring out of the turn. God how I want this car and a scarf to wear while driving it.

  • Warren Cox says:

    I bought 3507 off a used car lot in 1961 for $1340. I put a top and windshield on it and used it as a road car for four years, finally selling it for $2200. Not my first Healey. I had previously raced a 100M, so I knew the ins and outs. I suspect that I had about as much fun with a 100S as anyone ever has had. flames out of the exhaust pipe at night and going up the Maine Turnpike at 115 MPH at night are lasting memories. Wish I had it back.

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