Un-restored 1953 Austin-Healey That Changed Motor Racing History Makes £843,000 at Auction.
If you saw pictures of the car, you would think £843 would be more the right price for it, but At Bonhams Classic Car Auction at Mercedes World last week, the tattiest looking sports car you could ever see, made a massive £843,000.
So why I hear you say, well its all about rarity and history and this is indeed a pretty famous car, but some would say its famous for the wrong reasons.
The 1953 Austin-Healey works racing, or special test car (NOJ 393) was one of only 4 ever built and just one of two that went on to be converted to full blown 100S specification and compete in the Le-Mans 24 hour endurance race in 1953 and 1955.
Loads of other competitive events followed, including the Sebring 12-Hours, Carrera PanAmericana and Bahamas Speed Week in Nassau, giving this Austin Healey a real works racing pedigree, but it was for an entirely different reason that NOJ393 would be remembered.
In 1955, the most horrific accident happened that changed the course of International Motor Racing forever. On its second outing at Le-Mans, NOJ393 was in the process of being lapped by a group of more powerful cars when on the main straight, Mike Hawthorn’s heavily braking Jaguar D-Type veered across the path of the Austin-Healey to make its fuel stop, causing the Austin Healey to swerve to avoid him and in the process, NOJ393 was struck from behind by the works entered Mercedes-Benz of French driver Pierre Levegh, which caused the Mercedes to crash heavily and disintegrate with parts of the car flying into the crowd killing 83 spectators and injuring a further 120 people, making this even to today, the worst motor racing disaster of all time.
NOJ393 had spun to the right of the roadway, bouncing off the pit-counter wall before slewing to a halt on the other side of the track and was impounded by French Police, pending a full enquiry and it took until September 1956 before the Donald Healey Motor Company were able to negotiate the release of their damaged car and repair it, albeit using steel panels as they had run out of the original alloy ones.
This crash changed the world of motor sport forever, hence the significance of this car which is probably why it reached the phenomenal sum of £843,000 at auction.
So what about the previous owner, was NOJ393 a good investment for him?
The last owner bought the car in 1969 in exactly the same condition as it was auctioned last week. The car had a seized engine and the previous owner had already agreed to sell it for £150, but as the buyer hadn’t come forward with the cash, the current (pre-auction) owner upped the bid by a fiver and paid £155 for the car. So NOJ393 has sat around as a time capsule for 42 years, untouched and unchanged and still showing signs of it Le-Mans encounter and effectively earned its owner £842,845 in that time! Not a bad investment is it?