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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Classics at Beaulieu: 1956 Austin-Healey 100M

1956 Austin-Healey 100M
Photo by Kate Tompkins
Continuing with my series on the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England, here’s a 1956 Austin-Healey 100M. According to the museum’s placard, this particular car belonged to the Earl of Wharncliffe, and competed in hill climbs. While there’s only a 2660 cc in-line 4 under the hood, that doesn’t mean it’s got no juice. It’ll do 118 mph and puts out 110 bhp at 4,500 rpm.

Wikipedia says designer Donald Healey based the 100s on the existing Austin A90, and was planning to produce them at his own company but the original model he built for the 1952 London Motor Show caught the eye of Austin’s managing director, so he arranged to have Healey build them at the Austin plant in Longbridge. Fourteen thousand, six hundred and thirty-four 100s were produced from 1953 to 1956. The “100” moniker came from the fact that the car could do 100 mph.

So what about the “M” part? It’s probably easiest if I quote directly from the Wikipedia article:

“In 1955, a 100M model was developed as well, with larger carburettors, a cold air box to increase air flow to the carburettors, high-lift camshaft and 8.1:1 compression pistons…. The front suspension was stiffened and the bonnet gained louvres, along with a bonnet belt.” Obviously a sportier version. While some cars came out of the factory that way, it was also possible to buy a conversion kit (the Le Mans Engine Modification Kit) and either install it yourself or get the dealer to do it for you. I’m guessing the Earl’s car came that way from the factory—there were only 640 of those.

RM Auctions sold one last summer for just under $200,000. See pics and details here.

The Austin-Healey 100 was available in two-tone, but I think the straight red looks just fine.

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