Classic Austin-Healey â€˜Le Mans disasterâ€™ car is a $1.3m record at Bonhams
Classic Austin-Healey Le Mans disaster car is a $1.3m record at Bonhams
1955s Le Mans disaster remains the worst crash in motorsport, and this classic Austin-Healey was there
We're always intrigued by barn finds here at Paul Fraser Collectibles - in fact we picked five of our favourites out earlier this year - and Bonhams just sold a classic.
An unrestored works racing team 1953 Austin-Healey '100' Special Test Car, which was campaigned in period by racing drivers Lance Macklin, Gordon Wilkins and Marcel Becquart, sold for a world record 843,000 (approx $1.31m) today (1 December) at Bonhams' December Sale.
This car is credited with one of the most prestigious racing achievements of the entire Austin-Healey marque.
But it was also involved in one of the worst crash in motor racing history.
The car, which was offered in 'barn find' condition for the first time in 42 years, was bought by a private buyer within the room at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge, Surrey.
While much interest has been shown in the car's Le Mans history (it is a veteran of both the 1953 and 1955 Le Mans 24-Hour races), for enthusiasts its appeal is much broader.
It is the car that finished third in the Sebring 12-hour race, one of the most prestigious achievements of the entire Austin-Healey marque, which put the 'S' in its 100S model name.
The wonderful 1953-55 Austin Healey Special Test Car
In addition, it took part in not only the amazing week-long Carrera Pan-Americana road race through Mexico, but also the exotic Bahamas Speed Week.
When driven by Lance Macklin at Le Mans '55, this was the Austin-Healey involved in the catastrophic Le Mans Disaster, when it was rammed from behind by 'Levegh's works Mercedes-Benz 300SLR.
It was subsequently impounded by the French authorities for some 18 months, before being released blame-free back to the Donald Healey Motor Company. It was then repaired and restored at their Warwick factory and returned to competition in private hands through the late 1950s and into the 1960s.
It was acquired by the current vendor in 1969, since when - for 42 years - it has been stored, untouched.
The vendor said he was "delighted" with the result while James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams Motoring Department, who took the sale, said "As an unashamed Austin-Healey fan - and owner of a '100' myself - I'm thrilled with today's result.
"The '100S' is, to me, the most desirable Healey of all and to have sold an ex-works example with Special Test Car lineage and such significant racing history for such a magnificent price is a dream come true.
"As an unashamed Austin-Healey fan - and owner of a '100' myself - I'm thrilled to be handling such an important and historic Healey. The '100S' is, to me, the most desirable Healey of all and to offer an ex-works example with Special Test Car lineage and such significant racing history is a dream come true."