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Massacre at Le Mans Austin-Healey set to cross Bonhams Auction Block

Jeff Glucker December 1, 2011 Cars You Should Know, For Sale, Motorsports 6 Comments

The 1955 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans remains a black day in motorsports. As a D-Type Jaguar setup for a corner, the driver hit the stoppers very hard. Running behind that Jag was an Austin-Healey prototype racer that swerved to avoid running into the rear of the D-Type. Unfortunately, the Healey moved directly into the path of a rapidly approaching Mercedes 300 SLR.

There was no time for the Benz to stop, and it wound up using the sloped rear end of the Austin as a launching pad… straight into the horrified crowd. Many in the crowd died that day, and safety changes were almost immediately researched and implemented.

The Austin-Healey 100 Special test car that was a major part of the accident wound up in a barn for 42 years… but now it’s come out of hiding, and is set to cross the auction block at Bonhams.

In 1969, nearly a decade after it became a very bad part of racing history, the Austin-Healey wound up in the hands of  an anonymous collector. A paltry sum was paid for the car, and it was promptly locked away in the owner’s barn. Now, 42 years later, the owner is sending the car across the block.

Besides being a notoriously morose machine, this Austin-Healey has a very unique history that’s not centered on the disaster at Le Mans. The car with tags NOJ 393 is one of just four 100 Special prototypes that led the way for the 100S. This test car wasn’t sent straight to the owner’s barn either.

Local police impounded the vehicle for 18 months after the crash. Ultimately, investigators deemed the car blame free, and it was given back to Donald Healey Motor Company. At its Warwick factory, the automaker restored the car, and it was soon racing again. Eventually, the current owner scooped it up, and stowed it away, until now.

The Austin-Healey will be part of the Bonhams Mercedes-Benz World, Important Collectors Automobilia auction, which runs today. Estimated value on the racing rig? £800,000, or close to $1.3 million.

[Images courtesy of Bonhams]

  • Scandinavian Flick

    It looks to be in remarkably good condition, all things considered. I would have really mixed feelings owning such a car, but it is an incredible piece of automotive racing history.

    Can I get curse insurance, just in case?

  • B72

    Love that 4 color paint job!

    No, I'm serious. That is serious patina. Makes the car look like the ghoul that it is.

    • joshuman

      I was just thinking that I would love to buy one that looks exactly the same but without the provenance or the inflated collector value. That way I wouldn't feel bad about putting a modern engine in it and driving it to work every single day of the year.

  • dukeisduke

    I saw this story on Fox News this morning – the story includes a period UK newsreel about the disaster. It looks remarkably undamaged for having Levegh's car launch off of it. The FNC story says the car sold for $243 in 1969:

    Edit: Okay, never mind; I just read the part about where the car was restored after being released from impound in 1956. In the newsreel there's a car that could be this one, and the trunk on it looks pretty mashed.

  • 3:30 PM EST, Hemmings just went live with the news this car sold for $1,327,051.00