Austin Healey 100M BN1 RH

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Austin Healey


100M BN1 RH





The Austin-Healey 100 is a sports car built from 1953 until 1956. It was developed by Donald Healey to be produced in-house by Healey's small car company in Warwick and based on Austin A90 Atlantic mechanicals. Healey built a single Healey Hundred for the 1952 London Motor Show, and the design impressed Leonard Lord, managing director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. Lord struck a deal with Healey to build it in quantity, bodies made by Jensen Motors were given Austin mechanical components at Austin's Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100.

The "100" was named by Healey for the car's ability to reach 100 mph (160 km/h); its successor, the better known Austin-Healey 3000, was named for the 3000 cc displacement of its engine.

Production Austin-Healey 100s were finished at Austin's Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich—in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports.

The 100 was the first of three models later called the Big Healeys to distinguish them from the much smaller Austin-Healey Sprite. The Big Healeys are often referred to by their three-character model designators rather than by their models, as the model names do not reflect the mechanical differences and similarities well.

The Healey 100s international debut took place at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show in London. An overnight sensation, it was intended as a low cost, high performance, limited production sports car primarily aimed at the US market. The Healey 100 sourced its major components from the less than successful Austin A90 Atlantic saloon. It was re-badged as the 'Austin-Healey 100' after Austin boss Leonard Lord negotiated the rights to the design with DMH on the launch day. Low revving and torquey, the Atlantic's 2,660 cc four-cylinder engine produced an unremarkable 90 hp but when installed in the lighter and more streamlined Austin-Healey 100 the result was a genuine 100 mph-plus car capable of reaching 60mph in under 11 seconds.

By mid 1953 sufficient Austin-Healeys were rolling off Austin's Longbridge production line to begin to satisfy demand. With production underway, Donald Healey - often referred to by his initials DMH - turned his attention to racing and development, promotion of the 100 while winding down production of the Healey Cars that his company had been producing. It was a very busy year but far from resting on his laurels, he was conscious his business was now focused on just one model, a sports car instead of a moderately extensive range of Healey cars as before.

In an effort to expand his model range DMH asked Gerry Coker, his designer, to develop suitable concepts. In his book The Austin-Healey, Geoffrey Healey quotes as follows "Gerry Coker styled a number of beautiful fixed head coupes on the basic 100. Two of these were built at Austin in Dick Gallimore's shop. The first built was chassis no. BN1 142615 and was finished in red with a black top. The second was finished in ice blue. The red and black car became DMH's personal car. It later acquired a 100S engine and disc brakes and was used as a support vehicle at races. Stirling Moss drove DMH on a recce of the Mille Miglia course in it. The one-piece top added considerable rigidity to the chassis and improved road holding. This car was used in an attempt to develop the 100S engine as a replacement unit for the 90hp 4-cylinder engine."

Turning to the engine and internally this 100S engine specification is similar to that of the four cylinder 100 with a bore of 87.3 mm and stroke of 111.1 mm giving a capacity of 2,660 cc, but that is where the similarity ends. An up-rated block carries a nitride-hardened crankshaft, polished connecting rods with fully floating wrist pin and all running on tri-metal bearings. Assisted by an up-rated camshaft, a carefully assembled Special Test Car engine would develop a little over 140 hp even with a somewhat conservative compression ratio of 8.3:1.

As a mid-1953 snapshot, Austin clearly supported the two coupe proposal with 100 production now satisfying the strong demand which was of course the primary focus. Each week an average of 150 were rolling off the line with a seemingly endless USA appetite for them. Timing is everything and perhaps it was simply just too early for a coupe variant. Regardless, Austin felt that "there would not be a market for a coupe" and that was it. Leaving us with just two 1953 100 based coupes, there would be few Healeys or Austin-Healeys attracting the same level of desirability or sheer charisma as DMH's personal 100S Coupe.

The first 100s (series "BN1") were equipped with the same undersquare 87.3 mm (3.4 in) bore and 111.1 mm (4.4 in) stroke 90 bhp (67 kW) 2660 cc I4 engines and manual transmission as the stock A90, but the transmission was modified to be a three-speed unit with overdrive on second and top.

Girling 11 in (279.4 mm) drum brakes were fitted all round. Front suspension was independent using coil springs and at the rear a rigid axle with semi elliptic leaf springs. The steering was cam and lever.

A total of 10030 BN1s were built from May 1953 until replaced by the BN2 model in August 1955

In 1955, a high-performance 100M model was introduced, with larger carburettors, a cold air box to increase engine air flow, high-lift camshaft and 8.1:1 compression pistons. It produced 110 bhp (82 kW) at 4500 rpm. The front suspension was stiffened and the bonnet gained louvres, along with a bonnet belt. Approximately 70% of 100Ms were finished with a two-tone paint scheme, including one White over Red and another in Black over Pink for display at the 1955 London Motor Show. In all, 640 100Ms were built by the factory.

The 100M components (except for the high compression pistons) were also available as the Le Mans Engine Modification Kit, which could be installed in either a BN1 or BN2 with the engine in situ, improving the power output to approximately 100 bhp (75 kW) at 4500 rpm. The kit could be ordered from BMC, allowing private owners to make their own modifications. The number of BN1s converted by their owners is unknown, but 1,159 cars, mostly BN2s, were built or subsequently modified to 100M specification between 1955 and 1956. Of these, approximately 640 were completed at the factory, some 544 of which were exported to the USA, which is confirmed to be a genuine, factory built, matching numbers Austin-Healey 100M 'Le Mans' by its accompanying BMIHT and 100M 'Le Mans' Registry certificates.

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