Austin-Healey 100

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Austin Healey 100


Austin Healey

Austin-Healey 100

1952 - 1956
Country:
United Kingdom
Engine:
Straight 4
Capacity:
2660 cc
Power:
132 bhp @  4700 rpm
Transmission:
3/4 spd. man (overdrive)
Top Speed:
100+ mph
Number Built:
14,500+
Collectability:
4 star
Austin Healey 100
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4

Introduction



The Healey Hundred made its debut at the 1952 Earls Court International Motor Show where it completely upstaged the other models and became a star overnight. The pundits agreed that the Healey was easily the most attractive production car on offer. There was no question that the purposefully stylish lines penned by Healey's bodyman Gerry Coker were the head-turning focal point of attention. But it equally obviously wasn't just a pretty face. It had brilliant performance too and easily lived up to its name, as Healey proved when the standard Hundred was officially timed at 111 mph (178 km/h).

While crowds were milling rows deep around his new sports car, Donald Healey and Austin boss Leonard Lord met together in the relative seclusion of offices deep within the bowels of the vast Earls Court complex, hatching what was to be a momentous agreement. The Hundred was powered by the Austin A90 engine, the continued supply of which Healey had negotiated in 1951 after learning of the imminent demise of the Riley engine which had been his mainstay for many years.

It's almost enough to make you wonder - if Riley hadn't got the axe, then there wouldn't have been the tie with Austin, and Len Lord mightn't have entered the picture. But he did, and he knew a good thing when he saw it, especially when he saw it at the head of a queue growing like Jack's beanstalk. The liaison resulted in the announcement that Austin would make the car and be responsible for sales and service on export markets, with UK sales through the Healey Motor Co. And the car would henceforth be known as the Austin Healey 100. That was the beginning of an association which continued through to 1968 for the big Healey (though the Austin Healey name survived into 1972 on the Sprite).

It was also the beginning of production runs that saw more than 72,000 road models produced in 11 different series, beginning with the 2.6-litre four-cylinder 100 BN1 in 1953 and culminating in the 2.9-litre six-cylinder 3000 Mark III BJ8. A relatively high proportion of big Healeys live on, many of them in Australia, sought after and cared for by enthusiasts who recognise that they're among the all time classic sportsters. No small part in the continued well-being of the marque is owed to Austin Healey clubs the world over. Australia is in fact very much an Austin Healey stronghold, with comparatively high ownership not only of the regular production models but also of the rare 100S (with 14 of the 50 made), plus ex-works rally cars, one of the two surviving (from three) X400 prototypes with 4-litre Rolls Royce engine and widened body, and the XR37 sports-racer, the last of that line.

The Austin-Healey 100 In Detail



The Austin-Healey 100 was the car that introduced the Austin-Healey Marque. This very British sports car used an Austin A90 engine and modified Austin A90 gearbox, and its all-steel body was mounted on a steel box section chassis. Donald Healey's very first iteration was put on display at the 1952 Earls Court Show, and so impressed was BMC's managing director Leonard Lord that a deal was struck, so next morning the model on the stand had a new badge which announced to the world that this was the new Austin Healey 100. The deal had Healey designing the cars and Longbridge building and marketing them under the name of Austin-Healey. It would take some time to get the sports car into production, at the earliest by the middle of 1953. As a production line would have to be set up at Jensen Motors of West Bromwich to produce the body, with a line set up at Longbridge for final assembly.

The "100" name comes from Donald Healey, who named it after the fact that this was one of the few cars of the era which could maintain 100 mph (160 km/h), as opposed to the Austin-Healey 3000, which is named for its 3000 cc engine. Both Leonard Lord and Donald Healey were eager to capitalise on the interest already shown in the car, and so the pair decided that the Donald Healey Motor Company would produce a small batch by hand that would be used mainly for publicity, such as Motor Shows around Europe and America, and also be loaned out for the press to try and the public to view. Donald Healeys factory was referred to by the workforce as 'The Works' and was actually a former aircraft hangar that was re-erected on three acres of reclaimed land made available by Warwick Council after World War 2. Not the ideal place to build a stylish sports car. Offices were added later and also a brick workshop for Roger Menadue to house the experimental department.

It was here that the first five cars were assembled. It was planned to produce the next batch of pre-production vehicles in the hanger, a total of fifty, under the watchful eye of Harry Bradish. In the end however only nineteen were made at Warwick, and all were left-hand drive versions - it was obvious where BMC thought the market for the car was. The first of the line built at Longbridge, with bodies supplied fully trimmed and painted by Jensen was the 2.6 litre Austin-Healey 100 BN1 in 1953. The cars were built alongside the Austin A90. The first 100s ("BN1"), were equipped with the same 90 hp (67 kW) 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. The 2660 cc 4 cylinder engine featured an undersquare 87.3 mm (3.4 in) bore and 111.1 mm (4.4 in) stroke.

Two years later came the BN2 version, with 4-speed manual transmission and still with overdrive. Other features that distinguish the BN2 from the BN1 were the slightly larger front wheel arches, different rear axle and being the first 100 with optional two tone paint. The colour alternatives available to the 100 were: Reno Red, Spruce Green, Healey Blue, Florida Green, Old English White, Primrose Yellow, Black, and a limited number of Gunmetal Grey cars. A "100 M" (for Modified) package was also developed, this iteration featuring 110 hp (82 kW) on tap. 1159 were made. The front suspension was stiffened and the bonnet gained louvres, along with a bonnet belt. The 100M engine also sported a cold air box to increase air flow to the carburettors, as well as 1 3/4 SU carbs. Although the factory produced 100Ms, dealers were also able to offer 100M upgrades.

The remaining standard 100 versions were also fitted with the 4-speed overdrive gearbox in 1955. A remarkable performance in the 1953 Sebring 12-hour race by a special 100 led to the S (Sebring) version being produced in 1954. These cars featured aluminium bodywork, alloy cylinder head and all round disc brakes. The cast iron cylinder head was replaced by one made from aluminium and the overdrive unit was not fitted to the gearbox. Dunlop disc brakes were fitted front and rear. To keep weight to a minimum there were no bumpers or hood (convertible top), a smaller grille and the windscreen was plastic.

The 100S was also the first production car in the world to sport disc brakes at both the front and rear. The car was approximately 200 lb (91 kg) lighter than standard version. The majority of the 100S were two-toned white with blue sides, however, a handful of cars where ordered in Spruce Green, Reno Red and one single black 100S. Only 50 S versions were produced. Demand for the 100 remained strong throughout its production and over 14,500 cars were built. It was replaced by the Austin Healey 100 Six in October 1956. It is worth noting that Austin-Healey models are sometimes referred to by their factory designations and these appear in brackets in the table below.

Austin Healey 100 Specifications

Model

100 (BN1/BN2)

100 M

100 S (AHS)

Years Produced

1952 - 1956

1955 - 1956

1954 - 1956

Body Type 

Steel body, steel chassis

Alloy body, steel chassis

Length

12ft 7in

12ft 7in

12ft 7in

Width

5ft 0.5in

5ft 0.5in

5ft 0.5in

Weight

2150lb

2385lb

2115lb

Engine

4 cyl inline 2660cc

4 cyl inline 2660cc

4 cyl inline 2660cc

Power

90 bhp @  4000 rpm

110 bhp @  4500 rpm

132 bhp @  4700 rpm

Torque

144lb ft @  2500 rpm

160lb ft @  2500 rpm

168lb ft @  2500 rpm

Gearbox

3 speed o/drive

4 speed o/drive

4 speed o/drive

Driven Wheels

Rear

Rear

Rear

Brakes

Drums all round

Drums all round

Discs all round

Front Suspension

Independent coils spring and wishbone

Rear Suspension

Leaf Spring, live axle

Leaf Spring, live axle

Leaf Spring, live axle

Austin Healey 100 Performance (approximate figures)

Model

100

100 M

100 S

Top Speed

105 mph

109 mph

120mph

0 - 60 mph

11 seconds

9.5 seconds

7.8 seconds

Fuel Consumption

22 mpg

20 mpg

18 mpg

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Also see:


Austin Healey 100 Six
Austin Healey 3000
Austin Healey Heritage
Austin Healey Brochures
Donald Healey and the History of the Big Healeys
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