Not many post-war sports cars can boast of a better provenance than the Austin-Healey 100, first introduced at the 1952 London Motor Show. Brainchild of Sir Donald Healey, the sexy, envelope-bodied Roadster featured matinee-idol looks--and a rugged 4-cylinder engine, lifted straight from Austin's delivery van, producing a whopping 90 hp!
Its anemic power plant did not make the stock Healey a contender on the American market, where big V-8 engines producing raw horsepower and gobs of torque reigned supreme.
Just like Carroll Shelby, who transformed the staid AC Ace into a track warrior by implanting a 289 cu. in.
Enter one John Scranton, chief engineer for Pacific State Steel in Fremont at the time. He originally purchased this black 100/4, VIN *226292* brand new in 1955 as a grocery getter for the wife.
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Soon, Scranton caught the Hot Rodding bug, big time, and proceeded to transform the family Healey into a dual purpose ¼-mile and show car, beginning in 1958 with a body-off build-up, swapping in the U.S.-sourced drivetrain. The car's show career was capped by 2 appearances at the world-famous Oakland Roadster Show; on the Fremont Drag Strip (later known as "Baylands Raceway Park"); his best E.T. was an amazing
Back then, Fremont actually featured two Healey-only classes: one for small-blocks and one for big-block-powered cars, testament to the popularity of the engine swaps.
In 1970, the car caught the eye of famous ballplayer and car collector extraordinaire Reggie Jackson's bodyguard, Tony del Rio. In the middle of a divorce, the Scrantons were eager to strike a deal and Tony placed the Healey in a warehouse in Berkeley, right next to Evel Knievel's jet bike. Tony and his 6'6", 350lbs brother Jack--who also owned a bar on East 14th Street in Hayward--oversaw operations there; they had a reputation as being able to "get whatever was needed." The warehouse burned down in the mid-Seventies and all cars inside were lost, except for this Healey, which was purchased just before the "incident" by its third owner, a Gentleman from Alameda, who kept the car for the next 34 years (and recounted the car's amazing history as outlined here, during a long telephone conversation).
Amazingly, the Healey still retains its original, small California "Pink Slip" and the irreplaceable, matching, black-and-yellow license plate.
Just like in the day, the BN1 is motivated by a balanced and blueprinted Chevrolet 327c.i. engine, and it's still a fearsomely fast animal. According to the last owner, the block contains lightened crank and rods, topped by camel hump cylinder heads ported and polished by ACE Head Shop, finished with a period set of M/T alloy valve covers, exhaling via a custom-bent set of aluma-coated headers.
Major cojones are needed to tame all those wild horses delivered via a close ratio M21 transmission to the big '57 Oldsmobile rear end, which was narrowed, hung on Traction Masters, and features 33-spline axles and a 3.90:1 ratio.
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Details, left to right:
- HOLLEY 6619 carb and EDELBROCK Torker RPM manifold have been installed for street use
- TILTON dual circuit brake master cylinder assembly, for added safety
- Original COVENTRY RADIATOR & PRESSWORK radiator keeps the V-8 cool at all times
- Superb oil pressure!
Having seen very limited street use, Healey looks spiffy clean and unmolested underneath. Frame and floor pans are 100% rust and accident free. Engine has been mounted very low and as far back as possible, to aid weight transfer during launches. Fortunately, engineer Scranton was able to maintain the car's integrity, keeping intact the original frame X-brace and unaltered Healey steering shaft.
Stunningly smooth, steel and aluminum coachwork with unobtrusive, purposeful mods.
Note street-and-strip exhaust system: remove the dump tube covers right behind the front wheels, and all hell breaks loose!
Truly unique is the 100/4's fold-back windshield, which can quickly be lowered to an almost horizontal position, providing more exciting wind-in-the-face fun than found on any other sports car in existence!
Rare American Racing International Dragmaster 8½x15in. alloys, shod with FULDA Y200 radial tires of the size P225/50VR15 up front and P245/50R15 BFG Radial T/As out back, are in excellent condition. No serious Gasser of the early Sixties would show up at the track without those 5-spokes!
Ron LaCombe originally applied scintillating black-and-silver metalflake livery, back in the car's Oakland Roadster Show days. Yet by the early Seventies, it was time for some refinishing. It took the new owner 4 years to carefully scrape off all the old paint and uncover the previously filled body seams, working with a 2" spatula and filling one hundred 2-lb coffee cans with detritus in the process. This labor of love was followed by a high-quality, bare metal respray. There are just a few insignificant imperfections, but no dings or dents, no bubbles or scrapes anywhere, and the Jet Black paint is still ultra glossy.
Neatly rimmed by polished aluminum, the barchetta-like cockpit was expertly re-trimmed by none other than Mr. Larios, the esteemed SFV upholsterer.
Healey's masterfully created dashboard bedazzles the eye of the beholder. Six period STEWART-WARNER gauges grace the engine-turned alloy fascia, complemented by a small central panel holding an array of toggle switches. The three-spoke wood-and-aluminum NARDI volant looks stunning.
HURST shifter with traditional white knob has terrific feel. Remove the hand-formed, polished alloy panels and the transmission can be extracted right through the cockpit within mere minutes for servicing, should the need ever arise. Prior owner stated that the transmission has been fully rebuilt and a new clutch was installed.
True perfection. Note the ultra rare, vintage "British Sports Car Club Hamburg" cloisonné badge.
Original Healey bucket seats and door panels are finished in black Morrokide, with matching black loop carpeting throughout.
Note factory alloy trim on inner door jamb and sill.
The 100/4 is one of the few 1950s sports cars to actually feature a useable luggage compartment. Let's have a look:
Fully lined in black HARDURA material, the trunk looks very clean. Adjustable shocks are visible, as is the large battery, mounted above the right rear wheel as a traction aid.
Memorial Day, when we took these pictures, proved to be a perfect opportunity to put the Healey through its paces. After the morning fog had lifted, we enjoyed a leisurely 25-mile test drive all around San Buenaventura.
The Big Healey starts, shifts, steers, and handles very well, indeed, with no bad habits--like oil smoke, fluid losses, or overheating--to report. Front brakes have been updated to the late A-H 3000 GIRLING disc specification, to excellent effect. Lights, gauges, and switches all work (the car even features turn signals), apart from the--unnecessary--wipers and the speedo.
This black beauty is an attention getter bar none !
Equipped with a tight suspension and responsive steering, this genuine BN1 provides vintage motoring, British bulldog-style, at its best.
Being a land speed enthusiast with several visits to the Bonneville Salt Flats under his belt, Sir Donald himself was supportive of V-8 power for his creation, alas, such a motor simply was not available off the shelf during his 20+ years with the Austin/BMC conglomerate.
With Cobra prices in the $3-500.000.00 range, this Austin-Healey represents a fantastic value among the highly collectible sports cars of the Fifties. Pedigreed (but less powerful) British classics like the Jaguar XK, Aston Martin DB2, or Allard routinely fetch more than $100.000.00 at auction. This one-of-a-kind terror of street and strip could indeed be the bargain of the year. It's a "hard asset" that'll keep its value forever, more so, it's a bona fide conversation starter, heirloom-quality show stopper, and exhilarating Sunday driver.
It's not often that you'll encounter a car of this caliber. This Healey has it all: mystique, charisma, and power.
Without a doubt, this storied California X-Gasser and show car is the sexiest-looking Hot Rod imaginable; even assorted Maseratis, Ferraris, and Cisitalias pale next to this testosterone-fueled black stallion, exemplary proponent of boundless American ingenuity and spirit, a must-have centerpiece for any aficionado of pure, vintage Anglo-American Sports Specials.
We sold this Austin Healey in April 2010 to an enthusiast in Canada.