Iconic racing Healey painstakingly restored

Iconic racing Healey painstakingly restored

An unfortunate racing legend with a dark history has resurfaced, after being treated to a full restoration to become the most valuable Austin Healey in the world.

The story of NOJ 393 begins in 1953 when it was one of four Special Test Cars built at Warwick by Donald Healey Motor Company to aid development of the upcoming Austin-Healey sports car. It was subsequently converted to 'Works' specification to challenge Jaguar and Mercedes in the top flight sports car races of the time.
NOJ 393 competed in the all the iconic races of the period, including the Sebring 12 Hours in 1954, the 1954 Carrera PanAmericana, the 1954 Bahamas Speed Week and two appearances at the world famous Le Mans 24 Hours, coming 3rd in class in 1953.

However it was at the 1955 Le Mans that NOJ 393 changed motorsport history forever, when it was involved in a catastrophic collision which is still the worst in motor racing history. As the driver of the Austin-Healey swerved to avoid a Jaguar D-Type that was diving into the pits, he inadvertently blocked the path of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR driven by Pierre Levegh. The two cars collided, and the Mercedes was launched into the crowd, claiming the lives of Levegh and 83 spectators.

After the crash the NOJ 393 was impounded by French police for 18 months until its driver, Lance Macklin, was exonerated from all blame.

Upon its return to the UK, the Austin-Healey was hastily restored and sold into private hands. From there its racing career continued on British circuits until late 1964, at which point it was retired. Its new owner, Jack Scott, bought the car in 1969 but never found the time to restore it.

It then surfaced more than 42 years later when it came up for auction at Bonhams in December 2011, which was also when we last saw the car. It sold for £843,000, a new world record for an Austin-Healey.

Now, after a painstaking nut-and-bolt restoration, the car has been restored back to its gleaming 1955 Le Mans specification and is ready to appear at shows and events throughout this year.

Its current owner is said to be a European collector and committed Austin-Healey enthusiast, who commissioned the restoration from Australian experts Marsh Classic Restorations.

Bonhams group motoring director, James Knight, said: "It gives me great pleasure that Bonhams is re-introducing this significant motor car to the collectors' motor car fraternity. As a Healey 100 owner and enthusiast of the marque, it is very much a personal privilege as well.

"I look forward to seeing the car on both road and track over the coming years."

The world-famous NOJ 393 is not for sale – however if one fancies one of four Special Test Cars to be converted to works specification, and to have raced against each other in the 1953 Le Mans, then as luck would have it Bonhams will have NOJ 392 up for auction at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed – NOJ 392 being NOJ 393's sister car, and the only other surviving car left from the Special Test Car batch.

It is expected to reach up to £600,000 at the auction.

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