That's when the Austin-Healey was struck from the rear by a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR on the rear quarter. The Mercedes-Benz catapulted into a retaining bank and disintegrated, spraying the crowd with flaming debris, including the vehicle's engine. A total of 84 individuals died as a result of the crash, including Pierre Levegh, the driver of the 300SLR. A further 120 people sustained injuries of varying severity, and the crash prompted an international revision of safety precautions at race tracks.
The Austin-Healey, meanwhile, spent a year in police impound before being repaired and sold to a private individual. It's spent the last 42 years owned by a single individual, with many of those in storage. The vehicle went up for auction on December 1 and brought a final bid of £843,000, or over $1.3 million. Hit the jump for the full press release as well as a video of the horrific crash. Head over to Bonhams for plenty of vintage photography of the vehicle.
An unrestored works racing team 1953 Austin-Healey '100' Special Test Car has been consigned to Bonhams' December Sale at Mercedes-Benz World, Weybridge.This remarkably charismatic Le Mans car was campaigned in period by works drivers Lance Macklin, Gordon Wilkins and Marcel Becquart and is expected to realise in excess of £500,000.
One of the illustrious Warwick factory's very first batch of only four 'Special Test Cars', the precursor to the legendary '100S', and still bearing its iconic works racing team road registration 'NOJ 393', the car is to be offered in 'barn find' condition for the first time in 42 years.
It is a veteran of both the 1953 and 1955 Le Mans 24-Hour races, having finished third in class and 14th overall in the 1953 edition when co-driven by Wilkins/Becquart. Having begun life as a Healey Special Test Car, it was later updated by the factory to '100S' specification for 1954-55 when 'NOJ 393' contested both the exotic Carrera PanAmericana Mexico, and the Bahamas Speed Week events at Nassau.
Subsequently, when driven by Lance Macklin at Le Mans '55, this was the Austin-Healey involved in the catastrophic Le Mans Disaster, when it was rammed from behind by Levegh's works Mercedes-Benz 300SLR.
This historic ex-works Austin-Healey was subsequently impounded by the French authorities for some 18 months, before being released blame-free back to the Donald Healey Motor Company. It was then repaired and restored at their Warwick factory and returned to competition in private hands through the late 1950s and into the 1960s, before being acquired by its current owner in 1969, since when – for 42 years – it has been stored, untouched.
Thus, this Austin-Healey, one of the four works Special Test Cars that evolved into Lance Macklin's works-entered '100S', is being offered direct from just one 42 year-long private ownership. In addition it has the extraordinary primary claim to fame of having competed at top International level in two Le Mans 24-Hour Grands Prix d'Endurance.
Works Austin-Healey 'NOJ 393' will also be exhibited to the public at the forthcoming Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale from Friday 16 to Sunday 18 September.
James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams Motoring Department, comments, "As an unashamed Austin-Healey fan – and owner of a '100' myself – I'm thrilled to be handling such an important and historic Healey. The '100S' is, to me, the most desirable Healey of all and to offer an ex-works example with Special Test Car lineage and such significant racing history is a dream come true."