Motorsports has had plenty of dark days in its history, but few compare to the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. That race saw Lance Macklin enter this Austin-Healey 100 S Prototype in the legendary European 24-hour race in his name. The vehicle packed a 140-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine with a massive cam and dual carbs, and while Macklin was able to keep the vehicle in decent standing throughout the first racing stint, he eventually found himself being lapped by the substantially quicker sports-prototype vehicles from Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. As the Austin-Healey came barreling past the pits, a Jaguar D-Type slowed abruptly as it came in for fuel, forcing to Macklin to swerve out of the way.

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.



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Ex-Works/ Lance Macklin/ Le Mans 24-Hour 1953-55 Austin-Healey '100' Works Car to Headline at Mercedes-Benz World Sale

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."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      folky15
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow - hard to believe that the race was not cancelled after such a terrible tragedy. From what I can tell, they didn't even temporarily stop the race during the fire?!? Makes you thankful for today's safety protocols.
        Gepi
        • 3 Years Ago
        @folky15
        Actually, the race not being canceled was the best decision they could take at the time, albeit it might sound controversial. It allowed the rescue workers to reach the people that needed help and evacuate them as needed, without having to navigate trough several thousands of people and cars leaving the track. It also prevented mass panic.
          EXP Jawa
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Gepi
          ...it *would* severely hurt their brand reputation...
          EXP Jawa
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Gepi
          It should be noted that even though the race continued, MB did pull their remaining cars. In part out of respect, but also out of fear that if they finished (and likely won), the public perception would be that the steamrolled their way to victory over the bodies of French countrymen (WWII was still fresh in peoples' minds) and it severely hurt their brand reputation. The ironic bit is that without the SLRs to compete with, the Jag driven by Hawthorne -which set off the whole chain of events to start with - did go on to take the win. One upshot, though, was that the accident so affected John Fitch (Levegh's codriver) that he spent much of his life afterward developing ways to improve racetrack and highway safety...
        P
        • 3 Years Ago
        @folky15
        Today's racing safety protocols (and much of the road safety technology we enjoy) were developed directly as a result of this one accident. Pierre Leveigh's co-driver, John Fitch was inspired to invent dozens of safety items that have saved countless lives (including my own). Ever seen those yellow barrels that protect interchanges on freeways? "Fitch Barrels." Awful as it may have been, those people didn't lose their lives in vain; Millions have avoided injury or death as a result of the horror of this tragedy.
      Toneron
      • 3 Years Ago
      Big impact on racing as a whole - GM banned racing curbing the awesome GS program. M-B actually left racing for a long time - didn't come back until the late '80s I think. There is better video somewhere - a study was done very recently with a lot of info about the crash.
      Andre Neves
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wha!? Why did you guys post this? Is it electric/hybrid? What's the "range" on it?
        Rampant
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        WTF are you talking about?
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        Next time, put a little /s or something, sarcasm isnt always easy for the 99% to comprehend. Also doesnt come off the best in typed form because there is no tone of voice or context really.
        Sickness
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        I'm sure it relates to the FRS/BRZ in some way...
        Carbon Fibre
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        lolwut
      jonnybimmer
      • 3 Years Ago
      Owning this car must be a bit like owning one of Hitler's personal cars. Yeah it certainly holds some historical significance, but in a horrible way. Every time I see that footage it reminds me how incredibly dangerous racing was back then, for everyone, and how far we've come with racing safety. I'm actually amazed this car still exists.
        POV
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jonnybimmer
        Yeah for the superstitious I imagine they would use it for display only...
      Badfish941
      • 3 Years Ago
      That's one of the worst crashes I've seen.. The way the Mercedes flies reminds me of the CLK GTR flip in Le mans in the 90's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0t5juiDfr8
      SloopJohnB
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does Autoblog label the Healey 'infamous' when it was rear ended in a racing incident by a Mercedes?
        POV
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SloopJohnB
        Cause it was part of the entire sequence of events. True, it wasn't at fault exactly but it was part of that tragedy.
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