The ongoing argument of what is a Austin Healey 100 M

The rare, race-ready four-cylinder variants of the “Big” Austin-Healey have long been considered some of the most desirable British sports cars. There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the epic 100M, so we’ve turned to Reid Trummel, historian and editor of the Austin-Healey Club of America’s publication, Healey Marque, for clarification. Reid tells us that the factory-built 100Ms were constructed between September 5, 1955, and July 16, 1956, and those cars are the only ones that can properly be called “100M.” The confusion about this model comes from a similar “Le Mans Engine Modification Kit” that the Donald Healey Motor Company offered for first and second series (BN1 and BN2 in Healey-speak) regular-production 100 models. This kit contained aftermarket performance equipment and accessories and could be fitted to cars by private owners, by dealers, or even at the Healey works, and there are no records of how many cars had the kits (complete or partial) installed, then or now. The Le Mans Kit included some of the items that would be factory-fitted to genuine 100Ms, but the real deal got goodies like 8.1:1 high-compression pistons, 1¾-inch SU H6 carburettors on an aluminium intake manifold, a carburettor cold air box and a high-lift camshaft. Its suspension received a larger front anti-roll bar and unique front shocks, while the body was distinguished with a louvered bonnet, leather bonnet strap and, in most cases, two-tone paint. The 100M made a genuine 110 hp, 20 more than the standard 100 and eight more than cars fitted with the Le Mans Kit. “Of the 4,604 BN2 series 100 models made, the records show that 640 were converted to 100M models. That’s 14 percent of production, making them perhaps not all that extremely rare, at least proportionally,” he says. “It’s not like the mere 50 (55 if you count prototypes) 100S models made. “Reid continues, “Many people believe that cars with the Le Mans Kit installed are the same spec as a 100M, but that’s incorrect. Additionally, even if installing a kit did result in a car of identical spec, it would be only a ‘tribute’ or ‘clone’ of a 100M.” Sadly, it’s not unusual to find unscrupulous sellers who have promoted standard cars, with a few Le Mans Kit pieces installed, as genuine 100Ms, even going so far as to use genuine 100M chassis numbers. “Fortunately, there is help available via Bill Meade’s excellent Worldwide 100M Le Mans Registry (www.100mregistry.com/index.html), including his identification guide,” he says. “While not fool proof, the guide will assist anyone to identify all but the most elaborate fakes. Of the 640 100M models made, the 100M Registry has almost 200 accounted for. “Genuine 100Ms have been steadily increasing in value.

Requirements by the 100M registry to call your car a genuine 100M

Below is a list of every ID point we request, to confirm a 100M, and a notation of your car's status.

What does Geoff Healey have to say about the 100M   ‘ All production records of the 100M were kept by sales and service at the Cape , but like so many of their records , these were either destroyed before or lost during the move to the Cinema site. Nearly forty years on its almost impossible to authenticate a vehicle as being a real 100M. The most valuable document is the BMC Distributors Bill of Sale specifying the vehicle as a 100M. Also the supply of Le Mans Kits continued well after the production of the four –cylinder models ceased. Most of these last kits went to BMC Hambro , the US distributor, who took some 400 kits’. Geoff Healey estimates production of the 100M around 1,159 cars between 1955 to 1956 from the BN2 production line. So you make your mind up what the correct numbers are 640 as stated on most web sites and forums or is 1,159 as estimated by the person who actually manufactured the car?  , there are plenty of experts out their, but at the end of the day its difficult to say what is and what is not one of the original bodies supplied by Jensen to the Cape works for conversion . Jenson did provide louvered bonnets that where shipped to the US along with the engine parts for the Le Mans kit this was done at extra cost for the customer. Also a customer could order a louvered bonnet for extra cooling with out having the kit fitted; these went to some cars shipped to the Far east and other hot countries.  The key in my view is the original stamped body number on the louvered bonnet. but more importantly the paper work , does the car come with the original paper work , continuous title history . Their was a Austin History 100s that was recently sold at auction , claimed to have  been found in a car park with a V8 engine in it , is was a beautifully constructed tool room copy in my view , but with no real history, no title history as such apart from a new title  . Its down to the buyer to do his research in these types of situations and be wary of auction house patter at the end of the day they are their to sell the car and the bigger the price the harder they will push with the story .
The only real way of checking any old car is the ‘real deal’ is title search we all love it when a car comes with  a bulging history folder, full of everything from old tax discs to an original bill of sale.  But this all so often is not the case a cars paper work gets lost when the car had little or no value, no one cared and the paper in all to many circumstances got lost or dispersed. If you do have a continuous paper work trail service history, club history, title history, you are in a golden position , but this is so often not the case.
Fortunately all is not lost and, with the aid of just some basic information, there are ways of slowly building up the back history to your vehicle, and possibly increase the market value at the same time.

It may seem obvious, but the registration and or in the USA that State title where the car originated is the most sensible place to start. In the USA If the original car title is lost or destroyed, you’ll need to get a replacement in order to prove ownership and sell the vehicle later. As with other parts of the title process, the way you go about getting a duplicate can vary by state but, generally, there are options to apply online, by mail or in person at a DMV office.  There are also now Classic Car Title and Vintage Vehicle Title Service who will help you with either re titling the car if the original title is lost and or getting a new title .You’ll need to provide key details about the car, the owner and any liens on the vehicle, and pay a small fee. In the United Kingdom this will mean dealing with the DVLA if your car is registered in the UK For the sum of £5, it will provide a list of former keepers associated with that number if you fill out V888 form . There is a limit to just what use this information alone may be to you, but it can provide you with some essential names and dates with which to start searching for more information.

lf you are fortunate enough to have the original buff-coloured logbook for an older classic, the chances are that this will show the names and addresses of previous keepers, which gives you a couple of options. If you’re feeling lucky, you could start writing letters in the hope that past owners or their families still reside at the listed addresses.
You could try investigating  out the phone book now that you have names and regions, but out of politeness it is worth considering that people rarely like a ‘cold call’ and may not be so willing to help as a result.
Most owners’ clubs can  boast records that will date back a number of years, in some case with car clubs are fifty plus years  old now , a very long way back !, and some will have access to any surviving factory data. If you are lucky to be a member of the RAC club in Pall Mall they have a huge hoard of history on pre ware cars particularly if they had famous owners and racing history  There is always a chance that one of the previous keepers was a club member at the time and is known to another member or can be identified by the club archivist. Naturally, some clubs are better equipped than others to help trace the history of a particular vehicle, but attached to most organisations now are thriving websites, forums and club magazines. A simple post on line and or letter ‘does anyone know this car’’ to the magazine or post on a club or marque specific forum is an easy way to get your research going  and potentially reach thousands of people with just a couple of telephone call and letters .
Original buff logbooks and or in the USA the original title history are a valuable source of information and a great starting place for your research; period photos make a fantastic addition to a car’s history file and can help with an accurate restoration .For a bit more basic information about the car, you can often apply to the clubs or manufacturer (if it still exists) for build details.

British-made classics are well catered for by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, and a Heritage Certificate showing the construction date and facts such as original colour can be bought from just £40, with costs rising for more thorough information.

You can also post live on members forums when your post is live, it is not just that forum’s members that will see it -once the online search engines have done their  bit, there is a potential global audience that , with a bit of luck, could well throw up another link to the past.

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