1953 Austin-Healey 100M
Year of manufacture1953
Mileage1 634 mi / 2 630 km
This 1953 Austin Healey is one of the most exciting cars to have been offered in the 10-year history of Historics auctioneers; the first privateer Austin Healey to race at Goodwood and Silverstone respectively. When the vendor purchased DNH 828 he had no idea that his new acquisition had any significant history. However, he subsequently saw a photograph of his car in Bill Piggott’s book 'Austin Healey 100 in Detail' with a comment that it was the first reference that could be found of a privately owned Austin Healey BN1 racing car. This fact was later borne out following the owner’s investigations.
Following the success of ‘works’ Austin Healeys entered in the June 1953 Le Mans, Donald Healey had commenced marketing a kit of the engine components used in the 1953 Le Mans team cars; an upgrade later more commonly known as ‘M’ specification. These upgrades include larger carburettors, a cold air box to increase engine air flow, high-lift camshaft and 8.1:1 compression ratio. It produced 110 bhp (82 kW) at 4500 rpm. The front suspension was stiffened and the bonnet gained louvres, along with a bonnet belt. In all, 640 100Ms were built by the factory. The 100M components were also available as the Le Mans Engine Modification Kit, which could be installed in either a BN1 or BN2 with the engine in situ, improving the power output to approximately 100 bhp (75 kW) at 4500 rpm. The kit could be ordered from BMC, allowing private owners to make their own modifications.
Contemporary correspondence on file, a part lists as supplied by Healey, together with unique features on the car, indicate that BN1 140284 was modified in the early stages of its life. Anne Shale confirmed that David and his close links to the factory and his privateer success campaigning Austin Healey meant that David was sent the M Spec kit from Donald Healey over a year before it was available to the public and well before it was fitted to any ‘factory M spec cars’. David was not supplied a bonnet and the car raced with a flat bonnet in a ‘standard guise’.
Given its early production number, it is highly probable that it was the first privately owned model to be raced in ‘M’ specification. Records show that DNH 828 was built on August 18th 1953, and is estimated to be the 12th, righthand drive car produced. Registered a few days later on August 21st to David Shale of S W Motors Ltd, the son of Northamptonshire Austin Distributor, the car was immediately prepared for racing. In its earliest form, a dropped windscreen and painted numbers would be the preparation for each event. Later period photographs show David and his team of friends removing the bumpers before events on the circuits and hills. As David developed the car, the bumpers would go all together and a Brooklands aero screen would replace the full screen as well as an M spec upgrade which was given to Shale by the factory a year before it was available to the public.
The car’s competition debut was on September 6th 1953, earlier than the date suggested by Piggott, at the BARC Brunton Hill Climb event, where it was placed first in its class, with a time just 1.35 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day. Following this initial outing David Shale took it to 3rd place in a five-lap scratch race outing at Goodwood on September 12th 1953 and an unrecorded placing at Silverstone on September 19th. Records show he went on to compete with significant success in DNH for the remainder of 1953 and throughout 1954 in at least 17 events at circuits across England. Allegedly the car was beaten by another Healey on only one occasion and that occurred following the fitting of a taller differential unsuited to the particular event.
The vendor tells us that he had the good fortune to meet with members of David Shale’s family including his widow, Anne. She has his trophies for the period; including that from the first outing at Brunton Hill and one from the September 12th Goodwood meeting as well as racer David Shale proposing to Anne in DNH 828. There are also extensive photographic records and related printed media from that whole racing period.
The car has undergone a lengthy 1700 hour restoration, at the hands of renowned marque specialists Bill Rawles Classic Cars Ltd, completed by Bill his team in conjunction with the vendor, to return it to its condition at the time of the first Goodwood outing in 1953, including period engine modifications. However, every effort has been made to retain and refurbish as many original parts as possible.
Whilst not having the cache of Works cars, DNH’s significance lies in being the first of the privateer Austin Healeys that have and still race today. Supplied to auction with a number of period race photographs, a BMI Heritage Certificate, early sales correspondence, David Shale’s race record and an early race card, DNH 828 represents an exciting opportunity to purchase for the first time in a number of years an impeccable car with a wonderful history that can be enjoyed on the road or on the track as it was nearly 70 years ago. With the addition of a race running gear, this would be an excellent entry candidate for Goodwood Revival and such events.
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