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Le Mans Healeys reunited after 60 years

Published 09 May 2013

Two Austin-Healeys that competed as the factory entries in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours have been reunited after almost exactly 60 years apart. One of the pair was sold for a record-breaking £843,000 in 2011, while the other goes on sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed - and both transactions were by Bonhams.

Fittingly, the cars were brought back together by Bonhams at its headquarters in New Bond Street, London. The venue saw the unveiling of NOJ 393, the ex-Works 1953-1955 Austin-Healey Special Test Car/100S, after its comprehensive restoration following its 2011 sale in barn find condition. It was joined by its sister car, NOJ 392. Bonhams will be selling that car on 12 July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and its estimate is £500,000-£600,000.

The two cars formed the Works entry into the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hours but NOJ 393, it was so nearly not to be. Originally journalist Gordon Wilkins had been assigned to co-drive NOJ 391 alongside Belgian Marcel Becquart but, on the drive back from scrutineering to the hotel, the car was hit by a truck and suffered severe damage that would prove impossible to repair in time for the race.

The team set about transferring that car’s engine, brakes and all scrutineer-stamped components into the spare Special Test Car, NOJ 393, which had been brought to the race 'as insurance' against disaster. The necessary registration and race numbers were painted onto the car and it competed in the race masquerading as its compatriot.

Both cars finished strongly, with NOJ 392 coming in 12th overall, second in class, and NOJ 393 finishing 14th, third in class.

James Knight, Group Motoring Director of Bonhams, handled the sale of NOJ 393 and will preside over the sale of NOJ 392 in July. He said: 'It suddenly dawned on me that these cars had been like two comets, each in their orbit since the ’53 Le Mans race - and we now had an opportunity to bring them together. For many years both cars had pretty much languished in garages at either end of England, with ‘392 then heading off to Australia. I think it is great we can re-unite them here today.'

More at www.bonhams.com/cars

NOJ393

(Pictures: Bonhams)

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