At Classic Car Photography we have a bit of a thing for Austin Healeys – we even feature one on our webpage header – so we were intrigued when the Hemmings Daily newsletter recently reported that Worldwide Auctioneers in Houston Texas will be auctioning a unique 1958 Austin Healey 100-Six roadster on 4th May 2013.
Here’s a bit of an abbreviated version of the story from Hemmings:
Donald Healey and Austin Healey promotional efforts had always focused on racing, and it worked a treat. The small company went toe-to-toe with the world’s greatest and came home with the silverware, but not everyone cared about competition success. Earls Court happened to fall after the end of the Grand Prix season, and with their racing schedule largely clear, Healey’s public relations officer Ken Gregory started to think of ways of keeping their name current through the off-season.
For him, it was an obvious idea. It almost didn’t matter what they did–if they could get people to the Austin Healey display, then salesmen could take over. All they needed was the lure: ”We needed something so glittering and attractive that people would make a point of visiting the stand specially to see it,” said Gregory.
He went to Donald Healey with an idea: They’d take their latest model, a production two-seater (BN6) 100-Six deluxe, and give it the complete swinging Fifties treatment. Healey, the inveterate promoter, immediately saw the benefit of the idea, but later reconsidered, telling Gregory it was too expensive to pursue. The editor of the Daily Express ultimately agreed that a ”gold, mink and ivory” Austin Healey would become first prize in a competition at the Earl’s Court Motor Show, so work began.
Mechanically, the BN6 was largely stock, although they did fit it with four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes (it’s the only non-racing Healey with that setup); cosmetically, no part of it was left untouched. Beyond a special paint scheme, all exposed metal would be gold, and the interior entirely from animals, dozens and dozens of them.
In order to keep the project a secret, a car was taken off the production line and built largely after hours. Austin Healey, not surprisingly, had limited abilities in the gold-plating and other specialty disciplines. We’re not sure where the elephant ivory for the steering wheel, hub and all interior knobs and switches was done, but it may have been in-house, as was the unique ivory paint. The 24-carat gold plating was sent out, and included wheel wires (which some later worried might lead to wheel failure), sills, windshield surround, dash trim, screws, brake discs, wiper arms: literally every single piece of exterior metal. Even the ignition key was plated, and from the fob dangled a tiny, solid 24K gold replica of the car, presumably with its own minuscule key and microscopic model, ad infinitum.
The interior featured reversed beige Chinese kid, a fashionable material, and it included the dash, side trim, footwells and seats, with Champagne Diadem mink seat inserts, back squibs and floor mats.
The Daily Express did their bit, promoting this very special Austin Healey with full page ads in the weeks before the show, and giving ”the world’s most flirtatious car” extensive press in their show coverage. The paper did indeed give it away after the show, and we’d guess the complex entry form, at thruppence a guess, earned them back a nice percentage on the investment.
”It took 50 craftsmen to produce the golden Healey,” said Donald Healey. ”We really think it is the most sumptuously luxurious sports car ever made. And we made it as a tribute to British craftsmanship,” and there’s no question whatsoever that it’s the most extravagant, eye-catching and recognizable Austin Healey ever made.
Obviously the car has been restored and is now up for sale. Comments on the Hemmings blog are divided on their opinion of the car and there has been considerable discussion as to whether the ivory components will impact on a future owner’s ability to export the car from the US.
Worldwide Auctioneer’s Houston auction will take place on 4th May 2013. Click Here for more information.
Source: Hemmings (click for the full story).