Two of the most significant Austin-Healeys in the world were reunited in public today for the first time in 60 years.
The two works Special Test Cars – NOJ 392 and NOJ 393 – competed together at Le Mans in 1953 (below) when they finished 12th and 14th overall respectively.
The reunion came when the most famous A-H of all, NOJ 393, made its post-restoration debut having spent a year being meticulously brought back to life in Australia.
The car, which raced at Sebring and Le Mans and was involved in the incident that led to the 1955 disaster when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes went into the crowd, hit the headlines again in 2011 when, having not run for more than 40 years, it was auctioned by Bonhams for a world record £843,000.
Its new owner – a well-known European Healey enthusiast – was at the event along with restorer Steve Pike, 100S authority Joe Jarick (above) who explained the car's history and restoration, plus a host of other Healey owners and notables.
They included long-term marque devotee John Chatham who was impressed with the restoration. He said: “It's absolutely how I would want it if it were mine… and I wish it was!”
Poignantly, Jack Scott, who owned NOJ 393 for 42 years having bought it for £150 at the age of 23, was also there and was delighted to see the car finally restored.
For decades Scott (seen inspecting the restored Healey above) turned down countless offers – including a blank cheque sent by an Australian enthusiast – meaning to bring the car back to its former glory. Ironically, despite owning it all that time, he never drove it.
“They've done a fabulous job of it, they've got it just right,” he said. “Of course, part of me will always wish that it was me that achieved this, but I know it is in the right hands.
“There were a few times over the years that I was tempted to sell it, each time there was a recession mainly, but whenever things picked up, I realised I couldn't part with it until the time was right.”
The car is now expected to take part in a host of club and national events, including the possibility of racing at the Goodwood Revival in September. It has also been test-driven by C&SC for an exclusive feature in the July issue (out on 6 June).
Its stablemate – NOJ 392 – is to be auctioned at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on 12 July and is predicted to make £500-600,000.
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 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.”