The quirky Austin A 90 gave birth to a rather attractive child, though not without a lot of help from midwife Donald Healey. For he it was who took an A90 engine and chassis as the basis for his prototype Healey 100 (that seductive figure representing the car’s ability to top the ‘ton’) which he proudly showed at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1952.
The owner of the parent Austin Atlantic, BMC, was so impressed with Healey’s streamlined roadster that it decided to sponsor a production run.
The BN1 model that resulted was built by Jensen Motors at West Bromwich and finished at BMC’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham. The BN1 had a well-tuned A90 engine and drivetrain with modified manual transmission — a three-speed box with overdrive on second and top gears. There was independent front suspension and Dining drum brakes were fitted all round. These classics with their fold-flat windscreens and clean-cut lines with few embellishments hit the market in the summer of ’53 and proved to be a popular buy, vindicating BMC’s decision to back Donald Healey’s vision. Better still, the Austin-Healey 100 sold well in America, establishing the marque as a serious contender in the international sports car market.
The BN2 appeared in 1955, offering a four-speed gearbox, new rear axle and a choice of natty paint jobs — for the first time including a two-tone option. To satisfy those sporty buyers who wanted extra performance, a modified 100M version was created. This could be distinguished by its louvred bonnet (complete with strap). A small number of aluminum-bodied 100S (for Sebring) cars were also made. These lightweight speedsters were the most powerful 1008 of all, and the first production cars in the world to have disc brakes front and back.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1953 (until 195/)
2,660 cc Straight Four
Top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h);0.60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The final ‘100’ models became 100-6s with the fitting of a smaller straight six engine and were the 2+2 BN4 of 1956 and the two-seater BN6 of 1958. These were marginally slower than the original four-cylinder 100s but offered better acceleration.