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JUST AS THE 1949 Jaguar XK-120 rightfully boasted of its 120-mph capability, the Austin-Healey 100 made good on its nomenclature. As R&T wrote, “Even when the ‘100’ was first announced, late in 1952, it was bound to be well received on the score of appearance and price alone.”
Here are tidbits from “Road Testing the Austin-Healey,” R&T, July 1954.
As R&T observed, “Curved windshield posts add interest to the frontal aspect of the Austin-Healey 100… The ‘100’ is graceful from any angle, has good luggage capacity and adequate bumpers.”
How Fa$t Do You Want to Go? An R&T Jag XK-120 of the era reached 123.2 mph and cost $3545. The R&T Austin-Healey achieved 106 mph and listed for $2985. A Morris Minor sedan cost $1475 and topped off at 63.9 mph. Even the Autobahn-bred $1595 Volkswagen was good for only 66.6 mph.
How $oon Do You Want to reach 60? The Jag got to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds. The Austin-Healey, in 11.7; the VW, in 39.2, and the Morris Minor, in 52.5 (if anyone was still around to punch the clock).
“Ordinary” Components, But…. R&T wrote, “The Austin-Healey is a perfect example of fairly ‘ordinary’ components assembled in such an ingenious manner that the results are almost unbelievable.”
As to its ‘100’ nomenclature, R&T observed, “… a genuine 100 plus with only 90 bhp (and in a roadster at that) is a truly remarkable figure. Not only that, but to put it quite frankly, the A-H is one of the very few cars which we have driven at this speed without adding a few ‘gray hairs.’ Despite a very nasty crosswind the four timed runs showed-up the faultless directional stability of the car—it holds a straight line without the slightest difficulty and always felt perfectly safe.”
And When the Road Got Twisty. “The excellent handling characteristics of the A-H,” R&T said, “are not confined to stability at high speed. In fact, our jury of testers were unanimous in rating the ‘100’ as the best all-around handling car encountered this year.”
“The ride is at least as good as any sports car we’ve tested in the past year, cornering is very flat and controllable, there is a small amount of understeer, a good feel of the road with no kick-back—all to be added to the previously mentioned high speed stability. The steering is exceptionally light, yet requires only 2.5 turns, lock to lock.”
An Odd Gearbox. Traceable to its bread-and-butter Austin sedan heritage, the Austin-Healey’s gearbox was a three-speed, albeit also incorporating a Laycock de Normanville overdrive to 2nd and high. See spannerhead.com for details of this solenoid-activated planetary gearset residing between gearbox and driveshaft.
R&T noted, “… with five speeds available, it was necessary to experiment with various combinations to achieve the best possible times to 60, 70, and 80 mph, etc. Our acceleration graph shows that we found it best to actually omit using high gear for these tests.”
“We also discovered that the hydraulically actuated clutch of LdeN overdrive will begin to slip after three or four successive snap shifts from 2nd to 2nd od under full throttle. However it only happened once,” R&T said.
Evidently neither Edgar de Normanville nor the good folks at Laycock Products ever envisioned “three or four successive snap shifts from 2nd to 2nd od under full throttle.” This was R&T, though. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021