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Gold-plated Austin Healey: yours for $1 million

   You know that saying, 'it’s worth its weight in gold' – well never has it been more appropriate, for much of this 1958 Austin Healey’s delectable detailing is made of the stuff. That’s right. 'Goldie', as the car is known, features gold-plated brightwork, as well as mink fur upholstery and ivory switchgear (Pimp My Ride 1950s-style, anyone?), and it could be yours for a cool $1 million. Around £600,000. Please click on the image above to read more about 'Goldie' the 1958 gold-plated Austin Healey

  Underneath that bespoke bodywork and lavish interior lurks a standard 1958 Austin Healey 100-Six. This model was the second in a line of three 'Big Healeys' that replaced the original Austin Healey 100, which was launched in 1953. Despite its heavier gold detailing, we reckon this example would still have been pretty quick
 The 100-Six used a 2.7-litre straight-six engine kicking out a healthy 117hp and a nice British sports car blare from the exhaust pipes. With the standard car weighing in at around 1,100kg, this level of power was enough to sprint the Healey from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds – respectable in the late 50s.
 This special Healey was the brainchild of Ken Gregory, the personal public relations manager of Donald Healey (the boss of Austin Healey at the time). Gregory knew how to wow after running his own racing team and managing none other than the legendary racing driver Sir Stirling Moss. So, for the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show, Gregory persuaded the company to commission this incredible one-off after a private buyer decided it was right up their street.
 That buyer was none other than the Daily Express – the paper’s motoring editor at the time, Basil Cardew, got together with Gregory to cut a deal to buy the 100-Six after the British Motor Show. The Express later gave the car away as the grand prize in a readers’ competition. Can you imagine that? It’d be like winning a gold-plated Porsche Boxster today.
 Concerns over costs meant the project was late starting, so with little time before its Earls Court debut, a regular 100-Six was plucked from the production line. Work then commenced on the special Healey, but it wasn’t just a case of cosmetic upgrades – the car featured some impressive mechanical improvements, too.
 To portray the Healey in the best light possible, the firm fitted the unique 100-Six with Dunlop disc brakes all-round – meaning this was the only road-going Healey to get this feature. On top of that, the car also got a brake servo, which wasn’t to feature on an Austin Healey until 1964. These two modifications combined probably meant it stopped like nothing else at the time.
 The outlandish looks are what this Healey is really about, however. The 100-Six was sprayed with a special ivory paint finish, while all the brightwork (the headlight surrounds, bumpers, grilles, mirrors, door handles and even the wheels) was coated in 24-carat gold. Lavish. Rounding off the gold theme, Austin Healey even provided a gold key and key ring, as well as a solid gold scale model of the vehicle itself to accompany the car.
  The incredible spec didn’t stop at the exterior, either. The London furrier Lorna Doon Snow trimmed the cockpit in ‘Champagne Diadem mink’ back when real fur wasn’t frowned upon quite so much. Every plastic interior part was replaced by authentic ivory, while the regular steering wheel was also junked in favour of an intricately designed wheel rim – again, constructed from sections of joined ivory.
  Following the Healey's debut at Earls Court, the Daily Express dubbed it 'the most flirtatious car in the Motor Show'. It went down a storm. It overshadowed Britain’s big five car manufacturers at the time – the equivalent of Morgan stealing the Geneva Motor Show today
After its 1958 debut and subsequent giveaway, the car was first registered a year later in 1959, according to records. The lucky winner sold the Healey almost immediately, however. Over the years it has had a number of different custodians, with the car eventually ending up with the Phillips family, the outfit behind ‘Healey Surgeons’, in 1983. By this stage the car had fallen into a state of disrepair, so a full restoration was commissioned, ready for the car’s return at the Healey Club Show in North Carolina, US.
The car’s gold-plated metalwork wasn’t exactly tip-top, so that was replaced. The bumpers were actually replated in England, while the gold wire wheels were custom made by the manufacturers Dayton. The mink interior was re-upholstered by Martin J MacGregor Coach Trimming of Ontario, but the interior ivory is still the original equipment – even down to the delicate steering wheel.
To at least make the Healey a little more modern, a later overdrive unit was added to the powertrain to help with cruising. However, with a car this rare, we imagine it won’t be travelling too many more miles. As part of the restoration, Healey Surgeons also uncovered something unusual about the car that wasn’t documented during the original build.
 It appears that the Healey factory actually performed some structural modifications in preparation for the car’s debut at Earls Court. Although primarily for looks, the benefit of this change was actually a stiffer chassis. According to the Phillips family, it gives the 100-Six an amazing feeling of solidity – even up to 120mph, described as 'one fantastic running and driving car… the smoothest driving Healey we’ve ever owned.'
Back in 1958 this Healey would have cost nearly four times the price of a normal 100-Six. Today, offered by Jeep specialists Collins Bros Jeep, chassis number BN62260 will set you back a hefty $1 million – that’s around £600,000, and not too far off the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar’s price tag. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of car – which one would you choose?

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