In general I tend to live my life opposed to wretched excess, avoiding conspicuous consumption wherever possible. Buyer’s remorse is a familiar feeling, and occasionally I even feel it over something as innocuous as a bag of potato chips. I’m not sure I can explain, then, why I’m giddy over this gilded Austin Healey, but nevertheless here we are.
This weird piece of automotive history makes me want to empty my retirement accounts and head to New York next week to bid on this horribly ostentatious motor.
This car was originally built for the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show as the brainchild of Healey’s PR manager, Ken Gregory. Mr. Gregory figured that in order to upstage the competition, he’d need to bring a car that was truly eye-grabbing. Donald Healey was initially receptive to the idea, but balked at the cost of 24-karat gold plating. He scratched the idea, and only changed his mind after Ken found a buyer for the car, deliverable once the show was over.
This A-H 100-Six, dubbed “Goldie” was among the greatest pieces of marketing genius of 1958, as it drew unprecedented attention to the relatively small British sports car brand. Affectionately called the “Big Healey,” the 100-6 is perhaps the definitive Austin-Healey product, in part because of Goldie.
Prior to the Motor Show, a production-ready car was plucked from the line and prepared. The car was given a special coat of ivory paint, and every single piece of brightwork normally given a chrome plating, was instead given a gold plate finish. According to Ken Gregory’s autobiography, the finish was applied to everything, “right down to the tiniest trimming washers and screws: the wire wheels, disc brakes, bumpers, and instruments were given the same treatment.” Speaking of disc brakes, this was the only non-competition Austin-Healey to be fitted with Dunlop four-wheel disc brakes, adding to the car’s appeal.
The car was a hit with the international motoring press as well, garnering a lot of attention for A-H that a traditional advertising spend could not. In addition, the buyer for this car was actually the Daily Express newspaper, who used the car as a giveaway to their readers, publicizing the car for weeks following the show. Healey got paid for the car before he even agreed to build it, and then got tons of extra value from the deal. That’s a win-win.
Now, if you’re the Bruno Mars type with a penchant for that 24K magic, you might want to get yourself to the RM Sotheby’s ICONS auction in New York City on Wednesday, December 6th. This car is lot #143 with a pre-auction estimate of between $350,000 and 550,000. You can check out the full listing and more of the car’s unique history here.