The most important and valuable classic cars, especially sports cars, all have a number of things in common. First, they need to be good-looking. No one wants to buy an ugly car for top money. Next, they need to be relatively scarce. This does not mean fewer than 5,000 cars but fewer than 1,000 cars.
Finally, to be at the top tier of the hobby, they need to have a competition pedigree. This means that the model in question needs to have run in period at such events as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Mille Miglia.
If a car passes all of these “tests,” then it likely costs a tremendous amount of money. Cars like this include Cunninghams, very rare Italian cars from Alfa, Maserati and Ferrari, and Jaguar C- and D-Types.
All of these cars have something else in common: most sell for more than $750,000 up to 10s of millions of dollars.
But there is at least one car that answers all of the criteria with an affirmative, and it still can be bought for less than $100,000: the Nash-Healey, such as the Pick of the Day, a 1952 Nash-Healey Le Mans roadster.
The origin of the Nash-Healey is an interesting one. It was conceived by chance when Nash president George Mason met British sports car maker Donald Healey while both were at sea on the Queen Mary.
Mason wanted to add glamour to Nash’s image, and Healey was always game for something new. Healey also was in a poor financial situation and was interested in anything that would put money in the bank.
By the time Mason and Healey reached shore, Mason had agreed to finance Healey in creating a sports car powered by the strong Nash Ambassador engine.
Contrary to popular belief, it is the Nash-Healey and not the Corvette that was America’s first production sports car.
Due to the high cost of having the bodies assembled by Pininfarina in Italy, the engines sourced from Nash in the U.S. and final assembly taking place at Healey in the UK, the Nash-Healey was very expensive to produce, with a price tag to match. As a result, the company sold just 506 of them.
Mason did not initially have any plans for a competition version of the Nash-Healey, but when the prototype Nash-Healey finished fourth in its debut at Le Mans in 1950, Mason was delighted that the car did so well and agreed that racing the car would be part of the package.
This was a good thing as in 1952, a Nash-Healey finished second in class and third overall at the 1952 Le Mans race. The only two cars that finished ahead of this Anglo-Italian-American hybrid were a pair of factory-prepared Mercedes-Benz 300SL race cars. Not bad for an idea hatched on an ocean-liner voyage.
The Nash-Healey offered here, advertised by a St. Louis, Missouri, dealer on ClassicCars.com, has had an engine transplant for more power. Its original Nash 252 cid Le Mans Dual Jetfire inline six-cylinder engine has been replaced by a Chevrolet 327 cid V8.
Before you go on about the engine swap ruining the value of this car, you need to know that this swap was performed in period by none other than Max Balchowsky at Hollywood Motors in Los Angeles.
Balchowsky was the creator of the famous Old Yeller sports racing cars, which gave so many high-priced sports cars a hard time on the track. The 327 engine gives the Nash-Healey the power it deserves, and it would be a great candidate for any vintage rally in the world.
That is the takeaway as well. The Nash-Healey is eligible for the Le- Mans Classic, the Mille Miglia, even the Goodwood Revival.
Now we get to the best part. This handsome roadster, which was nicely restored in the early 1990s and is still looking and running well, according to the seller, has an asking price of $74,500, making it an absolute bargain for a top-tier vintage sports car.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.