Silverstone, England - Even today, it is possible to find a real motoring gem, parked years ago in a storage facility, or even a barn, and forgotten about by the owner's family.
This is one of those cars, a 1950 Healey Silverstone, left to rot for more than 30 years after its successful racing career (or more likely, that of its driver) was over, until it was rescued and restored to full racing trim, as you se it here.
Donald Healey is perhaps best known for the last two cars bearing his name, the 100-6 and the cheeky little Sprite, but this is a much earlier, and much rarer car.
The first Healey was built in 1945, a 2.4-litre Riley-powered sports sedan with a welded-up chassis and Healey's own trailing-arm front suspension.
Four years later Healey announced the Silverstone sports-racer, with the same 77kW Riley engine and four-speed manual 'box, with a lightweight aluminium two-seater body designed by Len Hodges.
It had cycle wings and closely spaced headlights mounted behind the grille to protect them from flying stones, and the spare wheel stuck out behind the body at the back so that it doubled as a bumper!
The whole car weighed only 940kg ready to go, giving it an excellent power to weight ratio and a top speed of more than 160km/h - over 100 miles per hour in the language of the day!
That was hot stuff in 1949, yet the car sold for £975 (R17 550); it was crucial to keep the price under £1000 (R18 000) because in 1940s Britain any car costing more than that attracted a Purchase Tax of 66 percent.
The Silverstone soon began making a name for itself in rallying; Donald Healey and Ian Appleyard won their class in the 1949 Alpine Rally; their 'works' Silverstone was the highest-placed British entry. Appleyard later married Pat Lyons, daughter of Jaguar founder William Lyons, and went on to become a rallying legend in a succession of Jaguars, with Pat navigating.
More Silverstone successes included Peter Riley and Bill Lamb's class win in the 1951 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, Peter Simpson's 6th place overall in the 1951 Isle of Man Manx Cup Races and Edgar Wadsworth and Cyril Corbishley's outright victory in the 1951 Coupe des Alpes.
Even Grand Prix racer Tony Brookes learned his racecraft in a Silverstone.
The original Silverstone, known as the D-Type (not to be confused with the later Jaguar of the same name) was very cramped for two occupants, so an improved 'E-Type' with a wider body and more comfortable cockpit, was introduced in 1950. In all, only 105 Silverstones of both types, including two prototypes, were made.
CHASSIS No E66
This car was first registered on 12 July 1950 to a Gordon Sims. After a few years he sold it to Cecil Winby, a friend of the Healey family who worked for Brico Pistons and raced it with some success for the next two years.
After than its history is less well-documented, until it was discovered some years ago, in dire condition, in a forgotten garage, and completely restored down o the last nut and bolt by Hennessy Motorsport, a process that took two.
The engine was re-bored and re-built to full racing specs with a lightened, balanced and reground crankshaft and high-compression pistons.
The head has been ported, polished and flow-tested, the cams re-profiled by Newman cams, and new valves and hardened three-angle valve seats fitted.
The original body was soda-blasted down to bare alloy, any hairline cracks welded and racing dents removed, before being sprayed in Aston Martin grey.
ON THE BLOCK
This amazing garage find will be sold at the next Silverstone Auction on 26 July, where it is expected to fetch £160 000 - £180 000 (R2.9 million - R3.2 million).