The Austin-Healey brand is the result of the association of a small brand created by a former driver and Austin, and has marked the history of British roadsters with some extremely attractive models.
At the end of the 1950s, Austin Healey cars were very popular, especially on the American market where they sold like hotcakes. Launched in 1956, the 100/6 roadster was a great success, but the performance of its 2.6 litre 6 cylinder engine was becoming a bit "fair" compared to the competition. This led to the development of the 3000, which was launched in 1959. Externally, it remained the same: the difference was under the bonnet, as the 2.6-litre engine was replaced by a new almost 3-litre twin-carburettor block. For the first time, the Healey had front disc brakes instead of drums. Available in 2-seater and 2+2 versions, it was produced until 1961. Naturally, the replacement for the first "Big Healey" was named MKII. The only difference between the first models was their 3 carburettors and their grille, whose blades became vertical. Still available in both body styles, the 3000 MKII is particularly rare in its 2-seater version, of which only 355 were produced. In 1962, Austin Healey released a new version of this model called the BJ7 which was distinguished by its real retractable bonnet and its return to twin carburettors. It was transformed from a roadster to a convertible with the introduction of drop-down side windows. Offering better protection against the elements, it is easier to live with.
The swan song
In 1963, the 3000 MKIII was launched, but it was already showing its age. To seduce its public, the British car played the luxury card with a dashboard covered with precious wood, numerous chrome touches and comfortable seats, both front and rear. More Grand Touring than the other Healey cars, the MKIII is equipped with brake assist and its engine now develops 148 hp. Available only in 2+2 version, it had a career until its well-deserved retirement in 1967. With 41,925 cars produced, the Austin-Healey also enjoyed many rally successes in such demanding events as the Liège-Rome-Liège (1960 and 1964), the Tulip Rally (1964) and the Coupe des Alpes (1961 and 1962).
With its breathtaking lines and unmistakable sound, the Austin Healey is one of the most popular roadsters among collectors who appreciate its great robustness. The good news is that all parts have been remanufactured for many years, which makes restoration much easier. However, beware of the numerous American examples that have often been restored in a hurry and whose condition can be misleading. As far as the bodywork is concerned, steel and aluminium components do not mix well and the car should be examined before buying. Very popular, the 3000 has a sustained price: from €60,000 for one of the first examples in good condition, one can go up to €80,000 for a beautiful MKIII.
About the author: