Austin Healey 3000 – Buyers Guide 2017
6th September 2017
The Austin-Healey 3000 is an icon of British classic sports car motoring. Due to its much maligned heavy steering and wayward handling, this six cylinder beast has often been overlooked as a viable classic to own. However this is not always the case, if you make the right choices and are prepared to spend some time researching....
Whilst the ‘Big’ Healeys are best known as sports cars they are far rather suited to a GT lifestyle. You will find if you drive the car like a sports machine it won’t respond particularly well. However If you find a good example of a car that’s been well maintained, and are prepared to keep it that way you will find that you can cruise many miles with seemingly no effort and enjoy a LOT of pleasurable classic motoring! The point to note of course is ‘well maintained’…be careful when making a purchase to look out for some of the common faults and issues that are present all too often. More on that to follow…
Judging by the Austin-Healey badge you may think you’re going to spend most of your time with your head under the bonnet of these cars…..but if you think that you would be wrong. Unless you pick up a car that hasn’t been treated well through its life, the simplicity in design and the overall robustness of both the 3 litre, 6 cylinder engine and the bodywork means these classics can be run regularly without huge expense on maintenance. The regular sight of this car in the historic rallying and racing scenes is a testament to its effectiveness, build and quality and robustness.
The question is why buy an Austin Healey as opposed to an MG an E-type or even a Ferrari of the same era. Strangely I believe the main reason is they have been too ‘in the middle’ of the spectrum when it comes to price and rarity. Not as iconic as a Ferrari (therefor less popular with collectors) yet more costly and rarer than an MG. In recent years however, the value of these classic roadsters has been steadily rising with the value of some great examples fetching upwards of £70,000. There are still some good options available though and you should be able to find something between £30-50K that would be a worthwhile investment.
Austin Healey 3000 – Models (1959-1968)
Mark I (BN7, BT7 Roadsters) – 1959-1961, The Mk I was built in two variants, one a two seater with a 124BHP, 2912cc engine with overdrive and the other as a 2+2 with the same engine and gearbox.
Mark II (BN7, BT7, BJ7) – 1962-1963. The MkII Austin Healey had and uprated engine which produced 132BHP and featured triple SU carbs, an uprated camshaft and some cosmetic changes including a new grille and air intake. The BN7 and BT7 were discontinued in March and June ’62 respectively.
Mark II (a) – BJ7, Feb 1962 – Nov 1963 – This was the first Healey 3000 that featured a more than rudimentary windscreen. It marked a significant upgrade in the cars usability and featured roll up side windows and a quick action fold back roof. This was the first true convertible car rather than the older ‘roadsters’. The engine also had the triple carbs replaced with Twin SU HS6s. The top speed was now reported to be above 115mph.
Mark III 1964-1968 BJ8 – The Mk III again featured a power increase from 136-150bhp through the help of a higher lift cam, SU HD8 carbs which increased the choke size from 1.75 to 2 inches. The MkIII Healey also came standard with power assisted breaks rather than them being an option. The cars dashboard was also updated with the speedo and rev counter now being placed directly in front of the driver. In 1964 Austin Healey released an updated version of the car which had a modified chassis giving more ground clearance and then updated the car again in ’65 to separate the indicators from the standard lights. 17712 Mark III Austin Healey 3000’s were manufactured in total.
Austin Healey 3000 – Common Issues and Upgrades
Bodywork & Chassis
- Part of the reason the Austin Healey 3000 is so iconic is the many complex curves and swage lines the panels include. Its many hours of graft by highly skilled professionals to replicate the original correctly. This is why finding a Healey that’s either never been touched or properly restored is difficult to find. However spending the additional money on a well restored version or researching an untouched car is more than worthwhile.
- Healeys that have been in the UK for any amount of time are likely to have some chassis corrosion. Even in dry storage these cars suffer from this issue. The reason for this is no rust proofing was ever done from the factory. It’s worth checking that the car you buy has had this done and when. The chassis outriggers are usually the first place to rot so make sure to check as it’s a good sign that you could have trouble down the line if it’s not fixed.
- The boot floor and spring hangers are an important place to check. If there is corrosion with these areas it can cause some strange handling issues.
- The three points above should be enough to give you an idea whether the car has been restored/maintained well and if you should pursue your enquiries. However if you are still unsure there are several other areas that will be affected including inner sills, bumper mounts, inner wings and the front and rear crossmembers.
Interior & Trim
- The chances are the Healey you’re looking at is one of two types. Either it’s been retrimmed or it needs retrimming! The reason there isn’t many good original interiors left is obviously partly due to the age of these cars, however it’s mainly the sun that causes the most problems over time. If your chosen car does need retrimming keep this in mind as it’s not a cheap fix. Replacement parts are however in plentiful supply so getting the work done is the most costly part.
Suspension, Brakes & Steering
Note: This section is really to highlight some upgrades that you can make to improve the car rather than problems that the Big Healeys have. This doesn’t mean if the car you are looking at doesn’t have these upgrades that it’s a bad motor.
- Uprating the rear track bar can make a big difference to the handling which is often the way with older cars.
- Telescopic dampers when added to the rear suspension dramatically improve the ride and handling and is possibly one of the best suspension upgrades you can make to increase the drivability of these cars.
- I would suggest fitting a break servo to any Healey 3000. They were available as an option on the Mark II and the Mark III had one as standard. Check the car you are looking at to see what it has.
Engine & Gearbox
- With these engines being generally very reliable so long as they are serviced properly and regularly there isn’t really much to say here. Just make sure you check that the car you are looking at has good oil pressure and doesn’t show excessive signs of oil burning after a test drive.
- An electronic ignition and an alternator whilst it effects the authenticity of the vehicle it certainly improves the usability greatly
So in conclusion, the Austin Healey 3000 is a great British classic car with iconic design and a reliable engine. This car is a great classic for the investor and enthusiast alike. Make no mistake these car are appreciating and appreciating fast; it was only a few years ago in the early 2000’s that you could pick up a good example for 18-20K. Not so now…you are looking anywhere from 30-70K+ for a decent to great motor.
So, pick up a well restored or maintained car and you can have many hours pleasurable motoring. Pick up a bad car though and you can spend an awful lot of money and waste a lot of time on fixing up the car rather than spending time enjoying it. Many of the rust and bodywork issue can be avoided by looking at a car recently imported from the USA or somewhere the climate has less effect. These can be converted to right hand drive with little detriment to the value of the car if needed.
As a personal recommendation I believe anything after the Mark II (a) are the models to go for, particularly if you intend on driving your Healey on a regular basis. The improved features like the foldback roof and roll up windows make for a more painless experience overall.
That’s all for now, I hope that’s been of some help to you. Get in touch if you have any other questions and look out for more buyers guides soon!