The Healey Hundred was a sensation at the 1952 Earl’s Court Motor Show in London. Austin’s Leonard Lord had already contracted to supply the engines, but when he noticed the sports car’s impact, he decided he wanted to build it too—it was transformed into the Austin-Healey 100.
Donald Healey had spotted a gap in the American sports car market between the Jaguar XK120 and the cheap and cheerful MG T series. His hunch was right, for about 80 percent of all production went Stateside. Over the years this rugged bruiser became increasingly civilized. In 1956, it received a six cylinder engine in place of the four, but in 1959 the 3000 was born. It became increasingly refined, with front disc brakes, then wind-up windows, and ever faster. Our featured car is the last of the line, a 3000 Mk3. Although perhaps verging on grand-tourer territory, it was still one of the fastest Big Healeys and has become a landmark British sports car.
The Austin-Healey put on weight over the years, became gradually more refined, and stayed true to its original sports car spirit. It developed into a surefooted thoroughbred.
WHEELS AND WHITEWALLS
Wire wheels with knock-off hubs were options on some models, standard on others; whitewalls usually signify an American car.
Heat buildup from the engine and underfloor exhaust made for a warm ride.
Updated weather equipment was an improvement on earlier efforts, which took two people 10 minutes to erect.
All six-cylinder Healeys, both the 100/6 and the 3000, featured a hood scoop; the longer engine pushed the radiator forward, with the scoop clearing the underhood protrusion to aid airflow.
The two major influences on the Healey’s changing faces were the needs of the American market and the impositions of Austin, both as parts supplier and as frugal keeper of purse strings. But from the start, the styling was always a major asset, and what you see here in the 3000 Mk3 is the eventual culmination of those combined styling forces.
The first prototype rear-end treatments featured faddish fins that were replaced by a classic round rump.
In 1962, the 3000 acquired a wrap-around windshield and wind-up windows, as the once raw sports car adopted trappings of sophistication.
From the traditional Healey diamond grille, the mouth of the Austin-Healey developed into a wide grin.
Under the hood of the biggest of the so-called Big Healeys is the 2912cc straight-six, designated the 3000. This is the butchest of the big bangers, pumping out a hefty 150 bhp.
The Americans bought more Healeys than anyone else and wanted more oomph. So in 1959 the 2639cc six-cylinder of the Healey 100/6 was bored out to 2912cc and rounded up to give the model name 3000.
Once spartan, the cockpit of the Austin-Healey became increasingly luxurious, with a polished veneer dash, glove compartment, fine leather, and rich carpet. One thing remained traditional—engine heat meant the cockpit was always a hot place to be.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Austin-Healey 3000 (1959–68)
PRODUCTION 42,926 (all 3000 models)
BODY STYLES Two-seater roadster, 2+2 roadster, 2+2 convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Separate chassis/body.
ENGINE 2912cc overhead-valve, straight-six.
POWER OUTPUT 3000 Mk1: 124 bhp at 4600 rpm. 3000 Mk2: 132 bhp at 4750 rpm. 3000 Mk3: 150 bhp at 5250 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual with overdrive.
SUSPENSION Front: Independent coil springs and wishbones, antiroll bar; Rear: Semi-elliptic leaf springs. Lever-arm shock absorbers all around.
BRAKES Front discs; rear drum.
MAXIMUM SPEED 110–120 mph (177–193 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 9.5–10.8 sec
A.F.C. 17–34 mpg (6–12 km/l)