The new Austin-Healey went into production in 1953 and was immediately popular in the U.S. The cars were well-styled, inexpensive, rugged and above all easy to drive, for both the sports car enthusiast who fancied some light competition or just for tooling down to the shops.
The early four-cylinder cars were superseded by a six-cylinder model in 1956, appropriately named the 100/Six, and these stayed in production until 1959, when the engine was enlarged to 2,912 cc, hence the name Healey 3000. These were more powerful and faster, equipped with front disc brakes, and soon gave rise to the legend of the Big Healey.
Shortly thereafter, in 1964, came the 3000 MkIII, generally considered to be the finest Healey variant of them all. It was more convertible than roadster, with wind-up windows, excellent soft top, and two-plus-two seating. The cockpit sported a varnished wood dashboard with the traditional sports car array of instruments, a central console between comfortable bucket seats, and well-fitted carpets.
This Big Healey was restored to a fastidious level with the prime intent of being a concours winner, and the car has gained much success in the last nine years. Attention to detail includes the correct Lucas battery and even factory advisory tags. The spotless exterior is finished in red, whilst the interior and hood color appear to be stone (despite their “grey” designation per Healey specification). This car features a leather upgrade kit (which was a factory option) in preference to the standard vinyl, and the red wool carpets complete the stylish effect.
From 1997 to 2004, this car competed at numerous concours and notable firsts include the 1997 AACA National Fall Meet Senior Award, 1998 Stowe British Invasion concours division, 1998 Gold Level in Austin-Healey Concours Registry, 1999 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and 2004 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.
In addition, it featured in Car Collector Magazine and was used on the cover of the 2006 British Car Calendar. The vendor insists that the car drives as well as it looks and notes that the engine and transmission have less than 1000 miles on them since they were completely rebuilt. As such, he describes the car as a “showcar driver.” Included in the sale are an extra set of painted wire wheels for show, jack, toolkit, and owner’s manual, as well as an extensive restoration file.
Years produced: 1963–67
Number produced: 17,711
Original list price: $3,565
SCM Valuation: $40,000-$80,000
Tune-up/Major service: $450
Distributor cap: $35
Chassis #: Plate on firewall and stamped on right front shock tower
Engine #: Stamped on aluminum plate on right side of engine block
Clubs: Austin-Healey Club USA, Vancouver, WA; Austin-Healey Club of America, Dalton, MA
More: www.healey.org or www.healeyclub.org
Alternatives: 1961–68 Triumph TR4, TR4A or 1969–76 TR6, 1961–71 Jaguar E-type
The SCM Analysis: This car sold at Christie’s in Greenwich, Conn., on June 4, 2006, for $99,875. What turns you on as a collector? Do you see your classic car as a chariot for back roads, as a racing machine for the track or as a series of restoration challenges? Perhaps you look forward to afternoons on the concours field where other enthusiasts can appreciate the fruits of your labor, judges can examine your treasure in detail, and you can get a rush from driving over the winners’ ramp to receive a best-in-class or best-of-show trophy.
The seller of this Healey clearly found his thrills on the concours field. After undertaking a careful restoration, with the requisite attention to detail that it takes to prep a show winner, this owner has shown the car in a variety of marque and general concours events. Over a nine-year period, he has participated in at least five major concours, where he’s gained an enviable series of first place awards, including the Austin-Healey Concours Registry Gold Award.
But there’s no indication of any activities since 2004, and he’s clocked fewer than 1,000 miles over the 10 years since the restoration, so we can assume that his goal was showing, not driving, the car. He’s achieved that goal. Time to move on.
Fortunately, he waited two years after retiring the car from the show circuit before putting it up for auction. Two years ago, $60,000 would have been a good price for a concours-winning BJ8, so with a near $100,000 sale, his return nearly doubled.
I do like the color combination and trim choice of this car, and can understand why it did well on the auction platform. The “grey” (actually a parchment color) leather interior with red piping is a very rare but completely correct option, and looks great with the red exterior.
However, even for the buyer who was looking for an exceptional quality Healey that can be driven and enjoyed, this car was pretty pricey. One of the major restorers estimated recently that given about nine months of time, he could produce a Gold-level concours Healey for around $85,000. And that would have been a fresh restoration with none of the little nicks and issues that would accompany ten years of being pushed in and out of trailers by even the most careful of owners. In addition, given the true replacement value of the car, the buyer may have difficulty insuring this car for an agreed value equal to what he paid.
I also would caution the new owner that 10 years is a long time for a car to sit without getting much use. I recommend that before he takes it out on the road for a long trip, if that’s what he intends to do with it, he put on a fresh set of tires, and new radiator hoses and brake lines, as well as fresh oil, coolant and brake fluid. It might also be useful to have a mechanic go over the car to make sure everything is lubed, functional, tight and correct.
Once that’s done, this will be a car to use with confidence and to continue to display with pride, and the fact that the proud owner paid a bit too much for it will likely be quickly forgotten.
Gary Anderson is the founding editor of MC2, the new MINI magazine, three-time participant in Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and has trophied at several prestigious concours.
Photos: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2006