We enjoy the Austin-Healey 100/4 and put it fully to the test
1 DAILY DRIVING
Imagine the joy of getting in to your AustinHealey 100/4 every day. The mechanics would certainly stand up to it, because this is no fragile, bad-tempered sportster. A couple of extra mirrors to see behind you and you’d be away. The car is a joy to drive once you’ve got used to the car’s sharp clutch, with lots of power, relatively light steering and good brakes. There’s no reason why a wellmaintained one would overheat in traffic.
On the minus side, the car has little ground clearance and the side screens and soft-top aren’t terribly secure. Maybe you should take a German Shepherd along with you.
2 IN THE SERVICE BAY
An excellent network of specialists and plenty of club support mean that just about everything is available for these cars, from normal service items to a complete chassis.
The 100/4 is very simple to work on too, and has no unusual vices. Oil changes are normally needed every 3000 miles, with greasing of the suspension, propshaft and steering recommended every 1000 miles or so, depending on use.
Once you’ve mastered that grease gun, you should have a reliable car, though you do need to make sure you keep on top of Waxoyling the chassis, which can hide rust well.
3 ON THE SHOW CIRCUIT
It’s hard to imagine any genuine classic car enthusiast not loving this car – and it’s hard to imagine the organiser of a show turning one away at the gates.
These cars are relatively rare in the UK because most were exported to the United States (although some have returned over the years), so many people will be fascinated to learn that there are standard Austin mechanicals under that gorgeous bodywork.
With 100mph top speed potential and strong acceleration, the 100/4 could tackle any trial thrown at it, so you’d never feel embarrassed on road runs. The 100/4 would spread goodwill wherever you go.
4 THE LONG WEEKEND
Few cars are better suited to the business of heading off for a romantic weekend than a Austin-Healey 100/4. You might even consider taking someone with you. Engage overdrive and you can tackle long-distance motorway cruising with relative ease and the handling is good enough to tackle any twisty road.
The car isn’t excessively noisy, but nor is it loaded with creature comforts, though the seats are comfortable enough over long distances, we discovered.
There isn’t a huge amount of luggage space, however, so bear in mind that your Louis Vuitton suitcases could well find themselves in an unequal fight with the spare wheel if you overdo it on the packing front.
5 THE B-ROAD BLAST
Here’s where the 100/4 comes into its own. You’ll be surprised at just how well this car rides and handles – the handling is predictable yet responsive and you’re certainly not shaken around while the front scuttle flaps happily away.
Once you’re used to its weird threespeed gate, the gearbox is pretty slick and the brakes are remarkably good. The 100/4 inspires confidence, and certainly doesn’t feel front-heavy or that a twitch of the steering wheel will provoke massive understeer. And the windscreen folds flat to make even more of the car’s excellent aerodynamics. How cool is that?