Mods and Consequences
Modifying the last of the Big ’Healeys is not just a matter of looking cool – it can also help to keep the engine cool, though there are performance and handling benefits to be had, too
’You’ll feel the need for modifications when driving in everyday traffic’
At first glance the original Austin-Healey 3000 looks little different from the 100-6 it replaced, the most obvious change being the larger 2912cc six-pot engine, front disc brakes, improved radiator and revised gear ratios.
As with the later 100-6s, there was a choice of two-seater roadsters and four-seater tourers from their introduction in 1959, but the larger engine, coupled with improved breathing, gave impressive performance at high speeds – up to 116mph. However, to keep prices keen, equipment that had been standard on earlier models was now optional.
The MkII, introduced in May 1961, featured triple SU HS4 carburettors – making it good for 132bhp – together with a revised grille with vertical bars replacing the former mesh. A new gearbox was offered in November that year that made it possible to have a centre gearchange, thereby eliminating the awkward offset shift lever that had proved troublesome in the popular left-hand drive market for these cars. When the MkIIA Sports Convertible appeared in 1962, it was back to the twin carburettor set-up featuring SU HS6s, while the MkIII model introduced the following year had larger two-inch SU HD8 carbs. The 3000 MkIII engine was the most powerful in a Big ’Healey, offering 149bhp. In addition, a revised exhaust system and increased air over the rear tyres improved efficiency and reduced noise.
The 3000 proved itself ideal for long-distance rallies, coping with Alpine peaks and passes with stylish ease – it was the only British car to win the Liège-Rome-Liège rally twice.
Away from hillclimbs and rallying, you’ll probably feel the need for modifications when driving a road car in modern, everyday traffic, because heat in both the cabin and the engine compartment needs to be kept under control. And while the 3000 is as special as it comes, there is still room to make one even better.