Evolved to become the ultimate ‘Healey
This year marks 50 years since the last ‘Big Healey’ was built. This example, in Healey Blue with Ivory scallops, hails from the point in history when the story of this big burly sports car was near its close.
By the time this particular Phase II BJ8 3000 had rolled off the production line, the rallying Healeys had retired with no less than 35 class wins at the hands of such motorsport royalty as Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Malkinen, Jack Sears and Pat Moss.
Prior to the launch of the Frogeye, the 100 had become the 100-6, power now courtesy of the C-series six-pot used in the Westminster saloon. That engine was carried over for the original 3000 of 1959, at which time its capacity was increased from 2.6 to 2.9 litres and production had moved from Jensen in West Bromwich to MG in Abingdon.
Having previously run unreliable triple SU carb fueling, the MkIII inherited the twin carbs of the MkIIA, though enlarged to two inches. This, in addition to a beefier camshaft, saw performance spike at 148bhp. However, it’s clear with this Healey that the tastes of the market had changed, the MkIII completing the transition from sporting roadster to open-top tourer. These final Big Healeys were only available with 2+2 seating, while interior appointments included a wood-trimmed facia and Ambla leather trim. These luxuries added weight; the 100 is lithe compared to the 1180kg 3000 MkIII.
And yet, there’s still much to admire. It’s a credit to Gerry Coker’s original 1952 design that his unmistakable lines are still recognisable, while that C-series engine is smooth, flexible and surprisingly economical while cruising in the case of this particular example, courtesy of its optional overdrive operating on the top two gears. But what truly impresses is the response from low revs.
Although incrementally slower to 60mph from standing than the 100M, it certainly doesn’t feel it. The shove in the back delivered is quite astonishing, with enough torque to continue pinning you to your seat until you finally change up. The reward for holding your nerve is a soundtrack that leaves you in no doubt of its motor sport lineage. Although far more civilised while cruising, the 3000 is much like the 100 at full chat in that it makes a mockery of its exhaust system fitted with no less than four silencers, as it verges on being a full aural assault.
Best of all, servo-assisted disc brakes at the front, while somewhat heavy, are powerful and keen-acting. Being a nose-heavy car, there’s an unsurprising tendency towards understeer. The additional power means unlike the 100 or the Frogeye, the driver is required to be more cautious when applying throttle mid-corner, especially so as the cam and peg steering can at times lack finesse.
As the most softly sprung of this Healey trio, there’s a floating sensation that can mask the feedback the driver is receiving. But it can be made to string a series of corners together very well.
There is today a strong feeling the Big Healey was killed off early, due to impending US safety and emissions laws. With this car, it’s hard to disagree.