Evolved to be­come the ul­ti­mate ‘Healey

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - AUSTIN-HEALEYS CELEBRATED -

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.

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