The Austin-Healey 3000 buying guide. A quintessential British classic
The Austin-Healey 3000 was the final development of the Big Healeys and its combination of power and beautiful styling make it a superb classic to own.
The Austin-Healey 3000 can trace its roots back to the original Healey 100 which launched in 1953 and was named after its 100bhp power output and ability to breach 100mph. The 3000 followed six years later and its name referred to the six-cylinder engine’s near three-litre capacity and not its horsepower rating, which was now 124bhp.
Just like its direct predecessor, the 100-6, the 3000 was stunning to look at but there were a few changes under the skin too. Aside from the uprated 2.9-litre motor, the new car also got front disc brakes and continued to be offered in two-seat roadster or 2+2 body styles.
The two-seater models offered a more sporting drive and were the basis of the factory race cars. The Mark II variant arrived in 1961 with a triple-carb setup and an upgraded camshaft, a centre-change gearbox was introduced along the way, too.
The Mark IIA was introduced the following year, featuring a more user-friendly folding roof and a move back to a twin-carb setup, which sacrificed just 1bhp for improved efficiency. The Mark III was the final iteration of the 3000 and offered a big step up in power, now at 150bhp. The Mark III also had a much more luxurious De-Luxe interior. Early Mark IIIs used the Mark IIA chassis but later cars had a new chassis design which incorporated a more refined rear suspension layout, among other refinements.
Production of the 3000 Mark III lasted until 1967 and these are the most numerous of all variants produced. Many cars have been modified over the years, and while an original car may command the highest prices, a sympathetically upgraded car can be far more enjoyable to drive on a regular basis.
Austin-Healey 3000 Engine and gearbox
The 2.9-litre OHV inline-six is a solid design and has no inherent issues waiting to catch out the unwary. Most engines have been rebuilt by now and if yours is showing signs of excessive wear (blue smoke from the exhaust, lacklustre performance or strange noises from the engine bay), parts are readily available for an overhaul.
Performance parts are easily obtainable, from more efficient carburettors to sportier camshafts. If something has been modified check that it has been done professionally.
All 3000s came fitted with a four-speed manual with no synchro on first. Mark IIs got a gear stick between the front seats, as opposed to the earlier side selector layout. If the car is fitted with an overdrive, then it should engage on third and fourth. If not, the solenoid may simply need replacing.
Austin-Healey 3000 Suspension and Brakes
The brakes are a simple design and the usual issues like seized calipers and corroded disc surfaces can affect cars that are left standing for long periods.
The suspension is also mostly trouble-free, but cars that have been modified with stiffer springs or bushes can feel a lot less forgiving over bumps, so it is best to leave the suspension as the factory intended.
On the other hand, the tyres do warrant an upgrade; modern radials are preferable to the original cross-ply rubber.
The kingpins can wear, evidenced by excessive movement from the front wheels. Wire wheels can get damaged, so check for worn splines.
Austin-Healey 3000 Bodywork and interior
This is where you should spend the majority of your time when inspecting a potential purchase. The semi-monocoque bodyshell can rust in a number of places and repairs are expensive.
Some areas such as the rocker panels can start rusting from the inside out, so having a specialist take a look at the car is highly recommended.
Many cars have been resprayed or restored by now, so check for the usual things like uneven panel gaps, overspray and poor welding. A removable hardtop was offered for 2+2 variants.
The interior is relatively simple and a good quality retrim can make a big difference to the car’s presentation. Mark III variants had a slightly more luxurious interior and fittings like the wood veneer can be harder to source.
Model History Of The Austin-Healey 3000
1959: Austin-Healey 3000 introduced with 124bhp 2.9-litre inline-six and front disc brakes. Two-seater (BT7) and 2+2 (BN7) body styles offered
1961: Mark II introduced with horizontal grille design and triple carbs on the early cars, two-seater BN7 variants some of the rarest with just 355 made. Gear change moved to vertical position.
1962: Mark IIa with twin carbs were phased in (losing 1 bhp but gaining in fuel efficiency) and new folding hood mechanism introduced
1964: Mark III (BJ8) arrives with more luxurious interior including wood veneer trim. Larger twin carbs and revised camshaft help push power up to 150bhp. Brake booster becomes standard and May sees the introduction of Phase II Mark III with revised rear suspension
1967: Production comes to an end
Which Austin-Healey 3000 To Buy
The Austin-Healey 3000 sports car was the final iteration of the Big Healeys, and came fitted with a number of upgrades and refinements first introduced on the earlier 100 and 100-6 variants. It too went through a number of updates, making the final Mark III models a noticeably more capable sports car than the earliest 3000s.
The two-seaters are rarer and more sought-after. There are marked differences in the way they drive compared to the 2+2 models, so it is worth driving two good examples back to back if you get the opportunity.
While the later Mark IIa and Mark III models offer more performance and a number of detail improvements, any 3000 is an enjoyable drive and many of the upgrades can be retrofitted if originality is not a must.
Values have been strong for some years now and even the less desirable variants command healthy prices. Consequently, there are fewer poor-quality cars out there. Don’t get distracted by those seductive lines and shiny paintwork though, buying a rusted car can be a very costly mistake.
Austin-Healey 3000 Specifications
2.9-litre OHV inline-six
Top speed: 103-125mph
Economy: 25mpg est.
Text John Tallodi Photos Newspress
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