With a lusty, six-cylinder soundtrack, the Austin-Healey 3000 is one of the most evocative British classics around.
When the Austin-Healey 3000 was launched, externally at least it was unchanged from the outgoing 100-6. The major changes were mechanical, with the C-series engine growing in size to 2912cc. The 3000 MkII arrived in March 1961, with some detail changes and boasting a three-carburettor set-up, while the MkIII followed in March 1964. The last of the Big Healeys was built in 1967, but all variants remain popular today.
1959 Austin-Healey 3000 MkI
Power (bhp@rpm) 124bhp@4600rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 162lb ft@2700rpm
Top speed 114mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Examine bodywork very carefully – it consists of many overlapping compound curves and that celebrated swage line takes a skilled body man hours to get right. Any misalignment where it crosses from door skin to wing will be obvious – experienced Healey restorers usually repair a door rather than re-skin it, in order to preserve the swage.
Also thoroughly assess the front metalwork around the grille and bonnet for any damage. This ‘shroud’ is made from sections of alloy that are butt-welded and planished together, meaning it is very easily damaged, not to mention a prime candidate for being bodged back together with filler.
Chassis rails should appear straight when viewed along their length from the front of the car – any rippling or waviness suggests past accident damage. If the damage is severe enough, a replacement chassis may be required, so be wary. Chassis outriggers often suffer with corrosion. They support long sills, creating a perimeter chassis that is equally susceptible to rust, as is the entire bottom half of the bodywork.
Big Healey engines are modified Austin saloon units, meaning they’re solid lumps that last forever when properly maintained. Bored out to 2912cc for the 3000, the C-series exhibits typically 1950s characteristics – high oil consumption of up to a pint per 250 miles is common. Numerous minor oil leaks are also par for the course, but easily lived with until re-build time comes around. You’re ideally looking for oil pressure of 50psi when out on the open road, falling to 10-15psi at a hot idle.
Steering boxes can wear badly, leading to poor steering performance – a re-build will usually improve things immeasurably. If the steering feels vague when on the move, try jacking the front of the car up and rocking each wheel top and bottom. The problem could be down to worn kingpins, which need greasing at every service. Suspension is also derived from contemporary Austin saloons, with double wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar up front, a live axle suspended on leaf springs out back, with a Panhard rod to keep side sway in check. The system was modified for the 3000 MkIII Phase II, replacing the Panhard rod with twin radius arms. The bushes in these can produce creaking noises, so keep an ear out on the test drive.
Today most owners favour all leather if a re-trim is required. If the interior is scruffy, it is possible to buy trim sets and seat covers, but if you bite the bullet and get your wallet out, you’ll see better results by farming the job out to a trim shop.
Hoods were originally made from Everflex vinyl, but some cars have now been fitted with mohair or double-duck instead.
In common with many classics of the same era, you buy an Austin-Healey 3000 on its specification. Make sure it has the right parts for its age, as many have been messed around with over the years. Also, many 3000s have been re-imported to the UK, so be sure that any modifications have been carried out well – particularly right-hand drive conversions. With A-H specialists throughout the country, there’s no shortage of help – the only thing holding you back will be the size of your wallet.