A Big Healey History: The Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000

AUSTIN-HEALEY 100S

Four more Special Test cars were built in 1954. All had the four-port engine (plus an oil cooler to alleviate an oil temperature issue noted at Le Mans) along with a David Brown close-ratio gearbox and new Dunlop disc brakes, fitted at all four corners.

Lance Macklin and George Huntoon took the first of these cars to the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, managing first in their class and third overall despite a broken rocker arm that left them down one cylinder. Their strong performance actually proved a handicap in future events — at the Mille Miglia in May, race officials insisted the Hundreds had to run in the over-2-liter sports car class, pitting the Healeys against far more powerful competitors like Ferrari and Maserati. The company faced a similar challenge at Le Mans, where the disc-equipped Hundreds were pushed into the sports car prototype class. Healey opted to withdraw, issuing a public statement lamenting the growing gap between racers and production cars.

That summer, two Special Test cars were prepared for another round of record attempts at Bonneville. One of the entries was the previous year’s record-setter, fitted with disc brakes and a new 142 hp (106 kW) engine. The other had a heavily modified streamliner body, another Gerry Coker creation, with a bubble canopy and a dramatic but purely cosmetic dorsal fin. Intended to reach 200 mph (320 km/h), the streamliner had a Shorrock supercharger, giving 224 hp (167 kW) on a mixture of Benzole, methanol, and castor oil. While the streamliner set a new array of speed records, it didn’t quite hit the target; its best speed was 192.7 mph (310.2 km/h). The endurance car achieved 53 records of its own, maintaining more than 132 mph (212 km/h) for over 24 hours.

1955 Austin-Healey 100S front 3q © 2009 Rex Gray CC BY 2.0 Generic
Aside from its Perspex windscreen and lack of bumpers, the most obvious distinguishing feature of the 100S body was a slight body side crease that provided a break point for two-tone paint jobs; many (though not all) of these cars were two-tone, usually white over dark Lobelia Blue. The 100S weighed about 200 lb (91 kg) less than the standard Hundred. (Photo: “1955 Austin Healey 100S roadster – fvl” © 2009 Rex Gray; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

That fall, Healey announced that the Sebring car would be the basis for a new limited-production sports racer, christened 100S. Intended for racing homologation and competition-minded owners, it had a reinforced frame and an all-aluminum body with a new grille and a one-piece Perspex windscreen. The bumpers were deleted to save weight while the fuel tank was enlarged from 12 to 20 Imperial gallons (14.4 to 24 U.S. gallons; 54.5 to 90.9 liters). Four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes were standard, as was a close-ratio Morris gearbox, although overdrive moved to the options list. The 100S engine was similar to the earlier Weslake-designed four-port unit, but had revised manifolds, a high-compression aluminum head, a lightened flywheel, and dual exhausts. Output was 132 hp (98 kW) and 168 lb-ft (228 N-m) of torque, which combined with the lighter weight and close-ratio gearbox to give ferocious performance: 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in less than 8 seconds with a top speed of more than 125 mph (201 km/h). List price was just under $5,000.

The higher-revving engine was far from smooth and there were problems with the aluminum cylinder heads, clutches, and exhaust manifolds, but the 100S was a true dual-purpose sports racer, taking class victories at both Sebring and the Mille Miglia in early 1955. Unfortunately, that summer, one of the Special Test prototypes was also involved in the worst racing tragedy of the decade. On the 35th lap at Le Mans in June, Healey driver Lance Macklin’s car, registration NOJ 393, was rear-ended by Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300SLR. The Mercedes flipped over and struck a retaining wall, sending its engine and debris hurtling into the crowd and then catching fire. Macklin was not injured, but Levegh and about 80 spectators were killed with dozens more injured. Macklin’s car was impounded and not returned to Warwick until more than a year later.

Production of the 100S continued for about four months after Le Mans, ending in November. Including the Special Test cars, only 55 were built, including a prototype fixed-head coupe, which Donald Healey kept for his own use until the early 1960s.

BN2 AND 100M

By September 1954, production of all the earlier Healey models had ended, allowing the staff in Warwick to concentrate on the Special Test cars and other Austin-Healey projects. Fortunately, the Hundred was selling far better than all the previous cars combined: production totaled more than 10,000 cars through mid-1955. Quite a few were raced, with respectable results; one car even won its class in the 1955 Mobilgas Economy Rally.

The early Hundred, known today by its chassis code, BN1, underwent various running changes through its run, from new two-piece side screens to the substitution of the hypoid-bevel axle from the Austin Westminster for the original A70/A90 unit. In August 1955, all Hundreds received the four-speed taxi gearbox, along with wider front brakes and a longer body-side swage line, facilitating the use of two-tone paint. Those changes prompted a new chassis code: BN2.

1955 Austin-Healey 100M front 3q © 2010 Tony Hisgett CC BY 2.0 Generic
The most visible feature of the Austin-Healey 100M was a louvered bonnet with leather tie-down straps; the same bonnet was optional on standard cars, usually included with the Le Mans engine kit. The 100M was often ordered with two-tone paint as well, although it wasn’t compulsory. (Photo: “Austin Healey 100M 2” © 2010 Tony Hisgett; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Later that year, the standard BN2 was supplemented by a new model, the 100M. Introduced at the Earls Court show in October, the 100M was presumably intended to provide a cheaper replacement for the 100S, featuring a louvered bonnet, minor suspension modifications, and the Le Mans engine kit, giving 110 hp (82 kW). Priced 10% higher than the standard car, the 100M accounted for 1,159 units through mid-1956, roughly 25% of BN2 production.

Unfortunately, production was down significantly. Although the Hundred had outsold the Triumph TR2, the new TR3 was proving a more difficult opponent. Introduced in October 1955, the TR3 had revamped styling and additional power, giving it a small but significant advantage over the Austin-Healey. It was still more than $300 cheaper than the Hundred and even offered optional 2+2 seating. To match that competition, Healey would have to make some significant changes.

THE AUSTIN-HEALEY 100-6

One idea for improving Austin-Healey sales was a long-wheelbase model, known at Warwick as the L-type. Prompted by Donald Healey’s concern that lack of passenger space was costing sales, the L-type had a 2-inch (51mm) longer wheelbase, providing room for a pair of occasional rear seats. Gerry Coker also explored a number of possible updates to the Hundred’s styling, including enclosed headlamps, small tailfins, and louvers in the front fenders to exhaust engine heat (later adopted by some of the competition cars).

1960 Austin-Healey 3000 (BT7) rear seats
In addition to its slightly longer wheelbase, the 2+2 Hundred had a reshaped tonneau area with the rear bulkhead pushed farther back. To provide foot room, the four-seater replaced the two-seater’s twin 6V batteries — normally mounted just ahead of the axle on either side of the driveshaft — with a single 12V battery in the boot. This is actually a 1960 Austin-Healey 3000 (BT7), but the rear seating area is almost identical to that of the four-seat 100-6.

According to Geoff Healey, serious thought was also given to standardizing the 100S engine across the line, which would have given the Hundred a clear performance edge over the TR3. However, Austin management was not enthusiastic; the 100S engine was expensive to produce, requiring a unique block casting to match the aluminum head’s altered stud positions. BMC preferred to modify the Hundred to accommodate the newer Morris-designed C-series six, which was replacing the big four in BMC’s bigger sedans.

Installing the six in the Hundred chassis was not a complex exercise, but the engine itself left much to be desired. While a six-cylinder engine might seem to provide a marketing advantage over the four-cylinder TR3, the C-series was slightly smaller in displacement than the big four and actually had less torque. Worse, the six was considerably heavier than the four — dry weight was over 600 lb (277 kg) — which eroded the Hundred’s power-to-weight ratio.

1957 Austin-Healey 100-6 BN4 engine
The 100-6’s original 1C engine was lifted almost unchanged from the Austin A105. Displacing 2,639 cc (161 cu. in.), the six had four main bearings, two 1.5-inch (38mm) S.U. H4 carburetors, and 8.25:1 compression, giving 102 hp (76 kW) and 142 lb-ft (193 N-m) of torque. For reasons of production economy, the intake manifold was cast as part of the cylinder head, which combined with the galley-type intake ports to limit breathing and tuning potential.

Hoping to cast the new engine in a good light, the Healeys decided to take two six-cylinder cars to Bonneville in August 1956. The original 1953–54 record-setter was fitted with aerodynamic body extensions and an oval grille (once again courtesy of Gerry Coker), along with a heavily modified C-series engine with a new six-port head and separate intake manifold. The 1954 streamliner was also modified extensively and fitted with a supercharged six, producing 292 hp (218 kW).

On the Salt Flats, both cars blew their engines repeatedly, but the endurance car nevertheless set numerous speed records, including a six-hour average of more than 146 mph (235 km/h). The supercharged streamliner, driven by Donald Healey himself, reached speeds of up to 203 mph (327 km/h) — short of the 217 mph (349 km/h) originally projected, but still an impressive figure. It would be the last run for Donald Healey, who had recently turned 58. Afterward, the Healeys’ insurance company, understandably nonplussed by the whole affair, finally persuaded him to leave the risky stuff to others.

1959 Austin-Healey 100-6 (BN6) grille badge
At launch, the Austin-Healey 100-6 had a list price of £762 ex works (£1,144 7s with purchase tax) or $3,195 POE in the U.S. While that wasn’t much more expensive than the four-cylinder car it replaced, wire wheels, tonneau cover, and overdrive were now optional. Starting in 1958, U.S. cars were offered in both standard and DeLuxe form, the latter including heater, wire wheels, tonneau cover and overdrive as standard equipment.

The six-cylinder production car went on sale that fall. Christened Austin-Healey 100-6 (and known today by its BN4 chassis code), it completely replaced the four-cylinder BN2. The BN4 was 6.5 inches (165 mm) longer than the BN2 and had the longer-wheelbase chassis and 2+2 seating. Except for its new grille and hood scoop, the BN4 looked much the same as the four-cylinder car, but weight was up about 240 lb (110 kg). Most of that was on the nose, requiring stiffer front springs and a thicker anti-roll bar. As a result, the six-cylinder cars had heavier steering than the fours and a new propensity for initial understeer and dramatic final oversteer.

Press response to the 100-6 was lukewarm. Instead of giving the Healey an edge over the TR3, the six-cylinder engine seemed to be a step backward. While the six-cylinder car’s top speed was similar to the four’s, 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) acceleration took about a second longer than before. Worse, the BN4 still had drum brakes, while the Triumph now offered standard front discs, something the Hundred had yet to offer except on the 100S. Sales of the 100-6 were not significantly better than those of the BN2, amounting to about 5,000 units a year.

1959 Austin-Healey 100-6 (BN6) front
Externally, the Austin-Healey 100-6 differed from the Hundred mainly in the nose, which had a new oval grille (inspired by the ones on the 100S and the Bonneville cars) and a chrome-trimmed hood scoop. While the scoop was open, ostensibly to allow cool air into the engine compartment, Geoff Healey later admitted that it was mostly cosmetic.

In response, Healey started work an alternative: a smaller, cheaper Austin-powered sports car, codenamed Q1 (and later ADO 13). It would emerge in May 1958 as the first Austin-Healey Sprite. The Sprite was one of the last projects Gerry Coker worked on for Healey; in 1957, he moved to the U.S. to become a body engineer for Ford.

43 Comments

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  1. Excellent story Aaron I never managed to get a Healey always wanted one having owne a few mechanical donors in the shape of Westies and an Isis which were good fast comfortable sedans in their day. Healeys pretty much mirrored Westminsters for new developments.

  2. The Healey was, to my mind the most beautiful of 1950’s production sports cars. I never found the TR3 attractive,and the MGA looked nice, but nothing was as instantly appealing as the Healey, especially with the two-tone paint. I went to a lot of SCCA races in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and they were quite common on the tracks. And, now a correction; the driver mentioned is Maurice Gatsonides, not Gastonides. Beyond his motorsport career, he is infamous for his invention, the “Gatso” speed camera, which all sporting drivers hate.

    1. Thanks for the correction — I’ve amended the text. I had no idea he developed the Gatso cameras, although that will certainly help to remember the proper spelling of his name.

  3. Nice article – but a couple of errors in 100S caption. All 100 cars had the swage line – from the BN2 on it continued behind the rear wheel. And the standard 100S colour scheme was Old English White over Lobelia (dark blue) not black.

    1. Thanks for the clarifications. The paint color issue had puzzled me a bit: the lower color looked like dark blue to me, but the paint combination chart in Anderson and Moment’s restoration guide described it (for whatever reason) as white over black. Since each of my computer monitors tends to render colors differently, I was wondering if it was an optical illusion or if it was just a particularly bluish shade of black. I have several print references handy, but unfortunately all their photos of the 100S were in black and white…

    2. Excellent article, well researched and written however, actually Anderson and Moment do have the 100S colour correct in their book [i]Austin – Healey 100/100-6/3000 Restoration Guide[/i].
      Page 14 center column.
      [i]Most of the cars were painted in “United States” racing colours of white over blue, using a distinctive Lobelia Blue for the lower panel.[/i]

      1. Ahh — I was looking at the color chart and missed that reference. In any case, I’ve corrected the text.

    3. The swage line on the side did not extend past the rear wheel of ALL BN2s but came on stream well into that production. Since most four cylinder cars were BN1s the full swage line is thus a rarity before the six cylinder cars. More importantly is the front fender opening, cut much higher on the BN2 for a more rakish look with additional clearance for the wheel in turning. Healeys were slim sided relative to their tread width and that wheel stuck way out when steered.

  4. This article led me to look up more info on the FB60 engine, which I’d been somewhat aware of. I was really intrigued to learn that it was an F-head. Does anyone know why it was?

    The other F-head that came to mind for me was the Willys “Hurricane” engine, which Barney Roos designed by making an existing flathead engine into an F-head. In that case, he was trying to get more power on a very tight budget. A full OHV engine would have been ideal, but given the tight budget, moving the intake vales into the head was more cost-effective than moving the exhausts.

    Rolls-Royce was presumably working on the FB60 some years after Roos was designing the Hurricane, and they wouldn’t have had his cost constraints.

    I also can’t help thinking that the MGC would have been much better with the FB60.

    You mentioned that Healey wasn’t happy with Jensen’s quality control, an issue that also came up with the Volvo P1800.

    1. This is a very interesting question, and it led me to do some additional research and make a small addition to the text (about the abortive ADO30 project, which was also slated to use the FB60).

      The FB60 was developed around 1958. Around that time, Rolls-Royce apparently started being interested in doing a smaller, cheaper (relatively speaking) luxury car, probably to be sold primarily as a Bentley. At the time, Rolls was still using IOE sixes in its other cars (although the V8 was already in development), as well as the B40 and B60 engines used in various trucks and military vehicles. My assumption is that Rolls conceived the FB60 as a smaller, lighter engine that could use at least some of the existing tooling. Since the point of the exercise was to make a cheaper car, not having to invest heavily in new equipment would have been desirable, even for Rolls-Royce.

      I don’t know exactly how much architecture the FB60 shares with the B60 used in earlier Rolls and Bentley passenger cars. It has the same bore, a much shorter stroke, and an aluminum block (the B60 already had an aluminum head). While the FB60 may depart from the earlier engine in other respects, it seems pretty clear that the B60 was the starting point for it.

      Incidentally, Rolls and BMC considered a bunch of possible Bentley-branded smaller cars, including the Bentley Java (which would have been quite similar to the Princess 4-Litre R and probably inspired the styling of the latter), the Bentley Bengal (based on the Austin 3-litre), and a coupe called the Bentley Alpha, based on the ADO30. All would have used the FB60 engine.

    2. The web has someplace a long article on Rolls Royce engines by one of their principals in the engineering ranks. In it there was a statement that the FB alloy F-head was dimensionally close and sometimes identical to the last 4.25 liter RR iron six. Of course, Rolls had already forsaken sixes for their huge V8. Perhaps this explains the retrograde F-head being found on the units being supplied to the Princess?

      1. In the late fifties and early sixties, Rolls-Royce seriously considered doing one or more cheaper Bentley models as a way of boosting sales volume and making up for slower sales of the ‘senior’ cars (analogous to Packard’s move with the original One-Twenty in 1935). There was the Bentley Burma, which I believe ended up being more or less the ancestor of the Silver Shadow, followed by the Bentley Java (based on the Austin Princess 3-Litre) and the Bentley Bengal, which would have been a Bentley version of the Princess 4 Litre R.

        As far as I know, the rationale of the FB was to give these cheaper cars (at least the latter two of which would have had a lot of BMC hardware) proper Rolls/Bentley engines without the expense of tooling a new ‘small’ engine for those cars. The F-head six might have been retrograde technologically, but it compared pretty well with contemporary OHV sixes in terms of output and the DOHC version, which never got past the prototype stage, would have given the Jaguar XK engine a run for its money. So, it made a fair bit of sense.

        Of course, for various reasons, none of the Bentley cars ever materialized and a lot of Rolls-Royce’s FB capacity went unused.

  5. -One of the first cars I drove, illegaly, of course, was a friend’s 100-4. It had a three speed transmission with electric overdrive that was supposed to make it a five speed.
    -The shift pattern was also reversed from US normal, that is, second and third

    1. Yes, the shift pattern on the BN1 cars was very odd. I think they resolved that with the BN2, with the taxi gearbox.

    2. . . . . . because, at age 17, it was the first antique auto I helped restore (I didn’t have my own antique car for another year) and the beginning of my 45 year involvement with antique vehicles (cars, motorcycles and bicycles). I still remember the car, helping the owner sand down the primer for painting.

  6. Very interesting as usual Aaron. I suppose it would improve with familiarity but the 4000 prototype looks ‘odd’, really time for a new bodystyle even if it was only an early prototype. There was a car built locally with a Rover V8 (from memory) that had a similar body widening mainly to fit wider tyres, I think they might have altered the grille a bit to keep it more in proportion.

    1. Well, the initial prototype was created by essentially slicing a BJ8 body in half and splicing in a 6-inch section. If it had made production, I suppose they might have come up with a new grille — it would probably have been relatively cheap to do. Still, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the 1953-vintage design had been nipped and tucked a few too many times by then.

      1. Hi Aaron, the above comment was mine.

        Last weekend I actually saw the featured 4000 prototype, as well as Lance Macklin’s Le Mans NOJ 393 a replica of one of the streamliners amongst dozens of other A-H’s at a car show. I’d say the 4000 looks better in the flesh, but it is still a significantly wider car that would not have the same sporty feel of the original.

        1. The people who’ve driven it tend to say the same thing. It was reportedly a lot more comfortable than the 3000, with a better driving position and more elbow room, but felt and sounded less sporty, particularly with the automatic. Perhaps too civilized for its own good.

  7. Another excellent article – just wanted to say how much I appreciate the effort that goes into this and the skill at presenting it in an interesting and cogent manner.

    And no, I don’t want to borrow any money.

    thanks

  8. Aaron,

    Will you be moving forward with this amazing historical portrait, looking at the Jensen Healey?

    1. I will, although I decided that three Healeys in a row might be a bit much.

  9. Familiarity with early Healey Hundreds suggests there were at least two front wheel arches during their production. The red one depicted, a BN1 is a very much chunkier section than the BN2. It might have fouled the tire (tyre) at steering lock at least with the tall spec tires of the era. The car officially got a larger valence that looked sleeker as a running change. The difference in height causes problems in terminating the two toned flanks which are often found on LeMans replica cars. The swage line does not truly intersect the top of the arch on early ones but requires a looped return, which anyhow works out okay in practice.

    1. Thanks for the info. There are a lot of minor details that I’m only able to touch on in these stories.

      1. I’d hope I had mentioned once before referencing a Mustang article, but will enjoy doing so again. Your monographs are amazingly concise distillations of complex stories, done with great adherence to, and respect for facts. I recommend them to all my friends.

  10. The “Haldane” was a rather proper looking replica Hundred out of fiberglas with Ford Kent motivation, differing only in a lower hood line. The “Harrier” was an upmarket effort with Rover V8 and independent suspension that I believe Geoff Healey was pleased to endorse. Both were better looking, or at least more authentic appearing than the 4000 prototype with the half a foot widened body shell. Sad that larger customers and side impact requirements dealt such a blow to the original aesthetics of the first car. Look to the Ford GT to understand how an enlargement if required should be undertaken in EVERY dimension so that proportions that initially delighted can be maintained.
    One must mention in passing the Saxon and Sebring kit cars that hint of the Healey legacy in rather unconvincing ways.

  11. The Healey Hundred has more shape in its flanks than people realize. It swells in width at the cockpit and is already narrowing over the rear fender. That shows Jerry’s modern three dimensional spatial thinking.
    To have gotten more width where necessary for the cockpit without destroying the lithe appearance from the three quarter view might only have required wedging out the fore-body. That would have allowed a front track perhaps 2 inches wider than the rear, whereas it is actually a half inch shy of the rear on the existing cars. At that point it would have virtually equalled the later Jag E-type series III cars track. The span of the headlamps of the Healey could have been increased without visual harm though not by a half a foot.

  12. In 1972 & 73, I worked in the service department of Donald Healey Motor Co in Warwick and was lucky enough to drive one of the manual 4000R’s The car had been re-chassed following a road accident by the then owner, a gentleman who lived in Wales, I think. I road tested the car over several hundred miles and so was able to understand the car well. I had driven a number of E-types up to that time and the comparison was most interesting. The 4000R had excellent road holding and outstanding handling. The acceleration was good as the engine revved well, the gearchange and ratios good too. Performance was good, I saw over 125mph on a number of occasions. The car braked well and overall, I enjoyed the car more than E-types. I would be happy to hear from anyone else who drove these cars and hear their views.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Tony. The consensus of all the accounts I’ve heard of people who’ve had the chance to drive the 4000 was that it was a definite improvement in all-around performance (although one can easily imagine the carping the automatic would have provoked at the time). I think the downfall of the car, had it made production, would have been the styling. Combining the new engine with the fixed-head coupe might have been a different story, although then the 4000 would most definitely have been an E-type rival…

  13. Aaron

    I have tried in vain to contact Tony Pomfret for the last four years and now find he has contacted you recently. As he drove my 4000 when in the UK I would love to talk to him, may I have his email or could you send him mine so we can chat please.

    Regards Peter Rowland Melbourne Australia

  14. i thoroughly enjoyed reading your well researched article and it got me thinking about some unexplained unusual features and history facts surrounding our 100/6 BN6. We recently bought her as my wife spent much of her youth around the Warwick area and she happens to be of the same vintage as the car!
    According to the build records the car was built in June ’57 but according to a copy of the original owner log book was not registered to her first owner until January ’58. This in itself is unusual as cars were generally built to order.
    This brings me to the next unusual feature that she was supplied to her first owner with Dunlop disc brakes on front and rear axles. Trying to find any documented information about the 100/6 on disc brakes seems to be a bit of a best kept secret so I am wondering if anyone reading this might have some answers?
    I recently spoke to the UK A-H Club marque model expert who said he was aware of only two other examples, both of which are BN6, here in the UK and he referred to them as being the ‘homologation specials’ of which he said approximately 40-50 cars were retro equipped by the Healey Works at Warwick and at a time in ’58 when much Works backed rallying was taking place. Are any examples of these BN6 cars known to exist in the U.S. Or other markets?
    If some facts could be brought to light, then this would make for an interesting twist to the Big Healey story

  15. What was the weight of the 2660 cc 4 cylinder engine out of the BN1 and BN2?I’am considering putting a 427 CI Chevrolet V8 into my BN2

    1. That’s a good question — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a figure for the four, and because the BN4 was also a physically larger car, simply comparing BN2 and BN4 figures doesn’t give much indication. The C-series engine was a big sucker, though (more than 600 pounds in 2.9-liter form), so even if the 2,660cc four were more than 100 pounds lighter, it may still have been in the neighborhood of 500 pounds. My very rough guess would be that an iron-head SBC would about split the difference and an iron big clock would be at least 70 pounds heavier up front than the BN4, but someone may have a more specific answer.

  16. Can anyone supply me with information (or direct me to information) on the twin cam cylinder head that was developed by Austin Canada for the 2660cc BN1 engine in the early 1950’s. I remember seeing an article on the subject many, many years ago. I understand 2 or 3 were built before management killed the project. Apparently, the performance was very impressive.

  17. Good article.

    Have actually driven a 3 carb Healey 3000 back in fall 1963. Followed by a TR3, then a couple of years later an old MGA, followed by innumerable MGBs. Good time to enter college and meet rich boys from Montreal whose Dad’s could afford to give them such things.

    The Healey had a very twitchy rear suspension, quarter elliptics maybe? Steered on the throttle. Seemed very fast, but 2 1/2 inches of ground clearance helped that illusion. The TR3 was an old brute that seemed to have almost no suspension at all. The MGA was actually not bad, and I found the later mid ’60s MGBs a bit sterile, probably because it had an actual torsionally strong unitbody and behaved itself. Preferred the Volvo 544.

    Then I tried the Alfa 1750 Giulietta a few years later when studying in the UK. Different and far better league altogether.

    Memories. Pretty good ones as well.

    1. The big Healeys had semi-elliptical rather than quarter-elliptical springs — it’s just that they didn’t indulge in a lot of faddish niceties like compliance or wheel travel. It’s also conceivable that the owner also delved into competition parts or aftermarket accessories; given how stiff the stock rear springs were, I suspect trying to add a rear anti-roll bar would make the car particularly twitchy.

  18. Dear Sir, could you give me some informations about the story that the original 6-cylinder Healey engine was a formel Austin Tipper engine. In that time I was working for Austin in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and later for Leyland Vehicles Benelux in Malines(Mechelen) and we have (my memories?) used spare parts for a Healey BT7 from a Austin truck engine. Because there is a Healey museum in Vreeland (The Netherlands) and they tell the visitors all about the history of (Donald)Healey and that part is missing. In that museum we have seen an AEC petrol engine (6-Cyliner), so we could accept this truck history. Please inform us, thank you in advance for your cooperation.

    1. All the big Healeys used BMC “corporate” engines, some of which were also used in trucks — the 2,660 cc big four definitely was. I’m not sufficiently familiar enough with BMC’s commercial offerings of that period to know offhand if the 2.9-liter C-series was used in trucks, although I wouldn’t be surprised. The truck and car versions of most of those engines were not dramatically different, although I presume the truck versions had some stouter components to suit more strenuous duty. It would make sense that where possible, the Healeys would have specified the heavier-duty truck components for reasons of durability. I would have to go back and do more research on the detailed engine specs to confirm that, but again it seems plausible.

      1. Dear Aaron, thank you very much for your assistance and reply in this matter. I will follow your comments and/or reply.

  19. As a matter of interest, the Riley engine used in the Healey Tickford and Abbott was indeed a twin-cam engine, but it wasn’t a twin-overhead-cam engine. The camshafts were mounted high in the block, and the pushrods were shorter than in most engines. But it was a pushrod design.

    1. Yup — a novel approach to solving the problem of how to actuate the valves with a hemispherical combustion chamber.

  20. I owned a Healy 300 in 1968-91 a C reg car. bought secondhand from Eddy Grimsteads at his Barking showroom in Essex. (EG’s was famous for pedal bike shops and the Lamberetta scooter ) He was a local business man. I saw the big Healey in the showroom window priced at just over £i. 000. I was driving a Triumph Vitesse at that moment, but i fell in love with the red Healey. Went in and bought it on the spot part exchanging the six cylinder Triumph for £400.00. Done the deal and drove it home in complete happiness.
    New wife wondered how i went out in a blue car and came home in a red one. After 50 years she still gets confused with my instant deals. I had to sell the car when a another baby was declared on the way. It was traded for a mortgage on a new house. So i lied with the car a distant vision of happier times. Then last week (Jan 2017) i saw an advertised 1960 BT7 fitted with a rover V8 (done in 1991) engine (not really what i wanted) but for a good working price range of what i thought was OK. Car was clean had many new parts no rust , and sounded fine. So i went into the house done the deal bought it and the seller drove it to my house.
    I was happy again. Wife loves it and loves me(so she says). Moral of the story be happy . JRL.

    1. I must say, if my spouse departed in one car and returned later in a very similar one that just happened to be a different color, I would wonder if something important had broken in my head!

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