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

AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000 CONVERTIBLE

Despite its impressive rally record, by late 1961, the 3000’s showroom performance had dropped off dramatically. Although 40% cheaper than the glamorous new E-type Jaguar, the Austin Healey’s base price had crept up to more than $3,400, which made its troublesome side curtains and spotty weather protection that much more difficult to accept. Even much cheaper sports cars like the MGB, Datsun Fairlady, and Triumph TR-4 now had roll-up windows.

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III (BJ8) front 3q
All Austin-Healey 3000 convertibles had a curved windshield with pivoting vent windows. The separate parking and turn signal lamps in the front fenders mark this car as a late North American Mark III; the lights were changed several times to comply with new U.S. lighting regulations. Note the vertical grille bars, introduced with the Mark II.

In early 1962, BMC addressed these complaints by introducing a new body style: the Sports Convertible, chassis code BJ7. Offered only as a 2+2, the convertible featured a new windshield, a new folding top, and proper wind-up windows. At the same time, the engine traded its three carburetors for an easier-to-tune pair of 1.75-inch (45mm) S.U. HS6s.

The BN7 and BT7 roadster body styles both gone by summer, but the rally team retained the BN7 through the rest of the 1963 season, collecting more class victories at the Monte Carlo Rally, the Tulip Rally, the Liège, and the RAC Rally.

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III (BJ8) rear 3q
The late Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III chassis had curved frame rails, allowing room for longer (and thus softer) rear springs than used on previous Healeys. The Panhard rod was replaced with twin radius rods for axle location. Note the dual exhausts, added with the 29K engine, and the amber turn signal flashers on either side of the decklid. These replaced the original reflector lenses in early 1965, another measure required for U.S. regulatory compliance.

The introduction of the convertible perked up 3000 sales somewhat, but they remained well below those of the early Mark I cars. In October 1963, the Mark II was upgraded to Mark III form, chassis code BJ8, which featured a revamped engine with bigger carburetors and a dual exhaust system. The big news was a revamped interior; intended to take the 3000 upscale, it featured a wood-trimmed dashboard, a center console, and a racy-looking but confusing array of toggle switches. The changes made the BJ8 a bit heavier than its predecessors, but it was faster than all of them except the 100S, capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in less than 10 seconds and a top speed of nearly 120 mph (192 km/h). Base price was only about $30 higher than the BJ7 DeLuxe, although wire wheels reverted to the options list.

The rally team adopted the BJ8 in 1964, adding even more luster to an already impressive record. Pat Moss was gone — in March, she married Saab driver Erik Carlsson and defected to the Saab team — but the Morley brothers, Rauno Altounen, and Timo Makinen took six class victories, winning the Austrian Alpine Rally outright.

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III (BJ8) engine
The final Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III had the 29K version of the C-series six, with revised cam timing and two 2.0-inch (51mm) S.U. HD8 carburetors in place of the late Mark II car’s HS6s. With dual exhausts, the 29K made 148 hp (110 kW) and 165 lb-ft (224 N-m) (sometimes quoted as 150 hp/112 kW and 173 lb-ft/234 N-m), making it the most powerful engine ever fitted to a regular production Healey.

Although the big Healey retained the Mark III name and BJ8 chassis code for the remainder of its run, the 3000 received additional modifications in May 1964, including a new frame and a heavily revised rear suspension, intended to improve axle location and ride. There were also various lighting changes to comply with changing U.S. laws; about 80% of production went to the States, only about one in 20 cars remaining in the U.K.

Around this time, Healey developed a fixed-head coupe body style intended to be sold alongside the convertible. Geoff and Donald Healey designed the coupe themselves with the help of Doug Thorpe, and a single prototype was assembled in Warwick, using the modified chassis developed for the 12 Hours of Sebring, with four-wheel disc brakes and a detuned racing engine with about 170 hp (127 kW). BMC chairman George Harriman liked the coupe, commissioning Austin stylist Dick Burzi to refine and productionize the design. A second prototype was built, but plans for production collapsed when Harriman saw Jensen’s exorbitant estimate for tooling the new body. The project was canceled, although the Healeys subsequently bought both prototypes for their own use.

1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III (BJ8) dashboard
Along with its more powerful engine, the Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III had new instruments, walnut trim on the dashboard, and a center console. The array of switches to the right of the tachometer includes the overdrive, starter, wipers, and lights; telling them apart at a glance takes practice.

(During this period, BMC also considered another coupe as a possible replacement for the big Healey. Known as the ADO30, it was based on a Pininfarina-built coupe developed by three design students, Michael Conrad, Pio Manzù, and Henner Werner, for a 1961 Automobile Year contest. While the original concept car was based on an Austin-Healey 3000 platform, the ADO30 was intended to be powered by the Rolls-Royce FB60 engine — about which we’ll have more to say below — and use BMC’s Hydrolastic suspension system. The ADO30’s development continued in fits and starts for several years before it was finally canceled in 1967.)

THE ADO 51 AND THE AUSTIN-HEALEY 4000

From a practical standpoint, the 3000 Mark III was the best of the Austin-Healeys, but sales continued to fall. For all its incremental changes, the big Healey’s basic styling was now almost 10 years old and it took a careful eye to distinguish the latest version from its progenitor. We suspect that familiarity was becoming a significant handicap, particularly in fashion-conscious markets like California, which accounted for nearly half of all big Healey sales.

After the cancellation of the fixed-head coupe, BMC presented a new plan: replacing the 3000 with a six-cylinder version of the MGB that could be sold in Austin-Healey and MG versions. Both versions (known as the ADO 51 and 52, respectively) would offer both drophead and fixed-head coupe body styles, allowing BMC to better amortize the tooling for the soon-to-be-released MGB GT coupe.

From a corporate standpoint, the ADO 51/52 project made perfect sense. The Austin-Healey and MGB were built in the same factory and there was already similar commonality between the smaller Austin-Healey Sprite and the MG Midget. Nonetheless, the Healeys were very dubious. Budget constraints meant that the two versions would differ only slightly and both would be obvious derivatives of the MGB. Moreover, after working with MG’s Syd Enever on ADO 51/52 development, Geoff Healey concluded that stuffing the heavy C-series engine in the MGB was a mistake. Donald Healey told BMC in no uncertain terms that he would not put his name on the project and the ADO 51 was finally canceled, although the ADO 52 survived, emerging in 1967 as the MGC.

The demise of the ADO 51 left the thorny question of what to do about the 3000. Aside from its shrinking sales, the existing BJ8 car could not easily meet the new U.S. federal safety and emissions standards slated to take effect in January 1968. The long-term future of the C-series six was also in doubt. Although a lighter seven main bearing version was in development for the MGC and Austin 3 litre, the only other BMC cars to use the existing four-bearing engine were the aging Austin A110 Westminster and its Wolseley 6/100 cousin, both of which would expire by 1968.

At the suggestion of Austin officials, Donald Healey explored the possibility of revamping the 3000 to accept a new engine: the 3,909 cc (239 cu. in.) FB60, an all-aluminum six designed and built by Rolls-Royce. BMC and Rolls-Royce had signed a contract back in 1962 for BMC to buy the FB60 for its large cars, but the only production model to actually use the aluminum engine was Austin’s Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R, which had been a commercial disappointment. As a result, BMC had never purchased anything close to the originally agreed upon number of engines, leaving Rolls with a good deal of excess capacity.

1968 Austin-Healey 4000 FB60 engine © 2006 Storm Bear (used with permission)
The Rolls-Royce FB60 engine was a six-cylinder intake-over-exhaust (IOE or F-head) engine with overhead intake and side exhaust valves. Developed in the late 1950s, it was distantly related to the B40 and B60 engines used in many military vehicles, although it was developed specifically for passenger car use. Rolls engineers toyed with a DOHC version, good for 268 hp (200 kW) or more with three carburetors, but it never reached production. (Photo: “Austin Healey 4000 with Rolls Royce Princess Engine” © 2006 Storm Bear; used with permission)

In the fall of 1966, Healey engineers widened a BJ8 convertible by 6 inches (152 mm) and installed the engine, automatic transmission, and rear axle from Princess 4 Litre R. To those, the team added a new padded dashboard and door panels, a collapsible steering column, new seats, and other features required by U.S. regulations. The changes transformed the car. The FB60 had never been intended for sports car duty, but it was some 160 lb (73 kg) lighter than the C-series engine and even in a mild state of tune offered a healthy 175 hp (131 kW) and 218 lb-ft (296 N-m) of torque. The FB60 was also refined and quiet in a way the C-series could never match. The re-engined car was much easier to drive, too, with a more comfortable driving position, a better ride, and more secure handling, thanks to the wider track and superior weight distribution.

Austin executives were very impressed when the Healeys presented the modified car in Longbridge in early 1967. BMC’s cost analysis found that the FB60-engined car would be no more expensive to build than the 3000 while elevating the big Healey to a new level of luxury and refinement. BMC commissioned six additional prototypes, which were assigned the code number ADO 24. The production version, to be called Austin-Healey 4000, was expected to replace the 3000 in early 1968.

1968 Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R front 3q © 2011 Graham Robertson CC BY 2.0 Generic
The Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R was the sole result of the collaboration between BMC and Rolls-Royce and the only BMC production car to use the FB60 engine. Originally conceived as an entry-level Bentley, the 4 Litre R was based on the Austin Princess 3 Litre, but it had different styling and a luxurious interior, trimmed by Vanden Plas (a London coachbuilder Austin had acquired in 1946). The 4 Litre R was quite expensive (£1,994 in the U.K., about $6,700 in the U.S.), and sales were mediocre: 6,555 cars between 1964 and 1968. Surprisingly, about two-thirds were sold in the U.S. (Photo: “1968 Vanden Plas Princess 4 litre R” © 2011 Graham Robertson; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Unfortunately, the ADO 24 was canceled less than six months later. There were several reasons, the most pressing of which was probably BMC’s increasingly grim financial condition. Another factor was that the FB60 turned out not to be available in the expected numbers. Although Rolls-Royce engineers were aware of the ADO 24 and had worked with the Healeys on its development, Rolls-Royce management had apparently concluded that BMC was unlikely to order many more engines than it already had, so the factory in Crewe had already begun disposing of the tooling. Geoff Healey also suspected that the ADO 24 ran into significant internal opposition from Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons, who had gained a seat on the board after the 1966 merger of BMC and Jaguar. The Austin-Healey 4000 would have given the E-type a run for its money, offering comparable performance for some £700 (about $2,000) less.

The Healeys retained the original FB60-engined car and later finished the two partially prototypes at the family’s home in Cornwall at their own expense. All three cars were eventually sold to private collectors. Geoff Healey believed there was also a fourth chassis, although its ultimate fate is unknown.

1968 Austin-Healey 4000 front 3q © 2006 Storm Bear (used with permission)
This is the third ADO 24 (Austin-Healey 4000) prototype, completed by the Healeys after the project’s cancellation. Like the initial prototype, it’s been widened by about 6 inches (15 cm), but it retains the 3000’s hood scoop (deleted on the original car) and uses a mostly standard 3000 fascia, albeit without wood trim. While the first prototype had a Borg-Warner Model 8 automatic transmission, the other two cars used the all-synchro four-speed gearbox from the contemporary E-type Jaguar, perhaps because the FB60 exceeded the torque capacity of the old Austin gearbox. (Photo: “Austin Healey 4000 with Rolls Royce Princess Engine” © 2006 Storm Bear; used with permission)

It’s an open question whether the Rolls-Royce engine would have been enough resuscitate the big Healey’s sales. Despite its “Powered by Rolls-Royce” badges, the 4000 would have looked much like the 3000: new wine in an old bottle. Some of those who’ve driven the prototypes also wondered if the 4000 would have been too refined for its own good, more of a boulevardier than a real sports car.

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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