Unable to meet U.S. motor vehicle standards, the Austin-Healey 3000 expired in December 1967, although a final car was completed offline about three months later.
In May 1968, BMC merged with Leyland Motors to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation, chaired by Leyland’s Donald Stokes. Hoping to bring the corporation’s financial hemorrhaging under control, Stokes began terminating BMC’s agreements with consultants like Healey and John Cooper. The 3000 was already dead by then and the smaller Sprite would follow in 1970 (although its MG Midget sibling would survive through 1979).
In 1969, Kjell Qvale of San Francisco’s British Motor Car Distributors — one of the world’s largest Austin-Healey distributors — took over Jensen Motors, which had been struggling since the retirement of the Jensen brothers a few years earlier. Knowing that the Healeys’ contract with British Leyland was expiring, Qvale suggested that they join him at Jensen to create a replacement for the Austin-Healey 3000. In 1970, Donald and Geoff Healey became Jensen board members, leading to the creation of the Jensen-Healey in 1972.
As tends to be the case with BMC cars, production figures for the big Healeys are a complicated subject, but the total for all versions was more than 73,000 units. About 44,000 of those were 3000s, with the remainder split roughly evenly between the four-cylinder cars and the 100-6. Added to the Sprite, that brings total Austin-Healey production to about 200,000 cars between 1953 and 1970 — not a lot by Austin standards, but impressive for a small range of sports cars designed by a handful of people in a tiny company.
While the Sprite was the better seller, it was the Hundred and 3000 that made the Austin-Healey name and they’re the ones most people remember. Donald Healey built cars both before and afterward, but if not for the big Healeys, we suspect the rest would be little more than historical footnotes today. Along with its Triumph rivals, the big Healey also remains a standard-bearer for British sports cars: pugnacious and eccentric, rugged and direct, always ready to back up its racy image on a racetrack or rally course. (The 100M, for example, was quite close to the cars that ran at Le Mans in 1953, lacking only their aluminum bumpers, oversize fuel tanks, and heavy-duty brake linings.) The big Healey wasn’t necessarily easy to drive or live with, but it was the real thing, and that still counts for a lot.
Special thanks to Martin Alford, John Baker, Clive Barker, Storm Bear, Stephen Kingsbury, Peter Roses, Chuck Forward, and Tina Van Curen.
In 2012, we licensed a condensed version of this story to the Angie’s List classic cars channel. However, Angie’s List had no connection with the original article.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Information on the careers of Donald and Geoff Healey and the development of the Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, 3000, and 4000 came from the following sources: Keith Adams, “Connections: Jensen,” and “The Whole Story,” AROnline, 25 August 2011, www.aronline. co. uk, accessed 29 February 2012; Gary G. Anderson, Roger Moment, Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, 3000 Restoration Guide (Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Co, 2000); The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100 and 3000,” HowStuffWorks.com, 20 August 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1953-1967-austin-healey-100-and-3000.htm, accessed 10 March 2012; “Austin Healey 100 and the Triumph TR3,” Australian Motor Manual 15 September 1956, pp. 22-25; John Baker, “Healey 100-3000,” and “History of the Company,” Austin Memories, 2006, www.austinmemories. com, accessed 21 August 2010; John Bolster, “John Bolster Tests the Healey ‘Hundred,'” Autosport 24 October 1952; Peter Browning and Les Needham, Healeys and Austin-Healeys including Jensen-Healey, Second Edition (Sparkford, Yeovil: J.H. Haynes & Co., Ltd., 1976); John Chatham, “The Austin Healey 4000,” Classic and Sportscar Magazine Vol. 10, No. 5 (August 1991); Anders Ditlev Clausager, Original Austin-Healey 100, 100-Six and 3000, Second Edition (St. Paul, MN: Bay View Books/MBI Publishing Co., 2002); Marty Clear, “The man who designed COOL,” Coyote’s Classic Cars, 2 May 2005, www.dcoyote. org/ healey_history.shtml, accessed 10 February 2012; Brad Constant, “Austin Healey involved in racing’s deadliest crash sells for more than $1 million,” Autoweek 2 December 2011, www.autoweek. com, accessed 9 February 2012; Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Second Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); S.C.H. Davis, “Profile: 1954 Austin-Healey: A sports car for the young and for the young at heart,” The Autocar 1 April 1955; “Donald Healey,” Austin Healey Club, 2012, www.austinhealeyclub. com, accessed 8 February 2012; “Donald Healey and the History of the Big Healeys,” Unique Cars and Parts, n.d., www.uniquecarsandparts. com.au, accessed 8 February 2012; Craig Fitzgerald, “Donald Healey,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #8 (April 2006), p. 56; Tim Harry, “Classic car reviews: Austin-Healey 100-6,” Helium.com, 11 January 2011, www.helium. com, accessed 29 March 2012; Geoffrey Healey, Healey, The Specials (London: Gentry Books, 1980); Steven Kingsbury/Air Tight Productions, “A Conversation with Gerry Coker: Austin-Healey Style,” 3 July 2008, YouTube, “Gerry Coker Part 01,” https://youtu.be/D-68_4xzHo0 and “Gerry Coker Part 02,” https://youtu.be/ANWoaOZPN9I, uploaded 12 April 2011, accessed 10 February 2012; “History and Specification: Austin-Healey 100/6,” Vanilla Classics, n.d., www.vanillaclassics. com/ car.php? v=12, accessed 19 March 2012; David Knowles, MG: The Untold Story (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1997); Tom McCahill, “McCahill Drives the Austin Healey,” Mechanix Illustrated November 1953, pp. 96-99, 209; Alex Meredith, “SIA Interview: Donald Healey,” Special Interest Autos #67 (February 1982), pp. 58-62; “Over the hills and fast away” [advertisement] The Motor 4 March 1959, p. 27; Frederick Pearce, “The Big Healey Stretch,” Auto Magazine August 1973, englishcars. com/ austinhealey/ 4000/ ah4000.html, accessed 21 March 2012; “Road & Track Road Test No. F-3-56: Austin-Healey 100M,” Road & Track Vol. 7, No. 1 (September 1955), n.p.; “Road & Track Road Test No. F-11-55: Austin-Healey ‘100S,'” Road & Track Vol. 8, No. 5 (January 1957); “Sale 19293, Lot 433,” Bonhams, 1 December 2011, www.bonhams. com/ eur/auction/19293/lot/433/, accessed 9 February 2012; “Setting the pace for tomorrow” [advertisement], The Motor 13 March 1957, p. 25; “The Autocar road tests: Austin-Healey 3000 (No. 1852),” The Autocar 22 December 1961, pp. 1038A–1038D; “We haven’t yet built a sportscar capable of flight” [advertisement], Autocar 3 September 1965, p. 12, Jonathan Wood, “Obituary: Geoffrey Healey,” The Independent 16 May 1994, www.independent. co. uk, accessed 15 February 2012; Walt Woron, “It’s Really That Good!” Motor Trend Vol. 5, No. 11 (November 1953), pp. 22-25; the Wikipedia® entries for Pat Moss (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Moss, accessed 20 March 2012), Donald Healey (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Healey, accessed 8 February 2012), the Donald Healey Motor Company (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Healey_Motor_Company, accessed 11 February 2012) and Geoffrey Healey (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Healey, accessed 8 February 2012); and the Healey Museum website, www.healeymuseum.nl, accessed 10 February 2012.
Additional background information on other BMC vehicles of this period came from “1950 Austin A70 Hereford,” Autofiles.org, n.d., www.autofiles. org, accessed 26 February 2012; “A Resume of the Origin and Life of Vanden Plas,” Vanden Plas Owners’ Club, 2004, www.vpoc.info/ History.htm, accessed 10 March 2012; Keith Adams, “Fireball XL5 – BMC’s broken arrow,” AROnline, 25 June 2011, www.aronline. co. uk, accessed 2 April 2012; Keith Adams and Declan Berridge, “In-house designs: Rolls-Royce projects,” AROnline, 25 June 2011, www.aronline. co. uk, accessed 2 April 2012; John Baker, “A90 Atlantic,” “A90/A95 Westminster,” “A99-A110 Westminster,” “Austin A105,” “Austin Taxi,” “Austin 3 Litre Saloon (ADO61),” “Princess 4 Litre ‘R,'” and “Vanden Plas,” Austin Memories, n.d., www.austinmemories. com, accessed 25 February to 30 March 2012; Martin Cannell and Craig Tiano, “A brief history of the 4 litre R,” Vandenplas.com, 2000, www.vandenplas. com, accessed 10 March 2012; Paul Niedermeyer, “Automotive History: The Curious F-Head Engine,” Curbside Classic, 20 February 2011, www.curbsideclassic. com/ automotive-histories/ automotive-history-the-curious-f-head-engine/, last accessed 2 April 2012; “Riley Pathfinder,” GB Classic Cars, 2011, www.gbclassiccars. co. uk/ riley_pathfinder.html, accessed 10 March 2012; the Wikipedia entries for the Austin A70 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_A70, accessed 26 February 2012), Austin 16 hp (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_16_hp, accessed 26 February 2012), the Austin Atlantic (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Atlantic, accessed 26 February 2012), the Austin Champ (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Champ, accessed 10 March 2012), the Austin FX3 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_FX3, accessed 29 February 2012), the BMC C-series engine (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_C-Series_engine, accessed 30 March 2012), and the Wolseley 6/99 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolseley_6/99, accessed 30 March 2012); and an email to the author from John Baker on 8 March 2012.
Exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency of British and U.S. currency at the contemporary exchange rate ($2.80/£), not U.S. suggested retail prices, which are cited separately. Please note that all exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate, provided solely for general reference; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!
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