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Austin Healey 3000 MKIII review

Why this old dog makes more sense than a modern sports car

1y ago

I find it rather fascinating about the sheer amount of trust that people apply to the riskiest of things, situations and people.

We, as humans, appeared to have evolved to the point where pretty much anything that's perceived to be advanced and popular is as reliable as a hammer to a nail.

I'm at University at the moment, and everyone I know of practically stores their life onto a laptop. It sounds pretty obvious to do so - even I do it.

But once you take a step back and realise that possibly - in just a split second - all of that work can be vanished and disappear into the reign of non-existence. It takes one virus from one puny-eyed hacker in an unknown suburb of one city in one country, and suddenly everything's gone. Touch wood, that'll never happen to anyone I know, but it's anyone's guess really.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

It's even more amazing how people believe their smartphone is the trustiest tool they'll ever have. I feel like society is aware that such things can be hacked quicker than it takes for Donald Trump to deny yet another sexual allegation.

Got lost? Google Maps app will sort you out. Need to find out where someone is? Never mind asking someone like a human being, the satellite thing on 'Snap Chat' where you can apparently track people is the answer to many. (I don't have SC myself). Ooh, here's a good one: why bother doing research via an intellect's well-researched, detailed book when you can just skim through ad-infested, buggy websites via a quick google search?

This same notion extends to cars; people seem to believe that the latest and greatest in screens, technology and drive assists are the most reliable way of getting around. They believe that anything old will just endlessly break and barely last 10 yards before you'll be having brandy with whichever RAC man is closest to your unreliable piece of tat.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

This neatly brings me onto a car which many stereo-typically think isn't trustworthy, and that I also happened to have a ride in a few weeks ago. The timeless, iconic, and very British Austin Healey 3000. A car which interestingly, has never broken down once in the 10-years or so the owner had it.

You see, the C-Series straight six engine used in the Healey was one of the most versatile engines to ever come out of Britain. It was used from the mid-50s all the way up to the early 70s and was available in a vast array of BMC-era family saloons, limousines, trucks and even sports cars like we see here.

Not only that, it was a a reliable unit too with buckets of torque with plenty of space for tuning. I suppose that's just as well, because Healeys were greatly popular in racing, both on and off tarmac!

A well-equipped cabin for its class.

A well-equipped cabin for its class.

I should mention that the owner of this 1966 MKIII had one or two engine upgrades installed; the owner said these add a rough figure of around 40-50bhp.

Considering the 2.9 litre unit in the MKIII 3000 had 148-odd from factory, this car could be running as much as nearly 200bhp - believe me, it shifts. At full throttle, the engine barked through the rev range to the tone of a strangely Jaguar-like shout and threw me back into the little seat with as much force as being pulled from behind by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Of course, that'll all be down to the improved power-to-weight ratio. But one thing that also surprised me was just how well the Healey takes corners.

It hardly rolls around and it feels as if the weight of the car is pivoting around your hip during a hard turn. It grips well, it never under-steers, and power-sliding is a bit more difficult than you might expect. The rear end hangs on like the back legs of a cheetah. I know it's a cliche, but it handles like it's on rails.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreboeni/

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreboeni/

Then there's the ride: it's wonderfully supple and it looks after your back and arse like an old friend giving you little cushions. Flick the little switch down into overdrive and the Healey will very happily cover some quiet miles at a steady cruise at a nice level of comfort.

It's a hilariously British style of travel. You can think of the car as a Peter Sellers-like chap who loves a bit of fun and has a laugh whenever he desires, yet always applies good etiquette at a certain time or place.

The best bit however is that considering the car I went in was the BJ8, two little rear seats were available. So, two younger ones can also experience the Healey when the driver lets its hair down.

Terrible photo, but I was sad to see it go...

Terrible photo, but I was sad to see it go...

I'll be honest, I never really understood why people love these cars so much. I always thought it was a little bit overrated and people were paying big bucks for them purely as a spite of nostalgia.

But here's the thing: very few sports cars managed to combine so many characteristics in one versatile package. The Healey 3000 is usable, comfortable, fast, it handles like a dream, it gets your heart raising to levels which are comparable to sports cars way above its class. But mostly, it will also look after you in terms of reliability.

If ever there was a peak in the British sports car movement, this was it. But how does it compare to say, a Triumph TR4/5? Well, I couldn't tell you yet, because I'm yet to have a go in one!

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

After getting back home, I immediately opened up my laptop and looked for Healeys for sale on Car And Classic. The starting price for a decent 3000 appears to be between £30-40k. For a minter, you'll be looking at well-over 60 grand.

Now, there's two ways you could look at this: you could say "well, that's an awful lot of money. I'd rather save myself some cash and get a TR4."

Or you could sit back and consider that the equivalent modern sports cars; i.e. Z4, Boxster, Supra and so on, are priced pretty similarly. But the thing is: considering just how usable the Healey is and that really, not many people will ever use a sports car everyday, you have to ask yourself why you'd go for a modern.

The Healey offers light years more thrills and brings a bigger smile to your face than all of those new cars combined.

I understand that some tech-addicted people can't live without their Apple car play and electric heated seats. But quite frankly, a sports car is supposed to be light, engaging and bucket-loads of fun. So on that basis, I'd rather take a Healey 3000 over a bland screen-infested thing that sounds like poo.

Thanks for reading

An icon which peaked the booming sports car movement.

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Comments (11)

  • Great review. Thank you!

      1 year ago
  • Would love to own a 3000! I also like the Sprite 'Bugeye'

      1 year ago
  • The car is a 3000 MkIII by the way, not a MkII

      1 year ago
    • Well, that's odd. The owner literally assured me it was a MKII. He could be mistaken though.

        1 year ago
    • The MkII last year is 63. 64-67 were MkIIIs with wood dash.

        1 year ago