Autopolis

The cars we loved.

1959 – 1968 Austin Healey 3000: Ruling the World One Car at a Time


Mk III Austin Healey 3000

Mk III Austin Healey 3000

Imagine a crisp fall day in the English countryside. You hear the roar of a V6 speeding over hills and around corners. It’s sometime during the early 60’s and the English automobile industry was still at its peak. Very likely, the car you see about to dart by you is an Austin Healy 3000. The “big 3” as all 6 cylinder powered Healeys were called, could have been a top candidate for poster car for English Motoring in its heyday. Appearances in popular culture, most notably the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” help strengthen its mystique as the quintessential classic English sports car (sorry Jaguar XKE fans).

Early 60's Advertisment

Early 60’s Advertisment

Produced from 1959 to 1968, the 3000 ‘s development can be categorized in three distinct periods, usually referred to as Mk  (or Mark) I, II and III. Originally a rather tamed open top car called the 100/6, the addition of a larger engine in 1959 changed the character of the car, and so the 3000 was born.  With tidy body work by Jensen Motors and assembly by BMC, the 3000 was purely an English product in every way. Small, light and fun to drive, the 3000 combined the traditional and the advanced in one attractive affordable package.

1966 Mk III Austin Healey 3000

1966 Mk III Austin Healey 3000

By today’s standards, the 3000 was practically a go-cart. I find it difficult to imagine two typical Americans even fitting into the small two seat interior.  There was room for a picnic basket in the trunk and maybe a purse in the glove box, but not much else. The inside had few creature comforts; this car was all about performance driving. Heaters were even optional and the windshields in early cars were flimsy fold always.  Gradually the 3000 became more refined with each successive generation, but remained light. The Mark III version released in 1963 is generally considered the best. Advancements like rollup windows, fixed a windshield, removable hardtop and wood grain interior made the 3000 more of year round car.  They also featured an eye-catching two toned interior and revised grille.

Refinements to the front longitudinally mounted engine (up to 3 carburetors) bumped horsepower up to 150. Ride quality, engine response and handling were all improved with refinements to the double wishbone front suspension and 4 speed manual transmissions. Even though mechanically these were still simple cars, they are great examples of with elegant engineering. Despite being tremendously successful worldwide, the US had become the largest market for the 3000 by the mid 60’s. Unfortunately, Austin Healey could not afford to adapt the 3000 to the strict new American emission standards and production ceased in 1968.

In many ways 1968 marked the beginning of the end of an era where inexpensive, small and fun to drive sports cars were almost always from England. The 3000’s demise was followed by a string of other English roadsters, all eventually giving way to the rise of the Japanese sports car.

Mk III Austin Healey 3000

Mk III Austin Healey 3000

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3 comments on “1959 – 1968 Austin Healey 3000: Ruling the World One Car at a Time

  1. Paul
    March 11, 2013

    Hey, I’m 6’2″ and I fit into one! Actually there was a fair amount of leg room, the trick was just getting into it! Mine was the first year of the 3000, a ’59, 2+2 standard four. The original owner brought it in from England in 1959. Later, it was rather scary to learn about how the steering column went all the way forward and there were a few ‘lads’ that were run through in head-on collisions. Second, the car was NOT built for New York winters. I had to bring the battery in at night and spray starter fluid into the carbs to get it to start. The foam seats would wick in moisture and be ice cubes in the morning! At least I had the fiberglass hardtop. Although my Healey was certainly not a big car, it weighted about 400 or 500 pounds more than my 1973 Audi Fox.
    Me in the Healey- http://flic.kr/p/5McRmZ

  2. Paul Rentz
    February 16, 2014

    Actually it’s spelled Austin Healey, the second ‘e’ in Healey is missing.

    • autopolis
      February 16, 2014

      Thanks for catching that mistake – in the title of all places!

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This entry was posted on August 26, 2010 by in 60's Cars, Austin Healy and tagged , , .
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