I don’t often reference values when discussing design, but a great deal of the success of a sports car resides in the price/value relationship experienced under ownership. If you poll most sports car enthusiasts and ask them to name a beautiful 1960s era open British sports car with a six-cylinder multi-carb. engine and distinguished racing history, a good many of them will reply “Jaguar”. And while Jaguar did produce a fantastic car, the Austin-Healey 3000 delivered similarly combined attributes at a substantially lower price – an important distinction not only when new, but consistently so today when viewing collector level examples of fully restored Austin-Healeys at nearly a third the value of similarly restored Jaguar XKEs.
Establishing a commanding presence both on the streets of England and winning rally and closed course races all over the world, the Austin-Healey 3000 reached the pinnacle of development with the Mark III approximately halfway through 1959-1967 production. Not only were these cars tremendously successful in Europe, by 1963, North American sales would comprise a whopping 90 percent of total production. In addition to being fantastic open sports cars with easy to service mechanicals, they continued to race all over Europe and the U.S., establishing win after win in a wide range of competition venues, long after production had ceased in 1967.
Cheerfully appointed with a powerful six-cylinder engine and multiple carburetors, the final iteration of the “Big Healey” (also known as the Phase 2) achieved 150 bhp via a new, higher lift camshaft and SU HD8 carburetors. Power assisted brakes were also added along with a new dashboard featuring prominent instrumentation reflective of competition use. And while a remarkable 44,000 Big Healeys were built, it represented less than 25% of total Austin-Healey production during their 17 years of construction. The Austin-Healey also outsold the XKE by 20% for roughly the same period. Though overshadowed by the press and power of the Jaguar brand, the combination of fantastic driving manners and beautifully sculpted bodywork charmed thousands of buyers towards the Austin-Healey 3000, continuing today in the same vein, tempting the most ardent sports car enthusiasts.