The Big Healey
The Austin Healey 100 was the first 100-m.p.h. car the common man could afford. The price was $850 or about $1600.00 at today's exchange rate.
The first car was shown in London in 1952. As thousands of enthusiasts fought for a glimpse of this pale blue masterpiece, police erected crush barriers to protect the car.
The designer, Donald Healey of Healey Motor Company, planned to make five cars per week in his converted aircraft hangar. It became obvious that much more production capacity was needed and he formed a partnership with Britain's largest car maker, British Motor Corporation. It used well-known components from Austin, one of the companies that made up BMC. 200 units per week were produced and were sold through the Austin sales network. The name was known as Austin-Healey.
As the car evolved into a 3 liter, 6-cylinder engine with electric overdrive, and later to more sophisticated fittings like roll-up windows and rear jump seats, it kept its original body. After fifteen years and more than 70,000 unites the last Austin Healey 3000 looked almost exactly like the original Healey 100.
The bodies of the car were constructed of alloy for the center shrouds with steel doors and fenders. These created rust traps that still plague the cars today. The original car, designated a BN1, had 4 cylinders with displacement of 2600cc that produced 90bhp.
In 1956, the cylinder 100-Six (BN4) was introduced having a displacement of 2639cc and producing 102 bhp. This was no great improvement in performance, but it was much smoother, which it generally made it more restful to drive.
Austin Healey introduced the 2912cc engine in 1959 to take advantage of the three-liter international competition class. It produced 124 bhp and was designated BN7 and BT7 for the four-seat version. This car was popularly known as the Mark I in order to distinguish it from the later cars.
The Mark II was developed in 1961 with three SU carburetors. This increased the BHP to 131. Over the next few years there were other changes, the most notable of which was the loss of one carburetor with only a 2 bhp decrease.
In March of 1964, the most luxurious and fastest of the non-racing Healeys was introduced. The new Mark III or BJ8 looked identical to its predecessor from the outside, but the inside was different. The power was increased to 150 bhp, while reducing the noise level. The interior was completely re-designed with a console sweeping down from the center of the polished wooden veneer dash. Roll-up windows were standard.
The last big Healey was produced in December of 1967. It fell victim to the U.S. Federal regulations.
Today, the big Healeys are sought after by both enthusiast and investors alike. The prices range from about $5000 for a non-running restorable car to in excess of $25,000 for a fully restored show car. Parts are readily available, and the technology is simple which makes this a very good project car as well as an investment.
This car can be as docile as a kitten in traffic or as wild as a tiger on the mountain roads - it will nevertheless continue to increase in value.