Austin-Healey 3000 (1959-1968)
Produced from 1959 to late 1967, the Austin-Healey 3000 was one of several two-door soft-top roadsters offered to the American public. The 3000 was also the third in a line of Austin-Healey models commonly referred to as the "big Healey" models. This distinction was often used to distinguish the 3000 and its similarly sized predecessors from the smaller Bug-eye Sprite. The 3000 was available in both two-seater and "2+2" configurations.
The original Austin-Healey 3000 came equipped with a 2.9-litre C-Series straight six-cylinder engine, as opposed to the 2.6-liter six-cylinder found in the outgoing Austin-Healey 100-6. Fitted with twin SU carburetors, it produced 124 horsepower. Girling front disc brakes were standard, with adjustable steering, overdrive-equipped gearbox, wire wheels and two-tone paint available as options. The Mark I, as it became known after the introduction of the Mark II Austin-Healey 3000, enjoyed a production run of 13,650 examples from early 1959 to early 1961.
In March 1961, Austin-Healey launched the Mark II variant of the 3000 sports roadster. Sporting triple SU carburetors and an improved camshaft, the 2.9-litre engine now produced 132 horsepower. Despite the performance gain, the triple SU carb arrangement proved difficult to keep in tune, which resulted in a return to a twin-carb arrangement.
Changes for 1962 included the introduction of wind-up windows (instead of the original side curtains), a wrap-around windscreen and updated grille.
The last variant of the Austin-Healey 3000 was the Mark III, introduced in 1963. With a new center console, walnut-veneer dash, toggle switches, and optional leather seating, the Mark III proved to be the most luxurious of the 3000 line. It was also the most powerful, now producing 150 horsepower with upgraded carburetors and a new dual exhaust system. In a break from previous models, the Mark III consisted of only the 2+2 models. A chassis modification in mid-1964 increased rear ground clearance, resulting in a "Phase II" version of the Mark III.
Back at Austin-Healey, efforts were made to create a worthy successor to the popular British roadster. Parent company, BMC created several prototypes fitted with a 4.0-litre engine designed by Rolls-Royce. Despite this effort and due to the enormous costs of complying with U.S. safety standards, Austin-Healey 3000 production ended in late 1967. Despite the 3000's demise, a spiritual successor of sorts came in the form of the relatively short-lived 1972-1976 Jensen-Healey.
The Austin-Healey 3000 is remembered fondly by countless car enthusiasts and collectors throughout the UK and U.S. Around 44,000 of the big Healey roadsters were built, adding to Austin-Healey's total production record of approximately 200,000 cars between 1953 and 1970. The Austin-Healey 3000 is just one of many sports cars that helped define British motoring for a generation of enthusiasts.
Read: Sports Car History