When Austin-Healey was created in 1952, the marque set to work on establishing itself as a successful car manufacturer. In 1953, the company produced the Austin-Healey 100, which became known as the first of the ‘Big Healeys.’ It was followed by the 100-6 and the 3000 and they became popular vehicles in their own right. We’re looking into the history of each model to see how it developed and built on the success of the previous version.
The rule of three
Company founder Donald Healey recognised that early Healey models could only reach a limited audience, so he set about designing a more affordable car. This took the form of the Austin-Healey 100 that was created in 1952. He built one for the 1952 London Motor Show and it impressed Leonard Lord, the managing director of Austin. Lord was looking for a replacement for the A90 and he struck a deal with Healey.
The Austin-Healey 100 could reach a top speed of 100 mph, which is where the car got its name. It used modified A90 components, such as for the suspension. The body was smooth and attractive, with an elegant bonnet and large wheels. A total of 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced.
In 1956, the car underwent a redesign and the new model became the 100-6. The new design featured a lengthened wheelbase, altered bodywork and a fixed windshield. The car came with a powerful straight-six engine that made it faster than the 100. The original model produced 102 bhp, though it was increased to 117 bhp in 1957.
The most famous of the three models, the Austin-Healey 3000, was built in 1959. Compared to the changes between the 100 and 100-6, alterations were minor. The car got its name from the high-powered 3000 cc engine.
The 3000 transitioned from an open sports car to a sports convertible, becoming popular among classic car enthusiasts. It looked very similar to the powerful muscle cars of the American market, which explained why 91.5% of Austin-Healey 3000s were exported to the US. The 3000 proved its skill on the racing circuit, winning in various European rallies.
Production lasted until 1967 and British Leyland replaced the 3000 with the MGC. All three Austin-Healey models were influential, but the 3000 was the cream of the crop.
What was your favourite out of The Big Healeys?