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It may sound very non PC but the biggest of Big Healeys are hairy-chested classics for scoundrels
Why it’s a winner
Almost half a century since the last big Healey rolled off the production lines, the model is more collectible than ever before and that’s because it is the original British Bulldog; a hairy-chested sports car for real men, which has to be taken by the scruff of the neck and tamed. This means there’s nothing like a Big Healey when it comes to good old-fashioned driving fun. Look at the Healey as an MGA after a workout or a Jaguar XK that’s had a night on the tiles and you won’t go wrong, or be disappointed at all and it’s as easy to run as that MG, and simpler than the Jag.
1956 The 100-6 (BN4) was released in October, featuring a longer wheelbase than the original 100 model plus a 101bhp 2639cc six-cylinder engine although it was really little more powerful over the earlier four-cylinder unit.
1957 Windscreen no longer folds flat, a pair of seats were somehow squeezed in the back for 2+2 motoring and there was a new, oval grille. In November the BN4 received bigger valves and revised manifolding to liberate 117bhp.
1958 BN6 introduced in April, heralding a return to just two-seater motoring.
1959 The daddy of them all, the 3000 MkI (BN7 or BT7 for 2+2 version) was launched in March. Featuring BMC’s 124bhp 2912cc C-series engine, front disc brakes were – thankfully – standard issue now.
1961/62 3000 uses triple carbs and is now identified by a vertically slatted grille. From 1962 the MkII received a curved windscreen, wind-up windows and a folding hood. Reverting back to simpler twin carbs, the model is denoted BJ7.
1964 The final fling was the MkIII, produced up to 1968. Similar to the BJ7, the differences are a walnut dash, 2-inch SU carbs, separate indicators front and rear and a new camshaft to give 148bhp.
1967 There was a valiant attempt to keep the old Big Healey going with a 4000 version, using the Vanden Plas 4-litre (R’s) Rolls Royce-derived engine. Widened by six inches, just two were made, although at least one last-of-the-line 3000 has also been so converted.
If the term ‘hairy-chested’ could ever be labelled at a classic British sports car then the Healey deserves it more than most. Finesse just doesn’t come into it – the A-H is more about brawn. Sure, the six pot models are more nose-heavy than the earlier ‘fours’ and handling accordingly suffers, but boy can you have fun with the waggly tail in the wet…
When a good 3000 MkIII is running properly it’ll accelerate from a standing start to the magic ton and back again – in under half a minute. And that’s pretty impressive even by modern standards as is a sub ten second burst to 60mph.
What is also hot is the cockpit confines thanks to all that heat soak from the big six! It’s a very antiquated cabin but overall as civilised as, say, a Jag XK plus there’s also room for two small kids in the back on some models.
Ergonomics are very primitive even for a 1950’s sportster and the heaviness of all the controls will surprise many MGA/ MGB drivers, let alone those used to newer machinery. Without wishing to be labelled sexist… the best way to sum up a hairy Healey is to say it’s an old fashioned ‘bloke’s’ car. Know what we mean?
Notwithstanding whether you want a 2+2 or a two-seater, the chief criteria has to be condition and provenance, plus if you prefer the later 3000 range over the original 100/6. The later the car the better it became in terms of performance, comfort and civility (wooden dash, wind up windows etc). The triple carb MkII are least liked with the MkIII the most.
Big Healey prices have been on the rise for the past few years and the days of a bargain buy are a distant memory. You now need to have at least £35,000 burning a hole in your pocket to net one of the various concours cars out there and let’s talk £50k plus for a top 3000 MkIII.
All models are priced pretty evenly but the 100/6 is the cheapest by £5-£10,000 on average. Tidy cars can be bought for under £22,000 but you may need to spend that much again to bring it up to approaching show standard while projects need to be costed carefully as it’s an expensive car to restore.
If you’re looking for a big beefy classic that will hold its own against fancier cars as well as its value, then a big brutish Healey should be high on your list. It’s as exciting as a Jag E-type and just as classy. And equally desirable.
Five top faults
1. OVERALL Rust and accident damage to both the chassis and the bodywork
2. CHASSIS Jack the car up at rearmost point. If door gaps close, chassis has had it
3. BODY Wings, doors, scuttles, bulkheads, sills common points; new shells are available
4. ENGINE Truck units so tough. Oil consumption high but ‘six’ doesn’t leak lube like the earlier ‘four’
5. EXHAUST It’s very close to ground and so frequently gets knocked about. Reckon on bodges due to this
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