1959 Austin Healey 3000 BT7 Mk1
(Featured on 27th June 2011)
Registration: 461 JU0
Sellers original description:
For 15 years, from the first four-cylinder 100 of 1953 to the final 3000 MkIII of 1968, these wonderful Austin Healey’s were the British sports cars which thousands of red-blooded enthusiasts aspired to. They had plenty of performance, immense charisma, exquisite styling and a first class competition history. They were a cut above MGs and Triumph TR’s, yet more within reach than Jaguar XK’s or E-Types. And for many in the classic car world (including myself), the earlier Mk1 with its clean, simple, uncluttered lines and almost art deco styling is by far the prettiest and aesthetically pleasing of all the ‘Big Healey’s’.
The vast majority of all Austin Healey 3000 production was for the North American market with approximately 87% of those being built, going there. It is with little surprise then that many of these examples have returned to where they were originally built, as the sensible basis for a sound rebuild.
The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate that comes in JUO’s history file confirms that it was built by the factory between 6th and 11th November 1959 and dispatched on the 1st December 1959 (perhaps a rather nice Christmas present!) to a Captain L.G.Bowers of the USA. I am not aware of any significant early history for JUO but perhaps the most important part of its life is back in 1993 when Robert Riddington purchased it as a good, sound example. Robert was a successful business man and bought the car on a whim without really knowing much about Healey’s, he just knew he wanted one! He gave it to Peter Ellis to inspect and whilst it looked nice and was fundamentally a sound example it was decided to completely ‘nut & bolt’ restore the car. It is import to emphasise at this point, that Peter Ellis is one of the country’s leading Austin Healey restorers having been doing so for over 35 years. He knows how to strip, prepare, re-build and put together these cars arguably better than anyone else in the UK and the cars quality of finish and astonishing attention to detail really does demonstrate that.This rebuild was all encompassing with nothing left to chance. The Healey was completely stripped back, body off, back to the bare chassis. Everything was carefully replaced or repaired correctly and sympathetically returned to as close as to how it left the factory as possible, using new or fully refurbished parts. Occasionally Peter would discover a bit of poor previous workmanship (all Healey’s will have had some work on them at some stage of their 50 years) and great attention was paid to rectifying this work to make this Healey 100% correct in every way. There was an ‘open cheque book’ philosophy to the re-build and no corners were cut, quite the opposite in fact, the mandate was to make everything as perfect as possible and it was. To prove this point the history file contains copies of nearly 100 invoices for parts and labour and including purchasing the car over £40,000 was invested, which was a lot of money back in 1993 with the hourly rate of labour being just £17.50. Needless to say the results were breathtaking and Robert was delighted with the Healey. So much so he kept it until earlier this year (18 years) when only problems with his feet meant he could no longer drive a manual car. Rather amazingly JUO in Roberts’s hands had only travelled 1600 miles since the rebuilt having been kept in his dry garage for the most part. However whilst it has been sparingly used, it has always been kept maintained, roadworthy and MOT’d every year and is ‘on the button’ (quite literally), ready to be used and enjoyed immediately.
I have spoken to Peter Ellis recently (he is still actively restoring Healey’s) and he obviously knows JUO well and Robert the owner, in fact the car has been back to him a couple of times for general maintenance work, including a service last year and a for an unleaded head. He was able to confirm that the restoration was as I am describing. The chassis, whilst completely stripped was checked and made good, but on the whole it was very sound. It was primed, painted and then wax oiled to protect it. Importantly the chassis had no major corrosion and the A and B posts were untouched and original, meaning the all important ‘lines’ of the car could be achieved. The aluminium front and rear shrouds were good to and required only minor fettling. 4 new wings and a new aluminium bonnet where fitted and the original doors and boot retained. An awful lot of time was spent fitting and then re-fitting the body panels to get all the lines correct and I have to say that to date, it has the best tight lines (including the swage line down both sides) that I have ever seen on a big Healey. All the apertures open and close nice and easily and generally the ‘feel’ of the build quality is very high. The body was painted in dark British Racing Green and I have to say looks superb on the car and hard to fault. All the panels were painted inside before final fit. The pictures give a true representation of the finish which is almost mirror like on the flat sides. There are only 2 or 3 little blemishes that I have found, but only a few millimetres in size (no longer than a small finger nail) and you would struggle to find them. And there is a little bit of rubbing (about 3cm long) on the inside edge of the bonnet onto the recess that it sits into the shroud, which you can only see when you have the bonnet open. Having said that I am being super ‘concours de elegance’ level critical here and overall the finish and the condition of the body is still outstanding some 18 years later proving what a brilliant job was carried out by Peter Ellis in the first place.
I much prefer the Mk1’s interior to the later cars and JUO’s is simply beautiful, everything is finished to how it left the factory and looks like new in some respects but has had time to mellow nicely in others. All the instrument’s work perfectly. The only fault I can find is with the small chrome bezel that surrounds the steering column as it goes through the dash board and this is not staying in place 100 % correctly. Finished in black, the seats are unmarked and very tastefully piped in a contrasting green to match the body colour. The side screens, hood and hood sticks have never been on the car and in fact the side screens are still in their brown wrapping. Rob had a special wooden box made to store them all in which has kept them in perfect condition. The tonneau cover is unmarked to (but I have used it!). The boot is like the rest of the car clean, tidy and unmarked. The chrome work everywhere is excellent only the front and to a lesser degree the rear bumper blades if you are being a perfectionist could be a little better with the front blade having a couple of little imperfections. The rest is faultless. There are a lot of close up images of the chrome work in the additional gallery of photographs that I mentioned earlier.
It almost goes without saying that all the drive train was fully stripped and either replaced or rebuilt using new parts. A look at the engine bay shot and the underside shows you that everything was carried out with incredible attention to detail with correct, originality in mind at all times. The period style, optional extra Moto Lita steering wheel and the cast aluminium rocker cover being the only subtle improvements from original. The original engine was completely stripped, inspected and rebuild using all new parts where required. The carburettors were stripped and re-built. A new stainless steel exhaust system was supplied and fitted. The gearbox (with overdrive) was replaced for a reconditioned unit and the differential was overhauled. A new wiring loom was fitted along with a complete new braking system and the suspension was completely rebuilt using new parts where necessary. Everything not only looks correct it all works as it should and nothing needs attention.
It was a tough job, but someone had to put some miles on JUO and I volunteered! Sometimes a lack of use is not a good thing for a classic car if it has not been kept and maintained properly, so I decided to give 461 DUO a proper test drive. I have now travelled nearly 500 miles with the car (JUO has only covered 2079 miles since 1993 verified with MOT’s) and I have to say as every mile went past it just went up and up in my estimation – it ran faultlessly.
Only a small amount of choke is needed and then a single push of the starter button and JUO bursts into life, settling immediately to a beautiful soft burble. With a little temperature in the engine it’s time to set off, a blip of the throttle and you are met with more music from the exhausts, the clutch is light and selecting first gear is smooth and easy. As soon as you are away you know this car is properly sorted. The steering is light and responsive and the ride is balanced. A push on the throttle and that engine note just gets better and better, selecting the gears is all very precise and easy, perhaps only the down change on 3rd requiring a little more simpatico. Most big Healey’s do suffer from some degree of scuttle shake, but I have to say with JUO it is pretty much nonexistent which makes the whole thing more pleasurable and gives you the confidence to push the car through the bends which it can handle with ease. The brakes when required pull up in a nice straight line. To sum up, I would have no qualms jumping into JUO right now and driving to the South of France, In fact, what a lovely idea.
JUO comes with a nice history file which contains the aforementioned Heritage Certificate confirming all its original build details, every consecutive MOT from 1996 which can verify the current mileage of 2,079 miles, copies of nearly 100 invoices for the rebuild, some previous tax discs, an Austin Healey 3000 drivers handbook and a current UK V5C (log book).
What I have noticed on my travels is that there is a great variance in big Healey prices and their condition, which can be a little confusing to say the least, but what I am almost certain of is you will not find a better looking, restored and maintained example than this one currently on the open market – certainly not being sold at NO RESERVE. Having spoken to a couple of marque specialists recently, to build a Healey to JUO’s standard would, including buying the original car cost in the region of £75,000 to £80,000. You’re initial reaction may be to scoff at this figure but when you add it all up, the materials, the parts, the donor car and the biggest expense, the labour, you easily get to this price level. I have also seen quite a few so called ‘restored’ big Healey’s recently and quite frankly they are not even in same class as this example. With current market trends as they are, JUO should also prove a sound future investment, with ultimate specification Jaguar E-Types now fetching close to £100,000 there is only one way big Healey’s values are going to go – up!