Released in March 1959, the Austin-Healey 3000 won instant praise with its improved acceleration and front disc brakes. However, externally it was virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor, the 100/6. Fitted with twin HD6 SU carburettors, the engine in the 3000 produced 124bhp, against its forbear’s 117bhp, which was enough to propel it to 115mph (185kph).
From the introduction of the six-cylinder Austin-Healey the marque was earning a reputation in the most unlikely of sporting arenas, the international rallying stage. Prepared by the BMC Competitions Department the 3000’s frequent class successes were eagerly publicised by the marketing people and especially two outstanding outright victories – the 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege rally by Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom and the 1961 Alpine Rally by the Morley brothers.
At the time, rallying’s homologation rules allowed manufacturers to change the type of carburettors fitted to the cars, but not the number of carburettors. March 1961 saw the release of the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk2, fitted with triple HS4 SU carburettors, along with a number of minor mechanical changes.
Externally, save for a new vertical-slatted grille, it was indistinguishable from the earlier model. While it provided for only an additional 8bhp in the standard car, it did allow for the competition cars to be fitted with triple Weber carburettors.
While under the bonnet of the Mk2 looked impressive, there was a perception that the triple SUs were difficult to keep in tune. This was especially prevalent in the US, the Austin-Healey’s biggest market.
Globally, the sports car market was changing, too, with buyers looking for a little extra comfort. Cars such as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, Sunbeam Alpine and Triumph TR4 all had wind-up windows. By the end of 1961 the Austin-Healey was probably the only car of its type (apart from BMC’s big-seller, the MGA) that was not fitted with wind-up windows or an easy to erect convertible soft-top.
Additionally the demand for the two-seater Austin-Healey was on the wane. So much, that during the whole production period of the Mk2 roadster only 355 were produced, against 5,096 of the BT7 2+2. As happens, the 3000 Mk2 BN7 is today one of the most sought after of the roadster models.
A True Convertible
January 1962 saw the first small batches of the new Austin-Healey 3000 Mk2 BJ7 Sports Convertible (to give it its full title) but, interestingly, the roadster version continued in production through to June of the same year.
Surprisingly, the car was still called the Mk2, despite some significant changes.The differences were obvious. Gone were the erecta-kit soft-top and sidescreens – the big difference was the convertible soft-top that could be raised and lowered without the driver or passenger having to leave their seats. There were also a new wraparound windscreen, wind-up door windows and quarter vents. The BJ7 was also only available as a 2+2.
Apart from the obvious changes to the doors and the loss of the handy pockets, inside the cockpit of the BJ7 was little changed from the earlier model. Continued was the sculptured metal dash and parcel shelf underneath, both of which could be traced back to the very first of the four-cylinder Austin-Healeys.
Under the bonnet the triple carbs were replaced by twin HS6 1¾” SUs, but a new camshaft profile resulted in a negligible loss in top-end power.
Today, many buyers prefer the BJ7 over the following BJ8, because it provides similar waterproof comfort from the convertible top and wind-up windows, but has the traditional-look Austin-Healey dash from the earlier models.
The BJ7 stayed in production through to September 1963, with 6,113 made (just over 8% of the total 73,004 Big Healeys), and the following month brought the release of the 3000 Mk3 BJ8. This gave the occupants a timber dash to look at and even a lockable glovebox to play with. However, the story of the BJ8 is best left for another time.
Allan Whitehouse is an enthusiastic BJ7 owner, having bought the car in late 1985. Back then he was experiencing one of life’s difficulties, when an Austin-Healey owning good friend suggested that he needed something to take his mind off things, and even located the perfect project for Allan to spend his hours and his money on.
Allan is quite mechanically minded and it certainly seemed like the perfect solution to see him through his troubled days. “It was in Victoria, so I went to have a look at it”, he recalled.
“It was just full of rust and in fact I can’t recall when I had seen so many holes where metal had once been. So I took a whole stack of photos and came back to Sydney. Needless to say my friend said that it was a fantastic car and exactly what I needed. I remember thinking quite the opposite, but eventually did a deal and had the car shipped to Sydney.”
“The car was in such a state that it needed a full restoration, as not only was it red, but rusty and left-hand-drive. It really required some effort, which was exactly what I needed at the time.”
“I bought it from Steve Pike at Marsh Classic Restorations.” Allan continued. “Steve had brought it in from the US, which was quite the go at the time and since. I tried to find out its history in the US, but I couldn’t get anywhere. It looked as if it had been left out in the open for quite some time, with the trim damaged and the body terrible. However, it was complete, well at least as far as I could tell. I had Steve do a little bit of the repair work, including some to the panels, while I did the rest when it got to my home.”
“Looking back it was interesting, as I recall showing it off to a very good friend who I worked with. He said that if it was his he would take it straight to the tip. It certainly didn’t look pretty, but to me I could see the potential and it didn’t daunt me. I knew mechanically I could do most of the work myself, but also knew that I couldn’t do the trim and especially not the bodywork, as I’m not a panel beater or spray painter.”
“Some time later, when it was going, painted and trimmed, I took the car passed his place and he just couldn’t believe how something could be transformed from when he first saw it.”
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The BMC Experience Issue 18. Jul-Sep 2016 Magazine
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