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Stewart shows us his Austin Healey 3000 MKIII

A concours 1964 Austin Healey 3000 MKIII with race-inspired enhancements takes us back to the glory days of English roadsters.

England in the 1960s wasn’t a bad place for the motoring enthusiast.

The Jaguar E-Type emerged in 1961 to re-write elegance and affordable performance rules; the perfectly-packaged Mini was at its peak, and the MGB was a credible sports car for the masses. Some chap called Bond was busy making an icon of the Aston Martin DB5, while the Lotus Elan and Ford’s Mk1 Cortina and Escort were absolute world-beaters.

Image: Iain Curry

Then there was Austin Healey. Its road cars were an intoxicating blend of beauty, performance and ability, honed after years of motorsport competition. The brand was a regular at Le Mans, Sebring and Europe’s evocative and arduous rallies, where Austin Healey 3000s scored outright wins at the 1961 and 1962 Alpine Rally, and Liege-Rome-Liege in 1960 and 1964.

Luck of the … British?

A Swinging Sixties young car enthusiast, Stuart Loveday, was obviously inspired. Born in London’s East End, the now 80-year-old Queenslander owns one of the most striking examples of the Austin Healey breed: a 1964 3000 BJ8 MkIII. Stuart’s enduring passion for motorsport saw him pick out a Big Healey with some choice ‘works team’ enhancements, giving this already pretty roadster a more muscular, purposeful style and feel.

It doesn’t half look good with its roof down, glistening in the splendour of a Sunshine State summer morning. That curvy silver body, immaculate red leather interior and the sparkle from its Dayton 72-spoke wire wheels with knock-off caps. “They’re bloody expensive, but not as expensive as Borranis,” said Stuart, referencing the Italian wire wheels famously used on Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Aston Martins of the era. The Daytons were supplied by Victoria’s Healey Factory, the long-established marque expert where Stuart bought his now 60-year-old classic.

Image: Iain Curry

The Big Healey wasn’t actually for sale. It was on display at the Healey Factory as a showroom exhibit, showcasing the full restoration build performed to exacting requirements for its collector owner. “There was a big sign saying: ‘Not For Sale’ and ‘Do Not Touch’,” Stuart recalled. “The salesman called me in to show me numerous cars, but each time I said it’s nice, but not as nice as that show car. He reminded me it wasn’t on offer, sadly.”

Fate intervened. Its owner was tempted by a very early (and very expensive) flat-floor Series 1 Jaguar E-Type, and to fund its planned purchase, the ’64 Healey was now up for grabs. “It was a lot of money, but I wanted it,” said Stuart. “It was just so right. You just need look at its perfect shut lines, the paint finish and its flared arches, aluminium finned bonnet and side vents. None of the other cars I looked at had those.”

Image: Iain Curry

Fly like a feather

These works team motorsport enhancements were key, and had been requested by the previous owner when the car’s restoration began. Earlier Austin Healey 100s had competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours enduros, where lightweight body parts, additional cooling and flared arches to accommodate wider tyres were the norm. “The purist would say the 3000 MKIII never had any of these things, but I wanted the features inspired by the race cars.”

These MkIII versions were the final iteration of the Austin Healey 3000 series, which were produced from 1959 to 1967. Stuart’s version began life as a left-hand drive US car, but sadly, its pre-restoration history is unknown. It was the donor car used by the Healey Factory for its ground-up restoration 20 years ago; the company renowned as one of the global leaders in the field. “You can bring in your own car, or they’ll provide one, and their factory has lots of old Healeys in racks going up to the ceiling,” he said. “The current estimate for a concours restoration is between $250,000 to $300,000.”

Image: Iain Curry

Good grief. But it’s the kind of place you’ll go if you want the best. For this build, the car’s BMC C-Series 2.9-litre inline six-cylinder was increased to 3.1-litres, helping boost power from around 150bhp to 165bhp. The standard 1.5-inch carburettors have been upgraded to 2-inch SUs (as seen on a Jaguar E-Type) for improved performance, while an aluminium radiator and electronic ignition were also fitted.

If you notice, the radiator isn’t perfectly upright, its offset nature helping accommodate the welcome upgrade to rack and pinion steering. “It’s so very easy to drive as a result; there’s almost power steering quality,” Stuart explained. A gear shifter overdrive switch is another nod to the racing cars – standard road 3000s had the switch on the dash – while a ‘Dynator’ now resides under the long, sweptback bonnet.

Image: Iain Curry

A what? Stuart explained he has strived to keep things as authentic 1960s as possible during his tenure, but has made a concession after one of the few reliability issues his Big Healey’s suffered since buying it in 2007. “My rev counter and fuel gauge needles started bouncing around, then it refused to start,” he said. “The dynamo had packed up, and you just can’t get them anymore – everyone’s changes to an alternator.

“A Dynator was recommended, where a company in the UK puts alternator components in a dynamo body. It doesn’t need the Lucas control box, so they do a replacement dummy one and it puts out about 60 amps, so it helps if you want to run spotlights. I ordered one, it works a treat and is a good solution for keeping it authentic. It looks just like a dynamo.”

Get around

On the day of our photoshoot, the immaculate roadster started with little complaint, despite not being used for weeks. The inline six sounds silky smooth through its dual exhausts, and the cabin indulgently roomy compared to most British sportscars of the era. Hop in an MG Midget, Triumph Spitfire or Austin Healey’s own frogeye Sprite and you’ll sympathise with canned sardines.

Image: Iain Curry

It’s evocatively 1960s inside. Red leather seating, a Moto-Lita wood-frame steering wheel, metal gear stick and walnut dashboard – plus lashings of red carpet – illustrate how these Big Healeys were a cut above.

“Back then, in the 60s, these Healeys were about four times the price of a Cortina,” Stuart recalled. He owned the latter back then, as well as a string of Triumph motorcycles, a Velocette Thruxton and an ex-works AJS racer which was “bloody quick”. Stuart cut his mechanical teeth working on these motorcycle motors, which he fortunately found easy to understand.

His working life included a stint at the Ford Motor Company, before moving into computers for the rest of his career. His car enthusiasm never wavered, despite what he calls a string of boring company cars. He eventually bought himself a Mercedes-Benz 320SL convertible, then in 1994, a stunning 1973 Ferrari Daytona. He set about having it restored to concours, winning numerous awards, and was now a confirmed Ferrari convert. He owned one of the first Ferrari 360s – even shipping it from the UK to Australia to compete in the 2000 Classic Adelaide – and then a Ferrari 550.

Image: Iain Curry

A relationship with Porsche also grew, Stuart buying 911s (a 993 and 996 generation), and after moving to Australia, a 964 rally car to tackle more Classic Adelaides and Targa Tasmanias. After hanging up his road rally boots, his wife, Christine, said she’d always wanted a Big Healey, and that’s how their automotive lives moved from late model European exotica to the classic, elegant Brit.

Silver lining

“You just have to recognise it’s 60 years old,” Stuart said of his 3000. “It’s noisy, rugged, there’s a clutch and gears to worry about, so it’s not a car everybody can just jump into and drive. But over long distances, in top gear, it can do 100km/h sitting on 1800rpm thanks to it being a big 3.1-litre. There’s more noise from the wind at that speed.”

Stuart said after a throttle linkage was sorted the engine’s a keenly responsive unit, and is reasonably easy to drive with its upgraded steering. Certainly, it’s a more a modern and practical car than the racy Austin Healey 100s of the 1950s. This ’64 car has goodies like servo-assisted disc brakes, proper wind-up windows and even folding rear seats for extra luggage space.

Image: Iain Curry

Maintenance has proved relatively easy, although tuning the carburettors perfectly has been a tricky task. As I’ve been told by many classic car owners, these days it’s increasingly hard to find experts able to ‘carburettor whisper’ and have them running sweetly. “I went to four different people, and none managed to do it,” said Stuart. “They’re not bad now, but they still pink a bit on occasion.”

His affection for this very special classic remains strong, but Stuart admits to moments of weakness where he’s considered selling the Big Healey – and his wife’s Porsche 718 Cayman – to buy a Porsche 911 GT3. “Just to have some fun for the last few years of my life,” he said with a smile. Seems no matter your age, being bitten by the sportscar bug stays with you for life.

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