The history of British manufacturer Austin Healey
Formed through the combination of the Donald Healey engineering design firm and the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation, the classic Austin Healey car was produced from 1952 until 1972. The vehicle, fondly known as the ‘Big Healey’, was developed through three model stages with the option of a smaller ‘sprite’ model available from 1958. The racing versions of the car enjoyed plenty of victories on touring circuits in Europe and the United States. A specially developed model set the world land speed record in 1953 at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.
Austin Healey 100
The first in the production line ran from 1953 to 1956 and was given the name due to its ability to reach a speed of 100mph. During this period almost 15,000 were built at the company’s plant in Longbridge and came in two versions; the BN1 and BN2. This range also includes the AHS, or 100s, of which just 50 production models were made. Due to the quality of performance and handling these motors were primarily used for racing. Their rarity means that they can reach very high values and in December 2011 an unrestored 1953 special test version, which had the dubious honour of being in the world’s most lethal racing crash, sold for a staggering £843,000.
Austin Healey 100-6
In 1956 the company remodelled the car with improvements to the performance and adjustments to the body work. The new six cylinder engine had an increased top speed of 103mph and an acceleration of 0-60 in just over 10 seconds. The interior space was expanded to accommodate two occasional seats. This feature was optional on the later models in the range. The lines of the body were given a sharper appearance and the front radiator grille widened. The windscreen on the 100-6s is fixed unlike the fold away version on its predecessor. During its three year production run over 14,000 units were built at factories in Abingdon and Longbridge.
Austin Healey 3000
This is the longest running model in the range with over 40,000 produced between 1959 and 1967 and during the course of its development three versions were created; Mark I, Mark II and Mark III. The car derives its name from the larger capacity engine that it was fitted with. Although there were changes made in the series these were largely cosmetic and not as significant as the alterations between the 100 and the 100-6. In addition to the 3000cc twin carburetor engine and disc brakes the vehicle included a host of options including a heater, laminated windscreen, detachable hardtop and two-tone paint bodywork.
This two seater roadster was designed as an economy version and was developed in four different stages. Due to the prominent positioning of the headlights on the bonnet the Mark I version was affectionately dubbed the frogeye. The lower cost of the vehicle, which originally retailed at just £669 led to much higher numbers in sales and in total more than 129,000 were produced throughout its life span.