Big Healey Garage Find: 1965 Austin Healey MKIII BJ8

Today we scrutinize this Colorado Red (look-alike color from an earlier reno?) and grey 1965 Austin Healey Mk III BJ8 now listed on Craigslist from Shoemakersville, PA, north of Reading and slightly west of Philadelphia.  The short answer is that she’s a decent entry-level driver for someone not so much interested in the spunky sports car to be a best-in-showstopper, but more for the fun of owning it and working on it.  Emphasis on the “working on it.”  You’ll need to be serious enough to put out the asking price of $26,500 or thereabouts, and you’d surely have to think about–as our Pennsylvanian friends would say: “Oh, lotsa work needs done.”  The Craiglist posting is found here, and we thank Frank F for bringing us this eastern PA tip.

The exterior sheet metal and roof present well.  The chrome and wire wheels in good condition add to the delight of finding a well-preserved 55-year old all-metal British sports car.  The Big Healeys’ bodies were made by Jensen Motors and the cars were assembled in Abingdon-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, the same factory complex as MGs.  Sixty-five was the first year for power-assisted brakes (standard rather than optional) and it was the first year of switching to an Ambla vinyl upholstery. AH thoughtfully kept the recent design upgrades of a quick action folding roof and wind-up windows that started with the Mark II.  Weather resistance with the newer fast-folding roof design and actual windows that cranked as opposed to curtains was a pretty big improvement in the MkII and later Healeys than the late 50s models. About 90% of Healeys built in the ’64-’66 era were shipped to the US.

Here is the 2912 cc straight six-cylinder 150 hp Austin powerplant that was a constant in the Big Healeys. In 1965, AH added about 30% bigger carburation from the two standard 1bbl carbs than previous years’ engines, improving hp and top speed correspondingly. Reviewers claimed these cars were capable of 115 mph top speed. There were just 17,712 Mk IIIs made in the four-year span of their production, so these cars are not nearly as prevalent as American-made production cars of the same period and not as easy to get one in 2020.  This engine room may show as well used, but, as Seller states in the posting, she now runs and the gears shift after a long storage period that was part of a 45-year continuous ownership of the car.

Underneath, there’s surface rust on the frame members. But dig that heavy-duty Big Healey steel X-brace that must have contributed a lot to stability and the unique handling in road racing these cars.  A hint of trouble at the non-factory tacked-on thin metal plate at the top right?  Maybe to keep the feet from getting so hot from the exhaust?

This outrigger has rotted nearly clean through–good clue she’s a PA car, all right.  Annual inspections of cars in PA look for frame damage and rotten floor pans, so would there be a question of whether this condition could pass PA inspection?  Not really, because antique cars are exempt from PA inspection–just sayin’.  Although it is not a complicated project for an experienced welder/fabricator, there are some bucks involved in repairs for safety and restoration reasons.  Can’t tell you about the rest of the channels and steel from the remaining photos, so a thorough inspection should be done.  Would there be some concern if that leaf spring terminates on or near that outrigger?  The rest of the trunk floors and other sheet metal look solid enough–the seller has provided numerous pictures with a promise that he has more available upon request.

The interior is tired, there are frayed and ripped rugs and some seat tears.  The glove box door looks like it has been exposed to the elements as the wood grain has swelled and the finish has deteriorated.  The dash and steering wheel are in good shape, the shifter boot–not so much.  Pennsylvania winters are hard on cars and, even if this one were inside for most of its ownership, the elements have had an adverse effect on its steel, wood, and upholstery alike.  But nothing looks irreversible, and that’s the point of bringing this car to your attention.  Although there are areas of repair needed, Hagerty has a “FAIR” 1965 Austin Healey Mk III BJ8 valuation in the $31,000 range.  “GOOD” condition, $47,500.  So would it cost more than $20,000 after buying this Big Healey to bring it from medium-FAIR condition to a solid “GOOD” condition?  That, dear friends, is the question to you so please share your thoughts.

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Comments

  1. Pat

    That metal plate that was tacked on is probably a makeshift exhaust shield to dispel some heat under the drivers seat. had one on mine, helped a little

    Like 4
  2. JMB#7

    I am glad you posted another “big Healey”, there is something very special about them. I will probably never have one, but I sure would welcome the chance to drive one.

    Like 4
  3. Bruce

    Who ever buys this should know that there is absolutely no adjustments in the body. It goes together just one way. XKE’s have adjustments in the front bonnet, MGA’s have adjustments in the fenders, but these were built to a very exacting standard and there are NO SHIMS anywhere. I know because I have restored a couple and salvaged a couple of wrecks.
    The ads of the time describes this car as one of the last Angry Sports Cars. I do not know about that but driving from Moscow Idaho to Kansas City we spent most of the time thru Montana And Wyoming at over 100 miles per hour without a problem.
    In Idaho everybody knew when I was driving as that low hanging exhaust left a very specific curve in the snow and when I would stop the steam was always there. I loved that car but I had to sell my last one to pay some medical bills. Still one of my favorite convertibles of all time. I would bring it back to new they are that special.

    Like 6
    • Lance

      Bruce no body shims or adjustments just like the stepdown Hudson.

  4. bobhess bobhess Member

    Too little for too much for this guy. Metal work isn’t going to be a “casual repair”.

    Like 1
  5. Stan Escher

    Just came off a full restoration of a 65 mark III. THIS CAR IS NOT SAFE TO DRIVE. Rear outrigger too compromised. Everything looks original and neglected. My guess a restoration would be upwards of 30,000 and you would be lucky to sell for over 50,000, a net loss of 6000. But hey its your money

    Like 1
  6. Stan Marks

    IMHO, Considering all of the work, that needs to be done, the asking price is a little on the high side. That price needs to come down another 10-15K.

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