V8 Powered 1958 Austin-Healey 100-6

1958-austin-healey-100-6

We have debated the whole AH swap thing before, but when BF reader Dolphin sent us a link to this V8 powered 1958 Austin-Healey, we couldn’t resist. It may seem wrong to shove a V8 into one of these desirable roadsters, but what if someone else already performed the evil deed? This Big Healey has been off the road since 1968 and supposedly had the swap done sometime in the sixties. It looks solid and the bidding starts at $3,900 here on eBay so it is worth a look. Thanks for the tip Dolphin!

v8-swap

The original inline-six was great, but could a Chevrolet 283 paired with a Muncie 3-speed be better? The extra power would be nice, but would it be worth sacrificing some of the car’s balanced handling? The seller of this car assumes that it was parked because of a bad engine, so it is going to need to be rebuilt or replaced. The big question here is do you put a V8 back in there, or do you source a six?

1958-austin-healey-rear

Many project Healeys that pop up on the market have severe rust in the floors. We have seen people rescue cars with the bottom halves all but rotted away. They make this one look exceptionally solid and a good candidate for a full restoration. The seller claims that the frame was not modified when the V8 conversion was done, so you may have some options here. Which route would you take? Stick with the purist crowd? Or run off and join the Nasty Boys?

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Comments

  1. Brad

    Kinda cool! That might be a nice one to give a deep, throaty growl, side pipes, and a clearcoat over that mottled finish. Rust rod Austin.

  2. Chris A.

    As the motor mounts, etc. for the V8 are still in place, why go back to that cast iron lump of a straight 6? As for weight and balance, the Chevy may be even lighter than the 6, and the center of mass is both further back in the chassis and lower. If anything, the V8 probably improved the handling. But this A-H project needs a total rehab, new body panels, a new engine and 4 speed together with a decent vintage steering wheel. Expensive rebuild, but I’d call it a poor man’s Cobra when done.

    • Ken

      The A-H six was a tractor engine with a camshaft for the street. It weighed more than 600 lbs and always produced unremarkable numbers. A small block Chevy is much lighter, lower, farther back, as already mentioned. It’s an enormous improvement especially in terms of power and torque but the chassis is probably not up to it. Swaps are mostly endless headaches. Better to get an old Camaro or Mustang and rebuild that puppy to a higher standard.

  3. buk

    Hmm…I’m thinking the straight six would weigh equal or more than a SBC. I’d drop a period hopped up 327 in that puppy and restore the essentials.

  4. John R

    Gimme that V8 power baby! Plus a 4 speed with overdrive. beef up the suspension, brakes and steering and you’ve got an oddball vintage cobra killer….just sayin’

    • Tim R

      I had a 57 100-6 with a 67 Corvette 327 and a 57 Ford 9” and muncie4 speed back in the mid 70’s. Up graded brakes and suspension. It was a monster!! Wish I still had it……..

  5. John R

    better add a roll cage too…

  6. Robert J

    Too much rust. If you have your own metal shop this could be a great deal.

  7. Chris A.

    I was looking at those old wire wheels and wondered if they could stand a V8’s power. What’s the cost to rebuild wire wheels v. new wheels. Old wire wheels with bad rims are an $$. nightmare and dangerous if not fixed or replaced. The back end of this needs a very close look. After 55 years the metal under the left and right rear wings could really be nasty. But a V8 Healey could make such a neat car.

    • Dolphin Member

      Those look like 48 spoke wires on this car if I’m seeing them right. Sixty spoke wires were an option from BMC back then, and I had a friend with a car exactly like this back in the early ’60s who replaced his 48 spoke with 60-spoke wheels, which were stronger. I don’t know whether the 60 spokes would stand up to abuse with a powerful V8, but if driven moderately, which should be done with those narrow tires anyway, I would bet that the 60 spoke ones would be good.

    • ClayB

      I had a ’59’ Bocar that had wires on it and supposedly they held up well. I never drove mine but it had the 283/4-spd and Bob Carnes thought the wires worked.They were an honest 160 mph car on 6/70/15 tires bu/t to me you would have had guts to do that in them.Sold mine in the early 80s and paid off the house and one was just listed a couple months ago in the UK for 220K .Look up the 59′ issues of Motor Trend and Hot Rod.They were cover cars then.Only 39 built.

      • Kris_01

        Holy crap, a Bocar? Bob Carnes approves.

      • Scott Carroll

        Hi Clay,
        I own a Bocar and would love to chat with you about the one you had.

  8. John C

    A cast iron small block Chevy is about the same weight as the stock I-6.
    Swap out the heads, manifold and water pump to aluminum pieces and it will be lighter.
    Throw in an alloy 4 or 5 speed trans and have a well balanced car.
    Then go scare women and children with it!!!

  9. paul

    Hate when people do this but the orig is gone & so are the marching #’s so a modern aluminum 6 with a turbo but so much would have to go into beefing it up to handle all the torque. It could be done for $’s anything can be done.

  10. FRED

    A SMALL BLOCK CRATE MOTOR WITH ALL THE ALUMINIUM(SP) AND LIGHT WEIGHT GOODIES YOU CAN GET WOULD BE LIGHTER THAN AN INLINE SIX IMO. SIDE PIPES ,6SPEED TRANNY,A REAR END THAT CAN HANDLE ALL THE POWER IT WILL HAVE NEW INTERIOR AND THEN PULL UP NEXT TO A MUSTANG AND BLOW THE DOORS OFF IT AND YOU MIGHT NEED TO BUY STOCK IN ONE OF THE TIRE COMPANIES OUT THERE BUT THE LOOK AT THE STANGS DRIVER WHEN HE GETS OUT OF THE CAR,PRICELESS…..

    • Jim-Bob

      Please stop shouting. Reading a post written in all caps is really grating.

      • paul

        Relax pal my dad does this because he at 92 doesn’t see well, you don’t really know who your talking to on here & maybe their is a reason.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Please give Fred a break. He has a hard time typing, but we all appreciate his comments. I will work on a little edit that should help. Thanks.

      • Tim H

        if i type in all lower case am i whispering?

        Isn’t it funny, we make up a story about what something “means” and then we act like it is the truth.

      • Don Andreina

        I hope I get to 92 and still telling young ‘uns where it’s at. Got plenty to tell them.

      • paul

        The trick is you want to get to 92 & bowl 4 days a week & get 200 games sometime. not that I’m into bowling but maybe I’ll still take a sports car on a race track now & then.

      • Don Andreina

        My dad plays lawn bowls. Its like a western tai chi for him and he’s still going good (touch wood-frame wagon). He can still get in and out of his Alfa Sprint which he loves to death despite the encroaching rust. Trying to get him into a Fiat 600 because he doesn’t drive far to his workshop from home. Or even a new 500 cabrio. Can’t make him do squat, however.

      • Jim-Bob

        My apologies. I did not mean to offend. I am a bit on the aspergic side. I have a tendency to be very perfectionistic and let details get to me a bit more than they would with a normal person. While this lets me commit large reams of seemingly useless automotive data to memory and get lost in my projects it also tends to make me a little bit socially awkward. I tend to offend people without realizing it at times, and one of those times tends to be when I am posting on the internet in the wee hours of the morning. So, once again, I apologize. I meant no offense.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        It is alright Jim-Bob, I’m sure Fred will forgive you. We are all glad you have joined the conversation and hope you will stick around.

      • Larry

        what, can’t hear ya :-)

        Like 1
    • jim s

      there is room for everybody on the site. i wonder what is going to be listed next and how the gti is doing. thanks

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks Jim. Updates have been sparse lately because I have been out of town, but Josh has been busy working on the GTI, so we will have a big update sometime next week!

  11. jim s

    i think if i was going with a V8 i would choose one of the many new A-H kit cars and build it my way. this car i would part out then lastly sell the body, but not sure if i could break even. it is a NO RESERVE auction. a great find

    • Kman

      I was just looking at a “Sebring” kit modeled on an AH with wider fender flares, Chevy V8, Mustang II front end and 9″ ford rear. These are very well made glass bodied replcias on powder coated tubular frames with Leather and so many other options available. The one on e-Bay was up to $11,000 the other day but worth about $20 new from the factory. They come with a nice top, roll up windows, custom paint toneau cover and lots more options. Lookied like new and engine sparkled. That’s my idea of a Healey and not $50+ grand nor any Lucas wiring or rusty panels.

      • jim s

        the import + kit car nationals at carlisle pa had a nice selection of kits to look at. they have come a long way in quality. some offer from basic to turnkey also. i missed the sebring on ebay your refering to but it sounds like a lot of car for the money. the frames on those are well/over built and with that driventrain would be a fun car to drive.

  12. Dolphin Member

    I really liked Healeys back when they were new, and even owned a Tri-carb. But Shelby and his Cobra hadn’t made their splash yet, so it never occurred to me to replace the heavy Austin six with a V8, even if I could have afforded it.

    Then I was at the NY Auto show in 1963 and Shelby himself was there with his AC Cobra, which showed that you could put an American V8 into a small Brit sportscar and really make it go. The car he had there was the #12 car that won the GT class at the 1963 Sebring race with Phil Hill driving.

    I asked him if he would open the hood so I could look at the engine and I remember exactly what he said: “If I open the hood for you I’ll have to open the hood for everybody. Sorry.”

    I still have a drug store snapshot that I took with my awful Brownie box camera….thankfully the flash worked that time. He’s standing next to the car looking right into the camera with his hand on the fender. It was only years later that I read somewhere what a rush job that 1963 NY show Cobra display was and how Shelby was working on a shoestring budget back then, to the point that they had to ship the #12 car to NY without an engine because it was back at the shop in California being rebuilt for the next race! Refusal to open the hood explained.

    I never got to see the V8 in there, but lots of guys have gone the same route since, including with the Healey in this listing. I’m not sure how the weight of a SB Chevy compares with Ford 289 or BPO aluminum V8s, but I would have no trouble putting the lightest one of those in this Healey—-conceptually speaking. The fabrication would be another story. I would want the lightest conversion I could get. I once saw a Series II Sprite with an aluminum BPO V8 at an autocross and it sure went well, and sounded even better.

    I’ve seen a number of V8 conversion Healeys, mostly with SB Chevys, but I think I would go for the aluminum BPO V8. Anyone know of a source for info on that? Unfortunately I’m not near the car in this listing, but it sure looks like a good deal from here.

    • scot

      ~ first suggestion is; http://www.britishv8.org/
      i believe i would consider an alumin(i)um LSx if wanting excess of hp & torque.

      good catch, Dolphin.

      • Dolphin Member

        Thanks for the suggestion, Scott. I have never seen that mag for some reason, but since there’s a lot of information & photos in it online I know how a lot of my spare time is going to be taken up in the next while….

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Great story Dolphin. We outta feature that photo here on the site!

  13. Dave Wriggt

    When I was racing my Lotus 11 many years ago a buddy of mine had a similar car. He called it a Cheveally……..it was a screamer. Faster than any of the Sunbeam tigers of the day. He could not run with me on a tight track but if it was open, he was gone. I think his had a high performance 327. It would handle better than the stock 300’s because he could change the driving characteristics by adding power. He could nearly spin the tires at will anywhere on the track.

  14. 88R107

    The deed has been done so leave at as a V-8. This thing could have some real potential in my opinion. Since its in the shape its in,, just use your inagination and your checkbook to make it whatever you want,

  15. rancho bella

    I’m still a fan of the 221/260/289 Ford V8. Thin wall casting made them ideal for a lightweight application and their size is smaller than a GM block. This is why they were the choice engine for some sport cars. Now a bunch of aluminum bits are made to make them even lighter. So, a 289 with a T5 to include a Ford rear to complete the package.

    Examples: Sunbeam Tiger, TVR, Cobra, Lotus Type 30 (my personal fav), I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of them.

    • racer99

      rancho, I’m with you on this in spirit. My thoughts would be that it would be really easy to overpower the chassis/wheels/brakes by bolting in something like one of the recent small block fuel injected chevys where an early carb’d small block (Ford or GM) would be a better match to the chassis. To each his own and the winning bidder will do what he likes. Neat find.

  16. Jim-Bob

    So long as it’s already modified to begin with, I would keep it V8 powered. However, I would go with a truck LS engine like a 5.3, backed by a 6 speed manual transmission. Yes, it is iron block, but it also has aluminum heads and a plastic intake, so the weight is likely less than original. Better still, the engine itself is shorter than the old I6 so it places the weight further back and may even make the weight distribution better than stock. Plus, the truck LS is starting to show up in self serve junkyards. My local U Pull it had three of them this week, and they could be had for $275 each. One was a 6 liter and the other two were 5.3s. The nice thing is that they make plenty of power with a smooth idle and quiet exhaust. So I would install it with quiet mufflers and have a great little sleeper.

    • scot

      ~ and let us not overlook tremendous gas mileage, a minor concern, upwards of 30mpg.

  17. Dave Wright

    My buddy has a 1965 330GT that came with an old high performance 327. He has pulled the old engine and purchased a late model aluminum small block with a 6 speed manual. My eyes glaze over some with some of the newer engines, but it makes something over 500 hp. It fits really well in the old horse, is 300 lbs lighter and nearly twice the HP of the orignal. Everything else is bone stock including the Borani wires. It may be done next year and will be an incredible car. We would have preferred the orignal engine but like this car, it was long gone. He even gas a set of GTO valve covers for it. The 327 was sold to another friend that was a longtime Chevrolet dealer who rebuilt it and installed it into a hotrod. Even the orignal V12 motor mounts work with small adapters.

    • paul

      gulp!!!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Wow, so if V8 AH guys are called Nasty Boys, what do you call the Ferrari guys who do this?

      • paul

        I shudder to think.

      • Don Andreina

        Mama’s boys

  18. George

    That car is a bargain at that price and condition. As for the SBC, when Donald Healy would attend the Healey meets he didn’t care about the over restored trailer queens that “were better than we built them” and would head right towards the cars that had been modified with modern power plants.

  19. Doug M Member

    Well, just the fact that Dolphin sent in this link is good enough for me! I have come to appreciate his solid and diverse knowledge base! …and on the healey, there was a black and red conversion on some other web site (to remain unnamed -but something about a trailer?) that got readers choice of the year a while back, v-8 and all!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yep, Dolphin is the man! Here’s the link to the Weslake V8 Austin-Healey you mentioned. Guess this is the BF version of the BaT car?

      • scot

        ~ the BaT Westlake is one remarkable car.
        . that this BarnFind Healey could become a similar terror is an enticing fantasy! lots of great ideas have come forward. i hope the lucky reader who buys it will keeps us up to date on his success.

      • scot

        ~ ‘Weslake’

  20. Okiedude

    Hmmm…. my 100-6 has steel wheels. It’s almost worth the $ just for the wire wheel conversion?

  21. Chris A.

    Mowing the lawn, washing windows, anything to be first in line if and when the owner ever decides to sell really hit home. I lusted after a family friend’s 1954 XK 120 MC even though I was only 10. I didn’t have anywhere near the $3,500 he got for it when he sold it to buy his 1963 XK-E nor would my Dad go the difference on top of what I had saved up. I saw the 120 much later after the University of Rochester student had it parked outside for a long time. It really hurt to see the deterioration.

    As for bikes, I could look at a mid 70’s MV Agusta 750S for a long, long time without having to ride it. But that restored Vincent sure would look good on the road.

  22. Chris A.

    I meant to add the above post to the Vincent blog, but somehow goofed and it ended up here by mistake. As for the A-H, there sure are some super ideas and comments on how to restore/upgrade/enhance that 55 year old deep pockets project. My problem, as I think about that old chassis, even if it is found to be solid, is that it will also need modern shocks, a complete new disc brake system front and back together with beefed up steering to handle all the power. As the A-H’s engineering went back into the early 50’s with Austin part bins sourcing, the kit car route mentioned above makes a lot of sense both for performance and safety. I have a bad memory from 1962 at the old Watkins Glen GP course. I saw a modified Lotus 11 with a BOP V8 engine crash with fatal results when the steering broke on the old big bend. Once you start making major changes to a car, all systems should be carefully reviewed for needed upgrades to ensure the car stays safe after the changes.

    • paul

      Yep Chris I keep saying the same thing an upgrade engine to a car is only the beginning.

      • Kent Pearson

        Amen, brothers!

  23. Dolphin Member

    Sold @ $5,850 = a great buy. Congrats to the buyer.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Wow, that was a good buy! I hope the buyer will keep us updated.

  24. bob prince

    I completed a major restoration of a 1956 AH BN 2 which had been converted to a 305 sbc with power glide trans. Now has a built 350 sbc with al heads, cam, compression,and 2 4’s. The tranny is a Muncie and the rear axle is a narrowed 9 inch with disc brakes all the way around. It is fitted with 60 spoke wires and close to stock size tires. Very quick, doesn’t like hot days and stop and go traffic but is fun to drive and is a well balanced car as others have pointed out, the sbc is lighter than the 4 cylinder lump of lead and the 3 speed with o.d. trans.
    If you enjoy driving a beautiful “sleeper” with classic lines having a h.p. to weight ration in the range of 1 to 6, this is the way to go.
    Bob

  25. Chris A.

    Bob, can you post several pictures that include the engine bay? In addition to the disc brakes, what other suspension mods did you have to make? Yeah, not surprised that the cooling is an issue. And we are too polite here to ask how much money you have in your restoration/upgrade. Must be a blast to drive.

    A ’56 Corvette built up like this would also be a neat upgrade/conversion.

    • bob prince

      Will try to upload some pix at a later date. Suspension mods involved springs and shocks. Also frame was modified to clear starter for lower engine placement and footwells were narrowed to accommodate larger bell housing.
      In re. your Vette comment, it just so happens I am restoring a ’57 Vette which I have had since 1960. it is going to be a tribute car to the “Real McCoy” which are the 7 Vette race cars developed for the 1956 Sebring race. Google the “Real McCoy” for pix. The car will run a 425 h.p., 383 c.i. crate motor with a Tremec 5 speed trans. Springs and shocks will be upgraded and will install front disc brakes. With more power than the Healey to offset the heavier Vette and somewhat wider tires, I am hoping the Vette will be as fast as the Healey. Time will tell!

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