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Which Big Healey Would You Bag?


There are a handful of cars out there that people love so much that they will restore any example they can get their hands on, no matter the condition. Ferraris, Shelbys, Corvettes, and yes, even Austin Healeys fit in this group of highly sought after restoration projects. We have seen Big Healeys brought back to life that had all but rotted away. Lesser cars would have been left for dead, but luckily their are some very enthusiastic people out there who are willing to pay the price and do the work. Still, these are relatively common cars so normally there are a few options on the market when shopping for one. So, when reader Dolphin sent in links to two MKI 3000s, we thought it would be a good opportunity to compare these prospective projects and talk about the merits of each. Thanks for the tip Dolphin!


First off, we have this 1961 AH 3000. The seller claims that it has been stashed away in a New York garage since 1971. It came into the current owner’s procession when the previous owner passed away after supposedly only covering 37k miles. The blue on blue color scheme would look sharp after a restoration, but it looks a bit tired right now.


The underside does look fairly solid considering the car’s location (heck, the floors are still in one piece), but the engine is seized up. The seller is currently soaking it in oil with hopes that it will loosen up, but no guarantee there. The paint is showing its age, but the seller does have an extra fender to replace the dented one.


The interior could be the best aspect of this car as it looks complete and fairly clean. After conditioning the leather seats and giving everything a good cleaning it probably wouldn’t look too bad in here. The engine and some of the frame rust are our biggest concerns here. Well, that and the fact that bidding is already over $10k and the reserve has not been met. Take a look at more photos here on eBay.


Now, our second car. The seller isn’t sure of the year. The VIN shows that it is a BT7 and that means that it was built between 1959 and 1961, but it is titled as a 1962. This one has been parked since the seventies and looks pretty solid too. It has lived its life on the other side of the US though and the difference is obvious. There is rust, but it doesn’t seem to attach itself to every metal surface like on the other car.


The seller claims that they can’t tell if the engine is  frozen because there is no fan. They say that it is safe to assume that it is locked up, but we think it would have been worthwhile to investigate before listing the car for sale. It does make our comparison more interesting though. This one does have more miles with the odometer pegged at 93k. Well, as long as the other car hasn’t already rolled over once.


On the inside things are a little rougher than the first car. The red over tan color combo is nice, but we assume the red was applied during a color change because the engine bay is showing more of a blue. You can take a closer look here on eBay where bidding is up to $8,300 with the reserve not met. Both of these cars could be beautiful when fully restored, but each has their own unique challenges. They also have a lot in common too though…

So, the question is, which would you choose and why?


  1. Leo

    I wouldnt choose either. If you keep your eyes open there are better examples to be had for better value. if you havent ever restored one of these cars then prepare yourself for sticker shock on parts prices. Either of the two mentioned cars will set you back ariund 50K to restore right. Motor costs alone will eat up around $10K. They are such great cars though and worth the effort and $ spent. I enjoy my BJ 8 more than any other cars i have restored.

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    • Wilko

      I’d go for the blue one. 3000 engine is stronger than the 2650 of the red 100 Six (not a BT7, but a BN4, note the front drum brakes)

      The hardtop is not the factory option that would add lots of value.

      10k for engine rebuild? not even close. 3k would be plenty with new pistons, light machine work and bearings and a better cam.

      The red one has a much better body though tan interior was never stock, so it’s been done over at least once.

      Someone commented about the shifters, both are standard, the crooked one is an early 3000.

      Whitworth? not on these.

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  2. Jim-Bob

    It’s one of those cases where you would really need to see the cars in person to make a sound decision. However, my gut is to go with the blue car based on color alone. I don’t like the color red, but blue is one of the only two colors I will shop for a car in if I have a choice (the other is white). As to what I would do with it, well, I would condition the leather, rebuild the engine and mechanicals and then drive it as-is. I might be tempted to do a DIY paint job too, but that would be some time down the road. I’d also probably detail the engine after the rebuild, but the rest of it I would leave driver quality. After all, if I made it too nice, I would be afraid to use it like a car and that would defeat the purpose of owning it.

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  3. Jørn Myhre

    Hard to say.
    Red one:
    It is a bn4 100/6 (not bn6/3000) 1958 mod, abingdon built car.

    Out of the pic’s you are missing the cab and hardtop on the red one ( and more)
    The blue one:
    Tried to make a racing car of it? Never seen a gearshifter like that on a AH. And The bumper split in to halves, i dont Get a good feeling on The blue one.

    Cant compare The cars, different models.
    2,6L and 3,0L engine

    Take Them both ;0)

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  4. Jerry

    I’d attempt the blue one; a little more desirable with the hardtop. I don’t understand how a car gets put into storage and ends up missing parts if it’s been forgotten. Sad case.

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  5. jim s

    if you bought both you might be able to make 1 good car but the cost would be to high to then use it as a daily driver. i can not remember the last time i saw one on the road or heard the 6cyl motor running. these were costly to work on even back in the 1960 which is why a lot of them were parked and forgotten. i have seen/heard a 60’s mini, yugo, tr6, mgb and a chevette (scooter model i think) in the last week or so. still nice finds

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  6. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Having owned one of each, a long time ago, I recommend the 3000 over the 100-6. The front disc brakes are better, and the slight engine size increase is also nice. However…I totally agree with Leo above in that it’s a LOT less expensive to buy a better condition car than bringing one of these back…

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  7. thefatkid

    Leo great point about getting sticker shock. Unlike the triumphs, it is worth sinking that kind of money into one because you will be able to get it back out. The premier Healey shop is in Wisconsin and it is called Fourintune. They just had a Healey 100M get the highest score ever at a Healey Concours in Virginia. Great Post Barnfinds. ( and to everyone I upset about my triumph comment, I have owned many triumph and I love them. But I took my 1965 Spitfire to a well know restoration shop and they said just drive it and enjoy it, you never get your money out of it. So I have been out and about dragging my elbow mile after happy mile.)

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  8. paul

    I like the small bumper’s on the blue one, but like the red one seems to be in better shape. Both cars it doesn’t matter the mileage or change in color since both need total restorations, this brings the last point, Leo is spot on the #’s are too high already for what both of these need.

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  9. Healeyguy

    The red one actually has its correct vehicle ID plate which shows BN4L-O-55841. So as mentioned above it is a 100-Six made in Abingdon in early 1958. No idea why it has a BT7 body number screwed to the bulkhead. A 3000 is worth more than q 100-Six and the blue car looks more complete. The tan interior on the red car is wrong as this was never a colour option.

    They will bring more than $10,000 but restoration will be expensive. Both cars are run of the mill models and in Class A condition, newly restored are probably worth $45,000-$60,000. Maybe more on a good day with the wind behind.

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  10. Dave Wright

    In my opinion………these cars have always been over rated and over priced. They are a fun car with tractor engines…….but when they approach the costs of an XK120……. They are too expensive.

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  11. Robert Denton

    I’d happily take either of these back home to England & join the quite a few Healey’s that have been restored and repatriated over the last 25 years. I think I’ll take the red one, ship it to England & give it to one of the country’s top A-H specialists & let them restore it regardless of cost!

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  12. DT

    Sir,undoubtably you would need to aquire both. The first thing is to organise your spanners(whitworth etc.) your crosshead screwdrivers,from your dumpys,be sure to have a pair of mole wrenches.spot on you will need tyres,an acumulator some English cars do need two,check your dynamo,check your carbon pads and brake blocks,check all of your actuators,thrust bearing,check your core plugs,check all jointing compounds as well as all earths.they both will undoubtably require silencers, if you can get it to tick over, check for pinking,if so check your gudgeon pins,the one obviosly needs a wing on the offside, on the positive side the squabs are in remarkable condition,considering

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    • Jim-Bob

      I shall take your advice, good sir, right after I put the kettle on. I find one mustn’t work on one’s British car without a good spot of tea. Now where did I put those whitworth spanners…

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    • Chris

      And don’t forget the dampers, & boot lid.

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  13. John

    A toss up. I say that only because the red one is a 100/6 verses a 3000 model. The red one is in better condition but being a 100/6 the value is a wash. Neither would be a good “value” unless you can do most of the work yourself, or…if you plan on keeping it for over ten years. I would not pay over 8K for either one. They both need everything, and the blue one looks like it may have serious rust issues. I recently looked over a 1960 3000 Two Seater (high value) for 10K that was equal in condition to the red one and passed on it because I know what it takes to restore one. Much better to find one that someone already poured their soul into and now have lost that lovin feeling and want to just move it and get their money out of it. At the end of the day you may be into it for about the same $$, but minus all the headaches of the restoration process. Final verdict….pass. Look for a nice 20 footer to drive around for 30-35K, have fun with it while the value goes up.

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  14. Mike B

    Blue, definitely. That blue interior and white piping is sweet too!
    No other reason, just like the colors better :-)

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    • John

      In this condition, the color means nothing. The whole car needs to be stripped down and repainted, and the interior needs to be replaced. It’s the body damage and rust that will end up making the blue car expensive to restore.

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      • Mike B

        Color means everything. They don’t call it “resale red” (or “slime green”) for no reason.

        But if they are being restored back to original (if not original colors then is it really a “restoration”?), then I would prefer to spend the money on the Blue on Blue car. The “red” one used to be blue as well, I guess, but what color was the interior? If they are both originally blue on blue cars, then it would come down to relative rarity / value then.

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  15. Dolphin Member

    I suggested these two cars because they seemed like an interesting comparison of two restorable vintage Brit sportscars.

    Big Healeys have lost some value compared to values 6 or 8 years ago, so agreed that it’s harder to restore one now and not be underwater in terms of resale value. Like Leo, I would buy the best driver I could afford, and would not buy either of these cars to restore myself. But that said, these cars look far more restorable than many of the cars seen on here with serious rust perforation, especially the red car, which looks reasonably solid.

    The red car carries a tag indicating a BT7, so that makes it a 3000 Mk 1 from March 1959 – March 1961, not a 1962 Mk II model. Jørn, the BN4 was an earlier model from 1956 – 1959 with the 2.6 litre engine, so it’s not a BN4. The hard top was always an optional extra, and most cars didn’t have one.

    The basic engines for the 2.6 and 3 litre Healeys came from the Austin Westminster sedan. Altho I recall reading somewhere that the engine was also used in an Austin truck, I have never seen it said that it was ever intended for use in a tractor. Dave W. might be thinking of the 4-cylinder Triumph engine.

    Altho some view these as over rated, back in the ’60s they were definitely respected on the road. Besides looking and sounding terrific, they could outrun or at least stay with most performance cars of the day, especially the 3000 models. A big problem with the Healey was very low ground clearance, and it amazed me that they could survive and even win European rallys on awful mountain roads. Back then No American roads were often much better than they are now, so running one on the street wasn’t as much of a problem as it might be now.

    Having owned a tri-carb 3000 during the 1960s I might be biased. I thought that it sounded and ran better and smoother than any 4-cylinder sportscar of that time, a number of which I also owned.

    I liked Donald Healey’s approach to development and competition with these cars, which was always done on a pretty small budget. Given those limitations back then, the way he and his sons developed the brand was pretty impressive, and would have gone further if the US safety regulations that came in for 1968 had not forced Austin to kill the Big Healey.

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    • Jørn Myhre

      The red one was built mars 1958 and it is one of The first one from That abingdon, that is The reason for The three tags, they got a “new” tag in 1959 when they startet to build 3000/bn6 cars, The production number tells it is a 1958 bn4.. Look in The book again ;0)

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      • Wilko

        The 100 Six cars are BN4 four-seat and BN6 two-seater.

        Starting 1959 the two-seat 3000 was a BN7 and the BT7 was the four-seater.

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    • Dolphin Member

      well I can’t dispute that the chassis was built in 1958, but the BN4 model (2.6 litre engine, front drum brakes) you mentioned ended in March 1959. So even if this car’s chassis was built in (late?) 1958 it seems that it got the 2,912 cc engine and front disk brakes and was sold as a 1959 3000 Mk I, which began the same month the BN4 ended, March 1959. That would be expected since they aren’t going to send a perfectly good shell to the crusher simply because it was built before the 3000 Mk I went into production.

      I’m fine with the shell being built in 1958, but it seems to me that the car was built and sold as a 1959 3000 Mk I, making it a BT7 model.

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      • Rick Wilkins

        There are drum brakes clearly on the car. The tag clearly says BN4L. The body number coincidentally has a BT7 on it, but that’s NOT the model number tag. That car was never a BT7. It may have got a 2917cc engine added at some time, as there is much not original about it, including the full interior which is tan which was never an option on a big healey.

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      • Jørn M

        I think you are spot on :0) but I have not seen any austin marked as bn4 and bn6 before, this is The first one

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    • jim s

      thanks for sending them in. i hope BF does more side by side /which would you pick/bag. this was fun. i do hope both of these get saved either in whole or as parts. after this posted i spent more then an hour on youtube viewing big healey videos mostly for the sound the motor makes!

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      • Dolphin Member

        jim, I definitely agree about the sound of a big Healey—one of the best sounds ever from a car. When I owned one years ago I made the mistake of replacing the original muffler with a cheap aftermarket one that never sounded good at all. So I bit the bullet and bought a genuine OEM muffler from the local A-H dealer and the car sounded right again. That taught me to never mess with the exhaust system of a big Healey if you value that mellow sound. I’m not claiming that Donald Healey and his crew engineered it to sound mellow, but it sure seemed that way.

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  16. Wilko2

    The red car has a car number of BN4L. It’s a 100 Six. Drum brakes in front, and ridge on hood tell the truth.

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  17. Curtis

    When it looked like a Healey was going to be a 70-80 car they were getting close to being worthwhile projects. Now that really, really nice ones are selling for 35-40 you just can’t afford to restore one. Just buy the best one you can find. There is stuff that rust on these cars you can’t even see on a lift with a flash light. Very complicated inner structure to restore. Add to this the cost of paint and chrome and interior and every little switch and trim and ….. Can’t come out ahead on one of these even with the labor free.

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  18. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    OK…it’s pretty obvious from the pictures that the red car has front drums. So…if it’s really titled as a BT7 there’s a problem there. That alone would push me to the blue car.

    That being said, as I stated above I’d be looking for a better example.

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    • Dolphin Member

      At first I also thought the red car had front drums. Then I saved and enlarged the side view photo of the red car. If you look closely you can see that there is no dark ring close to the outer edge on the front brake like there is on the rear brake drum (the rear brakes on Healeys are always drums). When viewed from the side the drums appear to have a dark ring near the outer edge because of how they are shaped. That tells me that the front brakes on the red car are not drums, which is consistent with the car being a 3000 Mk I with disks in front.

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      • Rick Wilkins

        The drums are shaped different in the front. The car is a BN4L. You’re looking at the wrong “tag”. The tag that has BT7 on it is NOT in the right place to be the model number.

        There is no way that car has disk brakes in front. Also, a hood ridge. That’s a 100 Six.

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      • John

        Hmmm…..now not sure what the deal is on the red one. Looking closer, it indeed looks as if those may be discs on the front wheels. However, it looks like the hood may have the 100/6 style crease down the middle. Whatever,…I still would not go over 8K on either one. The engines are 7-10K to rebuild. The body could easily run 8-10K to strip, repair, and paint. That’s around 25-28K in the thing and we haven’t even talked about all the rust issues or the interior, chrome replacement, wiring, fuel tank cleaning and sealing, brakes, transmission, and most important the countless hours and bloody knuckles. Go find a real nice driver for 30K and call it good.

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  19. WBL

    To me the front brakes look like drums. Exactly the same as my BN1.
    The hood crease only appeared on the 57 and 58 BN4s.
    The top number plate shown did not come from Austin. I understand that Cali. sometimes required an additional plate on imports and that may be its origin.
    The middle plate is a little blurry, but it looks to me like it says “AN2” that plate would be from a second series Sprite.
    I can’t read the bottom plate, but if it is original to the car the BMIHT can provide a certificate with info from the build sheet. Without that information and a clean bill from the national stolen car registry I wouldn’t be found in the same room with it.

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  20. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Dolphin —
    Respectfully disagree. Take a look on the eBay pictures at the one from the front at an angle. That’s a drum (note, no caliper). You can see where the Healey drums curve away from the center. But I’m not infallible either; we can agree to disagree :-)

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    • Dolphin Member

      I think you are right. I had looked at that pic but had not expected to see a caliper since they are level with and to the rear of the hub, but on second thought there should be some part of a caliper showing. The other thing from that pic is that the drum is very close behind the spokes instead of set back a little like a disk, so yes it’s a drum.

      Thanks for pointing that out Jamie.

      I emailed the seller through eBay about 2 days ago asking for the VIN that’s stamped on the right front shock tower but have not received it. It’s looking like this car is a mash-up of features, including the BT7 tag, that might fool someone like me into thinking it’s a 3000 Mk 1 when it isn’t. It never was a 100, and it’s not a 3000 since it looks like it’s really a 100-6 underneath, as Jørn said.

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  21. Bob

    Any one trying to bring a big Healey back from the brink would be well advised to contact this shop.


    Owner is a straight shooter and will give you pricing before work begins. Work is first rate and they’ve saved/restored more big Healey’s than possibly anyone else in the world. You wouldn’t believe how bad some of the cars are when they get to the shop.
    These two are in relatively ‘good’ condition compared to many I’ve seen. Regardless, they need everything and as others have said the final costs will be breathtaking. Make sure you go to a shop who have Healey knowledge and experience and pay particular attention to the frame as they were marginal at best when new and are all pretty much shot by now. A road test of the era affectionately referred to handling as ‘a bit ropey’! If you’ve ever pushed one hard through a corner and especially if crossing a railroad track you understand what they meant.

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  22. John

    I am increasingly less enthused about the red one. The seller states “I have no idea what year it is, it’s titled as a 62, but you be the judge”. The bidding is up to nearly 13K now. How can you buy a “project” Healey for 13K and not even be sure of what year it is, or if the numbers match, or if it has ever been stolen, etc; Their acting like this is a Ferrari Dino or something. One problem with getting sucked into these so called “good condition” Healey’s is that they likely end up needing everything done to them that a total basket case one needs. For example, if it has a engine that turns over and might even fire up, chances are it still needs to be completely rebuilt the same as a frozen engine would, yet you would likely pay much less for the frozen engine Healy to begin with. These “good” Healey’s that look nice in ebay pictures can be fools gold to the unlearned.

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    • Dave Wright

      I totally agree with you on projects……it is many times better to buy a disassembled project cheep than one that is still together but unknown condition. The cheeper price helps and a lot of the work has already been done.

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  23. John

    But…..cant wait until this kind of fervor is extended to Triumph TR3’s!!! I have a real sweet example of a 60 TR3 in very good condition that as it sits is worth around 20K. As these Healey’s continue to skyrocket in value, they will no doubt drag the value of the TR3’s along with them. Go Healey’s!!!!

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  24. John

    By the way, the TR3’s are every bit as fun to drive as the big Healey’s (I have owned both) and actually draw just as much or more attention. The radical shape of the TR3’s cause bystanders to stop and stare wherever I go. As far as handling in the curvy roads, I actually believe the TR3 handles better than the Healey with better balance all around.

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  25. roy whittall

    you can buy replica cars that you can build from scratch, which gives you the luxury of puting what ever you want in it. The car mould is fibre glass which means the car is that much lighter

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