Some cars just make you
feel more alive. Big Healeys are definitely in that category: you have to engage with them in a physical way that’s quite alien to the owners of today’s sports cars, but they reward with a visceral thrill that’s the very essence of driving. Less ‘obvious’ than an MG, more glamorous than a Triumph, the Healey is the epitome of British ’50s and ’60s style. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the fairer sex loves them – if ever there was a car to make a girl look good in a head scarf, it’s a Big Healey.
No surprise, then, that the world and his dog are after Big Healeys at the moment and prices have strengthened, in line with the general market. But the supply is still good and there are always cars available for sale. Surprisingly, the Healey was still selling well right towards the end of production; in 1966, its penultimate year, as many Big Healeys left the showrooms as during any previous year.
All Big Healeys are quick, but some are quicker than others, notably the four-cylinder 100s and the late six-cylinder 3000s. The character of the car changed significantly over the years as it was made increasingly more luxurious and the looks changed too; whether you prefer the lozenge-shaped grille of the ‘fours’ or the oval of the ‘sixes’ is a matter of personal taste, and most enthusiasts will veer strongly towards one or the other. If you dislike the shape of the earlier grille, then you’re not alone – Donald Healey had serious doubts about it when the prototype was finished!
What remained consistent was the Healey’s gorgeous profile, and it’s not too fanciful to see in this car, conceived just a few years after the end of World War Two, echoes of some of the RAF’s most beautiful fighter planes, such as the Spitfire and Mosquito. It has a shape that will never date.
The Big Healey went through several evolutions during its 15-year production cycle – turn to page 76 to see all of them – but all you really need to remember is that the sequence goes 100 (2.6-litre four-cylinder), 100-Six (2.6-litre six-cylinder), and then 3000 (2.9-litre six-cylinder, MksI-III). We gathered together and drove three key models: a 100 from 1955, Pat Moss’s 1960 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally-winning 3000 MkI ‘works’ car, and a last-of-line 3000 MkIII. They are more different than you might suppose.