Austin-Healey 100 Buying Guide
The quintessential British sports car, the original Healey 100 is desirable on so many levels. Here's how to find a good one
How much to pay
• Project £9000-19,000 • Good £25,500-48,000 • Concours £50,000+ •
Running costs ★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★★
When Donald Healey and designer Gerry Coker teamed up to create a two-seater sports car based on Austin Atlantic running gear, nobody could have guessed just how quickly things would take off. The car made its debut at the 1952 Earls Court motor show where Austin’s Leonard Lord saw it, realised the potential and agreed a deal there and then to build the car under licence.
Those early cars (dubbed 100/4) featured a four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Austin Atlantic, with the powerplant upgraded to a six-cylinder unit in the 100/6, offering smoother delivery and more muscle. That didn't mean extra performance however, due largely to increased weight.
These big Healeys are largely sought after today, thanks to the driving experience, excellent club and specialist support, and deservedly high profile. Ideal for racing, long-distance touring, historic rallying or presenting on the show scene, these roadsters are fabulously versatile and very collectible.
Your AutoClassics Austin-Healey 100 inspection Checklist
The large-displacement engines in these cars are derived from truck units, so they’re not even slightly stressed when cruising. You can expect to notch up 200,000 miles between rebuilds – just as well, because a full overhaul of either unit costs plenty, though everything is available to do the work.
The simplicity of both four- and six-cylinder engines means it’s easy to check for wear. A healthy engine will have 20-25psi of oil pressure at idle, rising to 45-50psi when cruising. The pressure will drop once the engine is worn and you can expect copious amounts of blue exhaust smoke, signifying that the piston rings and/or cylinder bores have worn.
DIY rebuilds are perfectly possible, but most owners opt to get their unit revived by one of the many specialists out there.
Gearboxes are durable, but there’s no synchromesh on first and ham-fisted owners can cause damage by forgetting to double-declutch. The earliest cars got a three-speed gearbox that was actually a four-speed Atlantic gearbox with first blanked off, as the torque of the engine allowed the vehicle to pull away without protest in second. Parts for these transmissions are now extremely scarce.
The BN2 that arrived in late 1955 was fitted with a four-speed Westminster gearbox that’s far stronger than the BN1’s transmission. While overdrive was standard on the 100/4, it was optional on the 100/6 and if this isn’t funtioning the problem will probably be electrical, so check the solenoid or the dash switch.
Leaky rear axles are common, with the oil prone to seeping onto the rear brake linings. Replacing the seal is quick and easy but if left, the differential will drain and then seize.
Ford Model A Phaeton 1929
Spectacular body-off-frame restored condition Desirable 4-door Ford Model A Phaeton Formally part of the Arnold E. Petsche collection (founder & former chairman of aerospace company A.E. Petsche Co.) Gorgeous color combination Incredibly well furnished and optioned with: Dual side mount spares with covers Dual cowl lights Dual wind wings Motometer hood ornament Luggage rack withFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | St. Louis, MO, USA$ 29,900
Jaguar E-Type Series II 1969
Stunning restoration Displaying only 56,634 miles! Rare & desirable Series II Fixed Head Coupe One of only 3,785 built Numbers matching 4.2 Litre engine Meticulously maintained Gorgeous factory correct color combination Options include: Chrome wire wheels Whitewall tires Moto-lita wood rimmed steering wheel AM/FM stereo with 8-track cassette 4-wheel disc brakes DFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | St. Louis, MO, USA$ 99,000
MG MGB 1980
Spectacular Original Condition Displaying 27,481 actual miles! Only one owner from new Rare & Desirable MG MGB Limited Edition One of only 6,668 built Matching numbers engine Final Production Year MGB Incredible documentation includes original window sticker, original dealer registration permit, original owner’s manual, service invoices, service manuals and more! OptionFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | St. Louis, MO, USA$ 21,900
Aston Martin DB4 Convertible 1963
The Aston Martin DB4 Convertible From the moment of its introduction in 1958, the classical proportions of the Touring-style Aston Martin DB4 made it instantly recognizable and, with it, an iconic look was introduced — one that would survive with only minor revision until 1970. Along with being the first production car capable of 0–100–0 mph in less than 30 seconds, the DB4 had discFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | London, UK£ POA
Dodge Dart GT 1968
1968 Dodge Dart GT condition: good cylinders: 6 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas paint color: yellow title status: clean transmission: automatic 1968 Dodge Dart GT with the factory 225 inline slant 6 and 904 automatic transmission. The car DOES lot run and drive. It will need the harmonic balancer/ pulley changed and the carb rebuilt to be rode worthy. We have another balancer to gFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | New Castle, Indiana, USA$ 5,500
Ford Galaxie 500 XL 1963
1963 Ford Galaxie 500 XL condition: good cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas paint color: white size: full-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: convertible This 1963 Ford Galaxie 500XL Convertible is a pleasure to drive and quite dependable. Not a show car but a real head turner. Only familiar with past five years but no reason to believe that this cFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | Indianapolis, IN, USA$ 17,500
Chevrolet Coupe 1948
1948 Chevy coupe cylinders: 6 cylinders fuel: gas odometer: 62000 title status: clean transmission: manual Very nice and solid car. Has the original 216 inline six cylinder and three on tree manual transmission. Very fun and clean. I will consider a trade or trades and will trade up and give cash or trade down and receive cash. If interested contact us ASAPFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | Danville, Illinois, USA$ 9,500
Chevrolet BelAir 1953
1953 Chevy cylinders: 6 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 49750 paint color: green title status: clean transmission: automatic type: other Runs and drives has split header for Saul exhaust and disk brakes on the front chrome on front was done a couple of years ago aluminum wheels If interested contact us ASAPFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | Indianapolis, IN, USA$ 16,000
Ford Coupe 1940
1940 Ford Coupe condition: excellent cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas paint color: blue size: full-size title status: clean I LIVE BY FLINT, MICHIGAN... If this ad is still up, it's still for sale. Listing for a friend. NO TRADES, NO TRADES!!! MOVING SOUTH... CASH ONLY!!! 1940 Ford Coupe was built by a GM Executive and just finished in 2016. It is a VeryFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | Gaines, Michigan, USA$ 35,000
Chevrolet Impala 1962
1962 Chevrolet Impala cylinders: 8 cylinders fuel: gas title status: clean transmission: automatic type: coupe For sale or trade - 1962 Chevrolet Impala 2-door hardtop. Runs, drives and stops but not highway ready. Has a mid 1980s 350 engine. Mostly original except for seats and motor. Still using factory gas tank. Needs restoration but very solid with minimal rust (see pictures). FlFor Sale | 18 Jun 2018 | Williamsburg, KY, USA$ 6,500
Suspension and brakes
The suspension isn’t inherently weak, but age takes its toll on any big Healey. Over time the front damper mountings loosen, the rear springs sag and the lever arm dampers can leak. If the car is sitting low the exhaust is likely to have been bashed about so check this too.
The cam and peg steering boxes are prone to leaks, but most owners don’t bother with a rebuild – they just keep topping up with oil. The steering will never have the precision of a rack-and-pinion system but if it’s vague the bushes and kingpins have probably worn – it can all be fixed, but regular lubrication helps reduce the kingpin wear rate.
The all-drum braking system has no servo assistance and is perfectly adequate if maintained. There are no inherent weaknesses so just check for wear.
Most of these cars have wire wheels so check for rusty, loose or broken spokes, feel or listen for worn splines and check for buckling too. While most sets of wire wheels are well made, some are not.
The Healey has a separate chassis which can give plenty of problems, as can the bodywork – damage from impacts and corrosion are both likely.
Just a small bump can knock the ladder-frame chassis out of line, so ensure the main rails are straight. If the car pulls to one side the chassis is distorted, while the main rails and outriggers can also rust badly. Mud gets trapped between the outriggers and bodyshell, so keeping things clean helps to stave off corrosion.
A rough car that’s never been touched is a better bet than one that’s already been badly restored, although untouched Healeys are few and far between. Look for rot in the floorpans, wings and wheelarches. The inner sills are tricky to repair and they’re structural.
The front and rear shrouds are made up of several alloy sections with lots of compound curves. The soft metal is easily damaged and repairs are difficult, but it’s easy to spot filler as everything is single-skinned. The front and rear wings could also be made of aluminium; steel was standard but alloy replacements have been available for years.
If the swage line from behind the front wheelarch to the rear wing is inconsistent where it meets or leaves the door, the car has been badly restored. See how well the doors open and shut if the car is jacked up at the back. If the door gaps close up the chassis is weak.
Interior trim kits are available but they tend to be costly and they don’t always fit as well as you’d hope. Therefore, don’t be blasé about a car with a tatty cabin. The problem remains that these cars tended to vary slightly from one example to the next, which is why a bespoke trim is the only guaranteed way of achieving perfection.
Rear bumpers corrode from exposure to the nearby exhaust, and windscreen frames are virtually extinct. Most exterior trim can be sourced but some of it is expensive, especially items such as grilles.
- 1952: The Healey Hundred debuts at the London Motor Show, designed to sit between cheap sports cars such as the MG Midget and costly ones like the XK120.
- 1953: The Healey 100 is ready to go on sale. Retrospectively known as the 100-4 or BN1, the car uses an Austin A90 2660cc four-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed (plus overdrive) manual gearbox; 10,688 are produced.
- 1954: 55 examples of the 100S (for Sebring) are built, with alloy bodies and cylinder heads. Two coupés are also built on the BN1 chassis; both survive.
- 1955: The BN2 supersedes the BN1, with a four-speed C-Series gearbox, stronger brakes and a swage line through to the tail. The 100M kit is introduced, which raises power to 100 or 110bhp, depending on camshaft. Around 1100 100Ms are produced, many modified retrospectively. From October 1955 the 100/4 gets larger brakes (still drums all round) and a four-speed gearbox; 3924 are built.
- 1956: The 100/6 (BN4) is introduced, the first of the six-cylinder big Healeys. Behind the new oval grille is a 2639cc C-Series six-cylinder engine. the wheelbase is stretched by two inches and the windscreen is now fixed; it previously folded down.
These big Healeys are hugely desirable as they’re effortless to drive, surprisingly nimble and look gorgeous. But there are a lot of ropey cars out there; bodged restorations are far from unusual.
Many buyers want something that’s basically original but with a few sympathetic upgrades, so making sure that the interior trim and gauges are correct can reap dividends.
The four-cylinder models are the sportscars while the six-cylinder models are the cruisers. However, the 100/6 falls between two stools being heavier than the 100/4 and less powerful than the 3000, so it tends to be overlooked. As a result the 100/6 can be a bit of a budget buy, not that there’s any such thing where big Healeys are concerned. All of these cars now fetch strong money and once you get behind the wheel you’ll soon see why.
|Austin-Healey 100/6 (1956-1957)|
|Austin-Healey 100/6 (1957-1959)|
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics
Looking to buy an Austin-Healey 100?
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