The Jaguar E-Type Alternative: The Austin-Healey 3000

The Jaguar E-Type still looms large in the classic car world, especially for fans of British convertible sports cars. True, there are noticeably more affordable options, such as the MG MGB. But they don’t quite have the E-Type’s performance or style. However, there’s at least one car that comes close: the Austin-Healey 3000.

The 1959-1967 Austin-Healey 3000: the last of the ‘big Healeys’

The Austin-Healey 3000 and its 100/6 predecessor are often called ‘big Healeys,’ MotorTrend reports, to separate them from the small Sprite. However, ‘big’ is a relative term. Even the largest 3000 is about 10” shorter than a Subaru BRZ. But calling the Austin-Healey 3000 a ‘big Healey’ wasn’t just about its physical size.

The classic roadster’s name comes from its engine, Hagerty reports. Under the hood is a 2.9-liter six-cylinder engine which initially made 124 hp, Hagerty reports. It’s linked to a 4-speed manual with optional overdrive. While that doesn’t sound like much today, the Austin-Healey 3000 is a fairly light car. Even the later models weigh less than 2600 pounds, which is less than a modern Miata, Petrolicious reports. Plus, the engine is un

The rear 3/4 view of a red 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk1
1961 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk1 BT7 rear 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

Being a sports car, though, the Austin-Healey 3000 offered more than power. It has the same chassis as the earlier 100/6, with independent front suspension and a live rear axle, Silodrome reports. However, the 1959 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk1 has front discs, rather than drums. And in 1961, the automaker turned it into a rally car, with 180 hp, 4-wheel disc brakes, and a rear sway bar, RM Sotheby’s reports. This works car took 3rd place overall at that year’s Acropolis Rally and won its class.

On the heels of that victory came the 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk2, which was updated in late 1962 into ‘Mk2a’ form. The Mk2a’s engine makes 131 hp, and it has roll-up windows, a first for the ‘big Healey.’ It also has upgraded wheels and a new windshield. But unlike the Mk1, which had a 2+2 trim, the Mk2 and Mk2a Austin-Healey 3000 was only sold as a 2-seater.

However, it’s the last Austin-Healey 3000 model, the Mk3, that’s considered the most desirable.

The Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 is the one to get

The Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 launched in 1963 as a 1964 model, Automobile reports. Unlike the Mk2, it was only sold in 2+2 form. And it came with several upgrades inside and out.

A light-blue 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 BJ8
1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 BJ8 | Bring a Trailer

Firstly, the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 is the most powerful version, thanks to a new camshaft, exhaust, carburetors, and valve springs, Silodrome reports. Its 2.9-liter straight-6 has 148 hp and 165 lb-ft, Motor1 reports. Keeping that power in check are newly-standard servo-assistance brakes, Classic Driver reports. And in 1965, Austin-Healey upgraded the convertible’s frame and suspension and increased the ride height. Plus, even though the 3000 Mk3 is heavier than the Mk2, it has a faster 0-60 mph time.

The blue-leather front seats and walnut dashboard of a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 BJ8
1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 BJ8 interior | Bring a Trailer

That extra weight comes not just from the frame and suspension mods, but from the extra interior luxuries. The Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 has a full-length walnut dashboard, optional leather upholstery, a proper center console, and fold-down rear seats.

Thanks to these refinements, the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3 is less a hard-edged sports car and more of a sporty GT. And it’s not as fast as an actual Jaguar E-Type. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Mk3 handles six-digit speeds fairly easily, Motorious reports, and the engine is under-stressed, with plenty of low-end torque. Even at highway speeds, you don’t have to raise your voice to make conversation, Automobile reports. Plus, while it’s not as sharp as a modern sports car, the 3000 Mk3 handles well for its age, Classics World reports.

It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than an E-Type

Admittedly, even the later Austin-Healey 3000 Mk3s can suffer from the same foibles as other classic British cars, Motorious reports. And, naturally, rust is a known issue. Fortunately, it’s a fairly straightforward car to maintain, provided you keep all the fluids topped up.

Light-blue 1966 Series 1 Jaguar E-Type convertible in front of a country estate
1966 Series 1 Jaguar E-Type | Bring a Trailer

Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1949 MG TC EXU

A 3000 Mk3 also isn’t as expensive to buy as an E-Type. True, a pristine Mk3 can cost over $100k, Hagerty reports. And that’s right in line with the average Bring a Trailer Series 1 E-Type price. However, the average Austin-Healey 3000 usually sells in the $30,000-$50,000 range on BaT.

That’s more money than a Sprite—but then, a 3000 is more car.

Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.