1961 Austin-Healey 3000 ‘699 DON’ – Austin Press Car

  • 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 ‘699 DON’
  • Factory press car between 1961 and 1963
  • Road-tested by The Autocar and The Motor in period
  • Fully restored during the 1990s and presented in fast-road/rally spec

This well-known and historically significant Austin-Healey 3000 was retained by the factory’s Publicity Department and spent the first two years of its life serving a road-test car and press demonstrator. Having been restored during the early 1990s, it has been prepared to fast-road/rally specification and now offers an exhilarating and well-sorted take on the Big Healey theme.

Built in May-June 1961, chassis number H-BT7/14222 was finished in Colorado Red with a black interior, and the Heritage Certificate lists its equipment as including wire wheels, overdrive, a heater, a radio and a black hard-top. It was given the registration 699 DON on 9 June and passed to Austin’s Publicity Department at Longbridge, which is therefore the first entry in the car’s logbook.

On 26 July 1961, this Healey 3000 was the subject of a full road-test in The Motor. In fact, it was a much more extensive test than usual, and involved covering more than 4000 miles while following that year’s Alpine Rally, which was won by the works-entered Big Healey of Don and Erle Morley.

As an early Mark II model, it featured triple carburettors and a revised camshaft, and The Motor was certainly complimentary about its performance: ‘It is capable of well over 110mph on level road, has acceleration and braking to match its top speed, is quite pleasantly controllable, and delights both driver and passenger by providing a really comfortable ride in two excellent seats.’

In December 1961, 699 DON was then featured in a road-test in The Autocar, which concluded that this latest Big Healey was ‘a good quality, strongly built sporting car with great charm and an amazing aptitude for hard work.’

In early 1963, it was lent to the same magazine – which had become the single-word Autocar in the meantime – so that its writer could take it to Portugal for his honeymoon! The route took him down through France and Spain before entering Portugal. ‘For hours,’ he wrote, ‘the Healey loafed along at 90mph in overdrive on the seemingly endless straights under a scorching sun, slowing only for the occasional bend and stopping only for food, drink or petrol.’

The car was also used in publicity footage for the recently opened M1 motorway, before Austin finally sold 699 DON in June 1963. It passed first to Polegate Motor Co in Sussex, and then a new owner in Kent.

During the 1980s, the Healey was fitted with a small-block Chevrolet V8 and a Jaguar gearbox, and was still in that configuration when it was acquired by Allan Cameron in 1992. He decided to return it to the specification in which it had served as Austin-Healey’s press car, and later upgraded it for competition use.

The engine was built by marque specialist Denis Welch Motorsport and sports triple SU carburettors, and drives through a straight-cut, close-ratio gearbox. It sounds fabulous running on twin side-exit exhausts, and performance is predictably strong. It makes a truly exhilarating road car.

Now equipped with a Halda Twinmaster for rally use, and supplied with its FIA Historic Vehicle Identity Form, this historic Austin-Healey 3000 is now being offered for sale by the Classic Motor Hub and will be fully serviced before being passed to its next custodian.

Model history

For many enthusiasts, the Austin-Healey 3000 defines the rugged British sports car of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Launched in 1959, it was a development of the 100-6 and featured a larger version of that car’s six-cylinder BMC C-series engine – 3 litres rather than 2.6 – as well as front disc brakes.

It retained the basic styling of the 100-6, however, as well as the option of a two-seater (BN7) or 2+2 (BT7) layout. Maximum power was up to 132bhp, with suspension being independent at the front via wishbones and coil springs, with a rigid axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. A four-speed gearbox was used, with Laycock de Normanville overdrive operating on third and fourth gears.

When The Motor road-tested 699 DON in 1961, it recorded a top speed of 112.9mph and a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds. The total cost – including various extras and Purchase Tax – was quoted as being £1175 10s 10d.

A more powerful MkIII version was introduced in 1964, and production ended in 1967. By then, the Austin-Healey 3000 had established itself not only as a memorable road car and a great export sales success, but also as one of the finest rally cars of all time. Driven by the likes of Pat Moss, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Mäkinen, the quick and rugged Healey proved its abilities on some of the most challenging events of the day, including two victories apiece on the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally and the Alpine Rally.

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