What exactly makes the perfect British roadster? A few ingredients are essential, including a perfect balance between power and weight, undeniably timeless styling, an emphasis on driver engagement, and a decidedly cheerful attitude towards a lack of creature comforts. The two 1963 Austin-Healey Mk II BJ7 roadsters shown above satisfied that last requirement more than any Healey prior: For the first time, enthusiasts could enjoy the road from behind a curved windshield, with pivoting side-vent windows and two roll-up windows in the doors—not quite a Rolls-Royce level of luxury, but a definite step up from a typical British roadster.
For the uninitiated, the Austin-Healey lineage can initially appear confusing. The spirit of the company, Donald Healey, was a former WWI fighter pilot, a surprisingly successful rally driver, and an endlessly innovative entrepreneur. By 1963 Austin-Healey had already experimented with offering low-slung sports cars with 2+2 configurations, removable hardtops, and 6-cylinder engines, all with the goal of striking the right balance between power and luxury. Austin-Healey introduced the BJ7 chassis code as a “sports convertible,” and many consider the BJ7 as the ultimate expression of the perfect balance.
Nicknamed the “Big Healey” after the introduction of the miniature Austin-Healey Sprite, the 3000 Mk II BJ7 was powered by an inline six-cylinder 29E C-Series engine from the British Motor Corporation, with two different SU carburetor setups throughout the production run. For 1963 the BMC engine remained 2.9 liters, but benefitted from an upgraded camshaft and a revised intake manifold. The result was 132 horsepower (up from 90 hp in the original). Power-assisted front disc brakes gave the roadster additional stopping muscle, though with a scant 2,385 lb curb weight, the BJ7 didn’t have much mass to stop. For the following model, the BJ8, total weight increased nearly 200 lb, making the BJ7 the choice for lightweight, unencumbered steering feel.
Two Austin-Healey BJ7 examples are set to appear at RM’s upcoming Online Only: The Palm Beach Auction beginning next week. They are both from the same year, 1963, though the minor differences between the two roadsters add up to two different rides.
This all-red Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II BJ7 has received an older restoration, but the interior still presents as clean with supple black leather, so it is in prime driving condition. Judging from its twin 2.0 in. SU HD8 carburetor setup, this example was built near the end of the Mk II series. Though the earlier Mk II featured a triple-carburetor setup, the 2-inch openings on the HD8 series allowed more airflow into the six-cylinder engine, producing impressive performance without adding much weight. A certificate of authenticity from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust is included with the sale.
Also equipped with a dual-carburetor setup, this black-and-red Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II BJ7 has benefitted from a recent restoration. The two-tone paint is clean, the chrome pieces have been freshly coated, but where this Austin-Healey truly shines is in its interior. The two-tone color scheme extends to the seats: black leather with red piping. Cabin comfort is greatly enhanced by a Smiths heater. The lot includes a spare tire and tools.
If you’re reading this and thinking that the legend of Austin-Healey sounds ideal, but you want something even more classic, check out this 1956 Austin-Healey 100 BN2, complete with hood louvers and a leather bonnet latch. Though the BN2’s interior was a bit more bare-bones than the BN7 and BN8, this example also features the two-tone black-and-red interior. Though the BN2 was not as fast as the “Big Healey” roadsters that followed, it was still capable of a top speed of 100 miles per hour, hence its name. Car spotters can easily tell the difference between the Austin-Healey 100 and their subsequent models by the grille—with vertical slats on the early cars, horizontal on later ones.
Why is now the perfect opportunity to buy? Production of the Austin-Healey more or less ceased after 1967. Only one 1968 example was completed. BMC, which bought Jaguar Cars two years prior, was pushed by the British Parliament to merge with Leyland Motors in 1968. Healey jumped to Jensen Motors, the company that had built the bodies for his “Big Healey” roadsters, and later switched to building fiberglass speedboats and growing greenhouses full of orchids on his estate in Cornwall.
Perfection is fleeting. Even for an innovative engineer like Donald Healey, having the financial backing to develop a sports car from the ground up (not to mention the motor powering it) is an altogether uncommon occurrence. That Healey was able to iterate and improve his eponymous concept from its 100 mph, four-cylinder origins in 1952 to the two six-cylinder 1963 Austin-Healy 3000 Mk II BJ7 roadsters offered here reflects not just Healey’s talent, but also his dedication. Presented here is the opportunity to purchase the ultimate Austin-Healey, quite possibly the quintessential British roadster.