What we will be test driving today is a 1960 Austin Healey 3000 MkII. It is being serviced because the car keeps shutting off. Changed points and rotor, tuned up the carbs, etc. Still not 100% sure we got it. May be the electric fuel pump. As the mechanic is not allowed to drive cars (LONG story, that) and the boss was not in, I was forced, FORCED I tell you, to take it out for a test drive to see if it was running right.
3 liters of inline six cylinder goodness. Outside of Aston Martin and Jaguar's Hall of Fame inline 6's, this is about as good as it got from Britain in 1960.
I love early cars with sidecurtains instead of roll up windows. Look how the top of the dash flows into the polished aluminum door trim.
A little something for the door handle junkies.
And now onto the review!
The car has a starter button and a manual choke, so you turn the key into the run position, listen to make sure that suspect fuel pump is running, pull the choke out halfway and push the starter button and the car fires right up. The mechanic did his tune up well. The mechanic mentions to me that the shift linkage is a little "out of spec" and the hydraulics could use a touch of work, and off we go....
Or maybe not. First gear anyone? Bueller? Christ...the linkage is abysmal. I push in the clutch and attempt 1st gear. CRUNCH. The mechanic says, "it has to go ALL the way to the floor to get it to engage." So I push on the clutch HARD and feel like another 1 1/2" of movement...AHHH. Now I got it. Release the emergency brake and...for the love of God who designed this pedal assembly. I know the gas and brake pedal are down there somewhere. I put the E-brake back on, physically LOOK at the location of the pedals and set off. By this time the car has warmed up, so I can dispense with the choke and engage in some light hoonage...
Beautiful weather, great car to drive.
Impressions...the engine is freaking awesome! Yeah, it only has about 100hp at the wheels, but the car only weighs 2,500 lbs. Throttle response is great. Nice tip in, good power all the way up to 4500 (as high as I took it. Redline is 5,500 but this is a customer car after all). Don't let anybody tell you SU carbs suck and you need to do a Weber carb conversion. They work fine. Car handled great for 1960 and you could feel the car switch from pushing to neutral with throttle mid corner. Once I got used to the clutch and banged out some crisp upshifts, the car really came alive. The car made even mild hoonage extremely satisfying.
However...I always get out of big antique sports cars with renewed awe for the gentleman racers of years past. The guys who drove these cars at the limit back in the 60's were BAD men my friends. You had to have nerves of steel to take a beast like this to its limits. The brakes, the steering, the tires...you don't steer the car as much as you point it in a general direction.
Funniest part was getting back in my DD. "Is the engine even running?"