On the Road: 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II
Calgarian was bitten by British sports car bug early, and has the ownership records to prove it
Decades in the making, Doug James reports the resurrection of his 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II was well worth the wait. “The Healey is the quintessential British sports car,” the Calgarian says, and adds, “Many modern automobiles will out-accelerate, out-corner, out-brake and generally out-perform the Healey and do it more comfortably and more reliably, but nothing looks or sounds like a Healey.”
James was bitten by the British sports car bug while attending high school in Edmonton, saying, “(m)y dad was in the military and as a favour for one of his fellow airmen, we stored a damaged Austin-Healey ‘Bugeye’ Sprite on our driveway for some time. That intrigued me, and I started paying attention to Morgans, Lotus Super 7s and larger Healey cars.”
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By the early 1970s, James was working as an engineer and moved to Calgary. He purchased two Bugeyes, one that had been butchered, and another that ‘sort of’ ran. He also became involved in a local Austin-Healey club and bought a project Healey without an engine that never did turn a wheel. However, in the early 1980s, club member Ken Uyeda offered James a partially disassembled 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II, model BJ7.
“The BJ7 was available from August 1962 until February 1964,” James explains. “The model shifted the Healey from being a sports car to more of a ‘grand touring’ vehicle. It was the first Healey with roll-up windows and a full-convertible top that is quite civilized in terms of weather protection and putting it up and down versus the previous erector-set assembly of the initial Mk II, built from May 1961 to August 1962.”
The BJ7 weighed about 1,134 kilograms (2,500 pounds) and was powered by a 2,912cc six-cylinder engine with twin SU carburettors. The powerplant was rated at 131 horsepower, and it was paired with a four-speed transmission with no synchromesh on first gear. The rear differential featured a 3.54:1 ratio and the car was equipped with steel wheels. Options included wire wheels, a heater, and the addition of overdrive on third and fourth gears.
After purchasing the BJ7 Healey project from Uyeda, James had the car reassembled and painted a Mercedes-Benz cream colour. Originally Healey blue, James was concerned the car would not be visible enough to other motorists.
“We never really saw the project to completion,” he says. “We drove it a bit in the Eighties, but it didn’t have a full interior, and eventually the car was stored on a brother-in-law’s property outside of Edmonton.”
Life and family commitments kept the Healey on the back burner until the early-2000s, when James decided to have Bert van Riel at the Sports Car Centre in Edmonton go through the car and complete what had been started. A key consideration was making the Healey safe to drive in modern-day traffic conditions with the addition of a power brake booster and wider 72-spoke wire chrome wheels. With that work completed in 2010, James and his wife, Fran, drove the car south to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park and over Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park. On that journey, the overdrive became problematic. Upon return, James began searching for a Toyota Supra five-speed transmission and a kit to install it, which was done in Edmonton at the Sports Car Centre.
“But the cream paint had started to bubble, and I stewed on that for a while,” James says. “Eventually, in August 2015, I took it to British Auto Specialists here in Calgary for a rough estimate on a repaint, which we agreed on.”
The best part about owning something unique is that it provides an excuse for conversation.
As work got started, a substantial amount of body filler was found in the fenders, and aftermarket sheet metal was purchased and massaged to fit the car. At the same time, British Auto Specialists completed several other upgrades and repairs to evolve the Healey. These included fitting adjustable front suspension towers and Bilstein shocks using a kit from designer Udo Putzke, a triple-core radiator and new fan, three-point seat belts, four-way flashers and all LED lighting. Finally, the car was returned to its original Healey blue paint scheme.
With the work complete in 2017, James and Fran drove the Healey in 2018 to the Vancouver All-British Field Meet at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The car has provided relatively trouble-free motoring ever since, and James figures they’ve added close to 7,600 miles.
“It’s definitely not a daily driver, but it was worth the decades-long process,” he says.
And it’s about more than just the drive. He adds, “The best part about owning something unique — and approachable — is that it provides an excuse for conversation. If you have a baby or a puppy or a cool car, strangers feel allowed to open a conversation. And communication enriches all of our lives.”
Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or firstname.lastname@example.org