Hailed as one of Britain’s most infamous Sports Cars, the Austin Healey has long deserved the recognition it get’s today as an upstanding collector car. These little sports cars incorporate all of the right elements to bring back a real understanding of what fun was like behind the wheel in 1960’s. If it weren’t for Austin Healey’s demise in 1968 there would certainly be a rather interesting contribution to today’s contemporary sports cars. Since this is not the case, today we are left with just under 43,000 units produced in total between 1959-1967. Perhaps the most sought after, desired, user friendly and best variants are the MKIII or BJ8 as they are commonly referred to. These last production examples offered roll up windows, weather tight and easy to use top, heater, front disc brakes and a finely crafted wood dash and other little accouterments that make a car so user friendly and enjoyable. As such, they remain at the top of the list for any serious British sports car collector or enthusiast looking to rekindle their youth.
The example being offered here, a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 MKIII, Chassis # HBJ8L32832, is everything one desires in a Big Healey, through and through. It has the history and pedigree to understand it from day one, it is the product of a total restoration, and it has been well proven as a driven and enjoyed example that can be shown or enjoyed anywhere, anytime. The story of this example starts with its build completion in Abington, England, on August 24th, 1965. It was dispatched shortly after as a LHD North American Export car on September 3rd, 1965 destined for NY for further distribution to a BMC Dealer in NJ. It wasn’t offered long until it found its first and soon to be very long term owner on October 29th, 1965: A Mr. Paul Benacerraf of Princeton, NJ. A Google search of Prof. Benacerraf will reveal that he was quite the academic, having been a world renowned philosopher of Mathematics and a Professor at Princeton University from 1960 until his retirement. No doubt, Prof. Benacerraf was a man who appreciated well designed and logically constructed things in this world. Buying an Austin Healey was most likely a calculated decision and the logical conclusion in 1965 for an aspiring philosopher who wanted to enjoy his commute to Princeton University, or simply enjoy a good sports car.
Prof. Benacerraf enjoyed this BJ8 until 1984 when the last date of registration and current inspection showed. It was at this time that the car was put away in indoor storage. We unfortunately do not know why the car was parked at this time; we can assume it was in need of something minor which the case is so often when these cars are put into hibernation. It wasn’t until 1995 when the current custodian stumbled across the old Healey in the garage in Princeton, NJ. The car showed just 31,114 miles on it and was deemed to be the original miles per the accompanying service receipts. Unfortunately after 11 years much of the car had deteriorated and hopes of preserving it as an original was not a reality. After much convincing and negotiation the car was acquired but not without the promise to reunite the professor with the car after the completion of what was to be an intensive, nut and bolt 4 year restoration by the new owner. Some fantastic documentation of their correspondence is included in the sale.
Upon the current custodian’s acquisition, the car was entrusted to the restoration experts at Best Yet, Inc. to carry out a total nut and bolt restoration to exact factory specifications with an Austin Healey Concours Gold the end goal. The car finally began restoration in the summer 1996, and was finished in 2000. During the restoration the Engine was sent to local talent Frank Bash of Langhorne, PA to complete a total engine rebuild. Upon the engine’s return the Healey had been transformed, and was nearing completion. The color had been changed from Ivory White to Healey Blue with an Ivory Cove rather than rather than black. The interior was changed to blue as well to match the exterior color scheme, all of which was a factory Austin Healey combination and certainly fitting for the car. Upon completion in 2000 the car was further entrusted to the marque specialists at Ragtops and Roadsters of Perkasie, PA for final sorting and finishing. Throughout the entire process everything was done with correctness in mind, everything was also tended to and nothing was skipped. Receipts are present from day one until the finishing touches and right up through recent servicing showing that each item was individually tended to. Items such as a new wiring harness, many parts, chrome, rubber, interior, clamps, hoses, and all of the many important little bits and pieces that make a restoration come to together were all tended to and all of it was properly documented.
With tens of thousands in receipts for restoration work performed this BJ8 was finally deemed finished and so the current owner wasted no time getting in and simply enjoying the car as it should be enjoyed. It has made its presence at many club events and car shows in the tri-state area and has become a well known entrant. The car is no stranger to the many local rallies and tours and is also recognized by Steve Byers BJ8 registry. All of this has added miles to the car, 12,625 to be exact, all totaling 43,739 miles from new, and documented as well. Post restoration the car has seen its fare share of enjoyment, use and as such we consider it to be well proven as a car and restoration that has been well completed. It has aged from a show car to a well cared for driver that could still be respectfully enjoyed at any show or concours. This BJ8 has also been regularly serviced during these miles being accrued. All completed by Ragtops and Roadster of Perkasie, PA.
Cosmetically this example shows nicely. It is straight down the sides with good gaps and panel fitment throughout. There are a few items that have been touched up and there is a blemish or two here or there but it is nothing that warrants any refinishing or attention. Much like the paint, the chrome is consistent throughout, shiny, and not in need of any attention. The rubber is all present and in good condition overall. The glass appears to be the original and in good condition as well with no blemishes of concern noted. The wheels are the correct painted type and show to be in excellent and true condition with newer tires mounted.
Entering the interior shows clean door jams and very correct as well. The interior overall shows signs of use, but is not in need of any replacement. The dash top is nicely finished, the wood dash face in good condition and the center console is correct and nicely finished overall. The gauges appear to have been refinished during the restoration and present nicely as does the steering wheel which shows light patina from use. The only thing we did notice is that the tachometer is not currently working and there is a small worn spot on the driver’s seat. Both are simple fixes if deemed necessary. The rear seat and compartment show to be basically new, and the carpets up front are the correct style and show as 12,000 miles carpets as well, good, but not perfect.
Opening the bonnet reveals a car that has been restored very well, then driven. As a result everything has aged consistently and looks the part of a 12,000 mile car that is ready to be driven. We have noted that it is very correct throughout the engine bay in many ways. The only blemish to be noted is a small crack near the front of the engine bay in the paint on the lower edge of the bonnet catch. Most likely a stress crack in the paint. The engine bay could easily be detailed and with minor attention be brought back to concours standards. It has the benefit of being properly painted during the restoration and everything was new only 12,000 miles ago.
The boot is no exception to this BJ8, it is very correct, properly trimmed and has everything one would expect with the quality of the restoration extending into places where one usually doesn’t see. The underside is no different; it is finished in body color and was carefully address much like the rest of the car during the restoration. It was in bare metal than properly primed, painted, and finished like the rest of the body. Since the car has been enjoyed it, like other parts of the car, does show acceptable signs of use and enjoyment. Most importantly everything is straight and the car shows no signs of accident damage or any serious previous rusting; a key thing to look for on these cars.
Starting this car is effortless with a little choke, it runs well showing 60 pounds of oil pressure under load and 35-40 at idle. The temperature does not exceed the half way point under normal running conditions and overall it has great throttle response. The steering feels tight and responsive and the brakes have clearly been kept up with. The clutch engagement is good and the shifting is seamless with all syncros feeling good. The absolute most important point to be made about this example is that while it received a total restoration and it has been driven 12,000 miles this brings one very important fact to the surface. If one is seeking a proven restoration that works, and is exemplary of quality work that can actually be driven, enjoyed, and used as it should, this car resembles exactly that. It has stood the tests of both rallies and shows and will make the next custodian proud to drive it or show it with no real limits.
Offered in the sale are a boot cover, full tonneau, BMIHT Certificate, 100’s of pages of restoration documentation as well as copies of original documentation, service receipts, hammer, spare, and some photos of the restoration. We feel that Prof. Benacerraf would appreciate the facts, and the facts prove that this car works as it did in 1965 when first admired and enjoyed by its first very qualified owner.
Available Documentation: (Click on the links below to view the file)