Behind Enemy Lines

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This is a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 Mk III and, while nigh-on perfect in almost every way, it makes me feel like a bit of a traitor. Liking this car, or even looking respectfully at it, brings with it the potential for some properly bloody bar fights in some parts of the world. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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To understand what I’m rambling on about, we must travel back in time to the 1960s. A time of chromed diners and roller skates, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Except it isn’t. In fact, that bar fight line from earlier should have actually said pub fight. This was 1960s Britain, and what was happening there, among other things I’m sure, was war. Not a big, scary war, mind you, but rather The War of Tiny Sports Cars. And what a battle it was. Camped out in Oxfordshire was MG, with their MGA. Not far away, on the northern front, was Triumph with the TR4A. And last but certainly not least was Austin Healey with this, the 3000. All of these cars followed the same, classic formula: a rev-happy little engine in the front, a manual transmission in the middle, rear-wheel drive and a convertible top.

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This civil war led to a problem. You see, these cars competed against one another, on both the racetrack and in the showroom, which naturally led to disagreements among the public about which one was best. Only it wasn’t just disagreement. Oh, if only it was simple, harmless disagreement. Men and women aligned themselves with their chosen brands, digging their heels in and  holding their ground. These brave soldiers fought their best friends, families were torn apart by arguments about Triumph horsepower ratings and MG gear ratios. All this, in the name of loyalty to their favorite sports car. It was a dark, divisive time. I was always part of the MG front, which is why liking this MkIII is such a dangerous thing. But damn, if love doesn’t conquer all. Horsepower comes in at a healthy 148 from a 2912cc straight six, and is managed by a four speed transmission with overdrive. This was one of the last years for the 3000, and it was also one of the nicest. The interior was finished in walnut. The seats were bigger than those in the MkII, and there were more of them (the MkIII could seat four people). Each wheel had sixty individual spokes, all of which are brilliant in their own unique way.

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The best part of all this refinement is that none of it interfered with how well the car drove. And drive well it did. While not technically “fast” by the modern definition of the word, the Healey was very light, which meant that it was the perfect weapon to storm a twisty back road in. Which brings us to the last point. British sports cars are far from perfect. They will fall to pieces, refuse to start, and occasionally rust into complete oblivion. Yet, in spite of that, they are Good Things. They all give the sensation of 80 miles per hour when only doing 35. You drive a British sports car on the ragged edge, always. And for that reason, the Austin Healey 3000 MkIII is a great car. It’s just not quite as great as any comparable MG. Allegiances die hard.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Austin Healey also made another, smaller car around this time called the Sprite, which saddled this car with the nickname “The Big Healey.” Funny, considering it’s about 10 inches shorter than the Scion FR-S, which is already pretty small.
  • Forgotten Metal has moved! That’s right, Martha’s Vineyard has been traded for Bucks County, PA. But hey, change isn’t that bad: they filmed an M. Night Shamalan movie here once.
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6 thoughts on “Behind Enemy Lines

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