The Big Healey: Dominant Rally Car In The Early 1960s

In a recent post I noted that I am reading a biography about rally driver Pat Moss.  In general, her best results came when she was driving an Austin Healey 3000.  In the early 1960s the Austin Healey 3000, known as the Big Healey, was the dominant rally car.  It could probably be said that the Big Healey was the last “sports” car to be a successful rally car.  The Mini and the BMW 2002 began a change in rallying when rallying became dominated by performance sedans. A case could be made for the Triumph TR7/8 or the Fiat 124 being the last successful sports cars in rallying, but these cars were nowhere near as successful in their era as the Big Healey.

Big Healey Rally Car 2

The Morley Brothers In the 1965 Alpine Rally (1)

The Big Healey recorded outright wins in the Liege-Rome-Liege marathons in 1960 and 1964, in the Alpine Rallies of 1961 and 1962, and in the Austrian Alpine in 1964 and in four consecutive Tulip Rallies 1962 to 1965, the Morley Brothers set very fast times.  In the British RAC Rally, the Austin-Healey took second in 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1965.   The Big Healeys were always at the top of the field in the major international rallies of the day.

Big Healey Team

The Austin Healey Team (Erle and Donald Morley, John Gott and Bill Shepherd, and Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom) Display Their Trophies From The 1960 Alpine Rally (2)

In the early 1960s the BMC team not only had a great car in the Big Healey, it also had top drivers and navigators.  Not shown in the team photo above is Austin-Healey driver Timo Makinen who later joined the team and was one of the first professional Finnish drivers to rise to international prominence in rallying.

Big Healey Rally Engine

The Big Healey’s 2,912cc 6-Cylinder Engine With Three Weber Carburetors (3)

In its rally-ready state of tune, the Big Healey’s engine produced somewhere around  a little less than 200 horsepower.  By today’s standards it was not particularly fast, but the Big Healey competed in the early 1960s, not now.  The 0 to 60 mph time was about 8.2 seconds, with a top speed in 4th Overdrive of 120 miles per hour.  The Big Healey would do the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds.

Big Healey Rally Interior

The Big Healey’s Navigator Used Halda Twinmaster (3)

As a navigator/co-driver, I am always interested on seeing the rally tools that the navigators/co-driver used.  In the early 1960s rally navigators still were using mechanical odometers.  The Halda Twinmaster shown in the Austin-Healey rally car above was the top-of-the-line rally odometer at that time.  No clocks are shown in the car, as I assume that the navigator brought his own clocks and took them out of the car when not in competition in order to look after them.

Big Healey Rally Car 1

Pat Moss and Pauline Mayman On Their Way To A Third Place Finish In The 1962 Alpine Rally (1)

The picture below is a great rally photo with the Healey spinning its rear wheels as it makes the corner on a mountain road, looking for grip.  It just looks like the rally car that you would want to be driving!

Big Healey Gott

John Gott and Bill Shepherd Finished Third In The 1961 Alpine Rally (2)

After 1965 the rules changed with respect to the use of alloy body panels which reduced the competitive position of the Big Healey, therefore BMC no longer rallied or supported rally teams who ran the Big Healey.  The success of the BMC Mini in rallying also had something to do with this as well.

The Austin-Healey 3000 rally cars remain very impressive cars.

The images in this post were taken from the following references:

(1) “The Healey Story” by Geoffrey Healey, 1996

(2) “Works Wonders” by Marcus Chambers, 1995

(3) “Rally Cars, Given The Works” by Autocar, 1983

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8 Responses to The Big Healey: Dominant Rally Car In The Early 1960s

  1. After my intro to nav rally at St.Clair Autosports Club rally school, I navigated in a Healey 3000 for our “Transition Rally”. At one point we stalled out fording the Humber River to reach a CP behind a sand dune. Later, on a deeply rutted road, we scraped the exhaust so much, I had an expectation it would come out the back rolled up like a pretzel! But in 4th overdrive, FAST!

  2. Cargirl says:

    Small world: The 59/60 Works Rally Car, SMO 745 just came up for sale at JME Healey in England.

    • This car is not inexpensive! Asking price is $245,000 British Pounds. The story about the car notes that is was bought in the mid-1960s as a hill climb car for only $325 British Pounds. There is a lesson in there somewhere about the future value of competition cars with a good history.
      Steve McKelvie

  3. Russ Whitehouse says:

    I currently rally a “Big Healey” in historics here in Europe. I can assure you they are a potent rally weapon to this day and always the centre of attention on events. they are a real handful especially when pushing on hard on mountain roads, but once you learn their ways they are a joy to drive, even if they make you deaf into the bargain!

    • Hi Russ,
      I’m glad to read that you are actively competing with the big Healey! Good luck with your rallying adventures! If you have some pictures of your car, I’d love to see them and share with other readers of this website.
      Steve McKelvie

  4. Fred says:

    “No clocks are shown in the car, as I assume that the navigator brought his own clocks and took them out of the car when not in competition in order to look after them.”
    Breitling Navitimers were quite popular. I recall greatly coveting one, I think it was on Graham Robson’s wrist! Couldn’t afford one. Had to settle for the dash mounted ex WWII Breitling chrono stopcloc, which I still own.

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