Austin-Healey 3000 Mark I: A brush with 'Basil'

There can be few Austin-Healeys as well-travelled as this 1959 3000 Mark I. Simon de Burton looks through the holiday snaps

Austin 1

High mileage – but then again this Big Healy has travelled twice around the world

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Lookign for a low-mileage classic that’s never been raced or rallied? If so, don’t read on – but if the thought of owning what is claimed to be the world’s best- developed Big Healey appeals, this 1959 example could well be for you.

Registered BSL 621 and therefore (inevitably) known as ‘Basil’, the car was bought by its previous owners during the 1990s specifically for use in long-distance rallies.

The husband-and-wife team sourced it from America, reasoning that the left-hand- drive configuration would make it more suitable for international driving – and then proceeded to spend the next 15 years and more than £200,000 upgrading the car to the nth degree.

Austin behind

You wouldn’t guess from the neat exterior but there’s lots of hidden storage space for spares and clothes. Below: 3.4-litre engine and a strengthened chassis

The work was carried out by Healey specialists Orchard Restorations of East Sussex and included increasing the engine’s capacity by stroking it to a softly tuned 3.4 litres with 200 torque-laden horsepower on tap; designing a bespoke, door-mounted exhaust system; increasing ground clearance to around five inches with no detrimental affect on handling; massively strengthening the chassis and suspension mounts; shielding the entire underside with Duralumin; fitting a full rollcage and adding an 80-litre fuel tank.

The couple then proceeded to drive Basil across the globe – at least twice – by competing in gruelling events including

2000s Around the World in 80 Days, the Inca Trail, the London to Sydney, Panama to Alaska and Pan-American rallies (to name but a few), during which they clocked up more than 100,000 miles. And all without one significant mechanical hitch.

Basil was continuously and thoughtfully developed throughout and was eventually used for long-distance touring rather than competition, meaning the car is replete with hidden storage compartments and can carry sufficient spares – and clothes – for journeys lasting up to three months. It also comes with a bespoke toolkit that’s designed to provide the means to tackle virtually any conceivable roadside repair.

The current owner acquired the car direct from the now elderly couple around five years ago, since when he has continued to relentlessly rack up the miles, even using Basil for multiple, trouble-free commutes between London and Milan. According to Paul Woolmer of Bedford-based Woolmer Classic Engineering, which is selling the car on behalf of the owner, it is probably the best big Healey in existence in terms of reliability, versatility and usability.

“We look after some of the world’s rarest and most valuable Austin-Healeys,” says Woolmer, “including ex-works cars – but they pale into insignificance compared with Basil, simply because it has been so carefully and comprehensively developed over such a long period of time. It is certainly not cheap for a Healey 3000, but just to prepare another to a comparable standard would probably cost around £220,000 – plus the cost of the car on top.”

1959 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark I

For sale at Woolmer Classic Engineering, Bedford
Asking: £114,500