Back in the day of kicking around mid to late ‘60’s upstate New York, Tom Hale used to drive a pretty neat car. I was familiar with Corvettes, Mustangs and Chrysler’s entries in performance car domains but my friend’s Austin Healey 3000 was different. The long hood, chrome grill, wire wheels, 2 seats and convertible top made this an instant object of desire. No need to worry about our miserable winters or any sort of practicality hauling more than one friend or even a big load of groceries. This thing hauled around ego. That’s all it took.
Fast forwarding 2000 miles west to today another friend, Joe Morley of the famous Joe Morley’s Barbecue, introduced me to the 3000 he owned for quite some time but now a vintage car due to more than 40 intervening years since I first saw Tom’s. Joe also introduced me to the Bonneville Austin Healey Club, home to more 3000’s than I collectively saw since the 60’s. This past April I travelled with the Healey Club to Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, Utah to check out the MMP Total Performance Museum’s latest Ford GT40 acquisition, following a few Healey enthusiasts in their 3000’s heading westbound out I80.
The GT was unbelievable; in fact, pristine isn’t good enough to describe it. Great car. After exploring the GT, I spoke with Jonathan Hanson, owner of a beautifully restored in brilliant original Colorado Red, Healey 3000. All restored cars have stories and Jonathan’s is no different.
Jon’s Austin Healey 3000 Mk III Sports convertible (BJ-8) left the factory November 20th, 1964, though labeled a ’65. Chassis number is HBJ8L/29817.
Going all in July 12th, 1980, while a California resident, Jon purchased his 3000 from its 2nd owner. Shortly thereafter taking it on a run from Danville to Mt. Shasta, Jon found the engine a great consumer of oil. Doing a complete engine rebuild, Jon knew he had to go the rest of the way. A great engine in a less than great body sits well with no true car enthusiast. Adding to the job’s complexity, Jon deciding in 1982 he needed to move to Utah after disassembling the car for the restoration’s frame off portion. He pushed his bodiless rolling chassis, all parts in plastic ZipLoc bags, onto the Mayflower moving van along with his other worldly possessions, and drove east. As Jonathan told me during the interview, he’s sure his new Utah neighbors were less than impressed seeing a car in pieces roll down the Mayflower van’s ramp.
Jon relishes getting down and dirty with his Healey. With exception of some required machine work on the engine and help on some body rust and paint top coat, Jon cranked out this beauty by himself as documented in his extensive photo library covering the entire project. In his own modest way, Jon tells me “These cars are very simple and a Haynes manual and a workshop manual are all you need to get you down the road if you are so motivated.”
Motivation, I think, is the key word. For myself, I have a hard time getting the lid back on a ketchup bottle.
Mighty Mo sometimes delivers the best results when shared. Bonneville Austin Healey Club charter Member Dave Maxwell, now a key club “go to,” guy when questions of bodywork and anything else Healey come up, allowed Jon to maintain his zeal during his 3000’s authentic restoration by doing its beautiful body work. A stickler for originality, Jon wrapped the Healey in a brand new coat of its original Colorado Red color. Excusing the auto reference, Jon jumped into overdrive when the pile of now shiny parts began resembling a car once again. The car reached completion in 1985.
Such a spectacular success resulted from invested time and energy, Dave suggested presenting the 3000 at the 1985 West Coast Austin Healey meet, associated with then Austin Healey Club Pacific Center. The trailered trip to Monterey, California, produced a third place in class Concours d’Elegance award! The car also performed a rescue on the way back to Salt Lake City. The long trip home proved too much for their truck as it barely made 2 MPH on the Sierra’s west side ascent, finally giving up the ghost on the east side. The 3000, top down, cruising as it was meant, took Jon to help while Dave magically coaxed the truck back to life.
A Charter Member, Jonathan Hanson presents his Austin Healey 3000 MK III during local Salt Lake City Healey Club events and car shows. The club’s website is http://www.bonnevillehealeyclub.org/ and Jon its webmaster.
Jon proudly shows his original owner’s manual signed by Mr. Donald Healey while both attended a 1981 Healey meet in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Jon’s love for classic cars in general, his Austin Healey in particular, produces infectious enthusiasm. It’s a beautiful car resulting from undeniable will as well as passion for a job well done. See you at the track.
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