Austin Healey 3000 MK.II Restoration

Spread the love

Introduction

I was introduced to John Lavill by a friend of mine who lived**very close to John in Halesowen, Worcestershire.
One day, in the Spring of 2013, my friend, Brian, was walking past John’s drive and saw the silhouette of what looked like a handsome sports car underneath a dust cover. Having an interest in cars and an inquiring mind, Brian strode up John’s drive in order to satisfy his curiosity. 
He was met by John who was happy to tell Brian all about the interesting history of his beloved Austin Healey 3000.
When I next met Brian, shortly after this chance encounter, he told me all about it. This was at the height of all the serendipitous activity concerning Austin Healey 100s etc. I said to Brian “I wonder if the gentleman would be interested in me covering his story of the rebuild of his A.H. 3000 in one of my blogs?”. ” I will put it to him” replied Brian. 

John was very interested and suggested to Brian that I should get in touch with him.
 
The story below is the result of that encounter. I hope that you enjoy it.

** Sadly, I have to report that John Lavill died in January 2016.

The Beginning 

This story starts as far back as 1962 when John first bought his Austin Healey 3000 MK.II from Newbury Motors, Halesowen. Paul Newbury, the son of the owner, was a good friend of John’s and he knew that John was interested in buying a sports car. His dream was a Jaguar ‘E’ Type but his finances wouldn’t stretch quite that far.
 
Paul said “Why don’t you pop down to the showroom, I think that I have got something that might interest you”. A Newbury customer had ordered the A.H. 3000 but for some reason had had second thoughts about taking delivery, so it was unexpectedly ‘on the market’.
 
As soon as John saw it it was ‘love at first sight’. Like so many Big Healey owners before and after him, he was captured by the curvaceous lines of  the Gerry Coker designed body and the rugged simplicity of this British automotive icon.
 
The Healey became John’s main form of transport from 1962 until 1980, a total of eighteen years. John would not claim that at the end of this period 5140 FD remained in pristine condition. It was beginning to show its age. But the last straw was when one of the pistons was ‘holed’. John did have the intention of having the engine repaired but in the meantime it was parked on the edge of the large drive in front of John’s house. It was very carefully protected from the elements by tarpaulin sheets etc. But rather than protect the car this method of, so called protection, almost caused its total destruction.
 
The car lay untouched for many many years although the seeds of its refurbishment were already implanted into John’s mind. The idea of having to totally rebuild the car was certainly not being thought of; this course of action would not have occurred to him, the car was adequately protected wasn’t it?
 
John took early retirement from his business in 1995. His first mission was to attend to the fabric of the house and its lovely gardens. The Healey project was still nagging at him but he knew that if he was going to do it properly he would need a larger covered area to work in rather than that provided by the existing small garage. So, he set about building a two car plus garage worthy of the impending ‘Big Healey’ refurbishment project.

An unwelcome Surprise

Five years ago, the Garage having been completed sometime earlier, John felt ready to tackle his ‘refurbishment of the Healey 3000’ project. The first thing to do, of course, was to remove all the protective sheets of tarpaulin etc. So, accompanied by his wife Sue, who was soon to become his ‘long suffering but stalwart’ wife, marched out on to the drive and started stripping off the covering.
The first surprise was that the covering lying on top of the car itself seemed extraordinarily difficult to lift off. What should have been just a ‘flick of the wrist’ soon developed into tugging and heaving. When the covering did eventually move it became all too apparent why removing it had been so difficult.


The many years of fluctuating temperatures and England’s frequently damp atmosphere had caused ‘sweating’  between the car’s steel panels and its ‘so called’ protective coverings.
The panels had rusted and ‘welded’, if not wedded, themselves to their hugging friends, the protective sheets.
What caused all the effort to be expended in removing the covers was due to the fact that not only the sheets were being removed but also large sections of rusted body panels that had become attached to them through the process of corrosion.


I am sure that you can imagine the scene and sympathise with John and Sue in the situation that they found themselves in. Instead of contemplating a fairly labour intensive refurbishing job they were now looking at a total ‘basket case’ a virtual write off!  I think most people would have taken that view, I am sure I would have done. My next action would have been to call the local breakers yard and get the mess taken away. But not John and Sue. It is most likely that they took many a deep  breath and let day breaks come and go a few times before eventually deciding to reconstruct 5140FD. 


In fact John told me “After I moved what was left of the car into the garage I spent nearly twelve months just looking at it wondering what on earth I was going to do with it!”

The Start Of The Project

The decision to rebuild the car was very much a joint decision, based, to some degree, on the project being a better place to invest a little money that had comes Sue’s way, than to put it in a bank to earn little interest. So, battle was joined, onward to victory, but it didn’t always seem that victory was going to be achieved. There were some tough battles to be fought, much midnight oil to be burned as well as barked knuckles and blue air.


There were some positives to be seen amongst this heap of rotten metal.. The most important one being that the chassis was in good condition. Also, all the major mechanicals were as good (or as worn) as when the car had first been laid up. John already knew that the engine required attention, if only to repair the ‘blown piston’.
The first job was to sort all the good and reusable parts from those whose life was clearly over.
John is the first to acknowledge that he was able to call upon the services of some very skilled friends and acquaintances who advised him on what the proper course of action should be. One such expert guided John towards replacing the original steel body panels with aluminium ones. This remedy appealed to John’s innate engineering values, in as much as the idea of steel and aluminium butting up to each other offended his sense of ‘rightness’ .


Even so, it wasn’t his first inclination, that was to renovate the existing panels but as he told me “When my friend and I held the front wings up to the light, it was like looking through a colander, they were so badly perforated by rust.” From that moment of ‘enlightenment’ onward, the decision to replace most of the panels, both cosmetic and structural, was an easy one to make.

Worthy of Praise

At this stage I should introduce one of John’s suppliers for whom he has nothing but praise: it isn’t the purpose of this blog to promote any particular commercial enterprise but when an organisation, by serendipity, is singled out, as in this case, then it pleases me to report what I find. So who is John’s esteemed supplier? It is non other than A.H. Spares of Southam, Warwickshire, the saviours of many a struggling Austin Healey renovator. 


The car was painstakingly reassembled using as many of the original parts as possible but as mentioned above, in reality, more panels than first envisaged had to be replaced. No effort or materials were spared in making sure that this rebuilt car, was, as far is possible in the U.K.’s climatic conditions, going to resist the ravages of  metal corrosion, RUST, to you and me. ‘Shot-blasting’ was the order of the day particularly of the chassis and steel wheels. No chance was going to be taken which would allow that little red devil, Mr. Rust, to come anywhere near this ‘work of love’. John had been shaken to his bones by having seen what had happened to his love when she was hidden from his eyes.


The above synopsis has, hopefully, given you a flavour of John’s ambitious project. I have tried to convey to you the passion, the resolution and even the cussedness that he had to employ to see this job through to completion. John would wish to acknowledge the tremendous support Sue gave him throughout the project; whether it was by trudging across the drive, ankle deep in snow, to take him a tray of tea and cake at midnight on a bitterly cold winter’s night, or, searching high and low for a misplaced gearbox dipstick. She was there!


The completed car is a credit to you both and I know it gives you great pleasure when you go for a run in the beautiful Worcestershire countryside on glorious sunny days like the ones that we have enjoyed this year.

Stories of intrepid restorers of cars, of all makes and models but particularly ‘Big Healeys’, abound in the many club magazines that can be found throughout the world. But what makes this story quite unique, in my view, is that it was the original owner who carried out the reconstruction and still has the car after 51 years continuous ownership. Can anyone beat that? Please let me know. 


Now I will let the photos from the project tell a far more eloquent story than the one that I have related above. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words – enjoy this story!

Initial Strip down and preparation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Second Stage Preparation

 

 

 

 

Third Stage Preparation

 

 

 

 

Final Stage

The Proud Owner and Restorer to Life of an Austin Healey 3000Mk. II

 

 

 

 

 





 

 

 

 

 

The finished Job – 

Was it worth it – Most emphatically “Yes” says John

 

 

 

 

 
All respect to you John and Sue, you’ve accomplished an outstanding achievement.
 
I have no doubt that this blog post will not only give enjoyment to others but may also inspire some to ‘have a go’ themselves. 
 
With best wishes and as always, thank you for looking in.
 
Nick

For my other posts go to this link –
 

 

 

 

Explore more

spot_img
Coventry MotoFest 2024

Coventry MotoFest 2024 Report

In the U.K. you can never depend of the weather to treat outdoor events kindly but when it does  those events are so much...
Healey Silverstone 75th Anniversary

Healey Silverstone 75th Anniversary

CSI is please to bring you this 'Press Release' from Silverstone Festival 2024 "HEALEY SILVERSTONE CELEBRATES ITS 75th AT SILVERSTONE FESTIVAL • Special milestone for racy roadster...
Midget & Sprite Club

Healeys at the Classic Car & Restoration Show 2024

I made my annual visit to the 'Practical Classics' Classic Car & Restoration Show last Friday. As ever, it was a friendly and joyful...
Classic Car & Restoration Show

Classic Car & Restoration Show Birmingham NEC 2024 – Report

It's always a pleasure to attend this annual event. Everyone you meet is friendly and courteous, the people on the various stands are keen...
MG Prototypes

MG Prototypes at the British Motor Museum

Last year I read various articles on how MG enthusiasts had spotted rare MG prototypes rotting away on the old MG Rover site at...
Historic Rally Car Register Open Day at Gaydon 2024

Historic Rally Car Register Open Day at Gaydon 2024 – Report

In previous years I have been pleased to publicise the Historic Rally Car Register Open Day held at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, in...
Singer Le Mans

The Patrick Foundation supports ‘The Learning Hub’ at the British Motor...

A press release from the British Motor Museum - "The British Motor Museum is delighted to announce the opening of ‘The Learning Hub’, a brand-new...

Healeys at the Classic Motor Show Birmingham NEC 2023

Last Friday I made my annual pilgrimage to the Classic Motor Show held at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre. I have attended for the...