There are few cars that so well embody the excitement and romance of a golden era of international competition on the European road-rally circuit as does the Austin-Healey 3000. Indeed, the 3000 is both a world-beater competition car and a civilized sports car perfectly adapted for personal enjoyment.
By 1960, the British Motor Corporation’s competition department had compiled an impressive collection of trophies with the 3000, and for the 1961 season, they prepared five examples, each of which became known by its British registration number.
This Austin-Healey 3000 Mk I, first registered as XJB 871, was prepared by the Works competition department for its debut in the gruelling 1961 Acropolis Rally with Peter Riley and Tony Ambrose as the crew. The Acropolis Rally was known for being one of the toughest events of the year. The fact that this car was so competitive and finished without incident is a testament to the 3000’s strength and reliability under any condition. XJB 871 continued the BMC tradition of impressive performances at the most challenging events, finishing 3rd overall and 1st in the GT class. It was also the highest-placed British car in the event.
Riley and Ambrose continued the season with XJB 871 at the Alpine Rally. However, they were forced to retire and the car was returned to the BMC, where it was subsequently purchased by rally legend Rauno Aaltonen, also known as “The Rally Professor”. The car was shipped to Aaltonen’s native Finland, where it remained in his private ownership until 1965.
Rauno purchased the car in preparation for the 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege Rally. Aaltonen wanted to be entirely comfortable and familiar with the Healey rally car to ensure that he was in the strongest possible position when competing in his other 3000. As a result of this dedication and familiarity with the 3000, Aaltonen would go on to win the Spa-Sofia-Liege, citing his time with the XJB 871 as the key to his success. In a recent interview, Aaltonen noted that “when you have a long rally, a tough and hard one, the car should be like an extension of your arm. You must know everything about what it is doing, and those Works Healeys were very strong”.
Aaltonen sold the Healey to Caj Hasselgren, a student at the time, in 1965. Hasselgren drove the car for about 10 years before putting it into storage. Several years later, he embarked on a complete restoration, returning the car to the road in 1995. After a brief period of historic racing, from 1996 to 1997, the Healey was seldom driven thereafter until Hasselgren passed away in 2013. With 48 years under his care, XJB 871 has the longest single ownership of any Austin-Healey factory competition car, and today it remains in the ownership of Hasselgren’s family.
As the most original 1961 specification car, also retaining its original engine, the 3000 appears as it did for the 1961 Acropolis Rally. Fully road ready, it is eligible for numerous classic rallies and tours around the world. XJB 871 is also presented with FIA papers as well as an original reconditioned rally overdrive unit. As a factory competition car with only two private owners over a period of 55 years, this iconic Austin-Healey represents a unique opportunity to acquire a historically significant example of a legendary factory team car from a golden era of motorsport.
This 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk I Works sold for €403,200 at the RM Sotheby’s Monaco sale, held May 14, 2016 at Le Sporting in Monaco.
- One of five factory-prepared competition Healeys for the 1961 season
- 1961 Acropolis Rally; 1st in Class, 3rd Overall
- Sold in 1961 to rally legend Rauno Aaltonen; only two private owners
- The most original 3000 Mk 1 Works rally car; retains its original engine
- Eligible for Le Mans Classic and an ideal candidate for many vintage rallies and events
[Source: RM Sotheby’s; photos: Tom Gidden]