Simanaitis Says

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A STRANGE SUBHEAD for an R&T road test? Even more so: One of the road test’s stars was a 28-year-old David E. Davis, Jr., three years before his association with Car and Driver. Here are tidbits on the man and the 1959 Austin-Healey 3000. 

This and other images from R&T, August 1959.

A Vast Continent Apart. “In the case of the new 3000 model,” R&T observed, “a slight obstacle presented itself. This obstacle was some 2800 miles of road between New York (where the only two 3000’s in the country happened to be at the end of May) and California, where the test crew waited with anxious eyes on the deadline for this issue.

“Quickly,” R&T wrote, “our small but enthusiastic New York staff, consisting of Harvey B. Janes, Eastern Editor, and David E. Davis, Jr., Eastern Advertising Manager, offered a solution. They would drive one of the new cars nonstop from New York to the Road & Track offices in California.”

Davis, left, and Janes arrive in Southern California after 57 hours.

Davis E. Wikipedia describes, “David Evan Davis Jr. (1930–2011) was an American automotive journalist and magazine publisher widely known as a contributing writer, editor and publisher of Car and Driver magazine and as the founder of Automobile magazine.” He nurtured Car and Driver in two stints, 1962–1967 and 1976–1985, between which he worked for Campbell-Ewald in writing Corvette and Corvair advertising.

R&T employment is deftly passed over by Wikipedia, noting “After selling an article to Motor Trend in 1957 for $50, David became a contributing writer in 1962 to Car and Driver magazine, at age 32.”

As a sign of inflation (or intrinsic value?), I got  $200 for my first article, “When the New Gets Put On Again and Wears Off for Good,” in R&T, August 1972. I was 29.

Journalist pal Jean Jeannings described David as “the most interesting, most difficult, cleverest, darkest, most erudite, dandiest, and most inspirational, charismatic and all-around damnedest human being I will ever meet. I have loved him. I have seriously not loved him.” 

I wouldn’t go that far in either extreme: David was “larger than life,” no doubt about it. I also recall a Rolls-Royce press trip where David and I co-drove and he acted less than gracious to his hosts.

Cross-country Records. R&T described that Harvey and David “got underway in the early evening on a Monday and, with the aid of a package of innocent-looking but highly potent pep pills, pulled up at the Road & Track office a little over 57 hours later, full of praise for the car and for their own powers of endurance.”

R&T observed, “When we informed them that a certain French economy sedan had covered the same distance in roughly 54 hours, they were only mildly impressed. The drivers of this French car, they told us, had cheated; they had not stopped to eat along the way. Of the total elapsed time of 57 hours in the Healey, at least three and a half hours had been consumed in various restaurants along the route.” 

Kudos to Harvey and David; my kind of travelers.

The Healey 3000. “The engine of the 3000,” R&T reported, “is nothing more or less than a bored-out version of the 100-6 powerplant. Displacement is now 2912 cubic centimeters, or roughly 10% larger than before.”

“On the other hand, R&T analyzed, “the rear-axle ratio has been changed from 4.1 to 3.9, which would figure to knock about 5% off the performance all along the line…. In other words, the increase in engine displacement has more than made up for the change in axle ratio.”

Disc/drum Pairs. R&T recounted, “The 3000 has disc brakes in the front and finned drums in the rear. There is no booster for these brakes, and at speeds below 30 mph the pedal pressure required to stop the car within a comfortable distance is noticeably greater than with the all-drum brake system on the 100-6.” 

During that transitional period from all-drum to four-wheel discs,  boosted systems became increasingly popular. (Drum shoes can be engineered with self-energizing geometry; discs pads cannot.)  

In Summary. R&T wrote, “All of our drivers agreed that in the matter of performance and smoothness the latest Austin-Healey was pleasantly similar to the original XK-120 Jaguar.” 

To put this in perspective, the 1959 Austin-Healey 3000 listed for $3395. Two 1954 Jags, both XK-120-Ms , were offered in that same August 1959 issue for $1500 and $1800; a new XK-150 cost close to $5000.

In conclusion, R&T said, “The best way to describe the new Austin-Healey 3000 is to say that it is a real enthusiasts’ sports car: fun to drive, with lots of performance and good handling and braking characteristics. It could have better cockpit ventilation and seating position, and we still wish that the manufacturer would return to the cleaner styling of the older 4-cylinder cars, but these are only minor grievances. Dollar for dollar this is still one of the top sports cars on the market.” 

And, apparently, it wasn’t a bad way to transport Janes and Davis from coast to coast. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023 

One comment on ““ON A JAG IN A HEALEY”

  1. Mike B
    March 18, 2023

    For perspective, you could be looking at the numbers for the 2003 Mazda Protege5 I had before going EV. Nearly the same 0-60 (I think the Mazda was 1/10 or 2 quicker), hp very similar (Healey about 7 more), engine size essentially the same (both 2-liter, though the Mazda was a 4), steering very similar in turns lock-lock (though the Mazda was powered rack & pinion with very nice road feel), Healey card doesn’t have braking data; Mazda brakes had excellent bite and ABS, but ultimately were limited (as was the cornering speed) by smallish tires even if Z-rated). Even the top speed was very nearly the same (the Mazda really could have used a 6th gear for cruising, though), and the Healey weighed a bit less (by about 400#). There’s absolutely no question, though, that the Healey is the sportier of the pair (Mazda is a station wagon FHS).😉

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