There’s been a lot of buzz about classic English sports cars recently. Most notably, some Austin Healey 3000s that used to be able to crack $125k are now selling for half that online.

I grew up with these cars; my first two roadsters were a Bug Eye Sprite and an MGA, so I will always have a fondness for them.

Do you think these cars are just so primitive now that collectors have moved on? Is the current drop in prices a buying opportunity, or are the values just the new normal?

Let’s consider Triumph TR4s, MGBs and Big Healeys. What do you think you need to pay for a proper #2 car, and where will that value be in five years?

18 Comments

  1. Keith,
    Austin-Healeys seem to be selling from $60K to $70K, and Triumphs and MGBs anywhere from $12K to $30K depending on condition. Considering that they are similar to Cobras, Sunbeam Tigers also seem to be trading from $60K to $125K depending on condition and engine (260 or 289). Amazingly, I used to see Austin-Healeys parked on the streets of Manhattan on a regular basis up until about 25 years ago, like they were just regular driver cars.
    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  2. Keith Martin

    Thanks for the comments. They are spot on.

  3. Keith
    These prices are the new normal. I follow auctions around the Worlds and for the past 9 months prices have come down and not only for these. Also the new generations (X or Y) has little interest in these cars so there is no real buyer any more for them. We had them when we were young – my father had a TR4 – but who knows what it is today…
    Guylain in Abu Dhabi

  4. Edward J. Levy

    Keith,
    I bought my first automobile in 1961 a brand new Austin Healey 3000 two seater, red over red. J.S.Inskip was the purveyor and David Ash of MG fame was my salesman. As if it was yesterday I can still hear and feel the exhaust note reverberating off of the buildings along Park Avenue where my family lived. My second British car followed, a new 1967 Lotus Elan SE Airflow Coupe in BRG, with factory painted yellow racing stripe, I ordered this car direct from Lotus by telephone from New York City. What a thrill to have experienced these two automobiles.

    • Awesome story of moments in life so special you’ll never forget. For a brief moment you had me there smelling the exhaust and hearing the sweet sounds.

  5. Steve Schefbauer

    Keith,
    I cut my English car teeth on a ’58 TR3 bought in 1964 for $800. I was in college at the time and it was my daily driver in all kinds of weather in New Jersey. I loved that car, it carried my 9′ 10” surfboard, stuck in the passenger seat well, in the summer and assorted girlfriends all year long, through three years of no problem bliss.
    I now own a 1964 Morgan Plus 4, bought in 2013 for $39K and probably a 2- on the rating scale, joined a regional Morgan club and the VSCCA. I drive that English car from April through November in Connecticut , but not on a daily basis and certainly not in certain cities. The driving population is just a little too unthinking for my comfort zone but day trips up Rt. 7 to the Mass border or country backroads are heaven.
    I doubt if I could get $36K for it today but I don’t really care. It’s not for sale and if I get too in firmed to drive it, the Morgan will be donated to some worthy institution.
    You can’t put a price on English car devotion and love.

  6. chuck coli

    Hi Keith, i still have my MGA Twin Cam purchased in 1966 when i was 17 and in high school, it just finished a ‘ nut & bolt’ restoration at Jim Alcorn’s Autovintagery i am in it mid 6 figures and would do it all over again…this is the car i drove thru high school, college, twice from Richmond Va to LA and back , double dated, drive ins etc..for me price not important ( now at 76 it scares me to think that i drove this across country twice) Chuck Coli

  7. Rand Wintermute

    Keith .
    As a Collector of many Marques the last 55 years , I have to admit that the MGA still remains as one of my favorite cars to drive, mainly due to the “Comfort” behind the wheel ! No other marque ever offered the same Ergonomics , other then a B24S Lancia “Convertible” that I rallied with . Apples and Oranges in $ value , but car for car, the 1957 MGA was just as satisfying behind the wheel. The former now is still obtained in the $ 40 to $ 50 K range, the latter, add another 0 plus , to the price . For sure enjoyment and comfort , the MGA is the better choice of the two. They both leaked oil, drove similar around the corners , but the MGA was also a whole lot less to maintain and buy parts for . The other Brit cars, I would simply forget.

  8. Keith,

    I have not own one as of yet, but they are very popular in my local group that I hang out with, that has led me to follow the market somewhat.

    I seen the drop in the market mainly based on the level of cars being shared with the group with purchases.

    I think it is like everything else in the hobby and that is exposure will lead the market. What I mean is I grew up in a area where these cars were rare and mainy of us did not get a chance to enjoy or dare I say work on.

    However, we saw trucks, camaros, mustangs, impalas and vw’s. I can share that most of the main stream auctions have plenty of those to offer and are now bringing in numbers that I can not begin to understand.

  9. John Hector

    Hi Keith,

    In 1962 I bought my first English sports car, a 1960 Austin Healey 3000. It was a nice road car with the electric overdrive with the minimal weather protection of side-curtains. However, I moved to southern California and the top was down for most of the time. Great car for the area!
    In late 1964, I bought a new 289 Cobra. A real step up in power, but still an English sports car with minimal weather protection. But, no comparison in the experience of driving a “competitive” sports car. I think I paid $1500 for the Healey and $5200 for the Cobra. Which has appreciated the most over the years? However, the “big” Healey is still an attractive car the values are good.

  10. Steve Plath

    Keith,
    When I was 15 my dad bought a used 1958 Morris Minor convertible and that was the car I learned to drive on. In 1967, when I graduated from college, I anticipated buying my first car and I wanted to get an MGB, but my dad thought it was too impractical. I happened to go by the English car dealership in San Luis Obispo and saw an MGB- GT and thought; “now that’s practical”. So as a graduation present my folks gave me their MG1100 (my dad had traded in the Morris Minor for the 1100) and I used that to purchase a brand new BRG MGB-GT. I drove it across the country several times and it never let me down. Since then, I’ve owned an Austin Healey 3000 MK 1, an 1948 MG TC and currently own a 1969 Jaguar E-Type FHC and a Daimler SP-250. I’m hooked on British cars and I blame it all on that Morris Minor.

  11. My MGA 1600 just received a heart transplant this winter. MGB 1800, ported head and Mazda 5 speed, the old girl can now keep up city traffic and cruise along at 70 with overdrive! Hopefully the next generation will enjoy getting rubber in second gear. In regards to the 3000, I still love the looks of that car, but I will take the A for all-round enjoyment.

  12. toly arutunoff

    63 years ago to the day i bought a lotus 7a from the pasadena dealer and drove it back to oklahoma with no problems. not much sleep either–i forgot it was the july 4 holiday. 24 hours later, in gallup n.m. after sunrise i found a room for a few hours. i was 24. i’d bought one of those evaporative water bags but left it at a gas station that first day. i’d pour water all over me and be crisply dry in 20 minutes. never thought about putting the top on. biggest problem was the heat coming thru the steering column slot. what fun!

  13. mikecdata

    Limiting my list to “mainstream” British sports cars, there is a definite hierarchy in my mind and current values seem to support those rankings which are as follows.

    TC/TD/TF
    Midget/Sprite
    Spitfire
    GT 6
    Alpine
    TR 3/4
    TR 5/250
    TR 7
    MGA
    MGB
    MGC
    100/4
    TR 6
    TR 8
    Tiger
    3000
    Cobra
    E-Type

    Apologies to Lotus, Daimler, Jensen Healy and Morgan owners and enthusiasts. Those cars are delightful but out of the mainstream and values can vary widely with the individual specimen.

    As background, I tend to rank cars on how well they are conceptualized as attractive, enjoyable and usable vehicles. Build quality also counts for something, and my experience working as an import technician back in the day plays into these rankings as well (sorry Triumph owners).

  14. Frank Barrett

    Rather than just plunking down money for a popular car, it’s more fun to search for bargains, especially unusual models. The top British car in that category is the Jensen-Healey. A friend let me drive his #3 example, and I was very impressed. Even nice ones have trouble reaching $20K. Most Triumphs seem underpriced, too. MGBs have always been unusually cheap. Not quite British: Saabs, especially Sonnets. And don’t get me started on 2CVs!

  15. Steve Feld

    I am the owner of a 1959 Austin Healey 3000 which I drive 1500-2000 miles from March into December mostly in northern New Jersey. I owned another Big Healey when I was in college in the early 1970’s and a TR4A in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, the supply of these British cars far exceeeds demand primarily due to owner demographics, i.e., age. Owners are aging out while very few buyers are younger than 50. More sellers and fewer buyers is a basic economic principle which means that these cars are most likely not going to increase in value save the really rare models such a Healey 100S or those with special provenance. Also, the advancing age factor is negatively affecting British car club membership and the availability of knowledgeable repair shops and mechanics. The mechanical simplicity, basic driving dynamics (no electronic nannies) and generally timeless styling of these cars could help slow a decline in value. At the same time lower values mean that the price of entry for younger buyers more affordable, especially for those few who actually want to do their own maintenance and repair. For now, there are adequate parts supplies (probably better than when BMC was in its prime – forgive me for putting BMC and “prime” in the same sentence). Like many owners, at 75 years old I will enjoy mine until I can’t get in or out of it and then it will be sold. If it gets the same amount I paid for it 15 years ago, great, but the enjoyment of driving, maintaining and even repairing it is well worth the lack of investment return.

  16. Now an Alpine’s fine if you’ve got the time
    And a Healey’ll set you back some
    And a TR4 costs a little bit more
    But it don’t have the same attraction
    (Richard Thompson- MGB-GT)

    Some commenters draw a distinction between the Big Healeys and Triumphs and lesser cars like the MGB, Spitfire, and Midget. Others have lumped all British Roadsters into one open topped blur. I haven’t seen any mention of the Mini, but let’s get back to the first part: the smaller, lighter British cars (and Fiats) were completely eclipsed by That Cute Mazda Convertible. They will forever suffer by comparison.

    I am devoted to my MX-5, but comparing it to a big Healey is like comparing it to a Corvette. Interestingly, it was a big Healey and not an E-Type that Guy Ritchie recently featured in his Netflix series adaptation of The Gentlemen. I predict this will bump the market a little bit. I also expect discussions such as this one will draw interest from people who thought they were beyond their reach. Look for a small rise, but remember this: Those cars were built a long time ago. They weren’t particularly advanced when they were new. Fewer and fewer collectors “get” them. If you want modern Japanese or German performance, look elsewhere. But if you want a big bonnet and a lot of horses in front of you, there’s not much to compare.

  17. Charles H Taylor

    In the mid-1970s, I had a 1963 Jaguar XKE which, being young and dumb, I foolishly sold. I would like another!

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