The rare car we offer was exported new to the U.S. in 1960 as an Ivory White Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 4-seater. As with many old sports cars, it fell into disrepair and was turned into a Fiberfab Jamaican in the late 1960s. These stylish sports coupe bodies, designed by Chris Beebe, were available for installation onto Healey, Triumph TR and MGA chassis. Notoriously difficult to build to a high standard, many remained unfinished, making driving examples very rare. This is possibly one of only four or five Healey-based examples in driving condition.
The vendor purchased the Jamaican as a project some years ago and originally rebuilt it as a competition car, undertaking a full, frame-off, “last-nut-and-bolt” rebuild. Since then, the Jamaican has done very well in numerous races over the past five years, with a few wins and an 82-mph lap average at Mallory Park.
More recently, the vendor has returned the car to road specification to make it a pleasure to drive, and converted it back to left-hand drive with European road trips in mind. The rebuilt drivetrain and running gear is now to Healey 3000 Mark I specification (130 horsepower, stainless exhaust, etc.). It still has the roll cage (with scrutineering stickers still intact) and race harnesses. The custom bucket seats have been trimmed in leather and cushions made for more cabin comfort. Matching leather door cards were also custom made. A professional repaint has also just been completed at substantial cost and the car looks stunning in all lights and from every angle.
No expense has been spared on this unique car, which has been the owner’s pride and joy for the time he has owned it. There is plentiful paperwork on file concerning Fiberfab and the Jamaican project, together with a Heritage Certificate and current V5C document.
|Vehicle:||1959 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark I Jamaican|
|Number Produced:||10,825 (total 3000 Mk I BT7)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped on a rectangular aluminum plate attached to the firewall in the engine compartment|
|Engine Number Location:||Stamped on an aluminum plate riveted to the left side of the engine block|
|Club Info:||Austin-Healey Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1955–61 Triumph TR3, 1955–62 MGA, 1954–68 Morgan Plus 4|
This car, Lot 308, sold for $47,151 (£41,400), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Chichester, U.K., sale on September 17, 2022.
There used to be a wide division between “kit car” and “custom-bodied.” The difference was distinct, but the definition of a collector car has broadened as collectors have begun chasing ever more esoteric objects of desire. The line has blurred, with body kits that once evoked disdain beginning to be appreciated as examples of automotive history. Such is the case with the Fiberfab Jamaican. Once viewed as a strange choice for an Austin-Healey, a car that already came with a beautiful shape, the Jamaican body kit offered rarity as well an enclosed GT envelope.
But let’s start at the beginning. Fundamentally, this is a Healey 3000 Mark I, series BT7. There were 10,825 of those made between 1959 and ’61. It came with what sales brochures called “occasional” 2+2 seating, but in this incarnation the rear seats have been deleted and a roll cage occupies the space where flexible, diminutive passengers would have been able to ride. This is not a rare car, but under the skin it is a lovable Healey roadster with that distinctive full-throated exhaust note, leaf-spring handling, and the bearer of the marque’s glorious competition history.
A fab backstory
So where does the peculiar body kit come in? Fiberfab was founded by one Warren “Bud” Goodwin. He moved from Wisconsin to Southern California in 1939, and after World War II became deeply involved in the burgeoning West Coast racing scene. In 1955 he built a tube-frame sports car using a Mistral fiberglass body. Sports cars were expensive in post-war Britain, but there were many cheap pre-war cars available, and a growing number of fiberglass sports-car bodies were designed for owners to build cars at home.
Goodwin obtained a license from the British firm Microplas, which had designed and manufactured the Mistral body to fit a Ford or Morris chassis and powertrain. In 1957, he set up a new company named Sports Car Engineering in Los Angeles and renamed the Mistral the “Spyder” for the American market. The product line soon increased to include two additional fiberglass bodies, the Hurricane and Tornado. A specialized metal frame was also offered so bodies could be easily bolted onto donor chassis.
Goodwin sold that business in 1958, but by the early 1960s, he had moved to Northern California, where he began a new business named Fiberfab. This is where the plot thickens. Around this time, Jamaica Karen Elwood became employed by the new company. Goodwin, by then divorced from his first wife, married Jamaica in 1965. It was during these early years of Fiberfab that it also began to offer complete kit cars.
Success brought a restructuring, and a holding company was formed. Fiberfab was a division of that company and Jamaica became the president of the holding company with Bud as vice president. It was during this heyday that Fiberfab produced and marketed numerous additional kits, including the Apache, Avenger, Aztec, Centurion, Clodhopper, E/T, Jet-A-Bout, MiGi and Vagabond, as well as our subject car’s body kit, the Jamaican. Like many of the kits, they fit various donor chassis, and the Jamaican would fit not only Healeys, but also the MGA, TR3/4 and VWs.
Forward into chaos
In 1967, Goodwin was convicted of shooting and killing Jamaica when he discovered her in the arms of another man. Goodwin contended that he fired a warning shot over the lovers’ heads, but a second round went off accidentally, striking and killing his wife. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a fine and one year in the county jail. Goodwin died of a heart attack at the end of 1968 before completing his sentence.
With the deaths of both company principles, everything fell into chaos. A new company was established as Goodwin’s estate was settled but financial difficulties soon ensued. This company was the bought out and what little was left became a division of Concept Design America Ltd., which spelled the end of the Jamaican body kit.
Unique and well bought
The best estimates cite 250 Jamaican kits produced, although only a handful are thought to have been mounted on Austin-Healey chassis. According to Stefan Berger, founder of the Fiberfab Jamaican Facebook page, there are just 48 surviving Jamaicans, with 40 owners.
So where does that leave our subject car, a nice example by all accounts? It’s a Healey 3000, which is never a bad thing. It carries the body of a storied California kit-car company and represents the salad days of the American sports-car scene. Never mind the sad ending. I would call it well bought. It’s virtually guaranteed that there won’t be another one applying for a spot on the high-end tour of your choice. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)