Over the past few weeks I've been working away on all the interior components for an early Austin Healey BN2 being done in the correct persimmon shade of red that was common on 100'4s through the early-mid 50's. The leather and vinyl would fade out to a bright orange colour with age. Contrasting with the richer red carpets, Armacord and weather equipment it was a unique and stunning colour combo that is seldom still seen today.
The leather I sourced is in the correct colour and natural grain. It has been vegetable tanned just as it would have been done back in the day.
I also sourced a good matching vinyl - both from local suppliers here in BC. The Karvel carpet and Armacord that are somewhat unique to the Austin Healey's, I sourced from England.
Having made accurate patterns from some originals a while back, I cut all the leather and vinyl and got to work sewing up the new covers.
The piping and hidem strips all had to be hand made to match...
I even made new squab foams in house. After trying several different "molded latex" re-pro foams that just didn't have the right fit or feel, I decided to make my own foams out of a high density poly foam with lamination's of medium density foams to fill out the shape..
The final result looks and feels the way they should, sleek and smooth but not too hard or overstuffed...
With the seats all done, I've continued working on making all the rest of the interior components for this car.
Here is the finished armrest that will snap down over the tunnel between the seats...
The interior door panels, complete with furflex draft seals. The vinyl trimmed over thin padding and stitched right through the 1/8" birch ply panels around the pocket opening as original..
Here's a taste of the colour contrast that the carpet gives on this finished parcel tray...
The finished main tunnel carpet, floor mats and the front gearbox cover...
Here's the spare wheel bag being made in persimmon vinyl and sewn to the contrasting red armacord...
The completed rear bulkhead coverings sewn and ready to install,..
And all the Armacord boot linings finished, bound by hand (meaning the binding is sewn twice - without a binding attachment)
Then when the car was painted and ready for the interior to install, I set to work by first covering the floors with black tar paper (as original) and then proceeding to install all the under-felt in the foot wells, followed by all the carpets...
Then I worked my way through the back of the cockpit, installing the wheel arch vinyl, spare wheel cover, the center armrest and Armacord mats...
I then installed all the boot Armacord linings...
And finished off the cockpit by adding all the interior panels and the seats...
Then I finished her off with a new red Everflex top from Robbins
And a custom made tonneau cover that I made in the correct red Everflex following the original exactly with a new "lightning" zipper and all original Tenax snap hardware with the knurled heads.
Well I finally decided to make some new seat covers for the MGB. I had hoped to just keep using my old originals because they were so well preserved. But after months of thinking about it and restoring everything else on the car to such a high standard, I just couldn't keep using the old cracked leather with holes already starting. I thought it better to make accurate patterns now, before they really start to deteriorate...
I sourced some leather in the correct shade of red and set to work carefully patterning the old covers and cutting/sewing up the new ones.
The piping all had to be hand made out of cream vinyl strips sewn over the correct small diameter core.
I also had to carefully unpick the stitching and re-use my original vinyl and carpet back sections so that they would match up with the rest of the original vinyl and carpet I'm still using in the car.
The end result came out looking very good! The colour is a perfect match to the rest of my original trim. The piping is the right size, and the vinyl and carpet sections are original. I think these seats will be a great addition to my otherwise original interior.
Until next time -
It's been a busy and exciting few months for me in the car upholstery business. I've had the opportunity to take on a few more local Healey jobs which has felt like a welcome return to my family roots so to speak.
As many of you may know, I grew up with a strong interest in Austin Healey's that I learned through my late father Rich Chrysler - especially the early 100/4's!
Over the past years I have been accumulating all the correct patterns to start producing all of the interior trim components for the Austin Healey 100's - BN1's and BN2's.
Having worked primarily on Healey interiors for several decades now, I've had many opportunities to document the evolution of Austin Healey trim and the many subtle detail changes that came along through the years as the marque evolved.
The Healey 100's alone are an interesting evolution that I think many owners/restorers could benefit from understanding.
So without further ado, I'll start with the Floors and Foot wells:
The main floor pans were first covered in a thin layer of tar paper.
The foot wells & firewall area around the bell housing had a very thin jute insulation (about 3/16" with a black patterned coating on one side) glued to the painted metal. The jute was covered by unbound Karvel carpet glued in place over the jute.
In the tops of the foot boxes, more of these jute pieces were glued in place to provide further insulation...
More Karvel carpet covered the inner sills with about 1/2" overlap extending onto the floor sections.
The 2 main floor mats were unbound and installed with hidden carpet snaps in all 4 corners. The mats were snapped over more corresponding jute mats sandwiched underneath. The drivers mat then had a rubber "Austin" logo heel pad sewn in place over the pre-installed front snaps.
On BN1's, the front kick panels were made of 1/8" birch ply with edges sanded round and covered in vinyl. There was a plastic ID tag screwed to the upper drivers side.
Later BN1's (mid 54 on-) had a different style of Aluminum ID tag mounted on the LH kick panel - as you can see in the second shot -
With the introduction of the BN2, these kick panels were shortened in height on both sides to accommodate the lower position of the wiper motor bracket.
The panel boards themselves also started getting cut out of a cheaper hardboard and no longer had the edges sanded round.
The ID tag was also relocated to the engine bay firewall on BN2's.
The parcel tray was mounted to the passenger side firewall under the dash. The steel tray was painted a dark chocolate brown and trimmed with a vinyl surround and karvel carpet on in inner tray face..
The scuttle panels were trimmed with thin jute on both sides of the panel, the interior side was then covered with Karvel carpet that wrapped around the edges. The panels also had a rubber seal riveted to the panel that would seal around the gearbox bell-housing.
Bn1 panels were a flatter design that had its carpet running left to right and screws along the outer edges on the face.
The Bn2 design had bigger sides that wrapped around the toe box edges, the carpet instead ran top to bottom:
The gearbox cover sections evolved as follows: On the first hundred or so cars we've seen this rare, sharply edged style of tunnel - it was aluminum, painted dark brown and covered with sewn carpet&vinyl covers like this:
Then almost immediately, as production of the BN1 moved forward we saw this new more rounded standard shape of aluminum cover, again painted brown and trimmed with jute covered by a single piece of carpet and vinyl covers like this:
Then in mid-late 54 on the BN1 we saw a 3rd tunnel and the carpet change again slightly to this 2 piece style, again glued in place with jute under the carpet The tunnel is almost the same as the 2nd but has a small hump on the rear left side to provide more clearance for the overdrive solenoid. This meant that the carpet also had a small dart sewn horizontally at the back to go around this hump: (note: the metal on this example should also be painted dark brown)
Finally with the introduction of the BN2, we see an entirely different style aluminum gearbox cover that extends further back to accommodate the 4 speed gearbox. This style tunnel had its jute glued to the back of the carpet, and the carpet then snapped down in place rather than being glued down like on the BN1's: (note: the under-felt in this pic should be jute!)
There were Armacord mats, bound in vinyl, snapped in place on the floors under the seats.
The shape of the under seat mats changed between BN1 and BN2 to fit around the corresponding tunnel shapes at the front.
Early BN1's up until November of 1953, did not have the slotted cutouts for the seat tracks in these mats. This is because the early BN1's had adjustable steering wheels instead of the sliding seat tracks.
The seats were bolted directly to the floors on the early cars with adjustable steering wheels. .
On the BN1 tunnel, there was a second removable tunnel section just behind the main gearbox cover section that covered the driveshaft under the armrest.
It was trimmed in carpet with vinyl edging.
On the BN2, the rear tunnel was covered in Armacord under the armrest, rather than the carpet used on BN1's.
There was often a piece of vinyl glued in place first around the base of the handbrake under the Armacord, though on some cars we've seen this area hand painted instead to match the interior colour.
Finally the center armrest was snapped down over the rear tunnel section with 4 Tenax snaps. The Armrests had 3 leather pleats on the top face, and had long vinyl sides that extended to the floor. The BN1's had a longer 19" armrest while the BN2 with it's revised tunnel arrangement had a shorter 17.5" armerest..
Moving now to the doors,
The door panels were birch ply panels covered in vinyl with thin padding under the vinyl. the panel edges were sanded to a curve with an opening for a large inner pocket area. The first few hundred cars had contrasting piping tacked along the inner edge of this opening. On the inside, the lower sections of the panels had a soft brown suede like material sewn to the top edge of the outer vinyl cover and glued down to the inner panel. Furflex was also glued and tacked along the front and rear edges of the panels and along the front edge of the door frame sandwiched under the kick panels and windshield posts..
As BN1 production moved forward the door pocket piping was almost immediately discontinued. Here you can see the other vinyl covers applied directly to the inner painted door with the separate upper panel screwed in place and the sewn vinyl door latch pull cords. These pieces would all be installed before the wood door panel...
Finally in late 1954 we started seeing stitching around the door pocket openings, about 5/8" in from the edge. This practice continued on the later BN1's and through all BN2's.
Note in the lower 2 pics, the original early scuttle seals, and the 1/4round seals along the bottoms of the doors themselves...
The seats on Healey 100's were originally a slim and slender shape which is worth noting! - many of kits available today make for a seat backrest that is much bigger and puffier looking than they actually were.
The center pleated section of the backrests were smoothly curved around the top, I've noticed these are often made too squared off on modern kits.
It's another detail often missed because later 6 cyl cars were a more squared off design. Here is what they should look like on a 100/4:
The backrest piping continued down around the pivot arms under the lower Hidem and joined to itself along the bottom edge of the backrest.
The cushions were neatly shaped and often hand stuffed around the back to fill any gaps where they met the backrest...
We've seen on several early BN1's the use of white cloth being tacked to the bottoms of the cushions to finish them off neatly, however by early '54 this practice seems to have been discontinued and the cushion bottoms were left exposed...
Moving to the rear bulkhead...
The wheel arches had a small jute pad where the top frame would rest, covered by a sewn vinyl cover with piping.
The shape of this jute pad has been seen in a few variations, early BN1's had this larger style of jute pad - the vinyl cover only being glued around the corner edges so the cover would float over the pad and not define the shape of the pad underneath.
Later BN1's and BN2's had a smaller jute pad that only covered the flat D pressing in the wheel arch. This allowed the wheel arch cover piping to be glued more securely along the wheel arch and still look clean and smooth
The rear bulkhead was covered mostly in Armacord with vinyl trimmed birch ply panels for the B pillars.
The early BN1's until about mid 1954 had a much larger vinyl spare wheel bag than later BN1's and BN2's.
Here you can see the difference between the big early spare wheel bag and the later more slender shaped bag that fit the narrow shape of the standard "Dunlop Road-speed" tires a lot better.
- In hindsight, the narrower bag won't actually fit most of today's tires!
The battery box lid was trimmed in Armacord edged with vinyl and had leather straps riveted in place with snaps to secure it shut.
The boot of all 100/4's was trimmed in Armacord with vinyl edging.
The patterns remained basically the same throughout the 100/4's, except that early BN1's (up to around Aug '54) had a narrower main mat for covering the gas tank.
Here you can see the earlier narrow boot mat design that required longer separate Armacord side pieces to fill in around the wheel arches.
The later style BN1 and BN2 boot mat was made full width and sewn differently around the rear bumper brackets.
This last shot of a teal blue BN2 interior shows the spare wheel shelf and wheel wedge block as was standard on all 100's...
Here is an example of the original green Armacord and vinyl contrast...
The soft tops were basically the same pattern between BN1 and BN2 with 3 minor changes occurring between the top frames and latch mechanisms.
They had grey webbing between the bows and the front wooden header rail.
The header rail was trimmed in matching Vinyl or Everflex as the hood.
Some early BN1 tops have been seen in vinyl, while later ones were done Everflex.
The early style tops had a trim screw through the top into the rear bow that also trapped the webbing straps.
Note: the below pic shows the original "sage" green Everflex used with green interiors - this Sage green colour material is no longer available.
There were 3 different styles of side screens on the 100/4's -
Early BN1 side screens were plexiglass with a chrome metal frame. They came in a colored vinyl stowage bag that matched the interior.
The Plexiglass BN1 screens were replaced in late '53 by this 2nd style of sewn vinyl side screens that had a flip up signalling flap which could be snapped shut from the inside...
Then in late '54 and on the BN2 we saw a 3rd style again in sewn vinyl with clear plastic windows.
The lower flap had been eliminated and instead the lower rear corner of the entire screen could be lifted just enough to work the inner door handle.
These all came with a matching color vinyl stowage bag for the screens.
The Tonneau cover:
The early BN1 Tonneau cover was a slightly shorter and more curved design than later Tonneau covers. It followed the shape of the front cockpit rails and had Tenax snaps in the front corners.
Later BN1's and BN2's had a slightly different pattern of tonneau with the front corners being bigger and more squared off. These later tonneaus also used a turn button snap instead of the previous Tenax .
This black tonneau is on a later BN2 and shows the later design with taller front corners and turn-snaps instead of the earlier Tenax...
The Tonneaus were made of Everflex and originally came with a Lightning brand zipper and nickle plated Tenax snaps with a knurled head:
Last but not least, the Healey 100's also came with some separate stowage bags for storing your accessories. There was a bag for storing your side screens, a tool roll, Jack and Jack handles bags.
Note: the Armacord shown in the green car below is not the correct shade of green Armacord.
The tool, jack & handles bags were all made of a very thin black vinyl. The side screen bag was made in the same coloured vinyl as used in the rest of the interior.
As I'm sure you've probably noticed in this article, there were many different interesting colors of trim used on the Healey 100's, in fact the spec's are beautifully described and illustrated by Roger Moment in the Jan and Feb 2016 issues of Healey Marque magazine.
So to finish, here is a color table from that article which clearly shows all the various Standard color options that were available on the 100's and what dates they were used.
Of course there were a few special color applications too, like the small handful of BN1's painted in gunmetal grey with scarlet red interior (which some of these pics are showing), The 4 early special test cars painted in light green metallic, and the two 100M show cars done in black over pink with pink trim and, Florida green with florida green trim.
But these colors were specials, never offered standard ;)
So there you have it - some interesting detail references to note on the interior trim of Healey 100/4's
In closing, I am very pleased to announce that Rightway Heritage Trimming is now producing all of the various styles of 100 interior trim components!
All made in the correct materials and colour combinations.
Contact me anytime for samples and pricing info -
Until next time -
Classic auto enthusiast, upholsterer, coach trimmer, and fine scale modeler.