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 so many years, 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 1/4" jute insulation (with a black coating on one side) glued down. The jute was covered by unbound Karvel carpet glued in place over top of the jute.
In the tops of the foot boxes, more 1/4" 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 snapped in place over more corresponding 1/4" 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 removed from the BN2 panels and relocated to the engine bay firewall.
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 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!)
Armacord mats were snapped in place on the floors under the seats and Armacord lining continued throughout the rear of the cockpit.
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 did not have the slotted cutouts for the seat tracks in these mats because the seats were bolted directly to the floors without tracks on the earlier cars.
Because the BN1 gearbox cover was shorter in length, there was a second removable tunnel section just behind it to cover 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 lower door 1/4round seals...
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. Also the center pleated section of the squabs were smoothly curved around the top which is often too squared off on modern kits. However 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 mid '54 this practice seems to have been discontinued and the cushion bottoms were left exposed...
Moving to the rear bulkhead...
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 later 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 matching colored Armacord to the rest of the interior. 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 early narrow design that required longer separate Armacord pieces to extend either side of it to fill in around the wheel arches.
The later style BN1 and BN2 boot mat was full width and sewn differently around the rear bumper brackets. The last shot notes the location of the spare wheel shelf and block on all 100's...
The soft tops were basically the same pattern between BN1 and BN2 with some minor differences occurring between the top frames and latch mechanisms. They had grey webbing between the bows and the front wooden header rail which was trimmed in matching vinyl to the car. Early BN1 tops were vinyl while later ones were Everflex. The early style tops had a trim screw through the top into the rear bow that also trapped the webbing straps. Later tops saw the webbing sewn into the top and secured to the rear bow on the inside only. Note the Hidem strip used to finish off the front edge...
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.
Last but not least, 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 .
The Tonneaus were made of Everflex and originally came with a Lightning brand zipper and nickle plated Tenax snaps with a knurled head:
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 7 BN1's painted in gunmetal grey with scarlet red interior (which some of these pics are showing), The 3 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
Until next time -
Classic auto enthusiast, upholsterer, coach trimmer, and fine scale modeler.