It's been months since I've had any time to work on my BN1. However these past weeks saw a few more things done..
First off, I should mention that I have at least been tracking down sources for much of the parts needed for the restoration, including some of the "unobtainium" parts that are hardest to find. I have put together lists of all the various sources for the parts I'll be needing and how much things will cost. This way I can slowly work my way through the various source orders as I have the money to cover each one.
It also helps having so many friends and clients in the Healey community. Since I started this restoration I've been able to reach out to acquire and often trade upholstery work for some of the rarer parts I've been hunting.
Over the past few months I've acquired several of the rare parts on my most wanted list:
- I found a pair of original Lucas 700 headlamps from my good friend Trevor Parker - these were standard on all export Healey 100's into Canada - Thanks again Trev!
I also found a pair of original horns, and a pair of Burgess air filters from my good friend Richard Korn - thanks again Richard!
I've been able to score some of the most difficult to find "unobtainium" pieces through my friend and client Curt Arndt - Curt has been collecting parts for his own beautiful BN1 restoration for decades and now I'm honoured to be making and installing his new interior for him - in original vintage materials that he's found! - I'll be happily covering this job in detail through future posts. -
As partial payment Curt has been able to provide me with several original and rare pieces that I was needing, like a correct BN1 generator commutator end - I can rebuild my current one that has replacement ends from a BN2 to at least have the correct ends on it:
Recently I went to our local Old English Car Club restoration fair and found a few more pieces that I snatched up including: a good set of original boot lid hinges, and a correct original boot lid handle - I'll need to get a new key for it which can be sourced through britishcarkeys.com by giving them the key number which is inscribed on the inner shaft...
And a pair of original Rainbow wiper blades:
Last weekend I went down to our local sandblast "Blast-It" center and stripped a few more parts that I also primed & repainted throughout the day...
I redid the headlight bowls and cleaned and polished the chrome rings and brass nuts, I re-plated the adjustment screws too and reassembled them with my new headlights and original plastic caps on the backs of the adjustment studs - curiously my plastic caps were yellow? I've only seen them red before...
I also stripped and repainted the side screen and top frames in medium grey:
I also rebuilt the brake master cylinder using a rebuild kit and following the factory workshop manual closely. The only tricky part was finding the proper 'red' brake grease to lubricate the rubber boot. Red grease is specifically designed to be compatible with rubber parts as well as brake fluid.
The other thing I started work on was the rear axle & hub assemblies. I first took several pics of it all still assembled. and then proceeded to remove the splined hubs, brake drums & axle shafts...
I was alarmed to discover that someone has replaced the 4 wheel hub studs on one side only with new studs and nuts that are larger than the other side! I had to use different wrenches on either side just to remove the hubs and axle shafts. In fact the side that has the replacement studs also has a crack in the inner hub where the one of the studs is located:
I've also discovered that the same rear wheel has cracks in the brake drum and even shows evidence of the wheel falling off! there are some very deep horizontal gouges along the bottom edge of the back plate - ouch! - if only this car could talk! -
while the back plate might be repairable, replacing the cracked early drum might be tricky to source!
I also got my front hubs & kingpin assemblies disassembled.
I've already got new kingpins, seals and bushing sets ready to go, however upon further inspection I've decided I'm going to replace all 4 of the splined wire wheel hubs. I'll eventually be getting 4 new wire wheels too so I'll feel better knowing that all the splines are new.
I also cleaned up my original radiator. I thoroughly flushed it out with boiling water and then cleaned it to bare metal with a series of gentle brass wire wheels in my drill.
The rad seems to be the original one to the car and is still in great shape - no leaks and still has all the original date and manufacturing stamps:
Now that I've sold my MGB, I'm finally able to pay back the loan for my Healey which I'm very happy to have settled. I can look forward to many more months (probably years) of meticulous restoration work ahead - but thanks to good friends who've been helping me acquire these rare parts, it's already starting to shape up very nicely! Thanks again everyone!
Until next time -
A few months ago I had a client from the US contact me about his original and unrestored 1956 Austin Healey BN2. It was a Healey blue car still with its original and fairly rare Teal blue upholstery!
In '56 and early '57 the factory tried using this Teal shade of blue interior trim instead of the common dark blue trim they had used before and after.
The owner wanted me to set some things right like replacing the carpet set and the interior panels with correct ones in the right colours. His original carpets and panels had been replaced with incorrect ones at some point. He also wanted me to repair one of the original front seats, and eventually make him a second pair of seats in matching teal blue done up like 100-S style seats!
Here's what his original front seat looked like when he sent it to me - the lower pivot arms had both been worn away so tape was holding them together, plus you can see the big rip and some of the seams around the pleated section had started letting go...
To start with I had to match up the colours of the leather and the vinyl materials exactly. This proved to be more difficult than I thought! However with much trial and error, I was able to find an almost perfect match for the leather and ended up getting the vinyl custom dyed to match the original shade perfectly.
I started off by making a new armrest which nicely shows how both materials contrast against each other...
Next I made the new carpet set in the correct blue Karvel carpet and black coated jute insulation, and a complete new vinyl panel kit in custom dyed teal...
Next I got into repairing his front seat. I carefully removed the covers and unpicked the necessary seams to remove the damaged pieces. For some pieces like the main backrest surround, I backed the torn leather with some canvass material and restitched some of the damaged seams. I completely replaced the leather on the lower pivot arms & repaired the foam in a few areas. Then I carefully put it all back together...
The final task was to make a new pair of 100-S style seats that the owner could swap in for long trips. The 100-S seats have a ridged frame with vent holes in the backrest - they're not only more comfortable, they look amazing! To start, we ordered some 100-S steel frames in from Kilmarten in Australia.
The wooden cushion frames I made are the same standard design as used on all Healey 100/4's. I made all the foams in house too, and even added the correct square cutouts in the bottoms of the cushion foams just like the factory ones had.
These cutouts allow the foam to compress when you sit in it, making for a much softer/squishier feel. Unlike the re-pro foams available today that are way too hard and don't compress at all...
With the cushions done, I moved on to the backrests. These required some very tricky sewing around each of the vent holes. I made my own foams again and made up some separate vinyl covered back panels that would be screwed on from the back - just like the factory S seats had. The end result came out absolutely beautifully!
While I'm sure the factory never made any S seats in teal, it's a shame - because I think the colour is part of what makes these seats so gorgeous! - they simply belong in a beautiful sports car!
Until next time -
It's been a very busy year so far for Rightway Heritage Trimming, especially when it comes to Austin Healey trim! In the past 3 months I've done 2 complete interiors for a pair of early Longbridge BN4's, and just recently I got in a very original 1961 Tricarb BT7 to replace all the original vinyl panels and dash.
In doing so many of these 4 seat Healey 100-6/3000 roadsters back to back, I've had the opportunity to verify patterns, as well as some interesting details I've noted time and again in the trimming methods and evolution of parts..
When Austin Healey released the 100-6 in 1956 it featured a larger cockpit with 2 rear seats just big enough for a couple of children - suddenly Healey was becoming a real family mans sports car!
For the first few years of the 100-6 BN4, production continued at the Longbridge factory as it had done with the earlier 100-4 models.
However in 1958, production of the 4 seat BN4's was halted for several months so they could focus on the production and release of the new 2 seater 100-6 (BN6)
When production of the BN4 finally resumed, they were relocated to the Abingdon factory which also coincided with several production detail changes.
For the purposes of this article I will just be focusing on the interior details as they evolved on the 4 seat "roadster" models from the early 'Longbridge' BN4's, through the later 'Abingdon' BN4's as well as the BT7 models.
The 2 seat BN6/7 models will be featured in a separate article!
To start with lets look at the front foot wells and kick panels:
Similar to the earlier 100-4 models, the toe boards and inner bell housing were first covered in a layer of 1/4" jute with a black textured coating on one side. Then the jute was covered with Karvel carpet.
The kick panels were made of Masonite panel board trimmed in a thin vynide type of vinyl.
-Vynide was the standard type of vinyl used on Healeys throughout the years, it was quite thin, had a matching colour backing and a fairly pronounced 'leather' grain to it. (eventually later BJ8 models used Ambla instead of vynide)
On the right hand side only, the kick panel had a large D shaped cutout with a separate piece of vinyl glued to the body behind it which provided a bit more toe room for RHD cars.This R/H foot well detail was standard on all 100-6/early 3000 models regardless of what side the pedals were on.
The panels were held in place using 3/4" #6 phillips oval head trim screws and countersunk cup washers - these screws and washers were the standard used for all Healey interior trim panels.
It should also be noted that it seems to have been common practice for the factory to hand paint several specific areas of exposed metal throughout the interior in whatever colour matched the interior vinyl. For example - the front lower edge of the door opening was painted red on this BT7 - in fact the entire flange around the door opening that the seal would press onto was hand painted red before trimming so as to hide any exposed metal. The edge of the inner door pocket opening was also painted:
There was a neatly trimmed steel parcel tray under the dash on the passenger side. It was trimmed with a sewn vinyl cover that covered the entire bottom and front perimeter edge, and had a piece of Karvel carpet glued in on top of the tray. There was also a round cutout for the washer fluid bottle and bracket to sit into...
Moving back from the toe boards, the inner sills were covered with Karvel carpet. These sill carpets would have been the FIRST pieces of carpet to be installed, having approx 1" overlap onto the floors and toe boards. Then the toe board carpets would neatly overlap the sill carpet in the corners to prevent any gaps.
The main floor pans were first covered with a thin layer of black tar paper, followed by some more black coated 1/4" jute under the front mats only, and then the Karvel floor mats which were snapped in place over the jute mats. The drivers side mat had a rubber heel pad sewn to it with the "Austin" logo in its center.
More Karvel mats continued under the seats with slotted cutouts for the seat tracks. They were all unbound and used 3 prong brass carpet snaps.
There was a separate curved steel panel that formed the front tunnel bulkhead. This panel had a rubber seal riveted to it that hung down and sealed around the gearbox. Like the toe boards, it too was covered in a layer of jute, followed by Karvel carpet that was trimmed around the edges of the panel. The panel was held in place with #6 trim screws and washers up either side and into the floor...
On 100-6 cars, the main tunnel body was similar in shape to the earlier BN2 models. It was painted black and held in place with screws into the floor and the forward bulkhead.The side shift 3000 cars were basically the same again, but slightly wider at the front. There was a vinyl cover over the front lip of the tunnel body where it met the forward bulkhead panel. The Karvel cover was sewn with a longitudinal seam. There was a 5/8" binding around the shift opening and some more 3/8" binding around the handbrake cutout. Jute insulation was glued to the underside of the carpet cover and the entire cover was snapped in place over the tunnel body - extending all the way to the rear bulkhead.
On later center shift BT7's, the tunnel body was made of fiberglass. It had a vinyl cover glued to the body over the shift hump. And its Karvel carpet was sewn with a few seams and darts to loosely conform to the shape of the body. Once again the jute insulation being glued to the underside of the carpet on these center shift covers - the carpet then being snapped in place over the tunnel body, with the center shift hump protruding through a bound hole in the carpet. There was also binding around the handbrake cutout and a vinyl cover glued to the rear tunnel body around the handbrake lever...
There were several different styles of center armrests that eveolved over the years of Healey roadster production. The first style seen on early Longbridge BN4's from 56-57 was a very similar design to the previous BN2 design, with a length of 15.5" It was a saddle design with 3 leather pleats on top and vinyl sides that extended to the floor:
The second style which turns out to be quite rare, was a similar 3 pleat design, but with sides that only extended down a few inches on either side. This style has appeared on BN4s during the Longbridge/Abingdon transition era of late '57/'58.
Finally they decided to go with this 3rd style armrest that was used on late BN4s and all BT7s (-as well as 2 seat BN6/7's and later BJ7 models). It was a smaller tapered rectangle design with 3 leather pleats on top, the center pleat being larger, and piping with vinyl edging. This armrest was actually sewn directly to the carpet: (note, ignore the repaired/recovered seats in both of these pics):
Moving on to the dash and dash top, as an added luxury on the Healey roadster models the dash was now fully trimmed in vinyl rather than being painted like the previous BN1&2's.
On the earliest Longbridge BN4s, the vinyl was simply glued around the edges,
then almost immediately the factory started adding small clips to the bottom edge, and by late '57 they had a thin C shaped edging that pinched the vinyl around the lower edges and gave it a finished look. This edging was painted to match the interior vinyl colour.
As production moved to Abingdon around 1958 we saw this edging replaced with a fuzzy snap-on trim that also matched the interior colour:
There was also a padded dash top panel with a D shaped padded crash rail along the rear edge. The panel was made of 1/8" birch ply with a tapered 1" thick lip along the rear edge that the D rubber was glued to. The entire panel was trimmed in vinyl with contrasting piping on either end to finish the edges where they met the scuttle seals. There were 2 aluminum demister vents in the dash top that were painted to match the interior colour. and the entire panel was held in place with a pair of trim screws, and turn snaps at either end, and the rear view mirror in the center...
The door panels were trimmed in a layering of vinyl covers and panels. To start, the factory often hand painted the exposed metal edges around the inner door pocket opening. Then there was a vinyl cover glued to the upper structure that would be overlapped by the cockpit rails and main door panels later.
There were 3 inner door panels trimmed in vinyl that all fit inside the door pocket area. They consisted of a larger lower panel that was stitched around the lower edges. followed by an upper panel that fit above it and overlapped it. Finally there was a smaller curved panel that wedged into the bottoms of the door pocket area to finish them off.
Then with the inner door panels installed and the upper vinyl cover in place, the main door panel was screwed in place over top. The main door panels were 1/8" birch ply with a very thin cotton padding on them covered in vinyl. The backs of the panels had more vinyl to cover the lower portion of the panel. then the entire panel was sewn with a stitch line about 1/2" in from the edge of the pocket opening. It was attached to the door with trim screws and cup washers and finished with the chrome door handles, latch finishers and side curtain anchor points.
The seats on BN4s are another thing that went through an evolutionary change through production. The earlier Longbridge cars had the exact same seat design as the previous BN1&BN2's, they had wooden seat cushion frames, and wooden tack strips used on the backrests to secure the leather and vinyl covers along the bottom edges. The easiest way to spot these earlier style seats is to note the direction of the piping as it follows the outer edges of the backrest all the way down around the lower pivot arms:
Then as production geared up to introduce the new 2 seat BN6 model in early 1958, we saw this new style of seat appear which had all the wood and tacks replaced with steel and clips. The seat cover design had changed a bit as well, with the characteristic piping now being diverted down to the base about 10" short of the pivot arms. The pivot arms now had separate sock-like covers instead of piping and hidem. Notice also the shorter angle iron style of seat base frame - the earlier style had a much taller frame design:
The cushions were now made with a steel frame instead of wood. The pleats were pulled under the frame and glued & snared on little hooks in the frame. The front and sides were held in place with little clips pushed onto a flange edge. There was also an air hole on the bottom of these early steel frames which made the bottom of the 'Dunlopillow' seat foam clearly visible:
The next small detail change to come with the seat design was the addition of mesh being added to the large cutout on the bottoms of the cushions. Presumably to prevent the foam from collapsing too far through the hole when sat on. It's unclear when exactly the mesh was added, but quite soon I presume. I've only seen a few steel cushion frames with the cutout and no mesh.
Not too long after, at least by 1960 - the cushion frames had solid steel bottoms without any large cutout. This style frame would continue on until the end of production:
Moving to the rear seat cockpit area, the 4 seat roadsters all had a pair of these small tractor seat style seat cushions: They were a shaped steel pressing with a combination of horse hair pads covered in layers of wadding and a sewn vinyl cover with contrasting piping. The each had 4 pleats and the pleated section was actually hand stitched to the steel base pan. The heavy gauge thread that remained visible on the bottom of the pans has often been found taped over to protect it from road spray from the rear wheels.
The rear backrests could easily be lifted out or folded down for stowage of the soft top. The earlier Longbridge cars had a slightly deeper top panel - measuring 6.5" at the widest/center point. Later BN4/BT7s were slightly less at 5.5" This was to accommodate the different style top frames used on the earlier cars.
The assembly was made of 1/4" Baltic birch plywood, with 1" square wood rails glued and screwed together. It was trimmed front and back in vinyl with 10 pleats across its front face and contrasting piping. Upholstery tacks were used to trim the covers in place.
The rear quarter panels and wheel arches on the early Longridge cars looked as follows: The wheel arches were first trimmed with a sewn vinyl cover. Then some angled hardwood pieces were screwed in through the outer rear door post.
The rear quarter panels were made of birch ply and trimmed with a sewn vinyl cover with contrasting piping. The panel was screwed to the hardwood sections at the front and to a small welded bracket at the rear. Finally another vinyl covered finishing panel was screwed on top of the hardwood sections to finish it all off.
The Longbridge BN4 door seals consisted of some polished aluminum strips screwed to the outer door trims containing some corresponding rubber seal strips. Here you can see the door seal details on this original early BN4:
At the front edge of the door opening a strip of furflex draft excluder was also installed to the front inner edge under the kick panels and tucked under the windshield posts:
Notice also the strip of black piping used to finish the outer edges of the rear door post trim. All 100-6/3000s used black piping here regardless of the interior colour.
The early Longbridge BN4s also had these small vinyl trimmed panels tucked in above the rear wheel arches to finish those seldom seen areas, the entire rear bulkhead behind the rear backrest was also trimmed with a large vinyl cover glued directly to the painted metal bulkhead panel.
On later BN4s and BT7s, we saw a new style of top frame that was able to fold down even smaller. The rear backrest became slightly less deep and the rear quarter panels were redesigned to look like this:
Behind the rear backrest, some sections of Karvel carpet were used to finish the corners, however they stopped trimming the rear bulkhead in vinyl.
The boot linings of all the 100-6/3000 roadsters was done in Armacord. Early Longbridge cars saw the Armacord in matching colour to the rest of the interior. While later BN4s and and BT7s they decided to switch to all black. The spare tire was wedged between 2 vinyl covered wood blocks and held in place with a securing bar and natural leather belt strap and buckle. The fuel neck was concealed by a grained panel board and the 12 volt battery was clamped down on the right side with a black vinyl cover over its top.
The tonneau cover on the 100-6/3000 4 seaters seems to have remained the same design throughtout production. The tonneau bar however came as either a single piece or in 2 pieces. The rear section had a series of 5 bars that slotted into corresponding sewn pockets providing stiffness and giving it a clean look. The tonneau featured a 'Lightning' brand zipper and used a series of Tenax snaps as well as turn snaps in the four corners infront and behind the doors.
The top and top frame designs changed a few times over the years of production.
The early Longbridge BN4s had a folding frame that remained attached to the car.
When folded upright, it had a little hook that snapped into a rubber clip and gave it some support while the top was unfolded and snapped in place.
Later BN4s had a separate removable top frame that was a similar design to the earlier one, but would be inserted into corresponding sockets over the rear wheel arches when erected.
The tops themselves had a few slightly different pattern style changes corresponding to the 3 different frame designs. These design differences are illustrated clearly in the Austin Healey Concours guidelines supplement on tops - I highly recommend any restorer have a set of these guidelines as they are an invaluable source of original spec photos and information.
The BT7 style of top frame was a simpler and heavier style of frame that remained separate from the top and removable from the car. Again it slotted into corresponding sockets over the rear wheel arches.
There was also of course a factory available hard top available for all 6 cylinder models. They came painted in either matching body colour, Old English White or Black. It was made of fiberglass with a molded plexiglass rear window, aluminum trim, rubber seals and a came finished with a nice cream coloured patterned vinyl headlining:
The last thing I haven't mentioned in this article is of course the side screens, unlike the earlier BN2s, these were not upholstered and instead were made of plexiglass with an aluminum frame.
They were stored in a neat protective bag with a divider sewn into it so they wouldn't scratch each other. The bag could be stored in the boot compartment when not in use.
And there you have it! everything you need to know about Healey BN4 & BT7 interior trimming. Of course if there are any of these trim components you're needing for your Healey you can contact me through Rightway Heritage Trimming. or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am currently able to produce any and all of the interior trim components for Healey 100/4s as well as these series of 6cyl roadsters - to concours spec in the right colours and materials. I do not produce tops as of yet -
For further reading on the evolution of the 100-6 & 3000, I highly recommend the website:
Until next time -
My name is Geoff Chrysler. I am a lifelong Austin Healey enthusiast and a professional classic car upholsterer and restorer.
I operate my own business called Rightway Heritage Trimming, in which I specialize in upholstery for Healeys and other spirited classic automobiles from the golden age of sports cars.
All of my life I have been surrounded by Healeys.
Some of you might remember my late father Richard Chrysler.
He and my Mom, Lyn, founded the Southern Ontario branch of the Austin Healey club back in the late 70s and he was one of the founding members of the National Concours committee.
Dad’s first Healey in the early 70’s was a Maroon BJ8 with purple shag carpeting!
At the time he already had an MGA and an MGB and the Healey quickly became his favourite car.
He ended up doing his first ever full engine rebuild on it in his parents tiny garage.
He had just started dating my Mom and they spent many evenings sorting through nuts and bolts and re-assembling the engine together. That was 1975, British Leyland was on strike, so many weeks went by before he could buy the necessary parts to put it all back together.
As new members of AHCA, they found out about an event being hosted in Detroit and were able to meet Donald Healey at a dinner hosted by the then President Walt Blanck. That weekend established their connections with the National club and they decided to try to get a club going closer to home. Over the next year they started leaving leaflets on the windshield of every Healey they encountered around their home area in Southern Ontario. Eventually they met enough enthusiastic owners to start the Southern Ontario club chapter.
The BJ8 was written off in an accident later that year and was replaced with a blue BT7 tri-carb. He gave it a cosmetic restoration, repainting it with 2 tone Healey Blue over White. Detailing it and freshening the interior etc.
They also bought a Bugeye sprite and fixed it up. Mom even redid the interior. Clearly they had fallen in love - with each other and the Healey lifestyle!
By the time I came along in the late 70’s, they had sold the Sprite, but our family car and winter driver remained a ’67 MGB-GT until the mid 80’s.
Dad had started doing a lot of Healey repair and restoration work for others and started a small business on the side, in addition to his regular 9-5 factory job.
He found and bought a huge Healey collection that included several rolling chassis’ and a huge trailer full of old parts.
He ended up selling his BT7 and started his most researched and highly detailed restoration yet of a ’54 BN1. He gave it the LeMans kit upgrades and painted it Healey Blue over White.
While Dads specialty was in the careful mechanical, electrical and detailed components restoration of the Healeys, he would enlist the skills of Mike Lewis and Colin Bailey to handle all of the metal work, and Ron Allman became his painter. All were seasoned masters of their crafts and gave consistently outstanding results.
Throughout the years he also called upon the very best upholsterers around for his restorations - all of whom specialized directly in Healeys.
Through the 80's and early 90's it was Martin Macgregor who had actually started his upholstery apprenticeship at BMC in the 60's - Martin was top notch when it came to British upholstery and went on to develop other top quality upholstery products like his own Bristleflex door seals.
Dad also enlisted the skills of his good friend Peter Svillans throughout the years. Peter had actually apprenticed for MacGregor in the early 80's, in fact together they had trimmed the famous Goldie back then! Peter became the upholstery specialist within the concours committee and would often come by to help when Dad needed a top installed or some original upholstery to be carefully restored or documented.
That first BN1 went on to be one of the first cars to be judged for concours at a national Conclave in Ontario in 1988.
I remember being there as an 8yr old… Dad took Geoff Healey out for a drive in his BN1 to attend aTV interview. When they returned, Dad promptly cleaned the ashtray that Geoff had emptied his pipe into. Some teased him about leaving official Healey ashes in there for good measure! I believe I entered a scale model Healey into the craft contest at that show.
Eventually, the BN1 was sold to a keen buyer and he immediately purchased a new project car: a ’56 BN2 that was originally Healey blue with evidence of a rare Teal blue interior!
This car was quite rough and required a great deal of metal work. He enlisted the skills of Mike Lewis and Colin Bailey of M&G restorations to do the metal work on this car and, like his BN1 before, they made it as good as new if not better in every detail. Colin would remain my Dad’s metal fabricator and Ron Allman his painter.
The car was of course painted in Healey Blue over White and sent to MacGregor again for its new Teal upholstery.
This car was a piece of art! I remember driving in it with Dad all the way to the International Conclave at Breckenridge, Colorado in 1992.
There the car was judged and got its Gold, and also captured the attention of it’s soon to be next owner from Yokohama, Japan. I remember we had to empty the fuel and run it until it starved in order for it to be shipped across the ocean. Our family all watched her sputter to a halt in the driveway the day they took her away.
In the years after that, Dad continued restoring many Healeys for other people. He always had at least a few project cars on the go. Always insisting on concours level standards, he openly shared information, published 100's of articles, contributed to the concours standards development and enjoyed helping others and answering questions about Healeys.
He helped find and restore some of the earliest discovered BN1s like pre-production #14 and production car #1, car #156 which he restored and owned, not to mention the unique BN3 he discovered in Ontario in the 80's.
I don’t know exactly how many big Healeys Dad restored in his lifetime - at least one or several of every Big Healey marque (except 100S) - enough that I stopped counting. I do know the garage was always full and a typical restoration would take 2-3yrs.
Growing up, our family vacations revolved around Healey events: Conclaves, Fall wind-ups, club rally’s, even local cruise nights. As kids we were usually given the option to come along if we wanted - I usually liked coming along if it meant I could get a ride in the Healey! I fortunately had a really inspiring relationship with my Father, I fell in love with both of his biggest hobbies: Austin Healeys and Scale Model Railroading - you'll have to look up the model railroad section of this blog to see some of that stuff!
Dads passion for accuracy and originality in his modeling and his restorations inspired me from a very young age. As a kid I was always keen to earn my keep through cleaning and painting parts and generally helping out around the shop.
When I was 13, I actually bought my first project car with my life savings: a 1965 MGB -
It was my passion project throughout my teenage years, and I learned a lot about mechanics and restoration through working on it and other cars with Dad.
Unfortunately the car was so far gone I just wasn't earning enough money at the time to afford the requirements of a proper restoration. So I ended up selling it before it ever got put back together.
In my early 20s I decided I wanted to leave home in Ontario and venture out to the west coast. I arrived in Vancouver BC and within a few years I got a job working for Heritage Upholstery and Trim in North Vancouver.
Heritage was a manufacturing company producing interior kits for all sorts of popular British and German classic sports cars.
Heritage had already started producing Healey upholstery and knew my father well as he was trying to help them improve their patterns. They hired me on as a general helper around the shop, but within a few months I started learning the basics of upholstery trimming - within a year I was doing seats. Upholstery work seemed to come quite naturally for me. It seemed to combine all of my best talents. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the skills and tools of the trade and I was able to exercise my detailed knowledge of Healeys and other British cars to help revise and improve their patterns and the overall quality of what they were producing.
After 10 years of working for Heritage, my Dad and I were starting to make big plans of going into business together to restore Healeys, if I would agree to move back to Ontario.
He and his metal and paint specialists were already looking for the right shop to join forces in when suddenly disaster struck.
In early 2012 my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given only months to live. Without hesitation I left my life on the west coast so I could be with him in Ontario for his last months. My last words to him were, that he had taught me everything I needed to know to be successful and happy. He was a great man and I would do right by him in my lifetime. Sadly he passed away in July of that year.
That same summer I decided to launch my own business which I called Rightway Heritage Trimming. Dad's business name was Rightway Restorations, and I had come from Heritage Trim so, the name seemed fitting.
At first I worked out of Dad’s old shop at home for a while and even took a job up in Aurora Ontario working for Diamond Trim - just to see what working for a really big upholstery shop was like.
Inevitably my heart craved the west coast lifestyle that I had left behind. So, once again I packed up all of my worldly possessions, and I moved my life back to BC to start over again, this time on Vancouver Island.
Within my first week on the island I received a call from famous classic car restorer Rudi Koniczek of Rudi and Company. Rudi is world renowned for his concours 300SL restorations and had a small group of highly skilled craftsmen working full time at his beautiful home shop facility in Victoria BC.
Like one of his employees, Rudi took me under his wing and provided me with plenty of new and exciting upholstery work on all sorts of high end classic cars for my first 4yrs on the island. Working with Rudi and his crew taught me new levels of perfection in my craft. The learning curve was steep but I took it in stride. The knowledge and experience helped to fuel my passion and when he retired and sold his business in 2017 (now Coachwerks Restorations), I pushed on with my blossoming upholstery business to where I am today.
In addition to upholstery, over the past 3 years I finally re-ignited my teenage dream of restoring an early MGB. I bought and completely restored a 1964 B for myself which I covered heavily through my blog. I even won best debut restoration for it at the ABFM show in Vancouver last year. Getting back into full restoration is a wonderful and rewarding experience, and I look forward to more restoration work down the road.
I now have my own shop in Victoria BC and continue to do upholstery work for several of the best restoration shops here on Vancouver Island. I also continue to do Healeys for local and international customers who send me their cars or seats for upholstery restoration, or request other concours accurate trim components.
Like my Father, I think Healeys are one of the most beautiful cars ever designed - especially the early 2 seat 100/4 models. For me working on them feels like I’m working with my Dad again., and I love the pedigree and interesting history of the Marque.
I currently offer the most accurate interior components available for the earlier big Healey models - and I'm slowly but surely collecting accurate patterns to cover the later models too.
My current big restoration project is restoring my own 1953 BN1 which I intend to someday present as a concours example when it’s all finished.
In the meantime, I also continue to write a blog about the research and work I do on my Healey and other cars called “A Detail Enthusiast”
Some of the articles I’ve written on original Austin Healey trim have received huge response from the Healey world, resulting in more business and even a request to put together a separate supplement for trim guidelines within the National Healey Concours Standards.
My Father mastered the art of concours level restorations of Austin Healeys.
I feel privileged to have been raised by him as a Father and close friend, and to have inherited his passions for accuracy and detail.
I sincerely love what I do! Especially the pride and satisfaction that come from a job well done.
There’s a lot of value in what I do, not only in dollars but also in the knowledge and appreciation of these cars, their history and the craftsmen who built them. I’m grateful to be exercising these skills and values, and to still be learning new ones!
Until next time -
I recently made a new tonneau cover for a clients late BN1.
The client was able to send me his original tonneau in the original Sage green Everflex so I could cross reference it with my patterns and re-examine the details...
While I was at it, I pulled out my original Red early BN1 tonneau so I could lay them out together and examine the differences,
Here you can see the late BN1/BN2 style tonneau in Green, compared to the early BN1 tonneau in Red:
The early BN1 tonneau pattern followed the cars cockpit rail curvature around the front, while the later style had more sqaured off front corners and used turn-snaps in the front corners rather than the Tenax snaps the earlier used...
Notice the original "Lightning" zipper used on both styles -
Both styles have the same little under flaps for turn-snaps sewn in just behind the doors...
Slightly different stitching at the base of the zipper...
Also some updated stitching details around the rear hook bars as the later style improved...
Here's one of my new early BN1 tonneau's that I made earlier this year - in correct Red Everflex, with a new correct style Lightning zipper:
And here's the new one I made in the later style for Curt -
Unfortunately the Sage Green Everflex is totally unavailable, and it's just not wise to try and custom dye a piece of weather equipment that's going to be used regularly. So we had to settle on using the available Dark Green Everflex - which still looks great!
Complete with a new correct zipper and his original Lightning pull -
Get yours through:
Until next time -
This week I made a visit up to Sydney to visit some of my fellow Healey buddies.
I test fit one of my new Tonneau covers on a friends BN1, and got to catch up and talk Healey's -
Of course while I was in the area I made a quick stop in to see my BN1 at Jetstream Auto and Custom.
Jason has the chassis all rigged up in a rotisserie and he's already cut off the old rotten outer sills, as he's preparing it for wet blasting.
He tried using a pressure washer on the underside to clean off the mud and expose the original undercoating on the rear chassis around the rear axle. - What he discovered was quite interesting!
Here's some good pics of the underside condition - the front cross-member will definitely be getting replaced! as well as the outer sill areas:
Most interestingly though, It has been found in the past that the factory seems to have applied a small amount of undercoating - by hand, to only a few surfaces of the rear chassis area:
Often under the boot floor, (sometimes including the protruding gas tank!) - and on the vertical boot bulkhead surface immediately behind and over top of the rear axle.
Most cars have shown this undercoating applied before the body was finally painted, so the black undercoat would have been painted body colour.
However, my car seems to exhibit the undercoat being applied over the paint!
There does not appear to be any undercoating under the blue body colour on my car, nor was any found under the boot floor at all!
What does turn up is black undercoat, clearly brushed on by hand, on top of the blue paint- only on the 2 bulkhead panels behind and over the rear axle.
Of course the first thing that comes to mind is when was this applied? is it indeed factory? - it certainly looks like it is and, fits the previous descriptions of location and style of hand brushing - but this ones over the paint! ?
There you have it concours guys - the plot thickens!
In other news, I've packed up my original front and rear shocks and will be sending them out east to be rebuilt at Apple Hydraulics.
Until next time -
I recently started on a job for a customer who has an un-restored 1956 Healey BN2 in Healey blue with the rare Teal blue interior.colours.
While Teal is a rare interior colour, it's one that I'm quite familiar with;
My late father Rich Chrysler had a '56 BN2 that he restored back in the early 90's that also had remnants of a Teal blue interior. It sent him on a massive research hunt for others like it so he could restore his to original spec..
With the help of fellow Healey upholstery experts Martin Macgregor and Peter Svilans, here's they came up with back in 1992:
Since then we've found several other un-restored cars with the teal interior combo appearing in blue cars and even a few white cars throughout 1956 until the end of BN2 production.
We've also found a few early Blue BN4's with the Teal blue trim combined with cream piping as late as March '57.
With this most recent job being sent to me, I've had the opportunity to take a fresh look and study how the Teal blue colour faded so differently among the differing materials of leather, vinyl and Armacord it was seen on.
Having been in the Healey upholstery business for over 15yrs now I've seen A LOT of original trim!
The key's to remember when studying original colours and narrowing down specific shades is: Exposure!
ie: materials that have spent 50+yrs in the sun and elements are going to bleach and fade in wild ways that can be very confusing for restorers to decipher.
It's important to find areas that have never seen daylight or exposure to moisture, cleaners etc...look in dark areas and under edges and seams...
In the below pic, I'm trying to match the original leather shade on the bottom of this cushion - not being fooled by the brighter colour above that it's become over time...
Here are some more pics of original teal found on my friend Richard's BN2 - again showing how the exposed vinyl faded to a greyish green, while the leather got more brilliant over time...
Notice the unexposed Blue Karvel carpet and Teal Armacord under the armrest -
Of course most Healey owners will recognize this standard shade of dark blue with grey piping. All the materials of leather, vinyl, Armacord, and carpet were in similar shades of dark blue.
This dark blue interior colour scheme was seen in cars painted Healey Blue/Healey Grey, and also available in cars painted Old English White, and Coronet Cream.
It's worth noting that this standard dark blue Karvel carpet and royal blue Everflex weather equipment remained the standard used even with the Teal blue interiors -
Here's some good pics of the standard dark blue used on BN1's and BN2's throughout production:
Notice with the armrest removed below, the original blue colour of Karvel carpet with dark blue vinyl edging - both colours faded with exposure, the carpet turned to a grey colour, while the blue got a bit lighter over time.
Moving on to the Reds:
Another colour that a lot of Healey 100 owners often don't get right, is the standard Red/Persimmon interior colour scheme offered as "Red" on BN1's and early BN2's painted Black, White, Carmine Red or even Coronet Cream!
Like the Teal scheme, the factory decided to use some high contrasting material colours together:
The carpet, Armacord and Everflex weather equipement were all in a medium Scarlet Red shade, while all the vinyl and leather were done in a very bright contrasting Persimmon shade.
Persimmon is another colour that can act like a chameleon after decades of sun and wear -
A number of years ago my father and I restored a '54 BN1 that had all of it's original Red/Persimmon interior still intact. I was given the task of carefully cleaning all the interior components and reinstalling them on the car.
What I found was the Persimmon would fade out to a bright Orange over time, though in areas unexposed I could see it started life as a very bright Red with a faint Orangy hue when compared to the darker red carpet and Armacord:
Look at the variations of colour saturation! It's evident how orange the Persimmon became over time, though it actually started a very bright red:
Persimmon was also seen used on the piping in Carmine Red cars with black trim:
At the end of 1955 as the BN2's evolved, the Carmine Red paint scheme was discontinued in exchange for Reno Red.
Subsequently, the Persimmon shade of interior was also discontinued and replaced with a slightly more scarlet looking shade of red leather and vinyl that better matched the Red carpet and Armacord.
Here's some examples of the later red that replaced the Persimmon shade after December 1955:
Notice how the upper surfaces of the seats have indeed faded to a slightly more orange hue - though make no mistake, these are a much darker shade of Red than the previous Persimmon!
The last interior colour I'm going to feature is the Green colour scheme that was offered with cars painted Spruce green, Old English White, or Black.
It used a variety of different shades of green to create what I consider to be a truly elegant interior colour scheme!
The leather and vinyl were both a dark green with only slight contrast between the 2 materials...
Armacord was a bright Emerald green with contrasting Dark Green vinyl binding...
And to finish it off, it had this Sage Green Everflex used for all the weather equipment:.
Unfortunately, Sage Green Everflex is completely unavailable nowadays, so restorers must settle for a Dark Green Everflex instead..
Black and White:
Of course there were a few more less colourful interior schemes left that I haven't mentioned yet:
There was an off White leather colour that was used with Black carpet, Armacord, vinyl and piping. This was only available for 6 months on Black BN1's only.
Unfortunately I don't have any good pics of it to show you -
Black interiors with Red piping were offered with Carmine Red and Reno Red cars, the carpet, vinyl, leather, Armacord and Everflex would all have been Black with only the seat & armrest piping being in contrasting Red.
An all Black interior scheme was also offered in 1956 with the introduction of the Florida Green paint scheme:
To finish, I'd like to leave you with a colour chart made by Roger Moment that lists all of these colour schemes by date and body number -
I have done a lot of research to source just about all of these original materials in the correct colours for reproducing Healey 100 interiors accurately.
The only materials that are unavailable in the correct colours are the Green Karvel, Everflex and Armacord, as well as the Teal Armacord - although I have found decent substitutes for the carpet and Everflex, and can custom dye the Armacords.
For Concours accurate upholstery for your Healey, come to:
Until next time -
Since my last post I've been so busy with upholstery work I haven't had time to work on my BN1 until yesterday.
In the meantime however, I was able to order in all the necessary replacement metal panels including a pair of outer sills, lower rear fender repair panels, a front fender repair panel, and a new front cross member.
Yesterday morning I had my friend Jason come by with his full sized pick-up truck. Together we were able to lift my chassis in to the box and strap it down so he could take it up to Jetstream Automotive for all the metal and paint work to be done.
The chassis just barely fit in the back of his truck which made transport really simple! - Thanks again Jason!
With my car out of the way, I can now bring in some more upholstery jobs that I already have lined up for the next several months. Including a few other Healey's!
After Jason left with my chassis, I got to work on cleaning up and restoring some more parts for my BN1...
I started by refurbishing my battery shut off switch.
I thoroughly cleaned and polished it and repainted the black upper face under the switch knob,
I also polished the Bakelite knob and repainted the off white lettering...
Next I cleaned up the overdrive relays and the original flasher unit - all date coded 12/53, they're original to the car...
To finish the day I cleaned up the original starter solonoid. Again dated for 12/53 - I'll get a new rubber dust cap to install over the push button.
Until next time - Happy Holidays!
Over the past 2 Saturdays I've had the unenviable task of hand stripping all the layers of old paint, primer and filler form all the aluminum body panels of my BN1.
While the main chassis and the outer side fenders and doors are all steel on my car. The front and rear shrouds as well as the bonnet and boot lid are made of soft/light aluminum.
The steel components I've decided will be sent out for sandblasting at Jetstream Automotive. Jason Stoch of Jetstream reviewed the process with me and explained that they only use fresh wet sand that actually contains a rust inhibitor in the liquid part.
This way, the heat/distortion is greatly reduced from the sand being wet.
The aluminum however needs to be treated very delicately. Any sort of blasting process will distort it.
So I'm left with either chemical dip stripping (which is very expensive and not available here on the island) or stripping the paint by hand...
So in preparation for the task, I first prepared my work area with some large poly tarps spread out on the floor. I rolled the car over the tarps and partially mounted the aluminum shrouds in place on the car.
I purchased some large tins of paint stripper - I recommend getting the gel type that stays wet/active for longer.
Then I armed myself with some heavy clothing that I don't mid destroying, some goggles, gloves, a respirator and some good hand tools for stripping -
I found these 3 tools to be the most effective:
-I start by globbing on the stripper heavily with a brush, I would wait about 10min for it to start bubbling the paint.
-Then I would use the big scraper to remove layers of paint.
Because my car had several layers of different colours, I had to re-apply stripper often to work my way through the layers.
-When ever I encountered any filler, I found the razor blade scraper to work best.
-Once I was down to basically the metal, I would scour the remaining residue off with the big wire brush...
Here are the results on the front shroud...
And again on the rear shroud...
and finally the bonnet -
and boot lid...
As you can see, I was quite happy to discover that all the aluminum panels are in great condition with almost no corrosion at all around the outer flanges (as often happens).
However I did find lots of dents that had been filled in with loads of filler. All the dents are going to need some careful working out.
The bonnet especially looks like someone probably laid on top of it!
Perhaps my car was once used in some publicity photo shoots with models laying across it?? - perhaps that's my bright imagination again...
Until next time -
Today I rebuilt the wiper motor and its mechanism for my BN1. This is the original one for the car dated for November 1953, and its number was even recorded in my cars Heritage build certificate.
I started by taking it apart in sub assemblies and cleaning and restoring each sub section. Starting with the wiper gear mechanisms and the long worm gear arm that connects them...
Followed by the main body and motor...
I cleaned out all the old grease, and carefully polished all the zinc plated metal parts.
Then I added some fresh grease as I reassembled the mechanical parts.
For the electric motor I simply cleaned and inspected everything. Polished the Bakelite top casing.
Finally I refinished the outer body in black wrinkle finish and reassembled everything with fresh grease on all the gear mechanisms..
I finished the day by cleaning and refurbishing the 2 smaller dash gauges for the fuel, oil and water. After carefully opening them up, I thoroughly cleaned everything. I repainted the black outer rims that were starting to flake off, and even repainted the tiny needles white as the original paint was flaking off of those too.. Fun stuff when it all goes well!
Finally this morning I finished refurbishing the brake fluid reservoir by adding the new decal to finish it off..
until next time...
Classic auto enthusiast, upholsterer, coach trimmer, and fine scale modeler.