Austin Healey #174 Healey Grey??….Paint History

When I received the Heritage Certificate for this car I was surprised to note that the original colour was noted as “Healey Grey”.  I have not been a close follower of all the work that people have done on these very interesting “early” cars so was not aware of the discussion that had gone on among those “in the know ” about this colour.

When I broached the subject with one expert whose opinions I respect greatly, he was pretty sure that the reason that the name “Healey Grey” has been listed on Heritage Certificates is the source of information for those certificates. He gave the following as the reasoning:

1. I have record in the Hundred Registry of quite a few early cars logged as being painted in “Healey Grey”, and others in “ Healey Blue”. They seem to have used the two terms back and forth to mean the same thing, though some we know had no metallic content, while others had.

2. The naming of the paint on the build cards as Healey Blue or Healey Grey goes well into November of ’53 (with Body numbers into the 700’s) with a few of them specifying non metallic while most do not make the determination. So it definitely wasn’t a case of sequential evolution of the paint, but seemed to be randomly making use of metallic or non metallic and not stating the difference on the build cards.

I think that reasoning is very sound and was prepared to accept that this car was painted Healey Blue aka “Ice Blue Metallic” until I started looking a little more closely.  I carefully sanded through the paint layers on the rear shut face of one of the doors and this is what I found.

I believe I was very lucky that no one had taken the time to strip this area of the car down to bare metal  and that what was revealed is indeed a true history of the paint jobs over the last 59 years.

Here is what I think happened with this car:

The panels, like the chassis from John Thompson Motor Pressings, were painted in black chassis paint probably by Dowty Bolton Paul before shipping to Jensens.  (On this car the frame colour is definitely black not “chocolate brown” as others have described theirs. Chocolate brown however is indeed evident on the back of the dash and under the gravel guard).

Jensens did the assembly and once that was finished they blew in the areas where the black had been damaged with red oxide primer before applying the finish colour to all the outer surfaces, the door shuts and presumably the inside of the boot and bonnet.

My bet is that this car was sent to a dealer and didn’t sell, possibly because it looked a bit dowdy next to the Healey Blue ones,  so the dealer gave it a quick Healey Blue paint job to move it off the lot. That is just conjecture on my part but having worked in dealerships in the ’60s I know that in New Zealand they weren’t above painting a new car completely when the customer wanted one in a different colour!!
Some time later someone decided that they wanted the car in white so it got a total exterior grey primer then white paint job, over what was there,  including blowing in the wheel wells over the previously unpainted black frame paint. The white extends right up the door face so it is unlikely it was a “add white coves” job.
Next someone decided to do a Healey Blue with red interior so they stripped the outer surfaces completely down to bare steel applied a grey primer then a coat of Healey Blue which is why Ice Blue Metallic over grey primer is all I was able to find on those surfaces.

I took the door to a guy in the paint business I have known  for years  and he picked it right away!! He said it is the same as an old  Ford colour Spinnaker Blue. He mixed some up and it is absolutely identical to that non metallic blue/grey so, unless someone can convince me that this car was not that colour originally,  that is the colour it will be when I finish it.

Any comments would be more than welcome.

ADDED SEPTEMBER 2014

The question of whether or not “Healey Grey” was a official colour for the early 100s has been discussed at length since I first posted this article. After several phone calls and emails on the subject Roger Moment was good enough to send me following which, although somewhat bizarre, sounds  as though it may be a reasonable explanation for the confusion on the subject:

“I have build sheet data for many early 100s.  much of it came form John Wheatley who copied the records when he worked at Longbridge in the 1950s.  Some I researched at Gaydon years ago.  Of some 300+ entries covering bodies up to B. 400, six list “Blue”, 47 are colors other than blue, primer, or no color is shown (my data source didn’t list the color), and the remaining 247 ALL list Healey Grey!!!! Besides, I know of B. 691 that has the color listed as Healey Ice Blue and this is a non-metallic blue paint. so, B. 133 is listed as Healey Grey and it IS a metallic blue.
 
The BMC Service Paint Scheme pamphlet shows for the Austin-Healey 100 (BN1, BN2) Ice Blue (Straight), Code BUL.18 (See BN.2 Ice Blue Metalli-chrome)
    and for the Austin-Healey 100 (BN1, BN2); 100-Six (BN4, BN6), 3000, and 3000 Convertible (BJ7) Ice Blue (Metalli-chrome), Code BU.2 (See BU.18 Ice Blue (Straight).
 
There is NO mention of “Healey Grey”, nor for the various colors (grouped as Greens, Blues, Reds, etc.) under Greys there is no ?Healey Grey.
 
I believe that “Healey Grey” was a term that was used on the assembly line when filling out the cards, but there is NO ICI color code for it. It only shows up for blue cars among the first 400 or so Healey 100s, and never shows up again after that (and admittedly my records are incomplete).  B. 691, which is done in non-metallic Blue, is probably but one of some number of such cars.
 
We also know that there were LOTS of metallic Blue Healeys in the first few hundred.  I have a B&W photo taken by BMC of the Healey 100 production line on Sept 28th, 1953.  During this week cars with body numbers in the 300s were being built, and you can see from the appearance of the paint in the photo that ALL of the cars in the two assembly lines have metallic paint.Therefore, I cannot agree that “Healey Grey” is either a special color OR the non-metallic blue used on Healey 100s.”

 

So although this does not really do much to explain the unusual original colour on #174 it sheds some light on why the colour is denoted as “Healey Grey” on the Heritage Certificate.

About Michael

Who is this guy? Born in New Zealand some time back. Went to Maori Hill Primary School then Kaikorai Valley High before joining the RNZAF and an Airman Cadet in 1968. Graduated 1972 with an NZCE in Aeronautical Engineering. Then embarked on the typical Kiwis "Big Trip Overseas". Got to see quite a few places, and spent a while in the U.K. "home" as it was refered to by many New Zealanders in those days, before travelling on to New York and then to Canada by bus!! This trip is presently on hold (has been for the last 34 years). Met my dear wife Judy not long after arriving in Ontario and we have been happily married since 1976. After travelling around New Zealand and the pacific in 1979 I started Precision Sportscar andfor the next 23 years grew the business and helped raise 2 boys Drew and Robin.
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11 Responses to Austin Healey #174 Healey Grey??….Paint History

  1. Gene Stigen says:

    You commented about my early ’53 100, I’ve had since 1970, bought her off my brother who had removed the ’56 Corvette V-8 that had been installed in 1960. Luckily she wasn’t cut up,they did add dual chrome ex tips,also small traction(radius) rods beneath the leaf springs. I bought a 55 engine & 4 speed box for her & drove it that way for many years. She has alloy boot and bonnet,2 piece dash, adjustable steering wheel.Also has Persplex side curtains(one piece) & wing vents that bolt to windscreen. The engine I put in her(out now) does have 1 3/4 in carbs & accessories. Also as spare set of 1 piece curtains & 2 sets of vinyl ones. My son just graduated and I’m bout to retire, so hopefully I can get back to my girls. I also have 2 2nd owner cars, a ’63 Bj7(black) & late ’67 BJ8( icy Blue) . I’ve been a mechanic by trade on British & German(VAG) cars also w/working at a turbo shop. Do have a bunch of spares from owning over a dozen Healeys over the years. By the way, my speedo goes 150mph, don’t think it came that way, looks like oem.Doubt it.
    nice to hear from a fellow ’53 owner, talk to a guy in Oz on occasion.
    Got a guy that;s been bugging me to buy my ’53(baby) as we call her for years,just can’t part with her.
    cheers

  2. Bob Markovich says:

    I’ve owned an early 1953 production Healey 100 since April (car # 237) and am in the process of finishing it, including paint, so the Healey Grey vs. Blue issue interests me greatly as “Healey Grey” is the color listed on the British Heritage certificate for my car. Its September build date is well within the early batch with this mysterious Grey notation and, based on all this, I’ve chosen non-metallic Ford Spinnaker blue as the color. Like Coronation Cream, it was used on only a few of the earliest cars. Some other early Healey quirks I discovered:

    • My water temperature gauge is in centigrade. Ad first I assumed this was perhaps a French or German market Healey (it’s LHD), but a friend who owns an October-build ’53 BN1 also has the centigrade gauge and affirms that some if not all early Healeys used it. Curious whether other early Healeys also have the centigrade water-temp gauge.

    • Different door/scuttle rain gasket. Later Healeys (including the BN2s and my old BN6) have that L-shaped rubber gasket that’s a total PITA to install. Mine are missing, but, again, a look at my friend’s early BN1 showed simple flat weatherstrip that simply glues on. He claims this is correct; true or not, I’m taking the simple route!

    • 140-mph speedometer. This confused me at first, especially with the centigrade water-temp gauge (why wouldn’t the speedo be in kilometers in that case?). And even the 100-M Healeys used the usual 120-mph speedo. Someone suggested that the 140-mph speedo was an option that was, in fact, used on the later 100S cars. Any comments?

    • Blue engine paint. Yup, my early 100’s engine is indeed blue. Several reference books, including the one from Roger Moment, I believe, mentions that a few very early cars used this simple blue instead of the usual Healey dust grey. So I’m staying with it. More than a few experts also assert that Longbridge often used whatever paint fell to hand if they ran out of the regular-issue color–as with parts such as early 3000s getting the 100/6 horn center, conical rear reflector lenses, and even the peaked hood scoop, or one genuine tri-carb 3000 getting the wavy-chrome grille its owner swore was original–so perhaps that explains it. Certainly gives us a few more choices when restoring!

    • Michael S says:

      Before deciding that your car was originally painted in the non metallic blue/grey please read the later additions on my post.
      I decided to paint #174 that color only after finding solid evidence that the car was indeed one of what was almost certainly a very small number of cars so painted.

  3. Russ G says:

    Thanks for the info Michael. So where can I find this elusive color #174?

    • Russ G says:

      Sorry, meant to say more closely matches the color on your #174.

      • Michael S says:

        Hi Russ,
        The colour that I used was Spinnaker Blue. It is a Ford colour…1957 I think. This is what is on the can. Several people have confirmed that it is a perfect match. My colour sense is not great so I have to accept their opinions.

        430-04…26.51%
        430-02…7.80%
        430-21…1.27%
        430-45…0.40%
        430-13…0.16%
        435-82…59.63%
        441-21…4.22%

  4. Francesco Di Lauro says:

    Hi, my car is #400, another of the early Healey Grey cars. I am presently restoring it and the engine is almost ready for painting: which is the correct shade of blue? Any photo of a blue AH 4-cyl. engine in the correct hue, please?
    Also worth of note, my HC states wheels being 16″; I always thought this a mistake until I came upon an early car being sold at Auction. The car had always been used in competition, it came from the first batch as mine and it was described as having left the factory fitted with 16″ wire-wheels.
    Any information regarding this matter would be very welcome.
    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Francesco.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Francesco.
      IMHO it is very unlikely that your car’s engine was painted blue. To quote the Concours Guidelines:
      “Some very early BN1’s were a medium/dark bluish-gray (chassis 138039 (believed to be the 7th or 8th production car built) showed evidence of the engine being a med. to dark grayish-blue)
       One or two of the very early engines may have been Morris green.”
      I did considerable research on this and was unable to find evidence of any engines after about body #50 that had anything but Healey Green engine paint. Do you have any evidence of original blue paint on your engine?

      • Francesco Di Lauro says:

        Hi Michael, thanks for your reply. My engine is indeed Morris green but this is not the engine that was fitted to the car when it left the Factory: it is a replacement engine fitted in 1956, this ‘new’ engine number being correctly reported in the original old-style registration document. So, from the point of view of preserving the continuous history of the car, maybe the most correct colour would be Morris green …. Regards, Francesco

  5. Michael says:

    Just to clarify regarding the colours.
    Morris Green is not the colour that Healey engines were painted, it is a “grass” green that was used on most other Morris engines including Sprites I believe.
    Healey engine green is a sort of “sea green” and I believe unique to “big” Healey engines.

    • Francesco Di Lauro says:

      Thank you Michael, all clear: my engine is not ‘steel-dust grey’ also indicated as ‘Healey green’ as in 99% of cases but the darker and non-metallic Morris green, the same used in Sprites and Minis. From one of the books on the big Healeys, this colour appears to be the correct one for factory-reconditioned engines : in fact, the replacement of the engine with a factory-supplied reconditioned unit is recorded in my registration document. Numbers also match. Regards, Francesco

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