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 -