Richard Steil - first owner of the 'black & white' car.
The 1966 - 1968 history of my Austin Healey 3000 BJ8

The black & white car has had 5 owners (or 'custodians') since it was sold new in 1966. Chris Dimmock is the current 'custodian' (since 1995). Richard Steil bought this Healey 3000 MK III Phase II BJ8 (H-BJ8/37244) from John Sprinzel Racing Limited, Lancaster Mews, London, in July 1966.

This is an overview of Richard's original ownership, and his 'London to Sydney' adventure in the 'black & white' car in 1967.

As it turned out - Richard Steil bought the 'black & white' car from John Sprinzel - the renowned BMC race and rally driver - and drove the 'black & white' Healey 3000 to Sydney - a year before John Sprinzel competed in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon!

Driving the Healey London to Sydney, 1967:

On April 22 1967, Richard had packed his all worldly belongings into the Healey, and drove it to the church to marry Trish. After their wedding reception, Trish & Richard set off in the black & white BJ8 - to drive from Portsmouth, England, to Sydney Australia. Well - they actually drove it from Portsmouth to Calcutta (via France, Switerland, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) and then shipped it to Sydney Australia from Calcutta 3 months later. The original plan was to drive all the way to Singapore via Burma - but they weren't allowed by the Government of the day due to safety reasons (many other civillian vehicles had been attacked) - so they shipped the Healey to Sydney from Calcutta. Richard kept detailed maps of the journey, which he had marked with the dates and route they took, as well as some amazing pictures. What an adventure!!!!!

Loading the Healey onto a boat to cross the Black Sea

Loading the Healey to cross the Black Sea. Photo courtesy Richard Steil.

Richard & his wife Trish did 25,000 miles during their ownership, and sold it about 6 months after they arrived in Sydney, in order to buy a house. There was only one major mechanical problem on the trip - a coil failure - between Mashad Iran, and Tehran. Richard only had one spare part - a coil, so it wasn't an issue ...... (a new fuel pump was fitted before they left London, under warranty....) Richard didn't even get a flat tyre on the trip!

Before he left England, Richard wrote, and spoke to, the Donald Healey Motor Company, regarding modifications he should make to the car for the trip - as Richard wanted to jack up the suspension to increase the ground clearance. Donald said he shouldn't raise the ride height, as it would upset the handling (and that Richard should consider a Land Rover if he wanted more ground clearance!). Richard has very kindly given me the letter which he received from Geoff Price, Service Director at the DHMCo, dated 15th February 1967, regarding preparation of the car for the trip to Australia.

Donald Healey Motor Company letter from Geoff Price

Letter from the Donald Healey Motor Company (DHMCo), signed by Geoff Price. Courtesy Richard Steil.

The DHMCo suggestion was that Richard should fit a 1/4 in thick sump/gearbox guard like the rally cars had, so that the car could 'skate' over obstacles on the sumpguard was done. Richard assures me it certainly 'skated' over some obstacles on the Khyber pass..... and he has photos to prove it.......

Healey 3000 at the Khyber pass

The Healey approaching a rockslide on the entry to the Khyber Pass. Photo courtesy Richard Steil.

So, apart from routine servicing; making up and fitting the sump /gearbox armorplate guard which bolted into the chassis rails; and a bootlid luggage rack (mounted off the hinges, no holes, with a suitcase on top) - that was the extent of the mods made for the trip. Oh - and packing a spare coil..... on the advice of the local Austin dealership (Skipper's Garage) who actually serviced the Healey before Richard left England.....

Total damage to the Healey from the trip was:
- totally worn down, non existant rear bump stop rubbers (and some damage to the rear suspension bump boxes - caused by the roads, or lack thereof)
- a dent in the front nearside wing (caused by the wharfies when they unloaded the car in Sydney).
- damage to the rear chassis rails under the diff (which we repaired during the 1998 restoration)

Checking the exhaust

Richard checking the exhaust and sumpguard by the side of the "road". Photo courtesy Richard Steil.

The Healey wasn't actually 'dropped' on the wharf due to failure to pay 'wharfie labourer backhand insurance' - as the legend had implied..... but it did have a service in Iran, at a BMC dealership.....

The history of the 'black & white' car - having been a race car since 1969 - and subsequently finding Richard & Trish and the detail of their amazing London to Sydney adventure - has been really an interesting and compelling aspect of 'my' Healey for me. The Healey family, the personalities, the friends, the things we've all done in our cars, and the individual personality of our cars - make them more than just transportation or lumps of metal. The black & white Healey was the first Healey I ever saw, and every owner has a unique bond and fond memories of their 'custodianship' with the car.

1968 picture Rego AT 118

The black & white car, in Australia, registered AT-118, parked in Goulburn St, (nr Chinatown) Sydney, around 1968 - just before Ian Morgan bought it.
Photo courtesy W.Gates; but was possibly taken by Ian Morgan


The ownership and competition history of the black & white car


Copyright© Chris Dimmock 2001 - 2005

Last Updated: July 16, 2005