High Society Kustom Garage

Interior Restoration

This month we’ll concentrate solely on HSKG’s specialty, the interior, and how best to tackle this part of your restoration project.

More Evaluation

Much like the vehicle overall, the interior restoration begins with inspecting the car thoroughly.  Note any scratches, rips, stains, or imperfections in the upholstery.  Start a running list of issues or things you’d like to improve now such as padding in the seats.  Carefully inspect the dashboard, carpets, and soft trim to determine the extent of wear and damage.  Now is when you’ll be working out what will need replacing and what can be kept and repaired.  Pay particular attention to areas that are prone to wear, such as the driver’s seat and footwell.  Again, take detailed notes and photographs to serve as a reference for the rest of the restoration process.

Cleaning

Thoroughly clean any pieces of upholstery that don’t show clear signs of damage.  Use the appropriate cleaning products for leather, vinyl, or fabric materials, and clean all plastics.  This step is important regardless of whether the interior is getting a full restoration or just a tidy-up.  Moreover, it may also aid in reducing the cost of car interior restoration by preventing potential damage requiring further repair.  At the very least, on a back-to-original restoration, material selection and colour matching will be easier.  Cleaning will often happen at the same time as the next step, disassembly.

Disassembly

Each piece should be methodically removed to avoid damage.  Carefully disassemble all interior components, such as seats, carpets, and headlining.  While disassembling be aware of any hidden screws holding items down.  The last thing you want to do is damage an irreplaceable piece that could have otherwise been restored.  Take your time and be patient.  As items are removed, more cleaning and documentation will probably be a good idea.  Since interior disassembly may take place well ahead of time, keep things labelled and stored correctly.  This will help later in the process.

Reconstruction

Reconstructing an interior requires knowledge, skill, and precision.  Whether it’s repairing damaged panels, reupholstering covered pieces, or refinishing wooden trim, each task demands experienced hands.  Using qualified professionals in each aspect ensures that the quality of the original interior is maintained.

Materials and Techniques

For a faithful restoration, finding the right materials is possibly one of the most challenging aspects of interior restoration.  Your upholsterer may need to seek out suppliers that specialize in vintage car materials, which of course, takes time.  Choosing premium materials for the upholstery ensures that your restored interior looks its best for years to come.

Using the correct techniques is just as important as using the right materials.  For example, if your interior restoration is to be factory-correct, use seams that were original to that model.  Aren’t you glad you kept the originals to show your trimmer?  A French seam where there’s supposed to be piping will stand out for all the wrong reasons to the knowledgeable.  The same goes for top stitched pleats instead of traditional stuffed pleats.

Springs and frames on older cars often need attention, especially on the driver’s side.  Foam rebuilding and reshaping is also a common requirement.  To do this type of work correctly, having specialty tools will also usually be necessary.

Hard surface upholstery

Sometimes, the upholstery on door panels can be in reasonable condition, but the (often) Masonite panel itself will be warped.  This is a sure sign that moisture has been in behind the panel.  Are the door gaskets still in place?  Or have the door rubbers themselves perished?  Both of these are often overlooked items in an interior restoration.  A properly cut and fitted door trim will allow the door to close properly without any interference.  Door handles and hardware are also easy to forget details.

Restoring a dashboard to its original condition can be quite an undertaking.  For a start, there aren’t many vendors for vacuum-formed dash pads in Australia.  Expect to have quite a long wait before your freshly covered item is returned.  Then, there are the labour costs involved with dashboard removal and replacement.  You need an engineer’s degree to remove the vacuum-controlled heater switching from some cars.  Then, those lovely vintage gauges will need a facelift to look the part in their new surroundings.  That’s another specialist needed then!

Headlining

Too many times an overeager helper will destroy the headlining during disassembly or remove the bows from inside the headlining without labelling them.  This creates extra labour time for your auto upholsterer, meaning more labour costs.  Patterning and sewing a headlining where there isn’t one is a tricky art.  Fitting the new headlining isn’t difficult but takes a little finesse to get right.  Many an experienced trimmer has cut a hole for the interior light in the wrong spot, so watch out for that too.

Common in older cars was windlace and either hidem-binding or wire-on to conceal the transition to the headlining.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of trimmers who are unfamiliar with installing this correctly, so be sure to do your research if your interior restoration requires this.  As time goes on, many of the older techniques are forgotten.

Living history

Restoring a car is not just a fun activity; it’s a way to preserve history.  Classic cars have a tremendous ability to catch your eye; seeing one on the road, you can’t help but look.  However, the interior really does matter as much as external appearances.  If driving is a goal, a neat, comfortable interior restoration will enhance your driving enjoyment.  Old cars carry stories from the past, and through restoration, these stories are kept alive.  A functioning piece of mechanical art.

This concludes our three-part post on the restoration process.  If you are working towards your own old car dreams, HSKG is equipped to help with the interior restoration component.

Traditional stuffed pleats.
Seat cover showing traditional hand-stuffed pleats with polyurethane foam filler.
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