Inside, outside, all around the car




At the December meeting, we asked what the members wanted discussed in Walt’s Workbench. It came up unanimous that our topic this month would be interior restoration.


            This, at first glance, would be synonymous with upholstery. Very, very few owners are capable of doing the actual sewing and installing the fabric. It should be done by a professional upholsterer. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do in the preparation for new upholstery.


            There is a lot of planning and communication needed. First of all, don’t take out the old upholstery until you have met with your upholsterer and picked out your material.


            Of course, I assume you have researched your paint and trim colors to make the color scheme authentic. Make sure your upholsterer keeps abreast of your progress. There are many items to take care of before and during upholstery.


            Let’s talk about the headliner first. There is wiring that needs to be taken care of before a new headliner goes in. Also, if you rip out the headliner before the upholstering shop gets his pattern, you may raise your cost of a new headliner. Sometimes it is best to wire your dome light at the upholstery shop after he takes out the old headliner.


            Taking the seats completely out and taking them into the shop early in restoration is very helpful. First of all, for the extra room it gives you, and secondly, it gives you a chance to restore the seat track mechanism.


            Take off the inner door panels and take them in to the upholstery shop. He will be able to cut and pattern them, but, he can’t fully assemble and install them without the car (or at least the doors). with the door panels off, this is the perfect time to completely clean and lube all of the door and window mechanisms.


            It is also the time to put new glass in. While the glass and mechanisms are out, you should use a good rust solvent and clean out the door cavities. Most door assemblies have built-in moisture drain in the bottom lip. It is very important to make sure these drains are clean. Once the door cavities are clear, paint the interior of the doors liberally with a good rust-not paint. This is better than primer as some primers will absorb moisture. Make sure this paint is well dried and the drains are opened before proceeding further.


            The next step should be to install mat-type insulation on the inside of the door panels. Use a good contact cement for this. You can put this in patchwork as you don’t need to worry about the cosmetics. This will make your “Pride and Joy” much quieter, cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.


            Now you are ready to re-install the windows and mechanisms in the door. This is a good time to overhaul the door and lock mechanisms. The small flat coil return springs are inexpensive and can prevent door-handle sag. Also, you will want to take out the door lock cylinders. Soak these in solvent, working the key several times while soaking. Blow dry them good. After they are good and dry, lube them with dry powdered graphite. Don’t use a liquid petroleum.


            Probably one of the most important factors in restoring the interior and upholstery is timing. In reality, this should be the very last part of your restoration project. There are several reasons for this, first, as a matter of convenience.


            In a lot of the older cars, the rear wiring loom goes along the roof line under the headliner. We have already mentioned the interior lights. You also may have some rear seat cigar lighters that should be re-wired. The underdash wiring is so much easier with the seats out.


            This is also the time to inspect and repair the floor panels. You would be surprised what you might find under the old carpet. Save the old carpet, no matter how ragged and dirty, for your upholsterer to use for design and pattern.


            Probably the best reason for doing the upholstery last is twofold, first of all, your painter can give you a much better paint job if he doesn’t have to work around new upholstery, particularly the windlace. Secondly, no matter how much masking is done, you cannot keep sanding dust and  paint vapors out of your new fabric. Also, it is so easy to stain upholstery while doing mechanical work on your restoration.


            Most good upholstery shops require advanced scheduling, so plan accordingly. You will never regret waiting to do upholstery as the last step of your restoration. However, you should have your complete upholstery plans finalized early in your restoration. After all, in most restorations, this can be the most expensive single phase of your project, ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 or more. It is always a good idea to Scotchgard® your new upholstery. It makes it easier to maintain.


            With a little luck and proper planning, you should be able to drive your “new” car from the upholstery shop to your first show. Speaking of shows, did you ever notice how spectators seem more interested in the interior than under the hood?


            Let your upholsterer know early in the project that you intend to exhibit the car in shows and ask him for some cards to give out when people ask you about the upholstery. He will probably be a little more meticulous.


            You are now ready to show with pride...after all, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Don’t have people ask “Why is that beautiful upholstery covered with old seat covers?”


            Good luck and see you next month.