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Caring for your classic’s cockpit

An inside job Published: 7th Dec 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Caring for your classic’s cockpit
Caring for your classic’s cockpit Leather can be successfully cleaned or even re-coloured and kits are available
Caring for your classic’s cockpit Sports cars can suffer the most from deterioration due to entry/egress issues
Caring for your classic’s cockpit Seat bolsters suffer from scuffi ng – if bad then a new trim patch can be stitched in
Caring for your classic’s cockpit Cloth trim can be cleaned with a domestic carpet cleaning machine
Caring for your classic’s cockpit Sun plays havoc with wood finishes – cover up if you can
Caring for your classic’s cockpit
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We reveal a few tricks of the trade for keeping classic car interiors line new

Properly maintaining the passenger areas of our classics is vital both for the maximum enjoyment of travelling in them and retaining their full resale value. Here, leading European trim experts, Allon White Sports Cars of Cranfi eld, Bedfordshire, shares a few appropriate trade secrets with Classic Cars For Sale!


Older hides need to be kept clean and well-fed. Oil-based dirt can be carefully removed with white spirit. Common stains can be tackled with sparing quantities of warm water, after which the leather should be thoroughly dried. The use of such products as washing-up liquids should be avoided, as their saline can draw out the natural oils and prematurely age the leather.

Once clean, the leather should be fed with Connolly hide food or other such proprietary product. The container should be heated with a hair dryer so an even layer can be achieved. Any unwanted build-up on the seat can easily be removed by localised heating and rubbing with a soft cloth. Once cool, the surface should be thoroughly buffed.

Early cars may well have had their seats connollised. This process of ‘painting’ leather to restore its colour was originated by the now defunct leather supplier Connolly, but has become a generic term for such treatment. Care is needed when cleaning seats that have been treated in this way, as inadvertently removing the coating can make the items look worse rather than better. While wholesale DIY painting of leather is not recommended, localised coating can come in handy for touching up the piping, squab bolsters etc that suffer the most wear and tear. Once the seat is clean and the colour matched, the appropriate dye should be carefully stippled-in. Rubbing the surface with a fi nger will help achieve the gloss effect common in older leather. Smaller areas, especially on black or brown leather, can be successfully treated with boot polish. The container should be preheated with a hair dryer so the polish will readily soak into the damaged area. Once buffed, the repaired section will not be a problem to clothing etc.


This should be kept clean and prevented from getting too cold in winter. Once it’s cracked or faded, there is not much one can do other than retrim accordingly. There is no point in using leather food etc, as the material is not porous. Small areas can be touched-in with the appropriate colour of leather paint, boot polish or even an indelible marker.


Wood veneers are prone to attack from the sun’s powerful rays. The best way to prevent problems is to keep the relevant area clean and covered whenever practical; especially if the car concerned is likely to remain unused for some time. The most common problems are cracking or fading of the top surface – ie lacquer. Minor deterioration can sometimes be overcome as follows: Fine scratches can removed with a fine grit

paint polish

Small discoloured areas can be touched-in using carefully matched model paints by applying with a fine brush Boot polish can also be handy for restoring very small areas. The colour needs to be matched with care, and pre-heating the polish will help it fl ow onto the crack or blemish concerned. Once buffed, it will not come off on hands or clothing Once wood facias, door cappings etc are beyond the type of minor reparation described, they will need to be removed, stripped and professionally re-lacquered.

Cloth trim

If cloth interiors become dirty, then vacuum well to remove any loose dirt and dust, then use an interior cleaning product from a recognised supplier of car valeting products. Stubborn oil and grease stains may be possible to remove through careful application of brake/clutch cleaner would you believe – put some onto a lint free cloth and using a dabbing/twisting action try to remove the stain (don’t be tempted to rub at the stain as this can cause it to spread). Best though to fi rst test the brake/clutch cleaner on an inconspicuous area of the trim to make sure that it doesn’t stain or discolour it! Hiring domestic steam cleaning equipment works a treat (we found-ed) remove very diffi cult stains or dirt, but at the end of the day if cloth interiors are too badly marked there’s not much that can be done.


The types of plastic employed in car interiors are prey to the effects of UV radiation, and once cracked or faded there is little one can do to restore them. To save them from deterioration, they should be kept fresh with a mild proprietary cleaner and away from the sun’s rays as much as possible.


High traffic areas such as sill kick plates are prone to scratching. As a deterrent these should be regularly cleaned with a soft cloth. If necessary, the offending parts can be professionally stripped and re-lacquered. Any ongoing problem can be largely prevented by coating vulnerable areas with Defendall (or similar protection fi lm), a rubbery, transparent product used by specialists like Allon White Sports Cars to protect any metal parts (interior or exterior) that are exposed to regular abrasion, bombardment with stones, gravel and so on.


Hoods should always be stored on the car and fully tensioned to prevent damage to the fabric, rear window etc. Everfl ex ones should be washed (on the car) with soapy water. Leaks along the joins can sometimes be sealed with beeswax. The wax should be heated and applied sparingly to the problem area alone. Any excess should be removed with a clean cloth. Mohair hoods should be cleaned with an appropriate proprietary product, rinsed off with an ordinary hose – never a high pressure washer – dried and re-proofed. Particular attention should be paid to the seam lines and ensuring the re-proofer is thoroughly dry before the vehicle is used. Beeswax should NOT be used on Mohair hoods! Tiny areas of discolouration can be successfully touched in with an indelible marker!


When carpets in convertibles become wet, they should be removed, hung vertically and allowed to dry naturally at room temperature – using a heater will cause them to shrink. The foot-wells should be thoroughly dried before the carpets are replaced; absorbent paper is good for this, but newsprint should be kept away from light coloured carpeting, as the ink can rub off and stain. A proprietary trim cleaner should be used for individual marks, while oil and grease stains can be removed by careful use of a brake/clutch cleaner.

In summary

Prevention is always better than cure and time spent keeping car interiors clean, dry, and free of harmful abrasives (eg road grit) and extended periods of sunlight will pay dividends. Bigger problems are arguably best left to the professionals, and that’s where companies like Allon White come in! See for further details, or call 01234 750205.

We reveal a few tricks of the trade for keeping classic car interiors line new

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