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Interior Care

Interior Care Published: 30th Aug 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Interior Care
Interior Care
Interior Care
Interior Care
Interior Care
Interior Care
Interior Care
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Don’t let that tired trim spoil your classic. Here’s our top tips!

Since it’s where you are going to spend most of your time, it’s amazing but in many ways understandable how many owners treat their classic’s interior as economy rather than first class travel. As the restoration kitty starts to deplete, the interior is one of the main areas to feel the pinch. Renovating the cockpit is as much a specialist job as the bodywork and enthusiasts frequently underestimate the time and skill to do it properly.

Then there’s the cost! A full on cabin refurb can cost as much as a body one. Professionally restoring a Jaguar Mk2 cockpit can cost the thick end of ten grand; that woodwork can easily run up a bill of almost £2000 on its own. Carpets can come out at around £700, headlining about the same, while seat recovering, incidentals (such as the velour type weather beading strips for the doors – an easy £100s worth) with labour charges and VAT swallowing the rest.

However, there’s a great deal you can do yourself and achieve perfectly satisfactory results at an affordable cost using proprietary materials and common sense. Let’s take them step-by-step.

Sitting pretty

Seats are one of the first items you clap eyes on and apart from being an eyesore are critical to your comfort and so safety. Sagging or rucked pvc trim can be pulled back into shape by using a hairdryer to slightly shrink the material, while making it more malleable. If trim is sound enough but faded then – if normal cleaning and reviving doesn’t bring it back into line (in many cases it will, given a bit of time and elbow grease) – it can be painted, or dyed in the case of leather.

The former sounds simple but to get the best effect you need to prepare it properly just as if you are painting metal and this includes using quality brushes. The range of interior paints these days is pretty expansive with the option of the type of sheen you want.

Apart from traditional brush painting, we’ve heard of folks using a roller or even spray painting the trim to good effect. Woolies ( sells proper fabric sprays in a variety of colours. One can is enough to treat a seat, for well under £20 a pop. Dedicated (paint-based) ‘Connalising’ kits can be purchased for seriously worn and faded skins but cheaper alternatives for less aged hides are dyes and colour washes, as in the case of Gliptone’s tried and tested Leathercare. Woolies’ Leather Renovation Kit is another product worth considering: you send off a sample of your car’s leather and Woolies matches it with a dedicated dye. Another well known specialist is Leather Forever ( – 01886 884569).

If you can’t do it, there are firms out there who can come to you to give the material a makeover much like smart repairing the bodywork. Blemishes are hidden from around £50, while a full restoration costs in the region of £500.

Seating trim is usually made up of separate panels glued or stitched together and fairly easy to split once removed from the frame. Any good upholsterer should be able to supply material of the correct colour and texture for repairs (however, there are some exceptions, such as Ford’s 70’s Cadiz and Carla designs), plus advise on the best adhesive to use.

You’ll need an industrial sewing machine as domestic types aren’t up to it. You can find hides at autojumbles such as Beaulieu from £65, or less and, to give you an idea, half a hide is more than ample to restore two MGB seats. Alternatively, you can save yourself a heap of hassle and buy tailored aftermarket trim kits for many popular classics from the likes of Newton Commercial, or certain car clubs such as the MGOC. An all-new interior pack for the likes of an MGA, MGB or TR2-4 can run into thousands, on the other hand.

However, the first step is to ensure that the frame and spring are sound plus any adjustment facilities (recline, height etc) work. This part is worth doing properly because a refurbished seat (along with a recovered steering wheel and gear knob), helps give that ‘brand new’ impression that you’ll love.

Don’t turn your nose up at fitting good old fashioned seat covers. True, on the likes of a Jag Mk2 MGB they look naff but period-style designs work well on family cars from the 50s and 60s as they were popular fits then and are much cheaper than recovering a seat. Finally, spruce up those rusting frames and runners with a quick dab of paint.

Card games

Repairing deteriorating door cards at first sight cheaply looks simple. It isn’t, due to how some are made; on some 60’s and 70’s cars the outside panel forms part of the board, meaning even with a slight tear it has to be completely stripped and an entire section of trim renewed as patchwork repairs aren’t really possible. Depending on patterns and style they can be difficult to replicate at home but at least the more popular classics are catered for by new replacements.

That said, a small bodge goes along way: Although hardly concours, if the damage is in a particular area you can ‘mask’ the injury simply and cheaply by fitting either decorative kick plates – or stereo speaker grilles…

It’s quite common for the trim’s fibre boards to warp or disfigure over time and a good dodge is to thoroughly wet them before laying completely flat and weighted down to straighten. If this fails then the board may have to be renewed. Stretched trim can usually be heated and pulled taut (that old hairdryer trick again) before being stuck or stapled in place.

Getting a heads up

It’s surprising how many well restored interiors are let down by a hideous headlining – after all it’s not the most obvious thing your eyes hone in on. It spoils even the best inside jobs and although kits are available they are sods to fit; a pro will probably charge around £400-700 as a result. Deterioration usually shows itself in tears, sagging and discolouration. There’s little you can do with a tear (unless it’s simply the stitching) but if the lining has sagged then it may be able to be pulled taut. More commonly with pvc linings is the cover shrinking and pulling away from the beading. In both cases, the material can be coaxed back to shape by carefully applying hairdryer heat. Apart from slightly shrinking the material, it can make it more malleable.

Badly discoloured headlining can be rejuvenated by professional cleaners but if really bad (ie smoking stains) it may have to be recoloured. It can be repainted and we’ve heard satisfactory results using domestic emulsion or satin (not gloss); some suggest buffing it up while still tacky to remove that unwanted sheen.

Carpets on a roll

Renewing carpets is one of the simplest and cost effective jobs of all, although it may be hard to match the original pile design – if they are sound but faded then it’s possible to redye the pile. Spend a bit extra and also renew any deteriorating, or missing underfelt and sound insulation because not only will it make the interior that much quieter, it will smell better by removing that aged and musty odour.

Woodwork class

There are no shortcuts here to successfully restore and it can be costly. If ok, normal furniture beeswax can bring the lustre back but if the finish is well weathered the only cure is to strip it to the bone and re-varnish. That said don’t go mad because the adhesive holding the original panels together may fail. Good old yacht varnish is still a favourite choice although modern polyester alternatives are said to be more effective as well as being longer-lasting. Stick-on wood grained fablon sounds horrible but it can be employed successfully on cheaper classics where value isn’t important . Take great care and remove the panel first before applying the covering.

It’s all in the detail

Gut out the interior (including the boot) to gauge the condition of all the panels but take extreme care when removing door panel as some may break due to their sheer age and prove hard and expensive to replace.

Thanks to low cost leather hides, it may cost no extra than PVC to retrim your classic and it is entirely in period with many 50’s/60’s family cars. However, some hides feel like pvc so select the cow’s clothing carefully.

Don’t forget the switchgear, dash surround and the instruments as their inevitable deterioration will spoil the overall effect. It’s not a cheap exercise mind and some items will no doubt prove very difficult to track down.

Don’t overlook the boot area (see pic below). This should look as good as the cabin with painted sides, a new floor mat (refrain from carpeting if it’s originally rubber decked) and treat the jack and tools to a clean and paint up.

John Severn Technical Services Manager of Stainguard gives this advice


I can’t over emphasise enough that you should be using a high quality leather protector. Leather Protectors have been designed to assist cleaning and help stop soiling of the leather. A leather protector should be used approx. once per month irrespective of colour, remember that on darker leathers soiling is less obvious but nevertheless is still there!

Added Protection

Products such as Dye-Guard have been designed to combat the dreaded dye transfer from clothing, bags and belts. Once applied over a leather protector, amongst other things, it will also help to reduce the damage sustained by friction on the leather in cars.

Leather Cleaning

When cleaning leather it is important to use a specially designed product to do the work; don’t use household cleaners as they are often of high and low PH values and will cause irreparable damage. If possible, use a foam cleaner as this will dwell well on vertical surfaces and sit on the leather in a more controllable way. Also vacuum any dust or dirt away, position the seat right back. The use of microfibre clothes are a big no-no for regular cleaning. They are too aggressive and will probably lead to peeling or colour loss. Instead, use a good quality sponge in combination with a soft brush. Most people when cleaning leather adopt a scrubbing technique but this lead to a finish breakdown. The proper way is to apply the leather cleaner onto a ‘white sponge’ , creating a foam, and not directly onto the leather then clean in gentle circular motions. Let dwell for a minute or so to let the cleaner chemically work and then remove the residue with some absorbent cloth (not microfibre). Don’t over wet leather as this can lead to distortions in the skin. If you have heavy grained hide then use the soft brush to gently distribute the leather cleaner into the valleys of the grain. Multiple gentle cleans are much better than a ‘hell for leather’ approach for a more thorough clean. Also some people mistake damage to the leather as just dirt. Once leather is damaged it will absorb all sorts of dirt and will just look like a dirty area. If the area goes darker when cleaned it’s most certainly damaged and will need repairing.

Leather Staining

It’s important to have a good cleaning regime if not staining is inevitable. There are a few products designed to remove stains from leather i.e. dye transfer. If normal cleaning has now revealed some of this (blueish purple hue) then it’s time to either use a stronger leather cleaner or a dye transfer remover. Sometimes staining is permanent and will require a specialist leather paint to restore the interior to its former glory.

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