Managing an entire classic car restoration involves dealing with hundreds of details touching upon every skill that man has mastered over the last hundred years or so. Dozens of moving parts are involved as well as dealing with chemical chain reactions and a host of other issues.

Under that kind of pressure, a car restorer might be forgiven for not taking such flippant items as door panels and armrests too seriously- but that would be a mistake.

They are as an important part of the restoration project as the most highly tuned twelve-cylinder engine.

Early-model armrests were constructed of a simple sheet-metal base covered in fabric with a thick rubber pad laid on top of the steel. The armrest was applied to the inside of the door over the top panel and held in place by screws.

As armrests evolved, the bases were made of injection-moulded contoured plastic with a vinyl-covered moulded rubber pad screwed on top.

By the late Fifties, styling had reached a new level, with some car builders incorporating the armrests directly into the door panels- a combination that is still in use today.  

When reviewing a classic car pre-restoration, the chances are that most armrests will be showing signs of wear to different degrees, more often on the driver-side armrest and panel, usually more damage than the passenger's side and even more again on the rear passenger doors.

That doesn't mean that when renewing armrests and door panels, all doors receive the same treatment to ensure continuity. 

Most early classics were fitted with door panels produced using concentrated cardboard or plastic and upholstered with fabric, vinyl or leather to match the car's interior.

The downside to this approach only appeared if a panel did get damaged or went missing, in which case it was almost impossible to re-create by hand.

When the restorer arrives at this advanced stage of their project, they will be looking at all of the "soft aspects" of the interior in the same category- the upholstery and the door panels and armrests as a single entity.

If the vehicle being restored is in the compact, sports to family saloon class, the restorer will have a lot more of a  free hand in deciding which trim level they can install.

Unless the restorer is a real stickler for authenticity, they will probably find an ideal solution among the many online options that should also provide an approximate match or even a stark contrast to their existing upholstery.

Most companies marketing "door furniture" for cars online offer an entire turnkey package, including kick panels, dashboard covers, door panels, armrests, instrument panel covers and door panel inserts.

All of them are colour matched and easy to install.

On the other hand, if restoration project involves a luxury vehicle where it is important to match door handles and armrests upholstery, which could be either in hide or velour trim, then most restorers will happy hand over specialist car upholster who undoubtedly make first-class job of – although at price.

If the restorer has the necessary skills and the time and desire to tackle the job, or at least repairing existing door panels, they can save themselves some capital.

To do the job, a high level of specialist skills will be required as well as access to the appropriate equipment.  

Got a question, a comment, a suggestion or an offer??? - FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US ANYTIME!!

A guide to acquiring, restoring and maintaining UK or European Classic Cars of the Fifties and Sixties- as well as a recollection of the iconic cars of the era and the visionaries that produced them.

cu2