Most entry-level vehicles of the Fifties and Sixties did not come with a high level of interior finish with their front and back seats or benches upholstered in hard-working moquette or vinyl -with no room for frills.
After being on the road for a few decades, and possibly in storage for a few years more, when the car and the restorer meet up for the first time, the chances are that the car's upholstery will be in far from prime condition -in need a whole new lease of life.
An entire re-upholstery is the option of choice for most restorers despite the expense. If the condition of the upholstery allows it, then repairing the upholstery is worth considering -even though it also represents a considerable cost
A more user-friendly option recently available is to fit ready-made seat covers- readily available and not bank breakingly expensive.
Despite the money savings, it would be a mistake to think that merely slapping on a set of replacement seat covers is easy and will cover up problems.
If not handled properly, the results will be disappointing and not worthy of the layout.
Considerable effort and attention will be required throughout the process- otherwise, the whole effort will be little more than a false economy.
The obvious first obvious step is to remove old covers.
As these are bound for the scrap heap, there is little point in being gentle, although care must be taken not to damage the frame and the fillings- if they are still intact.
Once the original covering has been removed, the next step is to check the springs and the foam. The chances are that the driver seat and possibly the front passenger will need to be revamped.
The rear passenger bench may be in better order, although it would be wise to renew all of them simultaneously as the costs involved are low.
In the unlikely event that the driver and front passenger seats have been fitted with a reclining mechanism, this would be a rare opportunity to repair any faults in them.
Once all the preparatory work is done, the next step is to unpack the covers and set them up so that they can be easily added to the seat frames.
At this stage, if there are any flaws in the way the covers have been sewn together, they should be addressed before any attempt is made to dress the frames with them.
One of the common problems encountered is in the fluted sections of the backrest, which usually have been bonded rather than sewn together. Time should be taken to make sure that there is enough play in the flutes that they will dress nicely on the backs and the so-called seam is not crooked in any way.
Working on the seat squabs is considerably more manageable than the backs. The first step is to attach the panel board, which comes as standard, to the bottom of the wire seat frame, after which the foam is attached.
Another potential problem is with piping, which needs to run precisely around the metal shell's edge. Once again, if the piping does not sit flush with the body, not only will it not look good but will gradually begin to wrinkle, making sitting on them uncomfortable.
It is also important to remember that due to the shape of most backrests, the cover should not be completely sewn up with some play left- usually at the widest point in the lumbar region left tapering off sharply towards the bottom.
If this is not done the cover would be too tight at the bottom and could not be pulled over the backrest. The areas which are not sewn up must be carefully concealed.
First, the cover of the back of the seat, where the piping is sewn on, should be pulled as tightly as possible against the seat frame and immediately clipped firmly in place.
Next, the material at the front should also be pulled down and then turned inside out.
If a gap appears at this stage, some fine-tuning will be called for, possibly a strip of the foam padding needing to be removed until everything lines up correctly.
The following steps are straightforward.
Pull down both side panels and fasten them to the seat frame with clips. Only then pull down the front sections of vinyl and attach them.
If they come out even slightly crooked, the knock-on effect will be that the piping won't run straight either.
Assuming everything has fallen into place, all that remains is to trim off any surplus material and the job can be considered as done.
The majority of top-flight restorers might be inclined to turn up their nose at fitting a set of custom-made seat covers, looking at it as a shortcut too many.
On the other hand, if fitting the covers is done according to the book and great care is taken, the results can be more than acceptable, and the money saved even more.
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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.