Automobile interiors have changed dramatically over the years. Upholstery has gone from utilitarian leather to mohair, brocades, and broadcloth in the pre-war years to a list of hard-wearing used in the Fifties and Sixties when plastics were prevalent.
Leather was used initially because of its durability, gradually was elevated to become a luxury item.
If the car being considered for restoration has been fitted with leather upholstery, the chances of it being salvageable are much higher than any of the other less expensive and less durable materials that were geared towards the mass market.
On the upside, in these days of powerful steam cleaners, if the upholstery is free of rips and tears and is not too faded, it may be brought up to reasonable condition for a portion of the cost of reupholstering.
Both options are worth investigating once the vehicle gets to the workshop.
Before any upholstery work can begin, the chances are that the springs and fillings on the seats and backs will need to be renewed and the frames set straight if any of them are crooked or broken.
Decisions will need to be made on which type of fabric will fit the colour scheme or ambience of the vehicle with such considerations as edging, stitching, and even grain pattern if the upholstery will be either leather or vinyl taken into account.
While taking on a full or even partial re-upholstery will be too much for all but the super talented, replacing the head linings and door panels is a much more straightforward operation, although still not for the faint-hearted.
The same can be said for carpeting, although costs for re-carpeting the floor of even the largest family saloon will not be prohibitive.
Once again, if the carpets are not too worn, then a thorough cleaning, usually with the aid of a steam cleaner and some power chemicals, will bring them back to a more than respectable condition.
Fitting high-quality carpets will make a world of difference to a restoration classic, especially if they replace ones that have been literally trampled underfoot over several decades and possibly left lying to rot for a few decades more.
Most restorers have no doubt when they are putting their budget together to replace the floor coverings in the project car- the only questions are how, with what and how much.
Replacing carpets in a classic requires little or no technical skills as there are no moving parts involved. All that is required is guile and tenacity to carpet a classic, with the cost savings considerable if the restorer decides to tackle the job in-house.
Many restorers take the easy way out, although it is not guaranteed to provide the best of results. That is to order a set of ready-made carpets specifically cut to size to match manufacturer’s template for the particular model. If the vehicle being restored is of an obscure variety, this option may not even be available.
If ready-made carpets are not an option, then the next step is to buy a length of carpet and cut it to size. On the other hand, you can find a piece of carpet of quite acceptable quality at amazingly low prices sold as off-cuts.
When picking out a carpet, the restorer should only choose material with a polyurethane backing, reducing the infiltration of "road noise".
With the upholstery and carpets back to their best, all that will remain for the restorer is to renew the car's headlining and door panels.
In all the dozens of issues that will need to be attended to in classic car restoration, taking care of the headliner might be easily pushed down the list of priorities.
The headliner, by nature, is in the background yet plays a significant part in the interior ambience, shining like a light from above.
When appraising a classic car for restoration, the headliner's chances of being damaged or discoloured and needs to be repaired or replaced are high.
In a few cases, depending on how its original owners treated the restoration vehicle, the headlining may simply be dirty or more likely discoloured with a fair coating of nicotine as more drivers and their passengers tended to be heavier smokers during the Fifties and Sixties than they are today.
Providing the cloth is in sound condition, headliner, even nicotine-stained, can usually be brought back to top condition using a good quality carpet cleaner detergent.
Updating door panels is the least challenging of all the car and upholstery renewal projects on the list.
Most restorers prefer not to get involved with replacing door panels and headliners, preferring to pass the job on to an upholstery shop.
The good news is that several re-upholstery companies, large and small, can handle classic car upholstery offering fair prices covering a broad range of specialist services.
These companies often provide a turnkey service and should be happy to provide advice which materials are best suited for the job.
Restorers can either opt to match the door panels to the headliner or the upholstery cover. Either way, the effect should be spectacular and round off the entire project nicely.