How Upholstery Can Transform Your Classic Car

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If you’ve decided to restore a classic car, you’re in for a lot of work, but believe us, it’s worth it. There’s nothing like putting the last detail on a car to bring it all together. But for that genuine look, you want to make sure your materials are spot on. One of the most surprisingly expensive steps in restoration is the interior of the car—the seats, accents, carpet and trim. And since you’ll be spending a lot of time driving your classic car, how it looks on the inside is just as important as what’s on the outside.  

Unfortunately, while the outside of your car is tough enough to withstand the harshness of the weather, the interior is usually not. Chances are, if you’re restoring a car, you’ll at least be touching up some aspect of the interior. So, let’s look at some helpful tips to approach the interior. Since there are a ton of classic cars, we can’t get into the specifics, but we can give you a place to start.  

Learning about Fabrics 

Are your seats leather or vinyl? Some people can’t tell the difference. But if you truly want to capture the authenticity of the original classic car, you have to develop a basic understanding of fabric material and quality. But how? Is this something you can learn online?  

Well, yes and no. It’s one thing to understand the difference between materials like vinyl, leather, nylon, polyester and wool. Some of you might be able to tell the difference between these fabrics by sight, but the easiest way to distinguish between fabrics is to feel them. Because of this, we’d recommend finding a fabric store and learning about fabrics yourself. (If you told us that a passion for cars would mean spending a lot of time in fabric stores before writing this blog, we would have called you a liar—now we know better.) 

There’s a lot more fabric in your car than you might think. In fact, according to Technical Textile, the average car contains between 26-80 pounds of textile. Many car restoration experts deal with multiple types of fabric for things like door panels, carpet, liner and the trunk interior, so being able to determine what material is used in a specific car can be a challenge. Here are a few methods you can take:  

  • Try to determine the fabric yourself. 
  • Consult a professional. 
  • Do some research online. 

If you don’t have time to become a car fabric professional, our suggestion would be to make a few online searches to learn the basics. The internet makes it pretty easy to identify what type of fabric was used in a particular car, and some companies even keep vintage car upholstery in stock, searchable by the car’s year/make/model. If a particular type of fabric is no longer used, most upholstery companies will be able to use modern fabrics to replicate the look.  

Once you’ve identified the type of fabric used in your classic car, it’s time to actually repair it. Experts may be prepared to do this themselves, but those of us who are more mechanically-inclined may wish to have this completed by a professional.  

What is Reupholstery? 

Reupholstery is often done by professionals and involves removing the existing fabric and completely replacing it with another fabric that has an identical fit. The composition of the replacement is up to you, but those who value authenticity will no doubt want to find something as close to the original material as possible. The reupholstery process may allow individuals to also fix damaged items like seats (for example if the stuffing is not positioned properly, or if the seat is broken).  

If you want to reupholster yourself, consider looking up some guides and make sure you have the proper materials, such as: 

  • Shears 
  • Sewing machine 
  • Fabric 
  • Wrench 
  • Fabric glue 
  • Seam ripper

The more you research, the more you might realize that the process is becoming overwhelming. Don’t worry, for certain car parts there are other options besides reupholstery, especially the seats. Let’s spend just a few seconds discussing seat covers.  

Seat Covers 

We’re not here to judge you. Getting your car reupholstered is a process that can easily add thousands of dollars to your restoration budget. And while restoration is all about authenticity, the seats might be the one area where you’re not quite ready to go all-in. Until then, you can get seat covers that look pretty decent without breaking the bank. Seat covers can usually be installed by almost anyone—it simply involves fitting the cover over the existing seat. This will hide any flaws in the seat fabric, but depending on where you get them, the seat covers may not have the same fit.  

As you can see, you have many options when it comes to restoring (or updating) the interior of your classic car. Adding an accent color (or switching out the type of fabric used) can completely change the look and feel of your car.  

If this journey into the basics of auto upholstery has you looking for your next classic car to restore, check out what Copart has to offer.  

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