How To Fix Your Car Interior, Got Vinyl? Do you have a classic car with vinyl that is cracked and falling apart? Fixing up a classic car and can be pretty expensive both mechanically and cosmetically. It rocks when someone has the cashflow to do it right and make an old classic car as good as new. However, that is probably not the case for more than 50% of vintage car owners. I am just guessing at the number, but you get the idea.
So there are obvious things you can not skimp or go cheap on, especially when it comes to mechanics. However, there are those things that we can do ourselves, whether it be installing that fancy new part or in my case improving the interior.
As you can see from the photos, my front bench seat was shot! It was cracking, sections missing and who knew what would be under that cheap black vinyl cover a previous owner put on the front seat! The back seats were much better but the butt sections had still seen better days, so they were going to be on my improvement list. Same thing with the door covers, they were overall in pretty good shape aside from cracking at the top and a glamorous piece of duct tape on the drivers side!
So what was the plan? I really love the gold-ish interior color and the metal prong buttons…I didn’t want a full seat makeover…that was for sure! I spent the entire winter (pining for spring) researching ways to go about the interior myself. One of the posts I came across seemed to make sense. But an inexpensive bench seat cover and use it as a pattern to redo the benches. I sort of went for it, I got the $20 covers and put them on. Not only did they not fit well, it opened my eyes that I did not want to take my current vinyl apart. I quickly found that this was NOT the solution for me. The covers did get me through winter and helped to spark a new idea to fix up “ladies” interior.
The Before Video: What I’m Working With & The Plan
Now what is a girl to do? I decided that I would ONLY replace the sections that were bad and work the new fabric into the existing vinyl. At first I contemplated taking the original vinyl off and doing the seats in the house. But if you have ever dug a hole in the sand, you know it never fills back up properly…Solution. The path of lease resistance.
So now that I knew what I was going to do I picked out the right fabric, WRONG. I made my first section and using the existing backing and foam I cut out. I secured it to the seat, which was a feat in itself. My idea was to using an upholstery needle to stitch my new section onto the seat. Broke needles and lots of curing made me realize this wasn’t going to work. Next idea, glue. The glue I got was supposed to be tough, it held…but once I decided I didn’t like the fabric it was easy to tear out. Thank goodness.
So that phase didn’t work. Glad I started with just once piece instead of making them all at once and then installing. I really thought the fabric would work, but once it arrived I tried to convince myself it would work. It was just too sweet and light, the tones didn’t match the existing vinyl and I was left to go back to the drawing board.
Now I knew. I needed a fabric that was more forgiving, both for sewing and future dirtiness. I also needed to be sure it fit the “ratrod” look. Keep in mind I am not going for a show quality car, I just want something I can be proud of. So the next fabric was a winner! I got it from Hawthorne Threads and is by a popular artist, Tim Holtz.
So now that I had my funky new interior I needed to rethink my choice of supplies for the application process. I went back to the ever loved “Google” and started searching for the strongest heat-resistant, permanent glue on the market. I came across E6000, I got a case from Home Depot. This stuff is great! It applied easily, dried clear and does not “harden”.
After completing the drivers side part of the bench seat and using it for a week, I could tell I had my process down. I took a break from the seats and moved on to the door panels. I had to take them off to take to the detailing shop to clean the inside of the door jams out. So why not go ahead and take advantage of them being transportable in the house.
The door panels were very easy, I made a seam in my fabric for the outside edges and glued them into place. You can see from the photos and videos I used small clips (curtain clips from Ikea that I had extras of) to help hold the fabric tight at the edges. Once it dried I removed the clips and the doors were complete! I wrapped up the passenger side front bench and the car already looked 90% better.
By this time I had everything down pat…so on to the back seat. Since this seat was easy to remove from the car I did it on a rainy day in the house. Same process…cut, sew, glue, clip and wait for them to dry. Here is a fun time lapse I did of the process. I didn’t cover anything on the back of the back seat because that section was flawless. I did add fabric to the very top were it had a different type of fabric, it was dried and ugly. This helped pull everything together from the front to the back. Even improved the look of the car from the back window, with those sexy little satellite speakers from ClassicCarStereos.com
Cost? Well if you don’t include my first wrong fabric choice of $50 something here are materials I used:
Total: Worth It!
Honestly I do not know how much time it took, but I would do it a million times over if I had to.
Now I have a one of a kind interior that I can be proud of and didn’t break the bank!