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1954 Chevy Interior Rebuild

11/10/2016
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Upholstery work is expensive. No matter how you slice it, there are some corners you just can’t cut if you want a nicely finished interior. Like the seats, not much faking that. You’ll either need to re-cover some junkyard chairs or find something serviceable as-is. That was the situation I found myself in with a budget-built ’54 Chevy post. The entire inside of the car was empty when I brought it home. No seats, front or rear, no panels, no headliner. Nothing.

After getting over the initial sticker shock from the upholstery shop quote I had gotten, I started to work with planning out an interior from the Speedway catalog.

New Seats!

Scat Pro-Car seats are a natural choice. In this case I opted to go for broke and do a funky four bucket seat interior like those customs of the late fifties by builders like the Alexander Brothers or Daryl Starbird. With that plan in mind I purchased two pair of the white reclining buckets and set to work building some sturdy mounts.

DIY Brackets

As an avid buyer of “Universal” parts I’ve learned (like most other avid buyers of the same stripe) that “Universal” just means it doesn’t exactly fit anything. That being said, these seats were so easy to fabricate mounts for! The unique, vertically adjustable rails aided greatly in getting a comfortable position for both the front and rear. If your application happens to fall in the range of years & cars (64-74-ish American cars) that ProCar supports with pre-made brackets then you can save yourself this step. You lucky dog!

Time to tackle the floor. First thing was a wall to wall application of Dynamat. After a summer of driving with just the Dynamat and seats installed, it was determined that a much more effective thermal insulation was needed. I think it was my wife’s shoes melting to the floor on our way home from Salina, KS that did it.

Atop of the silver sound insulation I applied a layer of DEI Under Carpet Lite thermal insulation. I can attest that this alone dropped the floor temps by 30-40 degrees. It’s worth the extra expense and effort. As far as the rest of the flooring went, it was really pretty easy. (Full disclosure, I did have to sew a tiny bit because I wanted the edges of the carpet bound.) Since I was changing things up by going with four buckets and a floating console, factory replacement carpet was out of the question.

Won't stay this clean for long...

Instead, I carpeted the entire floor, rear bulkhead panel and trunk with the black automotive carpet found at our local building supply store (Menards). I used the DEI, high-temp glue along with 3M spray contact adhesive. The high temp between the floor and the UC Lite, then the cheaper 3M between the UC Lite and carpet. It was at this point where I also installed the new lift-latch lap belts and finish painted seat brackets. The next step was a pre-made headliner from LeBaron Bonney. I went with a black vinyl one. Even so, I ended up calling in a favor from my upholsterer friend (who was too expensive) to bail me out on getting the headliner to fit and tighten up. (Thank you Dave, for not holding a grudge.)

Here’s where things get really creative. I once, long ago, read an online article on how to create interior panels without the need to sew any seams. My version utilizes these main components:

  • Plastic Shower Wall Paneling
  • Landau top polished aluminum “C” channel
  • Press-pleat vinyl material
  • 3/4" urethane foam
  • 3M Super 77 Adhesive
  • Universal black windlace
Matching, front to back

The door and quarter panels turned out to be the most fun to design and execute. I encourage you to at least try it. For my design I wanted the have two dividers running the length of the car from front to back. These were created with what the old timers call “C-Chrome” or “Landau Trim”. It was originally used to finish the edge of padded vinyl tops in the 70’s. It’s great in this application because it is easy to form and a 1/4” taper-head bolt slides inside of it. That allows it to be mounted with no visible fasteners.

This trim is used at each seam where two materials come together. This eliminates the need for a sewn joint and piping. It does require precise measurement and accurate cuts to ensure your joints are properly hidden. If you take your time the results are very compelling.

Looks good, doesn't it?

You’ll recall that I bought the white ProCar seats, correct? They were too bright. What I really wanted were off-white seats. In order to match the material I’d chosen for the door panels and dash paint, I needed to dye my nearly new seats. A quick and light wipe down with some acetone cleared the way for the application of a premium interior dye. I used SEM dye. I’ve found it to be the most durable and it has a wide range of colors. The plastic side covers for the seats were also dyed at this time. They are grey from the factory.

One last thing, I mentioned the Alexander Brothers earlier. Anyone who’s familiar with that style of custom is also familiar with the mostly useless but highly stylish, “floating center console”.

For mine I opted to go with a two-post design constructed from a pine 2”x12” and a pair of 2” exhaust pencil tips. (See a theme here?) I wanted a sculpted surf board kind of shape to the top of it so I outlined and cut the basic shape with a jigsaw. Then I screwed it down to the sawhorses and went to town with a 7” angle sander and an 80 grit disc. Not a terrible amount of science here, mostly art. Just go slow and if you do it on one side, do it to the other.

After all was said and done I had just a little over $1300 wrapped up in this interior and it took me the span of about four days total to knock it out. Comfort and durability of the ProCar seats was very good, especially for the price. All the other products worked just as-advertised.

The correct accessories like a ’59 Impala wheel and a vintage-styled Auto Meter tach complete your DIY interior.

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