This project was about creating a high quality complete interior to equal and elevate the standard and finish of the vehicle’s reconstruction which was a from the ground up restoration to a high end show car appearance and the owners expectations.
The client requested for us to create his dream car interior to match the build already undertaken. The build was high quality with the finished price tag of in excess of $260,000.00 being invested into this beautiful 1957 Chevrolet Belair Sports Coupe.
The vehicle was not originally intended for car shows, although this is the standard that the owners wanted their car to finish at. Now that the car is finished, I requested permission to enter into the STA Awards and the builder engineer has requested to take the Chevrolet to several car shows in the future and the owners have happily agreed to this.
When we were asked to build the interior, the only items of interior supplied were two secondhand BMW front seats and five only headlining bows plus all the interior chrome and original alloy for window surrounds and tops of doors. The rest of the interior had to be designed and handmade including rear parcel tray, rear seats, rear quarter trims, rear arm rests to house front retractable seatbelts, centre console, front door trims, headlining, cowl trims, carpets and interior of boot. Probably the most unique and complex challenge I had with the Chevrolet was delivering exactly what the owners had dreamt about for the last 40 years or so.
The owners had very distinct ideas of exactly how they wanted the details of all the interior and exterior to be completed. On recognising this I knew I would need to form a very good bond with the owners as I needed to get into their heads to create their vision they had. Anything less and I would have had disappointed customers. I requested that they would need to visit at least every 2 days during the build to make sure I was completely on track.
The most complex component of the Chevrolet interior was the full length centre console starting at dash center line and finishing at the stop light enclosure on top of the rear parcel tray at the rear windscreen. The console base was constructed from 19mm mdf supplied by owner, it had to finish perfectly in line with a chrome trim in the centre of the dash facia, it also needed to incorporate the gear selector, power window switches, interior light switches, led lighting, rear stop light, courtesy lights, speakers, stereo head unit, centre arm rest and storage box.
Many hours were spent shaping and creating the console before the 3mm eva foam and leather upholstery could be fitted. The owners wanted to see lots of visual highlight stitching throughout the Chevrolet, so french seams were the seam of choice. The french seaming was used intensively on the centre console, full length from front to rear. It was also used on the front arm rests, rear arm rests, seats, centre arm rest and windlacing. Decorative stitching and piping was also introduced into the sunvisors. The second major challenge was the choice of leather. The owners were very specific that it had to be an off white and have a very heavy grain. This left us with only one choice of leather which was an upholstery grade leather. Firstly, I had to convey to my customers that this leather was not really suitable for vehicle use. My customers accepted the choice knowing that the vehicle would only be driven occasionally and looked after more fastidiously than a daily driver. The sewing and fitting of the thicker than normally used leather meant a lot of shaving and skiving of the leather was required to allow it to be sewn, french seamed and moulded where needed for fitment to various panels and trims.
Secondly, the leather upon inspection revealed many, many, many imperfections which were branding marks, cuts, abrasions and very heavy stretch marks from the belly and legs of the animal which required an immense amount of stretching of each of the twelve hides used, planning and plotting of all pieces by eye and hand to get enough clean panels to create the interior required.