Engines, paint, wheels, chrome, interiors--All are important to make a car ours; an extension of our personalities; vehicles that we enjoy owning and driving.  When buying a car, I always check the mechanics first (it  must  run right) and then the interior.

        Interiors surround us, so they should have our favorite materials, colors, sounds and gauges.  They set the feel of the drive,part of that one-ness with the car.  So what really makes a good interior?  It's different for each of us.  I have a friend with a rat rod that has a '52 Chevy steering wheel, '53 Chevy instruments and no headliner, so that he can see the wood bows of the Model A body.  It reminds him of cars and parts from his childhood.  Another friend has a street rod for which he bought several leather hides (when he only needed one) to get perfect, non-blemished leather for his seats.  Then there are guys like me, who think there is nothing like original--Wood grained dashes with broadcloth seats, cotton thread stitching and Moss-tred carpet!  It just doesn't get any better than that!

        If you are lucky enough to find a car with an interior you like, protection is important.  The first thing is to insure it.  Does your insurance cover moth damage, mold, etc.?  This is something I never really thought about until recently.  I keep my cars in garages with mothballs in the cars that have wool interiors, and baking soda in the ones that have leather and vinyl, and I check on them regularly.  This past summer, I had driven my '37 Packard Super 8 (a low-mileage original) and everything was fine.  About three weeks later, we got it out to detail it for an upcoming show, and there were small gnat-like creatures all over the inside that had eaten my headliner, and had started snacking on everything else!  We vacuumed them out, pulled the seats, opened the trunk and sprayed everything to eliminate them, but damage had already been done.  The headliner was totaled!  Sick and in disbelief, I called my friend and insurance agent, Alex LaRue at LaRue Insurance*.  He asked me to email pictures of the damage.  He filed my claim under sudden and accidental and I got an estimate of labor and materials to put it back as it once was.  We agreed on a settlement and I had a check within the month.  This is an instance where having a complete range of coverage, knowing how to file the claim, and having a good agent like Alex makes all the difference.

        Now it was up to me to find the right shade of broadcloth, the right thread, and the right shop to do the job.  The good news was, I could re-use some of the elementsthe edge welt, windlace and sun visors.  This would make it less obvious that everything was not original.  Now I had to find a broadcloth that would look like it had never been replaced.  When I priced the broadcloth, I sent out samples cut from my headliner, one that was sun-exposed, and one taken from behind a window molding that had never seen the sun, which was about a shade darker.  I sent the samples to LeBaron Bonney, Bill Hirsch, SMS, and Original Auto Interiors, and received about 60+ samples back.  LeBaron Bonney offers a sample book for around $25.00.  It is great, and has everything from wool to leather, as well as carpet and trim samples, with a price list.

        Just to look at the '37's interior, you would just call it medium brownwith tone-on-tone brown seats.  Easy, right?  But when I received the samples, it was obvious that brown comes in many tints, tones, shades and values*!  My car's interior was a medium brown with a greenish-gray tint.  When I laid my samples down on the interior, some of the ones that had looked right off of the car, were completely wrong on the car.  I quickly narrowed the samples down to three.   The ones I had been sent were small 2"x 2" so I called and ordered larger 6"x 6" ones in my three color choices to get the full effect.  I laid the new larger pieces on the cars trunk to check compatibility with the paint, then the interior.  Now I was down to one sample choice.  Color will change when checked in the garage, under florescent light (they add blue to the color), and under sunlight.  When checked inside the car, my sample looked about two shades darker in the garage, and about one shade darker outside in the sun, but inside or outside, I knew my sample choice was right, and it was out of the same familyof color.

        Before filing away the unused samples, I laid them out on a neutral surface, and it was easy to see the different shades:  Greenish brown, next to a yellowish, next to reddish brown.  If you are matching colors, you have to test them in the car.  As a final test, I pinned the sample to the headliner.  This actually changed the shade once again, making it appear a darker brown than when it was laid on the seats.  Placement is important in choosing the material.

        Now, with the right material, I called to make sure they had the yardage I needed in 60" width (some only come in 54" widths), and that it would all be out of the same dye lot.  Buying the same product number at different times can result in a slight mismatch because the fabric might be from different rolls, manufactured at different times.  So it is always better to order all that you need and might need for future repairs to ensure it will all match perfectly.  Thread was also a concern.  1930's cars used cotton thread, and now most shops use polyester.  I ordered a matching thread sample from my material supplier and some cotton thread over the internet and compared the two.  I actually liked the polyester better, and it is stronger.  Its best to order thread in a one-pound spool.  I chose an upholsterer who had years of experience and knew the wooden roof construction of the 1930s cars.  We discussed the stitching.  The headliner had a close stitch that seemed to disappear into the fabric, while the wraparound side panels had a wide stitch on the self-piping at the bottom of the headliner where it meets the gusset (side panel).  I finally relinquished the car, and about a month later it was ready.  All of the work and research paid off--it looked great!  

        I will continue next month with Designing an Interior for our '48 Packard Custom 8 project.  Enjoy your cars, have good insurance and get it done exactly the way that you want it!  Keep 'em driving!

*LaRue Insurance, 800-303-3518, www.larueclassics.com

Hue:  Pure color, any primary, secondary or tertiary color that is unmixed with black or white.

Reflective Value:  The degree of lightness or darkness of tint, shade or tone.  White has highest reflective value and black the lowest.

Tint:  Pure color with white added.

Shade:  Pure color with black added.

Tone:  Pure color with gray added.  The new color is a softer version of the original.

Intensity:  The brightness or dullness of color