The cockpit of a Fifth-Gen Corvette is a very hospitable place, by far the most driver and occupant-friendly of all five decades of Vettes. Ingress and egress are simple and comfortable. There's plenty of leg, shoulder, and head room for almost anyone. The ergonomics are quite good and, overall, the quality of materials and workmanship is, at minimum, acceptable.
On the other hand, some C5 interiors, while tasteful, can be a little plain. This factor has led to a wealth of C5 interior accessories ranging from all sorts of pseudo wood and brushed alloy door, dash, and console overlays to both faux and genuine carbon fiber trim bits and pieces, to logo carpet mats, and items like white-face instrument cluster kits.
Custom upholstery is a different story. We've seen several types of slip-over seat "protectors" and that old standby from the '80s, sheepskin covers. But, we hadn't seen--outside of a couple complete reupholstery jobs--ready-made, tailored, "custom" seat upholstery. Then, recently, we were leafing through a new edition of the Mid America Designs catalog and spotted something described as "C5 Hot Seats!"--two-tone custom leather and vinyl, a la OEM, seat covers that replace the originals.
Interesting. There are three basic variations; two for Sport Seats and one for the standard seat, and five available color combinations in factory-correct hues (black with either Torch Red or Light Oak) or custom colors (black with Sebring Silver, Pewter Gray, or Millennium Yellow). To add a little extra sizzle to the steak, MAD offers matching Console Cushions, Wheelskins (steering wheel covers), Door Pulls, and Shift Boots in most of the color combos.
Some factory combos seem to be crying out for help, others (like our personal favorite, Magnetic Red outside with a Light Oak Sport Seat interior) need little or nothing done to look sharp. A black standard seat interior comes off as kinda dull, particularly when combined with an understated exterior color. Such was the case with our subject car, a Light Pewter Metallic '00 coupe with just 36,000 miles. The black base interior, which was in almost perfect condition, just seemed too dark and foreboding, and at times just blah. Instead of the usual dash overlays, pedal covers, sill plates, and/or white-face gauges, the decision was made to change the look of the seats themselves and to bedeck the rejuvenated cockpit with MAD's complimenting trim pieces. A set of "modified" leather seat covers (PN 636-050), black on the outside with Pewter Gray inserts and matching Pewter stitching was ordered, along with a black and Pewter Gray Embroidered (a C5 logo) Console Cushion (PN 636-500), a pair of Pewter Gray Door Handle Accents (PN 636-060), and a black and Pewter Gray Two-Tone Shift Boot (PN 636-071, for automatic transmission). To finish off this C5 interior decorating project, a "double emblem" (C5 logo and Corvette script) Lloyd Mats Floor Mats & Cargo Mat Kit (PN 612-311) was ordered in Pewter Gray with black emblems.
C5 seats are fairly modular compared to the ones in earlier generations. The backrest cover is zippered in place and the seat base cover is positioned with a few hog rings and what looks a lot like a giant shoelace. Re-covering a pair of C5 seats could probably be done by most reasonably skilled driveway mechanics, but since Team VETTE was going to document the procedure, we decided to go with the pros, in this instance Westminster Auto Upholstery, a shop that specializes in street rod, custom rod, and restoration interior work. Re-covering a pair of C5 seats should be a cinch for a crew that was, while we were there, crafting a new interior for a '32 Ford sedan delivery street rod and refurbishing the insides of a vintage mild custom '57 Olds 98 hardtop--cool stuff. Tony at TLC Auto Detailing offered to help out with the balance of the redecorating project which, due to time and space constraints, will appear next month.
Pete Engel, owner of Westminster Auto Upholstery, examined the custom seat covers before work commenced and told us that the materials and workmanship were equal to and, for the most part. better than the original seat coverings. The new covers are quite well tailored and fit very great.
The seat re-covering procedure took around four hours. To do it right at home, you'd need hog rings and hog ring pliers, an aerosol can of automotive upholstery adhesive, and a hot air gun or high-output hair drier, plus the usual assortment of hand tools--and allow a full day to do the job. Tasks like repairing the damaged foam cushion in the driver's seat outer backrest bolster or adding additional cushioning in the backrest bolsters are things that few, if any, home mechanics would be prepared to do. Said repairs and enhancements will contribute to the re-covered seat holding up better in the future, as well as its being more comfortable and looking better right away.
The newly re-covered seats in the '00 coupe give its interior an uncluttered and roomier feel that it did not have before, as well as a sophisticated custom look that sets it apart from the herd--something that certainly could not be said about the same C5 coupe with its plain black standard upholstery.
When you consider that at the end of the '02 model year production last summer the number of C5s built since early 1997 was approaching 180,000 units, it ain't a bad thing to do something truly distinctive with one's Corvette, especially when it makes the driving environment more pleasant and appealing. We're looking forward to seeing how it looks next month when this interior decorating project is concluded.