Interior Decorating Part Two

Applying The Finishing Touches To A C5 Interior Makeover

Rob Wallace, III Mar 31, 2003 0 Comment(s)

Last month we presented the first part of a C5 interior makeover in which we endeavored to turn a Light Pewter Metallic '00 coupe's rather bland, but nearly perfect condition, black standard seat interior into something lighter and more open--something with, well, pizzazz. Our approach was to do something different. No carbon fiber or faux wood overlays on the dash, doors, and console. No white-face gauge cluster. No sheepskin seat covers. Instead, we went with Mid America Designs' new "C5 Hot Seats"--ready-made, tailored two-tone "custom" seat upholstery, crafted in leather and vinyl, just like the factory originals.

MAD offers three styles of C5 seat upholstery; two for Sport Seats and one for the standard seat. There are five available color combinations, two in factory-correct hues (black with either Torch Red or Light Oak) and three custom combos (black with Sebring Silver, Pewter Gray, or Millennium Yellow). MAD offers matching Console Cushions, Wheelskins (steering wheel covers), Door Pulls, and Shift Boots in most of the color combos.

For this C5 interior redecorating project we ordered the "Modified" seat covers (PN 636-050) in black with Pewter Gray inserts, along with a black and Pewter Gray C5 logo Embroidered 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). We opted to finish off the interior with a "double emblem" (C5 logo and Corvette script) Lloyd Mats Floor Mats & Cargo Mat Kit (PN 612-311) in Pewter Gray with black emblems.

We recruited the pros at Westminster Auto Upholstery to fit the new covers onto the '00 coupe's (previously) plain black seats and detailed that procedure in last month's installment. Tony at TLC Auto Detailing offered to help out with the balance of the redecorating project--the part we'll get to on these pages. The re-covered seats looked really sharp; they also had an OEM look that left us wondering for a couple days--until we saw a Z06 with the black/red two-tone interior combination and realized that MAD's "Modified" covers for standard seats are the Z06 pattern, as well as using the same perforated (i.e. breathable) leather for the inserts. Dumb us!

The C5's seat conversion turned out quite well. Whether you like it in its entirety or don't is a matter of personal tastes. To us it's a lot like what some of the German manufacturers (like BMW and Porsche) and tuners (like Alpina and b&b) are doing on their higher-end products; it is very distinctive, and with only the seats redone the interior of this particular C5 seemed more open and airy. We really like the Z06 influence on the seats, and a cool aspect of this approach to personalizing a C5 interior is you can make whatever changes suit your tastes--it's not an all-or-nothing proposition.

As for installing the trim parts, the pair of door handle accents went on in just a couple minutes and the console cushion didn't take a lot more time. The shift boot is a real pain in the butt to install, and we'd recommend that you have the upholstery shop fit it while they're re-wrapping the seats. To get an idea of what's involved in just gaining access to the shift boot, look at our C5 Hurst shifter installation article in last November's issue, "Shifty Business, Part II: Hursts So Good."

What really matters is: Do the parts work, and are the results worth the time and money invested? Yes, the parts work. The new items fit quite well and the materials are equal-to-or-better-than what they replace. Our quibbles with the shift boot are not with the part itself but rather the design of the factory component and the hassles necessary in replacing it. There's no way to make a replacement for this rather weirdly designed part simple and easy to install.

The interior of the coupe now has a distinctively custom look that belies both the fairly reasonable cost of the conversion and its readily available (i.e. make a phone call to order; not one-off) nature. And we have succeeded in turning a bland (at least by Corvette standards) interior into one that is truly singular and eye catching.

8

We started the second portion of the C5 interior makeover by installing the console cushion. The first step is to remove the console lid, which is held in place with four screws.

After taking off the inner plastic "back cover," Tony applied double-sided tape around the perimeter of the console lid, then peeled the protective paper liner off the exposed side.

Then, with the new cover face down, he carefully inserted the lid into the new cushion.

With the console lid in roughly the correct position, Tony pulled the pre-cut holes in the vinyl sides over the metal screw inserts in the lid. Next, he began working and pulling the vinyl sides of the cushion snug and attached the vinyl to the double-sided tape.

Tony then turned the lid over and checked it to be sure he had the cushion cover fitted satisfactorily.

The last step (for now) was to reattach the plastic back plate to the lid. Since the console has to come apart to fit the new shift boot, Tony set the cushioned console lid aside until later.

Now, the fun part--fitting the new shift boot. To get at the boot, the console has to be removed, a procedure we covered in the "Shifty Business, Part II: Hursts So Good" article last November. Once the console is out of the way, the shift knob is removed. To do this, Tony used a small flat-blade screwdriver to carefully pry the retaining clip from the front (instrument side) of the knob.

The boot is held onto the tunnel around the shifter by an elasticized band at the bottom of the boot that fits over a retainer on the tunnel. Tony carefully (we can't emphasize the "carefully" enough) rolled the bottom of the boot up and over the retainer. The boot has a cutout for the automatic quadrant (gear indicator), and is fitted around the quadrant with a plastic fitting to which the boot is glued. This must be very carefully worked off the indicator.

This is the original shift boot, turned inside out. Tony is holding the indicator/quadrant fitting. It will be re-used on the new boot so it must be separated from the old boot. (Remember, our subject car is an automatic--you won't have to do this on a six-speed C5.)

Tony used 3M aerosol "90 High Strength Adhesive" (basically a contact cement for auto trim parts) to attach...

...the quadrant fitting to the new boot, spraying a light coat on both the fitting and the pre-cut opening in the boot--after first test-fitting the parts.

With the glue set up and the fitting and boot united, Tony turned the boot right side out and showed us how the quadrant opening should look.

The top of the boot, next to the knob, is attached to the shifter from the inside via a cable tie (arrow) that fits within a narrow groove in the shifter shaft. The top portion of the boot must be inverted to do this. Our new boot did not include the necessary cable tie--be sure to have a couple small ones on hand if you do this yourself.

Then, Tony very carefully pushed the automatic quadrant opening over the quadrant, taking extra care to be sure he didn't pull the boot material from the inner plastic fitting. With that done, he stretched the elastic band at the bottom of the boot over the retainer on the floor tunnel.

Before clipping the shift knob back to the shifter, Tony slipped the knob onto the shifter and worked it back and forth through its entire range of movement to be certain nothing was binding or pulling. It was fine, so he slipped the retainer clip into the shift knob.

The "Console Cushion" comes with an extra piece of decoration--a color-coordinated trim strip (essentially leather wrapped welting) that's intended to be fitted around the traction control switch panel. As the panel is re-installed, the welt is fitted between it and the console, leaving only a colored leather bead exposed around the switch panel.

Console re-assembly is concluded as Tony re-attaches the now-cushioned console lid.

We unintentionally left the easiest for last--installing the Pewter Gray leather Door Handle Accents. These pieces are tailored leather with Velcro(TM) strips and will fit either side.

If the ambient temperature is below about 75 degrees, the covers may need to be slightly warmed. This can be done by laying them in direct sunlight for a few minutes or (carefully!) heating them up with a hair dryer. With the "soft" part of the Velcro held toward the top of the door, Tony lined up the widest part of the cover with the widest points of the door pull.

He then wrapped the cover around the handle, pulled the bottom upward around the back of the handle, then pulled the top part snuggly around the handle and pressed the Velcro(TM) strips together. It may be necessary to re-adjust the cover(s) to get them snug enough.

Here are a couple more looks at the re-decorated C5 interior.

What was blah (by Corvette standards) is now unique, distinct, and an eye-catcher.

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