Upholstery...the last frontier. The majority of Corvette owners who work on their cars have no aversion to picking up wrenches and performing serious surgery on multi-thousand-dollar motors or life-protecting brakes and suspension. Yet when it comes to upholstery, they usually pass this much cleaner work to others. I admit to being in this group; I've rebuilt or restored just about everything on a Corvette with the notable exception of upholstering seats.
If you want to go boldly where you have not gone before, the following pages will help by detailing step-by-step how to install new seat covers and seat foam. Plus the sidebar will show the new seat upholstery options that are available, enabling Corvette owners to jump in at any comfort level. The seats being upholstered are from a C3 but the process is similar on many model years.
Although doing-it-yourself is within the ability of any reasonably talented wrench-turner, sometimes there are good reasons to send the seats to an experienced and well-supplied Corvette upholsterer. For example, if your seat frames seem weak, they may need welding. Also, if your seats have been poorly repaired or if you have custom upholstery, there may be a number of small parts that are missing or need replacement. You'd have to go chasing around to find them but a Corvette business that does a lot of upholstering will have them on-hand.
Doing-it-myself was surprisingly rewarding. It was good to see how the loops, rods, and links are used to pull the upholstery into tucks and pleats, and it helps to evaluate and appreciate other upholstery. Another surprise was that pulling the links through foam was harder than expected. However, new upholstery options can eliminate that chore, as described in the sidebar.
Not only was the process better than I expected, the end result was too. The new upholstery looks great and it makes the entire car seem fresh and new. Everybody who gets into the car comments on it. The new upholstery is a visual, tactile and olfactory treat. You'll like that new leather smell so much that you'll park the car with the windows up to preserve it for as long as possible.
Seat Reupholstery Options
A. Drive To A Corvette Show. Your seats can be recovered while you wait at the big Corvette shows. Call to find what shows your supplier attends and schedule the work well in advance. What could be easier? Plus, it gives you an excuse to go to a major Corvette event. While you walk around seeing all sorts of exciting things, very experienced technicians will be professionally refurbishing your interior. And there will be no excuses as to proper fit. After all, the people who make and sell the covers will be installing them. The only downside: the chance of inclement weather.
B. Order Seat Covers And Take Them To A Local Trim Shop. This is the next-to-the-easiest option. Sure, you have to drop your Corvette off at the shop and pick it up later but it still may take less time than a drive to a distant Corvette event. The cons: (a) the shop may not give a firm price if they haven't installed that brand covers before and (b) unless they're a Corvette specialist, they may not have stock to replace any missing or broken parts.
C. Remove The Seats And Send To The Supplier. The pros: your car stays safely in the garage, no excuses about getting a proper fit, and the assembler has any needed extra parts. You do unbolt and remove the seats but you may not even have to box them. Some shippers will take the upper and lower cushions with just an address tag wired on. However, once reupholstered, the seats will be returned with protective packaging.
D. Order Covers With The Foam Installed. This is a terrific new option. Installing the foam to the seat cover was the most difficult and time-consuming part of the project for me. Shipping costs are low because they are only one-way and the seat frames are not shipped.
E. Order Covers And Foam Separately. This is clearly the least costly option. If you're up for a new challenge and want to try something new, go for it. The rest of the article shows each step in the process. You'll impress your friends and relatives when they see the beautiful new seats and when you modestly say "Yeah, I guess I did a pretty good job."
Al Knoch Interiors800/880-8080www.alknochinteriors.com