Extreme Makeover

Make the interior of your fourth-gen Camaro new again with a fresh leather interior from Classic Soft Trim.

We've lamented the fact that you can't get a new Camaro for the last two years now, and it's only getting worse. The fleet of Camaros currently on the road is getting more worn out with every passing day. Fortunately, there are professionals like Classic Soft Trim who specialize in making your modern classic new again. Actually, we should say better than new, because as we found on a recent visit to CST's facility in Commerce, California, the materials and workmanship are all top shelf!

"Our quality is equal to or surpasses the OEM specification," says CST's Todd Abraham. "It's all automotive-spec leather, has all the UV protection and is custom matched to the vinyl via a color spectrum analyzer. All of our kits have foam backing which gives it a good flow and a better fit, and hides imperfections better than the factory foam. The stitching is all done by walking-foot upholstery stitching machines, meaning straighter stitches and a heavier gauge thread." All this insures a beautiful appearance, great comfort and a long life for your late-model classic.

Like most other Camaros out there, our '94 Z28 has seen lots of good times, both on track and on the highway of life. With 125,000 miles on the odo--and the factory cloth interior--we were concerned how many more good times we would see. The seat surfaces were worn, stained and burned by cigarettes. And we don't even smoke! The worst part is the huge hole that was worn in the driver's-side seat bolster. Foam chunks were spewing out and the hole was getting exponentially larger by the day. When we finally had enough, we called Classic Soft Trim.

We found out that CST has 50 installation centers across the country, 37 fixed locations and 13 mobile units, which service mostly dealerships. So if you're in Bangor, Maine, for instance, you can get the same products and service we got at CST's Commerce, California location. But before you call, you'll want to log onto www.classicsofttrim.com to look through CST's selection of colors, patterns and model years. (Check to see your model is one of CST's templates.) You'll find a helpful color reference guide which will ensure you get the correct color match. If you want something more on the wild side, CST can make your interior from 50 different colors of leather in stock. (Victory checkerboard anyone?) Trust us, there's a lot of choices--the whole range of grays, browns and creams, to bright red, yellow, blue and silver. Got a wild paint job? You'll find a match in this wide color palette. For our medium gray interior (called opal in some Chevy literature), we found a great two-tone match with 083 Titanium for wear surfaces (perforated for better breathing) and 079 Dark Charcoal for edge trim.

The cost to have your late-model Camaro seats and door panels custom made and installed in your car is around $1,200--a little more if you bring your own carpet to put in at the same time like we did. It's important to note that the exact price will be determined by the local labor rate, which can vary nationwide. At our Commerce location, it was $65/hr.

Once you find your application and select your color(s) on-line, call CST's toll-free number to find the installation center closest to you--or you can find it on-line at www.classicsofttrim.com. You order your interior from your local location, paying half up front and the remainder after installation when you pick up your car. The interior will arrive at the installation center about three days after you place your order and installation takes another three days (usually less, but most customers will want to take advantage of the opportunity to replace their carpet or other interior trim items).

As a side note, Classic Soft Trim also installs seat heaters, DVD players and top-slider sunroofs, so if you're in the mood for one of these upgrades, CST can do it all at the same time. If it weren't for our factory T-tops, a top-slider roof would be at the top of our list of things to add.

For our carpet, we called Year One and ordered part No. 9399FOPL ($329). This piece replaces the entire passenger compartment except for the cargo well, which is made of formed trunk liner. The Year One carpet is form fit but you or your installer will need to cut holes for harness points. Some trimming is required and we highly suggest you use spray-on trim adhesive to get it lying perfectly flat. We even used the adhesive to reused some of our old padding to supplement the padding which came with the new Year One carpet. A matching set of embroidered floor mats (part No. FMZ930PLBLK, $103) finished things off.

Now our high-mileage Z28 looks brand new! Watch now, as Todd Abraham of Classic Soft Trim takes us through the steps to a newer, classier Camaro.

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Here's the clapped-out interior of our '94 Z28. It's showing its age!

Here's the finished Classic Soft Trim interior with our new Year One carpet and floor mats--for around $1200, it's ready for another 100,000 miles of fun.

Our extreme makeover took place at Classic Soft Trim's Commerce, CA facility. There are 50 CST shops nation-wide--37 permanet facilities and 13 mobile truck units.

As you can see, there's plenty of room here to handle the most ambitious project. CST does a lot of aftermarket conversions and OEM work for outfits like Saleen.

Classic Soft Trim offers leather in 50 different colors, so there's got to be something in there for everyone. CST can do a factory match color combination, or any high-visibility or custom combination.

Days before our visit, our order was cut, embroidered and sewn together. When we arrived, Classic Soft Trim was ready to jump right on our '94 Camaro.

Our fresh Year One Carpet (part No. 9399FOPL, $329) was all scrunched up from life in a box. It quickly flattened out once inside the car. A new carpet is a good starting point for a new interior--you're half the way there with a minimal amount of cash.

These embroidered floor mats from Year One match the carpet and the leather upholstery perfectly. With Year One, you can always be sure colors and textures will match.

Here's what our old door panels looked like. We'll cop to the dirty door panels from years of greasy work done trackside.

The new CST door panels were sewn with two-tone leather which matches the original quite nicely.

After removing the seats, the old carpet, the trim panels and fitting the new carpet, Todd Abraham trims out the new Year One carpet in our Z. He then used the swatch to match the rear fold-down seatback fabric.

A little upholstery glue helps hold down the new carpet during the fitment. With the Year One carpet, you'll have to cut holes for the harness and seat track bolts.

Back in the trim shop, taking the seat cover off is just a matter of pulling out the old hogrings with pliars and unwrapping the old seat cover. In a late-model Camaro, hogrings are only used on the rear seat bottoms. Velcro and j-hooks are used everywhere else.

The rear seat bottom covers are being installed here. Notice how Todd is going tighter than normal (gathering up the material) because the foam has shrunk over the years.

This pneumatic D-hogringer toll is much easier to use than a manual hogringer. This is one of the reasons Classic Soft Trim can turn a car around in as little as one day.

Notice that on the front seat bottom cover, no hogrings are used, just plastic j-clips.

A steamer is used to expand the foam so that it fills the new seat cover better. Since the new covers are patterned after the factory panels and the foam shrinks from years of use, it's necessary to re-expand the foam for a perfect, tight fit.

We're jumping ahead to show you the smart repair job Todd Abraham did on our driver's seat bolster. (In our "before" photo, you can see the old fabric cover had worn through and was shedding foam.) He took a piece of new foam, glued it in, then shaved it with a blade to match the missing contour. Not all CST shops can do this, so ask in advance.

Here Todd fits the new cover on the passenger-side seatback. There are Velcro strips in the recesses of the foam which grab on to fabric in the seams. This keeps the cover hugging the seat firmly in concave areas.

A little steam expands the foam, softens the leather and generally tightens the fit of the cover around the seat.

The seatback covers close with zippers, making the install consistent from car-to-car and seat-to-seat. This also makes the process go faster.

The seatback, motor control assembly, and seat bottom are then reassembled with bolts and washers from the stock seat. The track had worn on the passenger side and needed a little persuasion to work perfectly again.

You can see the difference between our Classic Soft Trim covered passenger seat (left) and the worn out stock driver's seat. Wow! What a difference.

The rear seatback fits over the frame like a mitten and secures with just j-clips. There is no Velcro on the inside of the rear seaback, so Todd used some spray-on upholstery adhesive to make the seat concave. Remember the swatch Todd cut from the carpet under the console? A matching color of fabric now covers the seat back so it matches the carpet when folded down for big cargo loads.

Classic Soft Trim offers custom embroidery on a case-by-case basis starting at $35 for two emblems--one on each seatback. Got a name for your car? Tell the world about it here on the headrest!

Once the seats are upholstered, it's just a matter of reversing steps to install everything. The CST crew has done this before and knows the importance of sweating the details (such as harness bolts, electrical connections, belt loops, track covers and sill plates).

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