If you’ve been reading Super Chevy for a while, you’ll probably remember the dilapidated ’55 210 four-door sedan we started rehabbing for cruising duty. We “Ditched the Six” and three-speed OD manual in favor of a 5.3/4L60E combo, Be Cool cooling system, CPP four-wheel disc brakes with Hydra Stop system and 25-gallon fuel tank, Painless Performance wiring harness that was compatible with our engine/trans combo’s factory computer, and Dakota Digital analog gauge cluster.
So far, we have finished repairing the rusty floors and rear wheelwells and reached a point where we could start tackling the car’s interior and getting it ready for some cruise nights and road trips. In fact, we’re hoping to drive the car from Super Chevy’s old Tampa, Florida, home to the 2016 Tri-Five Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Originally, our ’55 left the factory in two-tone Sea Mist Green/India Ivory with a Dark Green Gabardine/Light Green Pattern cloth interior. When we came by the car, it was painted a horrid blue and black outside, with an equally abominable blue and black vinyl interior. As quick as we could (after looking at the car too long and losing our lunch) the outside was sanded/stripped as best we could, and a quick rattle can treatment applied that’s pretty close to the car’s original color. That left the interior to deal with, once we fixed the Swiss cheese-rusted floor.
We wanted something correct for the car, but with some style. After checking out some vintage pics we came across one of James Dean driving a ’55 Delray with black and white interior during the filming of Giant. That settled it for us. So we talked to the pros at CARS Inc. to see if it was possible to get a Delray-style interior for a four-door sedan. Since CARS Inc. has all the patterns and materials in stock, it was no problem to whip up a beautiful interior set for the four-door in black and white Delray style, all made at CARS Inc.’s Michigan facility.
We took our seats and materials to 813 Customs in Tampa, Florida, where interior craftsman Hugo Hernandez of Interiors by Hugo went to work installing our new stuff. Originally, we were going to show the process using our front seat, but after disassembly we found it had serious issues and was junk. The process for stripping and re-covering a bench seat is pretty much the same for the front and the rear, so using the rear seat we can still show you everything.
1. The seats in our ’55 210 four-door sedan had been re-covered with generic vinyl not long ago, but were still pretty cruddy looking. Plus, the blue and black color combo wasn’t going to work with our Sea Mist Green/India Ivory exterior.
2. Not surprising. Underneath the cheap black and blue vinyl we found the car’s original Dark Green Gabardine/Light Green Pattern cloth seat covers still in place. They showed a lot of water stain damage due to the 210’s rusty wheelwells letting road spray into the cabin—a problem we remedied before starting the interior work.
3. Hugo wasted no time and started popping off the old hog rings so we could strip the seat frame down to bare metal. When removing hog rings, you need a fairly heavy set of dykes. To remove the rings, the easiest method is to grip the ring with the dykes, then twist. This will make the ring expand/open up, allowing it to come right off.
4. This seat bottom had seen quite a bit of water damage judging from the water staining we saw on the original cloth. Pretty cool it was still intact though, since it gave us an idea of how the car’s interior looked when new.
5. Removing hog rings is easy but tedious work. If you’re a rookie at this, it’s best to take a slow, methodical approach so you don’t miss any. Also, make sure you’re just grabbing the hog ring with the dykes and not cutting into the seat springs.
6. When removing the old seat covers be sure to save these factory bolsters and not cut them up or lose them. You can find a substitute if yours are damaged by making due with a piece of welding rod or similar, but nothing new seems to work as good as the original bolsters.
7. With everything stripped off, here’s where we stood. Thankfully, we had no broken seat springs or other structural damage to repair. Our seat frames were a bit rusty and nasty with corrosion though, so much so that we didn’t want to put all our new seat stuff on top of this nastiness.
8. We didn’t have time to take the frames to a blaster for a super thorough cleaning, so we made do with a wire brush, lots of elbow grease, and some cans of Krylon rust-inhibiting spray paint from our local home improvement store. They actually came out pretty nice, and we won’t have to worry about them rusting any further or messing up our new covers and underlying materials.
9. We visited our local upholstery supply shop and picked up three pounds of hog rings (they sell them by the pound for about $2-3 per), a roll of trunk lining material (not shown), two 2-yard long sections of high-density foam (not shown), and two cans of Misty glue for installing our new seat covers. Typically, you need at least two pounds of hog rings for the job of re-covering each full seat (upper and lower), and because they’re so cheap we got three pounds just in case.
10. Step one is laying the trunk liner material over the frame and trimming it to fit. The factory used burlap material, and if you’re doing a factory correct restoration of your ’55-’56-’57 Chevy that’s what you’ll need to get in case you get a show judge really dedicated to his craft. But for a street cruiser/fun car like our 210, upgrading to a modern material that would also give the underside of the upholstery more protection was prefect for us.
11. Once the material was trimmed to the right shape, Hugo locked it down with hog rings so it wouldn’t move.
12. Step two was measuring and trimming our foam padding to fit. Originally, GM used cotton batting to pad the seats, which doesn’t offer much comfort and puts most of the cushioning work on the seat springs. Employing modern foam not only gives some extra meaningful padding, but is also resistant to water, unlike the old cotton, so if anything gets spilled on the seat or is exposed to some other sort of moisture, it won’t be trapped in the seat and cause damage.
13. To keep the foam in place while the covers are being installed, Hugo sprays Misty glue on the underlying material. Before spraying the glue make sure you have your foam ready to install.
14. With the foam in place, a simple electric turkey carver is used to trim away excess foam and get just the right shape.
15. For an extra dose of comfort, and to help support the seat springs, we used leftover foam and stuffed it into the front gap of the seat frame. This will make a huge difference while riding in the car, and when getting in and out, too.
16. Our new seat covers came from CARS Inc. in Rochester Hills, Michigan. CARS Inc. has been in business for almost 40 years and makes some of the highest quality, factory correct seat covers and interior components on the market. All covers are made in the USA at the Michigan facility (they also have an outlet store in Southern California) and assembled by folks who have been crafting upholstery for just as long, several starting their careers working for the OEs in Detroit. Every CARS Inc. interior set bears the name of the employee who put it together as a badge of pride and honor to let customers know they are receiving the best products possible.
17. With all the foam in place and secured, Hugo laid the cover down over the frame and began pulling it over the assembly, using a couple of strategically placed hog rings to hold one side in place while he worked on the other.
18. CARS Inc. has the largest supply of N.O.S. and factory correct reproduction seat cover materials in the industry. No matter what your model or trim level, CARS Inc. can make you up a set of covers that look like they came straight from the GM factory. And, if you want a custom touch like we did with our Delray-style covers, CARS Inc. can offer you some options there as well.
19. With the cover in place, the original bolster is inserted into the new CARS Inc. seat cover. The bolster gives the hog rings a more secure base on the cover to grip when securing to the seat frame, helping to prevent the rings from tearing through the seat covers once people start sitting on the seats, along with the normal stretching and shrinking they’ll see as the interior heat cycles when the car is in the sun.
20. When affixing the hog rings, make sure you’ve got them around both the bolster in the cover and the section on the seat frame they attach to. If you’re not sure, remove the ring and install a new one correctly.
21. Getting the covers on just right and free of wrinkles requires patience, and some grunts as you can tell by the expression on Hugo’s face as he pulls the cover taut.
22. With the cover secure, Hugo goes over any wrinkles with the heat gun and works to smooth out the new cover. You might have to go back, remove a hog ring or two, stretch that area of the cover, and reinstall the hog ring(s) to get it just right.
23. Here’s how everything looked with the covers fully installed and the seat back in the car. We’ve still got a couple of wrinkles, but we’ll let the covers heat cycle a few times in the sun to help smooth them out before going back and undoing hog rings and making further adjustments. The black and white Delray pattern looks fantastic and like it came that way from the factory, which will make this four-door 210 have some serious pop on the inside.
Interiors by Hugo