Renovating your restomod style Chevelle doesn’t mean it has to go back to the same exact interior it came with from the factory. A case in point is Chevelle magazine’s 1966 Malibu Sport Coupe that was recently converted from Sport Coupe original equipment Renville cloth to 1966 Chevelle convertible imitation leather. Not only did the full imitation leather (vinyl) conversion rarify our Chevelle, retro-placing it into the one of 8,301 produced category as opposed to its original group of 33,154 made, it upgraded our upholstery to a tougher, more practical material. Our customizing parts source was Original Parts Group for the upholstery kit, and Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland, California, did the incredibly clean installation.
Anyway you look at it, a 1964-’72 Chevelle is a desirable car to restore to stock or build restomod style. In the instance of Chevelle magazine’s unmolested, but weathered 1966 Malibu two-door hardtop we decided not to modify its stock appearance as much as originally intended and build a virtually undetectable restomod “street sleeper” instead. This meant undoing the Touring II bucket seat install done one year ago in the Fall 2015 edition of Chevelle. And since we only had to drill four holes to install the pair of Touring II bucket seat brackets it was easy enough to reverse the job with a minimum amount of welding.
We were lucky our Malibu was an unmolested, rust-free survivor because the odds of finding a vintage Chevelle floorpan riddled with numerous holes drilled from various seating changes through the years,and extensive rust damage with gaping holes are quite high. This means a Chevelle owner’s very first step should be to establish they have a solid steel floor underneath. Once that’s been determined it’s time for the fun stuff; restoring the upholstery back to its original color, or going with a slight styling customization as we chose to do with our 1966 Chevelle Malibu Sport Coupe.
The trim tag is located on the driver side of the firewall and contains body style information; where the car was built, what interior and exterior colors it left the factory with, etc. A quick trip through the pages of a Chevelle-specific parts catalog will help to find a selection of original style kits to reupholster with. The following tips will help to ease installation of your freshly re-covered seats and with using Mothers products ensure your interior will stay factory fresh for years to come.
01. The trim tag on our Chevelle revealed it was built in California at the Fremont plant (BODY BF) and came with a trim code TR 775 interior, dark Turquoise Renville cloth, and medium Turquoise imitation leather. There were 33,154 1966 Chevelles built with TR 775 interiors.
02. To eliminate TR 775 cloth upholstery, our Chevelle Touring II bucket seats were ordered from OPGI in factory original trim code TR 776 dark Turquoise with medium Turquoise imitation leather (8,301 in TR 776). The Touring II bucket seats hold the driver firm in place; excellent for brisk driving but offer someone checking the car out a strong clue it has something going on in the performance arena.
03. Our 1966 Malibu Sport Coupe came to us with a post 1967 A-body Sport Coupe bench seat identified by DOT seatback releases and a 1966 correct upholstery kit will not fit. We got lucky and located a 1966 Sport Coupe bench seat still in a parts car, eliminating having to identify an orphan example.
04. As evidenced by this photo our seats needed new foam from the bare seat frames up. As this car is intended to be a high-end build we selected Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland, California, to custom fit the OPGI kits.
05. For now, the bare floor will be left alone because future plans include blowing the car apart for exterior paint and bodywork. After the exterior paintjob is done a complete TR 776 interior transformation will occur. The cable running down the passenger side floor is for the OE factory installed rear antenna.
06. After inspecting to ensure there weren’t any broken seat springs, the top and bottom frames were powdercoated semi-gloss black. Notice Mark Lopez laid burlap atop the springs before placing the seat foam rubber.
07. Embee Performance of Santa Ana, California, inserted rubber plugs before powdercoating to keep the threads clear of powder paint. This attention to detail makes the reassembly job easier for the car owner.
08. It’s a good practice to protect the newly upholstered seatbacks with a moving, or thick soft blanket to prevent scuffing or scratching the vinyl.
09. Buggered threads can strip mounting bolts. Before installing the bench seat we chased the 5/16-24 threads on the seatback bottom (the mounting point for the seat tracks) and the floorpan where the seat tracks bolt to the floor.
10. Installing the bench seat from the passenger side moving towards the driver side is the easiest way to install the seat.
11. Making sure the bench seat is bolted down securely is a safety issue. Not trusting the condition of the threads on the factory original 5/16-24 seat bolts they were replaced with cad-plated Grade 5 bolts, including 5/16-inch flat and 5/16 lock washers.
12. The last step after completing the installation of newly re-covered seats was to clean off greasy fingerprints and treat the vinyl with a good protectant. A product like Mothers VLR is a great timesaver. VLR is an easy-to-use multi-purpose spray that quickly cleans, conditions, and protects a wide variety of vinyl, leather, and rubber surfaces.
13. For tougher stains left from oleaginous fingers, or a greasy misstep onto pristine carpet Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is a dedicated cleaner that is formulated to be tough on carpet stains, but gentle on vinyl upholstery.
14. After removing grease stains caused by handling during the installation process the opened pores of the vinyl are left vulnerable to attracting new dirt and grime. It’s necessary to use a good quality protective agent that provides UV protection like Mothers Protectant to make vinyl upholstery stay like new.
15. Simply spray any of the previous Mothers products used on a microfiber cloth to treat the surface, and then wipe dry with a fresh cloth. Always start with a clean microfiber cloth, and replace the cloth when a soiled buildup begins to occur.
16. The installation of the two-piece rear top and lower seatbacks is a less cumbersome procedure than bolting the front bench seat into position. The premise of installing new upholstery on the front and rear seats has been to improve the looks of the Chevelle while it’s been driven as a work in progress. This will get the ’66 through the summer, and then the car is getting completely torn down for a winter project.
17. It’s the odds and ends not included with an upholstery kit that makes an interior project turn out better by adding the little details that make and interior look brand new. To make the seat appear new and stop the seatback in the proper position we installed the little black round bumpers seen with seatback pushed forward. Plus, we installed new seat hinge covers and bench seat hinge washers to make the restoration job complete.
18. Although neglected interior chrome and brightwork can appear as unsalvageable as crusty exterior chrome parts like bumpers or grilles interior chrome often has a film that cleans up with a good chrome polish.
19. We used a microfiber towel and Mothers Chrome Polish rubbing it into the chrome finish to clean away baked-on dirt, nicotine film, water spots and other unidentifiable dulling contaminants, leaving behind a layer of polymer protection to promote a lasting shine. This trick works well on all interior chrome.