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Road Tour Chevy Gets its Seats Covered

Chris Shelton Jul 27, 2017
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Pity the trimmer. It's only after all the fabrication is done, the budget is spent, and time consumed before they get the chance to ply their craft. It's enough to take the fun right out of the thing you do.

But trimmers persist. More than that, they flat knock things out of the park. Take the interior in our ARP/STREET RODDER Road Tour 1957 Chevy convertible presented by Chevrolet Performance; hands down it boasts the most creative expression in the build. And that's saying something if you've seen what's going on in other parts of the car.

For the task we took the car to Show Car Interiors by Pete Hagan, the same Pete Hagan who founded Hagan Street Rod Necessities. We gave him a few set components like the ProCar by Scat twin bucket seats, the Vintage Air A/C system, and the Lokar shifter and handles. But about the most important part is that we gave him free reign with everything else.

He responded with a combination of 5/8-inch marine-grade plywood, lauan, PVC sheet, foam, leather, and canvas. The result is a striking cockpit that's every bit as comfortable as it is handsome. And while we don't show a step-by-step of what it took to make every piece, the images do speak for themselves.

But don't take our word for it. Have a gander yourself. Surely you can find something to work into your next build.

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The job began with the centerpiece: the console. To make it, Hagan's crew mounted the known items, in this case the ProCar by Scat seats. The console body is simple: two slices of marine-grade plywood connected with small bits of lumber.

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The crew made a cove for LED strip lights with plywood strips. It blends to the console with a strip of chipboard formed over a few sheets of closed-cell foam for support.

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The console also has a sliding door that conceals two cup holders. It's actually a PVC sheet wrapped in leather that fits in an aluminum channel. Hagan kerf-cut the bottom flange to let it conform to the final shape.

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Once fabricated, the center console got clad in closed-cell foam. Note the shape of the cove for the light strip. Also note the top panel: It's just PVC sheet covered with foam and leather. It merely snaps in place, the foamed sides keeping it in place.

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Here's the console all covered and ready to go back into the car. Check out how the lid slides open, much like a latter-day tambour door.

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Hagan disassembled the seat's vinyl panels and used their shapes to make templates. He then transferred those shapes to the Conneaut Corp Catalina II leather.

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Here are a few of the panels sewn together, laying on the seat base. Note how they just sit flat. Also, have you ever wondered how the low parts of the cover conform to the valleys in the foam?

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Well the secret is listing, wire sewn into the cover and tied to the seat structure with string. The other secret is the channels carved from the seat foam. They give the seams among the panels a place to go.

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Once assembled, the seat appears to be made of shaped material rather than leather wrapped around plain ol' foam.

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The Scat seat mounts support the seats beautifully, but they're pure function. Hagan's crew whipped up these steel escutcheons to hide the mechanics.

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The rear seats are nothing more than foam panels glued to plywood sheets. Hagan's crew made these to fit between the console and the interior side panels.

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The seat backs attach cleverly: by keyhole hangers. Hagan made these with washers and screws. That way the rest of the interior is accessible without tools.

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Hagan shaped the medium-density foam to resemble the illustrations. The tool of choice in most shaping is an angle die-grinder with abrasive discs.

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Without patterns from which to work, Hagan made his own for the rear-seat cover panels.

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Remember the listing from the front seat? Here's how the strings look once tied to the seat structure. In this case they tie to the lauan seat backing rather than springs as they did on the front seat.

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The door panels are largely like the console in the sense that they're made from thin ply and covered with closed-cell foam. Hagan laid out an insert pattern in the likeness of the illustrations.

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The pattern dictates a tapered spear of sorts that Hagan rendered in cardboard. He then bent strips of extruded aluminum stock to the pattern.

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The trim strips sit in valleys carved in the foam and separate the panel from the insert. They attach to the panel by screws that fit in holes drilled and tapped in the backside.

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Hagan's crew made the top from scratch. One was to get the specific color in Haartz Stayfast canvas. But the other reason is fit; starting from scratch offers far greater latitude and opportunity.

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Here's one of the advantages of custom-fitting tops. Hagan says that production top edges often fall about an inch short of the window frame. In fact the gap is often so bad that you can see the top mechanism between the topping and window.

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But making a top from scratch offers the opportunity to bring the topping to the very edge of the window opening. These are the details that set apart good upholstery jobs from the exceptional ones.

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The finished product decked with the Daytona-weave carpet is a practical piece of craftsmanship with creative and artistic elements.

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