As my wife Kelli correctly points out, when it comes to making a good first impression with one’s car, after paint upholstery is key. And since I am done with paint on the 63 Etype, we are going to talk about upholstery quite a bit. As noted in previous articles, after 2 years of work the paint is done and I am ready to move on. I am diving into upholstery next, mainly because it is the fall and a favorable time to be working with contact cement! It is used a lot with upholstery work. It needs a certain minimum ambient temperature to set up correctly. It can be stinky and it can even cause a fire in the worst case scenario. Plenty of natural ventilation is a must. I’ll save the “wrench” work for the cold months of winter.
In this article, I’ll talk specfically about my efforts to install upholstery on the 63 Etype. In future articles, I will talk more generally about other cars. Per the Heritage Certificate, my 63 Etype left the factory in Coventry with a Light Tan interior. It sounds pretty innocuous but it turned out that Light Tan came to be a little bit of surprise. Colors can always be a hard thing to get your arms around, as everyone’s brain processes what they see and like differently. Our memories of colors can be affected by time passing. Physically, almost any color starts to degrade from the moment it is applied, with some media more “color fast” than others. The JCNA website and the Coventry Foundation have period brochures produced by Jaguar that present the colors available to choose from during the original purchase timeframe. But these documents are decades old and the print techology of the day probably never anticpated a demand for color fastness for such a long period of time. All of this is to say that, like exterior colors, orignal interior colors can be a hard thing to get your arms around.
I try and not worry about these issues too much, since there is little I can do to resolve these built in factors. I contacted several domestic suppliers of Jaguar Etype upholstery and received their understanding of what Light Tan would look like, via standard “sample cards” sent for my review. This kind of goes under the guidance of “trusting the experts”. In my case I only found one US supplier who even listed Light Tan. I decided to go to the source, so to speak. To cut to the chase, there are several shops in the Nuneaton, England region that specialize in Etype upholstery. Nuneaton is just 10 miles up the road from Coventry and I gather that some of the shops that originally did upholstery sub-assembly work on the Etype were located there. I wound up going with GB Classic Trim. The proprietor, Graham Watkins, was very helpful during the entire process. Here is the sample card he sent me.
As you can see, there are 5 distinct materials presented. All are used in the interior of an Etype. Leather is used for the seating surfaces and the center console. Vinyl is used for many surfaces such as the door thresholds, the door panels, and parts of the interior in the cockpit behind the seats. Hardura, as the name implies, is a rugged material, able to withstand some abuse. In my 63, it is used in the rear luggage compartment. Moquette is interesting. It is kind of like carpet but without a heavy backing. On my car, it is used on the seat backs and also on the quarter panels in the luggage compartment. Carpet is self-explainatory and is of course used on the floors of the cockpit.
Working with a firm in the UK turned out to be very straight foward. I went ahead and invested $10/month with Verizon to upgrade my cellphone to an international calling plan. I had several “planning” calls with Graham where we went over basics and options. As with most firms that provide upholstery for the Etype, there is a basic kit and there are options. The basic kit is as it sounds. Materials will be supplied to cover the obvious areas of the cars interior. Headliner, seats, door panels, thresholds, center console, rear hatch, and everything in the rear compartment. Options that I went for included sunvisors, glove box liner, grab handle, rear cubby boxes, underdash pieces, and carpet overmats, plus a few other items. I also ordered extra vinyl and I asked for the leather scraps left over from my “hide”.
The “kit” that you get ranges from pieces ready to install to pieces of material that are rough cut to size. The carpets for instance are cut to shape and bound edging applied and are thus ready to install. In the other extreme, for the door thresholds you get a rectangle of vinyl and a rectangle of foam underlayment that you cut to fit and glue into place. So there is a lot of assembly work required even with the kit.
Current exchange rates will affect the cost of your kit. In my case, the total fee, including shipping was on the order of $5800. You pay a small important tariff (maybe 3%) that the shipping company bills you for. In my case, the shipping company was DHL. It is shipped by air. My box was 1x2x4 feet in size. It arrived a little bit squashed at the top but the contents did not care and were fine. All items were packaged in individual bags, clearly labeled.
It may be stating the obvious but it is vital that you save any and all existing upholstery items you have until you are sure you are done with the job. How Jaguar did upholstery on the Etype certainly varied over time. The kit suppliers do their best to send you correctly configured pieces but small surprises will undoubtably pop up. There are also certain metal underlayments and forms that you will want to salvage. These can be very hard to replace if they have gone missing. In my next article, I will get into some specifics regarding the installation of my upholstery kit on the 63 Etype.