fh4ever

'39 commander upholstery

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I am starting to look around for seat upholstery and headliner.  For the seats, I know I can have my local folks do it.  But, I would like to know if anyone has had any experience with any of the advertised vendors  that do seat covers and can recommend anyone for a prewar car?    I have some experience putting covers on and I have the hogwire clips and tools to do it.   The same goes for the headliner...any recommendations?    

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Fh4ever we may be the only ones with 38-39 COMMANDERS on here. I call the people in TN and they do not have patterns for the prewar cars. I checked with 3 local shops and the cheapest I found was $7500 !  As my car is not a show car and I drive it nearly daily (when it is running) and the fact I can not afford it. Plus I I want to keep my better half happy I better not even think of spending that kind of money on it, I'm doing it myself. It is serviceable but certainly not professional. So far I have about $350 in the project. $50 for a used sewing machine, $250 material, $50 in needles, thread and roping. That's enough material to do front, back and all 4 doors. 

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Edited by SC38DLS (see edit history)

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I think in the Technical forum there is or are threads on upholstery. The expert is Trimacar. I think the main thing he says is to NOT use foam coz it collapses after a while.

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I had thought about getting the sewing machine and maybe give it a try too.  There is a distributor here locally for all the supplies so I don't have to go to upholstery shops and pay mark-up prices. My seats  dont have to be show quality, and it will probably be vinyl so they can be cleaned up easily.    I found Triamcars posting. 

I see you have seat belts ...and I was wondering what is that chrome hook on the side of the bench seat?  I have that too but no clue what it is for.  

 

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It is the release for the seat to move. The tracks have a long bar between them with gears on each end that merge with the tracks. Mine has about 3 inches of movement. The only place I was able to put the seat belt was at the floor near the door post and they stop the seats from moving. I set the seat where I needed it before I put the belts in.  I like shoulder belts and my wife would not ride in it without them. They work pretty well and came out of a military hummer for $40 or less ( you get 2 belts plus mounting hardware) if I remember correctly. If you need the link I think I still have it 

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1 hour ago, fh4ever said:

 I found Triamcars posting. 

 

Hi fh4ever, can you post the link to trimacar's thread on doing upholstery? Thanks!

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r1lark....this is what I saw and it has his email...its an older post but its a start....

 

forums.aaca.org/topic/196171-need-upholstery-in-2013/#comment-994246

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If you buy second hand seat belts make sure they have been "used" for their design purpose. They will be stretched and compromised.

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The hummer seat belts are brand new surplus. I would not recommend ever using second hand seat belts. Safety is not somewhere to save a few bucks. 

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If you have specific questions, I'd be glad to answer them.  Upholstery isn't complicated, just takes time and patience, and knowing a few little tricks. 

 

Yes, I'm anti-foam in antique cars.  Foam that you can buy these days doesn't have the additive in it to give it long life, and wholesalers sell "8 year foam" and "10 year foam" and such.  This is great for our throw away furniture, but not good in an antique car.  The foam will literally start to evaporate and come to pieces.  Look under your Lazy-boy at all the little foam specks.  Cotton, jute, horsehair, rubberized horsehair....there are good materials to use that closely approximate the original.

 

I've been asked to modify seat belts and won't do it, from a liability standpoint.  The subject of installing seat belts in a car not designed for them has been discussed many times on the forum.  I believe they serve a good purpose of keeping the driver in place to control the car, in minor accidents or situations, but I further believe that they can do more harm than good in certain serious crashes.  A lot depends on thought put in to installing them, and how the belts and seat are anchored.  I will say that very few people put shoulder harnesses in old cars, that's an interesting installation.

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hi trimacar,  is there anyone out there that has patterns/can make and sells seat covers and headliners for the older stuff ('39 commander)?  If not, what are your recommendations for a one time use sewing machine, what to look for , features, where too buy, etc.  This is not a show car...its a survivor....just need it covered up inexpensively ...and your thoughts on the material for a prewar car?  I think I want vinyl for ease of cleaning.  

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I had no idea what I was doing or what machine to buy. I went on eBay and bought a $50 Sears machine. It works well on the cloth material I used. Material was made for auto/commercial use what ever that means. The hardest part was making the rope and getting a tight fit on it. I ended up modifying the shoe (wild guess as to that name) so I could get the rope closer to the needle. I also pinned all the roping before starting the sewing. Pins make it easier to control it all.  

I practiced on scrap material for about 20 minutes and said what the heck go for it.  Front is finished. Starting back next then doors. Again not show or professional quality but very serviceable. Try it have fun it is not hard as long as you accept it not being perfect. 

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If you are desperate a zipper foot works for sewing windlace and piping, that and a denim needle.

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My wife and I sewed some vinyl sun visors 30 years ago with her sewing machine and it never sewed right again....so I better not even mention to use the one she has now.  I was thinking if I could buy a real upholstery sewing machine cheap enough, I would do that. 

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My 38 Coupe came had an after market seat cover on the drivers side and the passenger cover and bottom cover were in the box with other spares.  The drivers side cover was discarded when the upholstery was redone but I believe the other two pieces are in the spare parts.  It was a light denim material - your welcome to them if you pay the postage.  I would think the bottom would fit  your car and could be used as a pattern if nothing else.

 

i went to the largest upholstery wholesaler in our area, looked at the material and carpet samples and picked out the seat material that came the closest to matching my original and luckily for me it was in a batch of obsolete material that the wholesaler had heavily discounted.  I picked out the carpet I wanted and let the upholstery shop buy that as they got a better price than me.

 

Rather than buy a sewing machine have you thought of seeing if you could get a upholstery shop to just make the covers with material you provide?

 

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hey SC38DLS....I looked at my "chrome hook"...and it is what you say...I never knew that !I   I had no idea it moved!  After 32 years, I am still learning about this car!

Cowtown ,,,I might take you up on your offer but not just yet.  Still looking around at the options.  I do plan on taking the seats to a shop I have used and they are cheaper than anybody else ...but still fearful it will be way more than what I want to put in it.  I will approach them too, to see if they would just sew them up and let me put them on.   I have done interiors, sculptured door panels, kick panels, headliners, installed purchased seat covers, but I have never sewn anything.        

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On ‎4‎/‎18‎/‎2017 at 5:48 PM, fh4ever said:

hi trimacar,  is there anyone out there that has patterns/can make and sells seat covers and headliners for the older stuff ('39 commander)?  If not, what are your recommendations for a one time use sewing machine, what to look for , features, where too buy, etc.  This is not a show car...its a survivor....just need it covered up inexpensively ...and your thoughts on the material for a prewar car?  I think I want vinyl for ease of cleaning.  

 I'm not aware of anyone making Commander interior parts.  It's easy if you have a Ford or GM product, as there are kits available.

 

Sewing through numerous layers of fabric or vinyl is tough on a sewing machine, so it's hard to tell you what a "one use" machine would be.  To do upholstery correctly, one needs a heavy duty walking foot machine, and the appropriate feet for it.  For example, the rope, or welting, that is mentioned, there are specific feet that attach to the machine to make that and keep it tight.  If I were an amateur and serious about doing just one car, I'd find a sewing machine shop that would sell me a used walking foot machine, with an agreement to buy it back a couple of months later for a few hundred dollars less than what was paid.  That, or offer to rent for a few hundred dollars.  Yes, it's a loss, but still less expensive than having someone else do it for you.  I know many people have used home sewing machines to put interiors together, and that's fine, but the walking foot machine will make your life much easier and make a nicer job.

 

As far as material, buy the best material you can afford that's MADE for AUTOMOTIVE USE!  I constantly read of people going to local fabric stores, and bragging that they saved so much money......but they're buying inferior products as far as automotive use goes.  Not only does the material need to be UV resistant, but it also has to be made to resist wear from SLIDING on it, as opposed to SITTING on furniture fabric.

 

If you want black vinyl, the best I've found is one of the Model T suppliers that makes kits, they'll sell you their vinyl.  It's really nice stuff, expensive at around $20 a yard, but if you're saving all that labor (which is the huge portion of an upholstery job) why skimp on materials?  I hate working with vinyl, but can tolerate this stuff.....I've used it mainly in early airplane applications (think Jenny), as it closely approximates the original material for seats and combing (the piece which pads the cowl of an airplane).

 

Any other questions let me know.  Advice is free....and I'm doing a couple more cars that I've committed to, then won't be working on cars other than my own...guess I'm retiring the second time!

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how can I tell what the original interior color  (seats and particularly the headliner) is suppose to be on the 1939 commander?   is there a tag on the vehicle somewhere?   Best I can tell from the old fabric is it might have been light tan or maybe even gray.  I am also curious how is the headliner installed or fastened on the sides above the doors?  It appears it goes under a metal strip with teeth along with the door beading?   who is the best place for purchasing headliners kits?   

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The only way I could find the original color was from a piece from the back seat when I took it out. As far as the head liner I have no idea as mine is in very good shape and the interior shop wanted $1200 to replace it on top of the $7000 for the seats and doors.  I could not/would not afford it for a daily driver non show car. I plan on doing the doors in the next week or so and will let you know how the door material is attached. That is assuming a 38 is the same as the 39.  

Dave S 

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sc38dls...did you get your driveshaft replaced?   My headliner is almost non existent, just some remnants left under the trim but they are almost dust.  I was thinking of leaving the headliner out completely...leaving the rat-rod feel on the inside.  But I think I want to put one in just to make it a little cleaner on the inside so the wife wont mind riding in it.  Keep in mind, I am not painting anything...If I do the headliner, seat covers, and door panels, then the dash and trim might stand out as being rusty which they almost are.  But so what...the goal was to keep costs down and leave everything original as possible... even the rust.  Like you, i am not putting that kind of money into someone else doing it.  Looks like I should be able to buy a headliner for a few hundred and put it in myself.   The headliner gets nailed to a tack strip that is under the window trim...so my thoughts are get the headliner in before I finish installing the glass so it will be much easier to drive the tacks in while the glass is out.  Just not real sure how the headliner goes under the metal strip above the door openings. looks like the headliner should have cardboard sewn to it on the sides to slip under this metal strip...but I do not see any cardboard left on mine.  I hope someone knows how this is suppose to be ...or when I start contacting suppliers they can tell me.    

  

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Fh4 I did get the drive shaft done. The hard part was the new yokes are laser cut for the grooves and the trans and pinion shafts are close but no cigar cut from 1938. So each groove and spline had to be hand filed and then test fitted until all matched up to fit.  That was a lot of filing. Finished last Wednesday and have driven it a few times. It runs much smoother than before and does not have the vibration or rumble anymore. The new shaft is lighter and a little smaller in diameter but works well 

Dave S 

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Can you get the build sheet? It might have an upholstery code that will tell you what fabric it was and the colour?

 

I think they usually fade from whatever colour they were to a light tan or dark beige.

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I got the build sheet for my 1938 Coupe from the museum and there is not much information on it - especially regarding interior.  I ordered my head liner and side panels fron Rene at Southeast Studebaker.  Excellent quality, and the windlace and windlace like piece that joins the side panels to the headliner were exceptional.

i see that there are two vendors that advertise headliners on e-bay for $229.99 one in Keller TX and one in CA. They claim to have them in stock but bet they do some sort of quick production.  I have talked to the folks in Keller at a local car show and they seem like nice folks but don't know anything about their work.  Rene's quality was outstanding and pricing was not all that much more than the e-Bayers but I exspect he will have a longer lead time.  

 

I don't know how much different the 4 door headliner is from the coupe - I exspect that it longer but the head liner does not go around the rear window in the Coupe - there is a mohair covered fiber board that goes around the window and buts up to the headliner.  That butt joint is covered by the windlce like material.  I'd ask lots of questions to see what all you are getting.

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I had wondered about a build sheet but did not know where to go to get it. 

For the headliner, I did not try SE Studebaker as they did not list the '39...but it sounds like they could supply it.  I can contact them too.   I have been looking at Loga Enterprise.  Anyone use them before?   They seem to have a lot of interior items.  There is a covered board at the back glass.... and being a 4 door, there is a covered board on the B pillar too.  I do need to make sure I get enough material for these. 

SC38DLS...how is your door panels coming?  any pics? 

 

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I was sorting some old photos yesterday and ran across a photo I took at Studebaker International in May of 2016 at the South Bend location and at that time they had a headliner marked for a 38 President in an opened clear plastic bag for  for $95.  Since there is no difference between the Commander and President bodies from the firewall back it would work on a Commander but the key would be if was for a 4 door and if the 38 & 39 interchange (since they have the same body she'll I would guess that they do) might be worth a phone call to South Bend.

Ernie is at most of the national meets and is a super nice guy.

I can send picture to you if I had your e-mail.  PM me and I'll send it.

 

 

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