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1922 Front Seat upholstery beginning


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If I am going to take the old girl out on the highway soon, I need to make the front seat something I can sit in.  It is quite a mess now.  It wasn't this bad when we got the car but just sitting in it a few times has broken the dried leather into a mess of small pieces.  We decided that we are going to tackle this upholstery so we have a seat we want to sit in when we start driving her about.  We purchased a used commercial sewing machine and we are gathering the requisite supplies.  While we are deciding about the leather and everything I decided to begin taking everything apart and documenting everything I can. This is the original upholstery on the car so I am taking lots of pictures and measuring everything.

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The springs are in great shape and in fact the paint on them still has a gloss on it.  I found no broken springs or clips. 

 

I covered the inside of the seat back with fresh jute and used toothpicks and wood glue to fill the tack holes.  This was most important on the arm rests because there only a few holes in the sheet metal for the tacks to go so I wanted to make sure I didn't have a problem when I started using tacks in those same holes.  In the third picture you can what I referring to.

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Hard to tell from picture, of course, but some of that padding on the sides looks more like excelsior (wood wool) than horsehair.

 

"Horsehair" padding is available today, but usually it's a mixture of horse and pig hair.

 

Looks like you're going to have some fun!  

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Norm,

 

I am glad that my photos and documentation will help  others.  There is material on the back of the front seat, I just haven't got to that yet.  There is black vinyl or leatherette ( something besides leather) across the back with a thin layer of cotton padding underneath.  More to follow on this.

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Posted (edited)

David,

 

Yes that material on the side panels was cardboard first with that dense piece of something like horsehair as the padding between the leather and cardboard.  I was thinking of using the 1 inch cotton batting as a pad for the sides.  Shouldn't that work ok?

Edited by Mark Kikta (see edit history)
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The first picture I have here shows the 1" horsehair pad that was between the leather pleated cover and the back springs.  It was just held in place by the seat cover, not sewn in place. The springs were attached to the frame at the top with 5 points of attachment.  Some places had these small (1 in)webbing strips holding it and some spots had a scrap piece of leather wrapped around the edge and tacked in place with a couple of tacks. 

 

Interesting point after I detached the straps holding the springs in place, the springs seemed like they were still attached to the frame.  It seemed that the springs were hanging on this one large nail shown in the frame.  It clearly had no purpose other that to hold the springs up to the frame.  I guess they used these large nails to sort of hold the seat springs in place while they tacked the small straps to the frame during assembly.  Maybe this kept them from having another person to hold the springs in place.

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Removing the left and right side  and armrest upholstery was next.

 

After removing the leather cover, there was a padding underneath that I assumed was horsehair.  But after David Coco's (trimacar) comment earlier, I looked at it more closely and it was definitely a tighter weave than the horsehair used in and under the back seat cover.

 

After removing that padding, there was a cardboard base tacked in place.

 

Looking inside the body behind the cardboard that I removed, were the nuts that hold the rear door hinge bolts tight.  I first learned of this the hard way, like I often do.  I was just trying to loosen the rear door hinge bolt so I could shim the door a bit when I heard a tink tink tink and then the hinge bolt slid right out.  At that point I knew I was screwed as far as tightening that bolt ever again, until I removed the upholstery.  This is one thing I will definitely fix in some way.  I want to be able to remove those hinge bolts with the nuts falling off.  Might make a rectangular nut that I can also nail in place, similar to a blind nut often used today.

 

In the last photo you can see all three pieces.  I intend to replace all three parts.

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Mark

It amazes me,  in how good a condition everything is,  the wood, the springs,  the upholstery.  Thinking back to pictures you posted when first pulling the car out of a shed that looked like it was nearly falling down and how long the car had been sitting in that shed. 

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Rod,

I am very lucky.  I found some newspapers under the front seat from North Carolina dated 1960.  I know my friend Bob stored a lot of his cars in a large garage at his mothers house in NC so he must have had this car up there for part of its life since he bought the car in 1958 or so. At some point he brought it to his home in florida in that home made trailer.  He had it covered with two layers of old heavy canvas tarps in that shed and a couple of airplane wings on top of that.  I have purchased a number of cars from him over the years and he always had old cars that were all original with “good bones “ if you will.  I tried to see the car for 10-15 years but it was too much work to get the wings and the other stuff out of the trailer in order to get in to see the car.

So when my friend passed away and his grandson was selling everything,  my son and I went over and spent hours cleaning out the trailer to see the car.  When I finally crawled back in there and lifted the tarp,  I was amazed at how untouched everything looked.  Not a tear in the rear seat and the upholstery was all in pretty good condition except the drivers side of the front seat.

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Norm,

 

Here is the covering that is on the back of the front seat.  It had a seam across the middle which is what is separated here in the picture.  It is not leather.

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The material on the back of the seat is a form of oilcloth, which was the early version of vinyl.  A fabric coated with a mostly waterproof material, sometimes smooth and sometimes with a grain embossed. 

 

Similar to the Pantasote that was used at the time for top material, there is no exact match these days. 

 

What is sold as "oilcloth" is the material that's used in tablecloths and not correct. I've heard that some Civil War enactor suppliers sell a fairly real oilcloth material for knapsack construction and such, but have yet to successfully run it down.

 

Even the new replicated Pantasote is really just a vinyl material.  That's probably where you'll end up, either using leather (and yes I know that's a big chunk of leather) or a more modern vinyl. 

 

The interesting thing is that, when the car was made, the leather was probably about the same cost as the manmade material.  Leather now is considered an upgrade, in the 1920s it was the standard upholstery material of choice.

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That’s quite interesting David, thanks for sharing it.  I would likely use vinyl if I find something close to the leather that I hope to pick this week, otherwise I’ll use leather.

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Mark,

I'm not trying to hijack your thread here, but I wanted to show you what our '16 D-45 has.  I have often wondered just what the material is that is on here.  It does not appear to have any padding behind it like yours did.  If David should see these photos, maybe he could help identify this material.  I think that our photos prove that there was a continuing feature on the open-bodied models and going back 6 - 7 years shows that quite clearly.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

AACA Life Member #947918

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Hard to tell from the pictures.  Early "vinyl" type materials were a woven cloth that was coated with a flexible material, and after years it seems the weave is visible.  I can almost see that in one of the pictures, but again it's hard to tell.  Some sort of oilcloth or early vinyl.

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An interesting item I noticed in comparing the photos of the 1916 car and the 1922 one is Terry's car has no door checks and Mark's does.  My 1915 had no door checks either and I added them, an example of over restored.  My 1915 is painted over upholstered front seat bottom as well.  My car was reupholstered in the 60's so I cannot add a comment to originality.

 

Best of luck with your jobs, Gary

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my17-d45 unrestored but worked on over it's life,  has stops on front doors and none on the back.  The top of the back seat is painted black metal. the bottom is glued onto the seatback and appears to be the same as the door panels.  

 

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This weekend I finished working on my rear door hinge bolts.  

As I said I wanted to fix them so I could remove the bolts and hinges and the nuts wouldn't be lost behind the upholstery.

 

I tried to make some small plates that could be threaded and attached to the wood in some fashion.  That didn't work out too well because the wood support has multiple angles so I couldn't attach plates squarely.

So I decided to just use the standard old T-Nuts and they worked great.  They adjust to the small angles they way they press into the wood.  Now I can upholster the sides and not worry about them any longer

Original rear door hinge bolts under upholstery.jpg

tnuts passenger side.jpg

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Are you guys good or what?!  That's a good catch Gary about the door check straps.  I have the new ones but just haven't gotten them on yet.  With the straps off,  it lets the doors open just a bit wider and that is a big help when a person is reaching into the inside of the body.   Gary Martin is one meticulous restorer and the smallest detail did not go unnoticed.  I asked him where he learned to pick fly sh#t out of pepper and we both got a good laugh out of that.  The piece of green tape in the one photo gives the screw hole locations.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

AACA Life Member #947918

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Edited by Terry Wiegand
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (see edit history)
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While waiting to get the leather and vinyl I ordered from Coast to Coast Leather, I decided to start covering the seat back.

 

I covered the top of the springs with burlap first then with 1/2" jute padding.  After I hog ringed all of this in place, I realized that I might have a fitment issue at the top of the seat back which fits right up against the seat frame.

 

Sure enough, I could not get the seat to fit well up to the frame.  I took the springs and removed the hog rings, trimmed the jute and burlap right to the steel edging and re-hog ringed the material to the edging.  After that it fit like a glove.  I did not permanently attach the springs yet.

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Jute padding trimmed on front seat back.jpg

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9 hours ago, Mark Kikta said:

Morgan,

 

What would you do with that old nasty padding?

 

Honestly I will give it to you when I'm done with all of this.

 

Mark

 

I'm going to put some back where I lost it from mine. I used to trailer my car to car shows on an open trailer, and the wind would wreak havoc on the horse hair padding. Most of it blew off. Since my car is HPOF original I can't use modern padding.

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Well, when Mike and his wife visited my garage, I found out she was very comfortable around old cars.  Thus, I don’t think Mike has a problem using the table, bet she’s right there with him!

 

As to the horsehair, I have some matting, horsehair woven into burlap.  It’s new old stock, this stuff hasn’t been made for years.  Comes in 60x80 inch sheets, about one inch thick.  Contact me and I’ll either put you in touch with person who has it, or I could sell you a smaller piece out of my stock.

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Here are the basic measurements I have taken from the original front seat parts. I will put together a detailed drawing of each piece with more detailed measurements. 

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Front Seat Bottom Rear Curtain.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Today I cut the cardboard backing, the padding and the leather for the front side panels which are the first pieces that need to be finished before the backrest can be installed. 
 

For padding I used a piece of 1/2 inch jute and four layers of thin cotton batting.  I think it’s the perfect feel, not too soft and not too hard.
 

I used just a tad of spray glue to keep all pieces in place while we tacked the leather in place.  
 

Now we can finish it all when we add the last step putting the Hidem  on to cover the tack heads.

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Edited by Mark Kikta (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Today I finished making my test product for the front seat backrest.   My thought was to make this just like I think I should make the leather cover, only in vinyl.  I had never done this before and didn’t want to mess up a large piece of leather.  So I measured the old seat back, added all seam allowances and allowances for stuffing, drew it all out on the vinyl and cut it out.  After measuring the muslin backing we sewed it together and stuffed the pleats.  These pictures show how it fit just tacked in place with a few staples.  I was very pleased with the width and length.  I think it will be a good fit so I’m off to cut some leather to repeat the process.

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