Jump to content

Upholstery question


Graham Man
 Share

Recommended Posts

In the late 1920's and early 1930's when you went upscale, Small six, Big six, and then Eight, everything got better, bigger headlights, bigger brakes, bigger engine, overall just bigger scale car. 

 

Now my question: did the construction of the upholstery get upgraded also?  better seat springs?  more of them? more padding? better padding?

 

Hoping to get some first hand restoration experience.  I am guessing all the car makers followed the same pattern, if they made a full line of cars.

 

1575490831_1932buick.jpg.dfe10b1054052e49ebef53445e2bd64f.jpg

1932 Buick, not mine

 

 

I put a six front seat in my 1933 Graham Eight (my seat was missing) assuming it was the same, but then I stated wondering...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The short answer is yes, at first cars were mostly utilitarian and people were just glad to have transportation.  Comfort was fine, but basic needs were met.

 

As cars progressed in style, from about 1930 on, people wanted plush and comfortable even in the lower priced range.

 

In the upper price range, seats were “engineered” with different size springs for maximum support and comfort, nice horsehair and cotton padding, and so on.

 

In the late 1930s, manufacturers were looking for even more comfort, and some cars started using a dense foam material in conjunction with springs.  That material was totally different from today’s foam, which is junk which usually won’t last a decade.

 

A couple of years ago I had an article in the AACA magazine concerning the complexity of Pierce Arrow seats, I’m prejudiced but I think it’s an interesting read.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Saw a comment on this by an old timer many years ago. He said in the twenties and thirties there was a big difference in quality between the different priced cars. Compare a Cadillac to a Pontiac or Ford and there was no comparison in quality of materials, finish, construction etc. By the 1960s the difference was much less, even the most expensive cars were mass produced out of much the same materials, only slightly different, the big difference being in accessories, features, size and prestige.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Depression years were tough! All the manufacturers were struggling to survive. Good workers with families could hardly feed them. Worker unrest was a huge problem for manufacturers that were already facing financial collapse themselves. Many manufacturers paid cheap labor to add extra features or comforts in their better models, in an attempt to sell more cars. Others, fighting to survive, were using the same body for multiple models hoping the bigger engine would sell what otherwise was still a cheapened car.

Some companies like Franklin and Reo shared resources, using the same bodies on entirely different types of cars! I am fairly sure they also trimmed those bodies a bit differently.

The Graham Brothers, in spite of their incredibly bad timing (buying Paige just over two years before the crash!), seemed to hang in there okay for longer than did a lot of their competition.

You know more about Graham automobiles than most hobbyists do. I have read so many of your responses to other people's questions. How similar the bodies were between the smaller eight and the six cylinder models were? I couldn't even guess at this point. However, as a simple speculation, I would expect they may have been similar at least. Basically, if the seat fits? Sit on it! If it does basically fit, looks more or less correct in comparison to sales brochure pictures? If there were some slight differences? Like another row of springs, or a nicer bit of stuffing? Who else is going to know that?

It may not be talked about often, one of those dirty little secrets a lot of people know about. It is not uncommon when restoring uncommon antique automobiles to have to adapt some part from a different make or model. Done it a few times myself (not on anything particularly valuable). And I know of a few expensive cars which I will not name in open forum where entire bodies or body halves or engines were adapted to fit and made to look right. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! Especially when trying to keep a rare  and somewhat significant historic automobile on the road and presentable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I would expect better seats with a more expensive car, I had never thought about it.  Just had my 33 out for a short drive, seats are a lot more comfortable than my driver car.  Nothing worse than seeing flat looking seats in a 1930's restoration.  Thinking of putting green leather in my current restoration, bold choice, but the car is a 1931 Phaeton, unfortunately not an eight....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ned Jordan addressed this question. When he started his car company right after WW1 he said there were 2 kinds of cars - the mass market car and the class market car. His insight was that it was now possible to build a class market car out of cheap mass produced components. He came up with a conventional six cylinder assembled chassis and clothed it with bodies, made by mass produced body specialists but copying the designs of custom body cars, and equipped them with the sort of trim and accessories usually found in the most expensive hand built cars - Laidlaw upholstery material, Waltham clocks, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the 1930's I believe more emphasis was on suspension and seat placement, not the upholstery itself.

 

I believe the Chrysler Airflow might have been one of the first to address the issue of ride comfort, and they didn't focus on the seats, but their placement within the wheelbase.  They were pushing 'ahead of the axle' ride comfort for rear seat passengers, which also permitted easier ingress and egress with a lower ride height while still offering 'chair high' seating.  Then GM came out with their Knee-Action front suspension which also promoted ride comfort, as did Studebaker's "Miracle Ride" with its Planar front suspension.

 

Moreover, interior designers got involved around that time, adding some Art Deco styling touches to seat hardware, pattern, etc.  Whether it improved ride comfort or not is open to debate.  

 

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am pretty sure what the customers sat on in the early 1930's was a big deal to buyers...

 

My Dad still looks more at the interior than the exterior of a potential car, he said that is what I see when I am driving...

 

image.png.265ed906d9cbd221ee65ed3bf3a76dea.png

 

Not even sure on the make of this car, but the interior is a work of art

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What customers sat on goes back to Napolean carriage days, when some horse-drawn coaches for royalty were 'beyond opulent'.  Of course when self-propelled motor cars became the transport of choice at the turn of the 20th Century, interiors in select units carried that same standard with the finest materials.   

 

I thought were were discussing cars that were above Ford Model A/Chevrolet class, but lower than a coachbuilt Cadillac or Lincoln; not what we see in the photo above.

 

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes you are correct, I was thinking average consumer cars. 

 

I have always been surprised by the level of detail changes that were made.... a small six cowl light was 10% smaller than a big six cowl light, the eight got a big cowl light with a medallion.  In the middle of the Great Depression you would have thought expensive slight variations would have been poor management decisions? 

 

So back to the original question did the interiors, specifically the seats get the same attention?  My guess is they did.

 

1933 Graham

 

1872383368_Picture021.jpg.da86ce2453a1517624d0ec5868143736.jpg

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...