Original Interior Colors
Some time ago, someone on the “Triumph List” asked which of “The Big 3” supplied the most original Triumph interior colors. As I’ve had a ‘sideline’ career as an auto trimmer for over 40 years now, I felt qualified to answer this one, and I’ll expand on this topic here for the benefit of my web site visitors.
The short answer is that no one supplies interior kits in the original colors as used by Standard-Triumph, MG, Austin-Healey or any of the others. Once in awhile, for the right car and the right color, you might get lucky. But don’t count on it. The reasons for this are very basic, as I shall explain.
First, if you were to obtain material and color samples from Moss, TRF, and Victoria British, you’ll find 1-red, 1-black, 1-tan, 1-blue, and so on. If you send off to England and get a sample set from John Skinner you might be pleased to find that there are 2 choices on a few colors. Now the fact that seems to be overlooked by some British car owners seeking “original" colors is that each of these interior kit suppliers are using their same sample set (and materials) for their Austin Healey interiors, their MG interiors, and the entire Triumph range from TR2-6! When you think about it, A-H, MG, Triumph, etc., could not ‘agree’ on what shade of green paint was actually British Racing Green, so it’s a sure bet that they weren’t all using the same interior colors (and textures) from the end of WWII through the demise of the British Sports car! This ‘one shade matches all’ philosophy does make a strong business case for the interior manufacturers, but it does not wash with anyone ‘desperately seeking originality’.
Even Standard-Triumph themselves were not content to pick one color shade and stick with it. Take reds for example. The TR2/3 red interior was a dark red/maroon. With the TR3A this was changed to something on the order of a ‘tomato’ red, and somewhere early on the TR4’s got a brighter ‘fire-engine’ red. My research stops here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that altogether different shades of red were used on TR4A’s and later cars.
So now you might be able to see that one shade of a particular color might not be appropriate for all British sports cars, but what about black? Black is black, right? Sorry, but it’s not. Black comes in many shades, just like the other colors. One of my regular upholstery suppliers has 17 different black vinyls in one single product line that they carry! Some are a little green, blue, or gray, some are shiny and some are flat. Then there are also significant differences in grain texture. When you get them side-by-side, the mismatch is easy to spot. If I were to compare every black that is available from just my normal sources, I’ll bet the number of choices with a discernable difference is close to 40!
Considering this vast array of choices in interior colors, textures, and materials, I’d like to make the following suggestion: If you are going to purchase an interior kit for your car, buy everything from the same source, and get it all at the same time. The people who are sewing the kits are not making the vinyl or tanning the hides, but they rely on someone else to supply their raw materials. Just as Triumph was known to substitute parts when supplies ran short, the interior manufacturers would not hesitate to substitute materials if their primary supplier has a problem. If you buy your seats this year and the side panels next, they won’t necessarily match. If you are having your interior custom sewn, your trimmer will have the knowledge and resources to find a satisfactory match if the original material should become unavailable, but it would still be best to have everything done at one time.
Leather / Vinyl Color Match: One of the toughest challenges in auto trim is to match the color and grain on a piece of manufactured vinyl with a naturally grown and artificially dyed piece of leather. Once in a great while you might get lucky and find close matches in stock and ready to go, but more often than not you will need to find a vinyl color that’s close, then have a hide specially dyed to match the vinyl. (This is exactly what Joe Richards had to do for the Geranium interior in TS1LO, the first production Triumph TR2).
Some kit manufacturers have done a good job of getting “close” on some colors, while others have missed it by a mile. Some parts suppliers are selling TR3 brown/tan seat kits with a particularly poor leather/vinyl match. The seat kits in question are made with a combination of “antiqued” vinyl (a dark stain has been wiped into the grain), and non-antiqued leather. From 10 feet it looks OK, but any closer and the mismatch is quite obvious. See the photo above, or look around at the next show. Your interior is the place where you interact with the car, and the part that you see the best while driving it. No one would be happy with a mismatched paint job, so why should anyone think it’s O.K. on the seats? The bottom line here is to obtain samples before you order, and then check the actual kit components promptly when they arrive.