Interior Seat Upholstery Kits
The first thing that you have to realize about auto trim is that it is a “soft” product. Unlike “hard” components made of metal, wood, plastic, etc., sharp/crisp edges and perfectly shaped corners are impossible to attain from soft and flexible upholstery materials. Almost all of the shape of a car seat (and capping, door panels, etc.) comes from the component structure underneath and the padding in between. Therefore, for the best possible shape and appearance of your newly recovered seats, you should ALWAYS replace the padding.
Don’t think for one second that the 30-50 year old cotton, foam rubber, or curled horsehair left under your nice new seat kit will look right, feel right, or even smell right!. If you are tempted to use an 'all foam' seat base to avoid the cost of a proper seat bottom, you will not be happy with the results (and as a Judge I can spot this from 10 feet away!). To fully understand this, go back and re-read the highlighted sentence above! Do you know anyone who would build a new house on top of a 50 year old foundation?
The thing to remember from all of this is that a comfortable seat will go a long way toward making drives in your car a pleasurable experience. The seats are not a place to cut corners and use old springs and padding, because your posterior will remind you of your decision with every mile!
One problem that I’ve seen quite often is seat kits that are incorrectly made. Here again, the “soft” factor enters the picture. Seat trim is sewn by hand, and variances will enter into every seam. If a piece is cut wrong or pulled too tight as it is being stitched, the result is a piece that doesn’t fit as it should. Sometimes I can open a bad seam (single edge razor blade and CAREFULLY cut the thread), reposition the pieces, and re-stitch to remove a wrinkle that doesn’t belong (see photos above) or trim down an oversize part. If the seam in question is “buried” or trapped by other seams, then the best option is to return the cover and request another piece, or live with it!
Please don't get the impression that seat kits are a bad choice. From an economic viewpoint, kits are absolutely the best way to go, but proper installation is critical and not something that anyone can accomplish with ease. I recently installed a leather kit in a client's TR3A, and the cost of the kit was less than the price of a leather hide alone! Add in the vinyl and labor cost if I had sewn the entire works, and the price would have more than tripled! If you are building a car to drive and enjoy, I’d recommend a kit (if available) and proper installation every time. If you are building a serious concours car and want the perfect color and fit (see my interior color article), then a normal kit might not be the best choice.
Triumph TR2-Early TR4 seats are a throwback to ancient times. The proper method to install these seat covers involves techniques unknown to most modern day auto trimmers. I once had a trim shop on the west coast contact me about a pair of TR3A seats that a customer had brought them. They had been in the upholstery business for 30 years, but still couldn’t understand why the new Moss kit was missing the pockets for the “listing wires”. I told them “it’s because a Triumph seat doesn’t use listing wires.” In the end, they boxed everything up and shipped it to me for installation. After welding the giant cracks they’d overlooked in the bases, fabricating and installing new tack strips, and modifying the universal seat padding kit for this particular style of seat, I installed the covers and sent them back to a happy client.
Something else that you should be aware of is that there are subtle differences between the TR2/3 seats and springs, and the TR3A/B & early TR4 seats and springs. This means that if the seats were switched at some time in your car’s history, (which happened a lot), then the kit you purchased might not fit.
Your interior is what you see (and feel) the most when driving your car. Make the right choices and get the best possible interior in your car, even if it's not a "show car". You'll enjoy the car more and be happier with every mile behind the wheel!