Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

IT SEEMS SO straight­for ward at first. Take out the per­fect and re­cently re-up­hol­stered velour seats the car was bought with – seats that look a zil­lion bucks. Re­place them with sec­ond hand – bruised, torn, worn and bat­tered – leather ones that seemed a bar­gain when I bought them. Why not – ev­ery­one takes out good seats and re­places them with bad ones, don’t they?

Pre­vi­ous edi­tions of this au­gust jour­nal of record have re­counted my folly in buying a 1975 Citroen DS23 with new velour trim – and shortly af­ter find­ing a full set of aban­doned cow re­jected from some­one else’s restora­tion. My naive ex­pec­ta­tion is that a quiet af­ter­noon would see me slide the seats out of the DS and equally smoothly and un­event­fully insert the de­sir­able but hard to find leather re­place­ments. Door trims with new cards will fol­low and the con­ver­sion will be com­plete. Pro­fes­sion­ally done, in­clud­ing im­port­ing the leather trim kits from Europe, al­low some­where be­tween ten and fif­teen thou­sand dol­lars.

Well, as is al­ways the golden rule, you get what you pay for. I pay my­self noth­ing to do this job, and that is what my skills are worth. It turns out motor trim­mers must be very clever af­ter all. No won­der peo­ple do this for a liv­ing. Why the hell am I think­ing that I can do as well in my spare time? Fail­ing most skill sets in auto restora­tion, I can now also put up­hol­stery right up there with the other things I am no good at.

Tak­ing out the back seat is ab­surdly easy. And pro­vides a false sense of ac­com­plish­ment. It also al­lows me to ac­cess and re­place the sender unit from the petrol tank, which in the ab­sence of any other fault that I can find is the main sus­pect ex­plain­ing why the fuel gauge has never worked.

The rear seats un­clip with­out drama. They are de­signed that way so that the melted ice creams and lost loose change can be dealt with away from pro­fes­sional help. They hide a lightly rusted cover over the fuel tank, held down by seat belt an­chors and some 11mm bolts. It all comes apart fairly eas­ily, and I take the op­por­tu­nity to at­tack the sur­face rust with the wire brush at­tach­ment ‘YEP, I’LL KNOCK IT OVER THIS AF­TER­NOON’ – OR SO HE THOUGHT in the cord­less drill. Apart from sev­eral cen­time­tres of sac­ri­fi­cial knuckle skin, all goes swim­mingly and a spray can of gloss black pro­vides a pre­sentable new coat.

The fuel sender is sim­ply held in by three small Phillips head screws and a gas­ket. De­spite its vin­tage, it looks as good as new and with all wires in­tact and the f loat still f loat­ing I fear the mas­sive in­vest­ment I made in get­ting a brand new one air lifted from France is wasted. If the sender looks good, and the fuse is not the fault, and the dash­board unit is not the prob­lem, might I have a wiring break or mys­tery glitch some­where undis­cov­er­able deep in the bow­els of the chas­sis? With an op­ti­mistic air I press on and re­place the 40 year old unit any way.

A fresh gas­ket comes with the new sender, the re­painted cover is reat­tached and I turn the ig­ni­tion to see if the dash gauge moves. Eureka ! I have a work­ing fuel gauge. My out­look on life is im­prov­ing al­ready.

I turn my at­ten­tion to the front seats. The driv­ers side sits in a cra­dle with height ad­justable brack­ets. Pretty f lash for 1975. The pas­sen­gers side lacks height ad­just­ment. There are four big bolts hold­ing each of the seats into the cap­tive nuts in the f loor. Un­do­ing them is te­dious – the seat rails limit the move­ment of the span­ner to about half a cen­time­tre at a time – but even­tu­ally they all undo with only mi­nor curs­ing.

The old seats re­moved, I turn my at­ten­tion to close in­spec­tion of the ones I bought. They are worse than I re­alised. There are sev­eral deep cracks in the driv­ers seat and as well the top of the rear squab has bad sun­burn. Cows don’t get sun­burn so why do leather seats?

I scour the cup­board where lo­tions, po­tions and mys­tery balms are stored. I find one called ‘leather re­storer’ and in­ter­ro­gate it vig­or­ously. Ap­par­ently it does not do any­thing on its own. It re­quires an ac­ces­sory called ‘el­bow grease’ which is not avail­able in the same brand. I search on­line and can­not find any sup­pli­ers in my neigh­bour­hood. I go in­side and eat some cake, make a cup of tea and bless my good for­tune that I am not do­ing this for a liv­ing.

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