Winter draws on – well, you need them when you don’t have a heater. Keith Seume tackles the interior of El Chucho and then drops a bombshell about his longterm plans…
My, how time flies. It’s now been over two years since I put my 1966 912 through its first postrebuild MOT, two years when I’ve experienced the highs and lows of Porsche ownership – mainly highs, I’m pleased to say, although I’m sure regular readers might have guessed otherwise judging from my past ramblings. An engine rebuild – albeit a partial one – within the first 18 months wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I must admit.
Overall, though, the car is behaving itself, running well and putting a smile on my face each time I venture out. Unless it’s cold, when I then freeze and curse the foolishness of running a car in the UK without heating. Or am I just getting old?
I recently made a change to the car which wasn’t the result of something breaking or that I’d missed overhauling during the rebuild: I changed the seats. Up until now, I’d been running a pair of Corbeau Classic bucket seats, which looked nice retrimmed with their Cornish tartan inserts, but were never quite as comfy as I’d hoped. It may be down to my shape (or lack of it) but the Corbeaus didn’t really offer enough lumbar support, and I also realised that I gradually slid down into the seats on a longer journey. Sarah, my better half, also found them rather uncomfortable, so the search for replacements was on.
What I was after was pair of seats that could be reclined, were narrow enough to fit in a 911, gave decent lumbar and side support, have ‘classic’ styling (by that I don’t mean old, but traditional), have level mountings underneath (many seats have one runner higher than the other, making
fitment in an early Porsche a bit tricky) and be priced to fit my budget. The latter precluded lashing out on a pair of BF Torino or D’eser period-style seats, while the need to have traditional styling meant shying away from a lot of the seats that popped up when searching for ‘bucket seats’ on ebay.
An obvious choice were the classic Recaro seats fitted to Fords and the like, but all the examples I came across were torn, dirty and misshapen. Widening the search along the lines of ‘classic sports seats’ brought up an intriguing alternative, which I would never have thought of: MGF.
At first sight, the seats looked good, and they appeared to be narrow enough to fit in a 911 or 912. An internet search turned up a photo of the underside of an MGF seat so I could see the runners, and that in turn led me to, of all things, a forum about Mazda MX-5S where I found a photo of an MGF seat, upside down, showing that all I’d need to do was trim off two small brackets to end up with a ‘flat’ base to work with.
But what were the seats like in terms of comfort, as I’d never even sat in one? A few days later an MGF pulled up outside my house, so I rushed out and, much to the surprise of the owner, asked if I could sit in his car! The seats felt good and were clearly narrow enough to fit a 911, so the hunt was on.
Following a search on, you guessed it, ebay, I located a pair of leather and cloth seats for the princely sum of £180 (including delivery) from a specialist MG dismantler. They were in almost perfect condition, with no marks, no cigarette burns and no splitting seams. All I needed to do now was get the centre panels with their Pirelli P7 tread pattern-inspired material retrimmed in something to match the colour of the car.
More Cornish tartan was another obvious choice but instead I spent quite a bit of time at the local upholstery fabric shop in search of the ideal material, but still couldn’t find anything that appealed (although I did rather like the cloth with the cartoon penguin prints…). A trip to a European VW show turned up the perfect answer: Westfalia tartan, as used in the older Volkswagen Campers. I bought a couple of metres (far more than I’d need, but the price was right) and came home a happy man.
A local VW enthusiast friend, Lee Lidstone, offered to retrim the seats for me as part of her learning process – she’s keen to hone her skills as an upholsterer and I was happy to give her the chance. Dismantling the seats showed how well made they are (I was actually quite surprised to see they were made in England, as a sticker on the underside proudly proclaimed), with Lee unpicking the trim so that she could use the original patterned centres as templates for the new tartan material.
The only problem that showed up was the matter of the headrests, which were impossible to strip of their ‘Pirelli’ cloth covering as it was firmly glued in place. To solve that ‘problem’, I purchased a pair of leather-trimmed MGF headrests which sorted out the matter in an instant. Overall result? A happy driver and passenger, and a smart looking interior!
There’s not a great deal else to report, really. I had ace pinstriper Neil Melliard add a little ‘El Chucho’ motif on the engine lid, for a bit of fun, and that’s about it. Oh, except for one little important detail: I’ve decided to sell El Chucho. Yes, really.
I’m somebody who, for the most part, enjoys the journey as much as the destination, and although the journey has occasionally been bumpy, it’s been fun – and the destination is definitely one to savour. But after five years of project, it’s time for me to move on to something else – to what, I’m not 100 per cent sure, but you’ll be the first to know.
In the meantime, if you have an itch to own a 1965-build SWB hot-rod, then get in touch with Adrian Crawford at Williams-Crawford. He’ll help you scratch that itch…
It’s been a fun ride, but now it’s time for a change. Not sure what yet, but there is one Porsche itch I need to scratch… Watch this space
Legendary pinstriper Neil Melliard added a final detail to El Chucho in the form of a ‘mongrel’ motif and some matching script
Above: Replacement seats have a traditional look to them, which is what I wanted. They were retrimmed by a friend using Westfalia cloth to go along with the original leather. Seat mounts were sourced through DDK
Seats look good and are very comfortable as well as being supportive. The car is now residing at Williams-crawford at Saltash, near Plymouth – interested parties give them a call