Fea­tur­ing Terry Thomas’s Car­rera 3.2, Brett Fraser’s Boxster 986 S and Jeremy Laird’s Boxster 986 S

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

Back in the 911& Pw­fold, Us-based Terry Thomas is set­ting to work on his 911 Car­rera 3.2, start­ing with an in­te­rior-makeover. On find­ing a pair of shape hug­ging Sport seats, a Chevy hound­stooth-makeover by lo­cal auto up­hol­sterer, ‘Sew it­mat­ters,’ has trans­formed the tired chairs

One of the many de­lights of the clas­sic air-cooled 911 is that so many parts in­ter­change among the var­i­ous years. This has led to many folks de­cid­ing to 'back­date' their im­pact bumper cars and 964s to look like early pre-1974 'long hood' cars by re­plac­ing their wings and bon­nets (in­deed, bou­tique man­u­fac­turer Singer has cre­ated an en­tire busi­ness of trans­form­ing once-unloved 964s into half-mil­lion dol­lar works of art). I my­self am old enough to re­mem­ber when things went the other way – not so many years ago, peo­ple up­dated their early cars with more mod­ern im­pact bumpers. And, sure as the sun will rise to­mor­row over Zuf­fen­hausen, some­one some­where in the world is busily re-backdating a pre­vi­ously up­dated 911. Winds of fash­ion blow in cir­cles, it seems.

Those of us lack­ing Singer-lev­els of fund­ing can still, how­ever, mod­ify our cars, us­ing Porsche OEM parts, to suit a wide va­ri­ety of tastes. My own cur­rent project, a 1985 Car­rera 3.2, has al­ready been the ben­e­fi­ciary of this mix-and-match ethos. Hav­ing once owned a 1988 911 equipped with fac­tory Sport seats, I have al­ways con­sid­ered these to be my favourite of all the Porsche chairs out there. These par­tic­u­lar seats were avail­able as op­tions on the 1987–1989 911s, as well as cer­tain 964s, such as the RS Amer­ica. They were also avail­able in var­i­ous 944s. In ad­di­tion to be­ing all-day com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, these seats look fan­tas­tic, their Rube­nesque shapes nicely com­ple­ment­ing the clas­sic 911 styling. Alas, it ap­pears that, as al­ways, many oth­ers share my af­fec­tion

for them. When they can be found at all for sale, they are of­ten thor­oughly trashed af­ter all the in­ter­ven­ing years, and, prac­ti­cally re­gard­less of con­di­tion, they are fright­en­ingly ex­pen­sive. A re­cent search of ebay finds a used, but lightly worn pair, in leather, for sale at $2800. This is typ­i­cal, and, since it is still fur­ther to­ward Singer price ter­ri­tory than my own price point, I de­cided to look for a pair lo­cally. Af­ter sev­eral weeks of scan­ning the want ads on­line, I lo­cated a set from a 944 Turbo, in vinyl, with the seat­ing sur­faces in Porsche logo cloth, for sale near me. Upon see­ing them in per­son, I found them to be some­what dirty, but un-ripped and struc­turally sound. A deal was struck.

I toted them home, plan­ning on bolt­ing them into my car, declar­ing vic­tory, and mov­ing on to the next project. But the next morn­ing, af­ter Iook­ing them over more care­fully, I found them to be rather more shabby than I had ini­tially thought, with the tears and splits that would be ex­pected in seats over 30 years old.

I de­cided to ex­plore re­pair­ing and/or re­cov­er­ing them. And in a fur­ther fit of bor­row­ing de­signs from other years, I de­cided that the cen­tre seat­ing sur­faces should be done in hound­stooth pat­tern, known as Pepita, that was avail­able in var­i­ous Porsches from the six­ties and seven­ties. In a break with tra­di­tion, though, I chose a slightly smaller pat­tern, which I re­mem­bered was an op­tion on cer­tain Chevro­lets dimly re­called from my youth. Sure enough, re­pro­duc­tion 1968 Chevro­let Ca­maro fab­ric was the look I wanted. I or­dered a yard, enough to do the in­serts on the two seats.

Since the seats were not cur­rently in­stalled in any car, I loaded them up in my wife’s Golf Sport­wa­gen (a won­drous ve­hi­cle, that) and drove them around to a cou­ple of lo­cal up­hol­stery shops for es­ti­mates. One highly rec­om­mended shop sort of sniffed, told me the seats could not be re­paired, had to be re­done com­pletely, and the price would be $2400 for the pair. Oh, and it would take a cou­ple of months, since his shop was booked out re-trim­ming lo­cal yachts be­fore sum­mer.

My next stop was at a tiny back al­ley shop of an up­hol­sterer named Jes­sica Brown, who runs a one-per­son busi­ness called Sew It Mat­ters, which spe­cialises in uphol­ster­ing sports cars, boats, air­planes, and other con­veyances. Jes­sica, a friendly, lo­qua­cious woman who re­minded me of the free spir­its who roamed places like San Fran­cisco when 1968 Ca­maros were new. She had never done a Porsche seat, she told me, but she was will­ing to give it a try.

She quoted me a fair price, we se­lected an ap­pro­pri­ate piece of Nau­gahyde, which I chose over the for­mi­da­bly more ex­pen­sive leather op­tion. “You’d have to bring me a whole cow,” Jes­sica said.

Be­fore leav­ing the seats with Jes­sica, I re­moved the seat tracks, ex­pos­ing the four “jacks” that raise and lower the front and/or back of the seat. The jacks are driven by an elec­tric mo­tor via some in­ge­nious flex­i­ble ca­bles with square cross sec­tions that fit into match­ing square fe­male re­cesses in the sides of the jacks. As I do these days, I took dozens of photos as I went on my smart phone to doc­u­ment how ev­ery­thing came apart, in the hopes of en­sur­ing things would go back to­gether (More and more, the tool I use the most in the garage is my smart phone). I de­cided to leave the jacks them­selves at­tached to the seat frames, as there was no need to re­move them.

Once she re­ceived the seats, Jes­sica dis­as­sem­bled them slowly and care­fully, metic­u­lously doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery­thing as she went. The first step, af­ter re­mov­ing hard­ware and de­tach­ing the hinges that held the back­rest to the bot­tom cush­ion, was to re­move the cov­ers, which are tightly fit­ted over the seat frames, springs and foam. On Porsches, the cov­ers are at­tached to the frames by prongs at the bases of the frames that are both fiendishly sharp and very frag­ile.

Jes­sica bent these back care­fully and peeled the cov­ers off the seats, not­ing ev­ery seam and stitch as she went, mark­ing the old cov­ers and match­ing their sec­tions up, with a series of wit­ness marks, num­bers, and other hi­ero­glyph­ics. Ev­ery step was metic­u­lously doc­u­mented and pho­tographed.

Once the seats were “skinned,” Jes­sica re­moved the fac­tory foam pad­ding, find­ing it to be in rea­son­able con­di­tion if some­what squashed. “At least it isn’t crum­bling, like a lot of stuff I see,” she said. She next re­vealed a clever trick of the trade, whereby she ac­tu­ally un-squashed the pad­ding with the help of a steam treat­ment. It was re­mark­able watch­ing seat bot­tom pad­ding, bowed and down­cast from decades of, uh, peo­ple’s butts hit­ting them, spring back to full, er, flower (OK! Metaphors end here).

Once the seat pad­ding was re­moved, some of it cov­ered by the fac­tory with a sort of burlap ‘skin,' the steel frames were fi­nally ex­posed un­der­neath. These, and their at­tached springs, were in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion and were set side.

So assem­bly is the op­po­site of dis­as­sem­bly, right? Well, there was an an­other in­ter­ven­ing step – the mat­ter of mak­ing new seat cov­ers from the rem­nants of those so care­fully re­moved and cat­a­logued. Jes­sica ar­ranged the pieces of old vinyl – there were sur­pris­ingly many of them – on the back of the Nau­gahyde, traced their shapes, trans­ferred her many notes and other hi­ero­glyph­ics onto the new pieces, and cut them out. A sin­gle sen­tence that en­com­passes many hours of hard work.

Af­ter cut­ting the many pieces out of the var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als, Jes­sica started mak­ing the new seat in­serts by cut­ting the hound­stooth-patterned cloth, then sewing up the tricky dou­ble row stitch­ing from the orig­i­nal. The re­sults looked great. She then pro­ceeded to sew all the Nau­gahyde pieces back to­gether, in­cor­po­rat­ing new 'pip­ing’, at­tached the newly re­ju­ve­nated cush­ions onto the frames, and pulled the tight-fit­ting cov­ers into place. She then re­assem­bled the seats, re-us­ing all the orig­i­nal hard­ware, and the job was done.

Sew it Mat­ters’ Jes­sica Brown, with Terry Thomas’s re­trimmed Sport seats. A great job, and a great price

Be­low: It looks very Porsche, but this hound­stooth pat­tern is ac­tu­ally Chevro­let Ca­maro, circa 1968

This is not a job you’re go­ing to want to do at home! Seat cov­ers are held in place by prongs. Seat frames un­likely to suf­fer over time, un­like seat foam

Decades of be­ing sat on flat­tens the seat foam, but it can be brought back to life with some tricks of the trade, plus a good steam­ing!

Top mid­dle: What looks like a pile of dis­carded vinyl is all the pan­els that go into mak­ing up a seat cover. These are used as tem­plates for the new cov­ers

Fin­ished and in­stalled. A job well done and suit­ably retro look­ing, too

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