HIDE AND SEEK
Restoring the tired hide in your ride.
Tired leather. We’ve all seen it. Unsightly cracks, bolster damage, scrapes, scuffs and fading colour. Sadly, when it comes to classic cars, the hide in your ride is very often only as good as the level of care and attention it has been subjected to by previous owners. “Many air-cooled 911s suffered neglect when they weren’t worth the kind of money they are today,” remarks Dave Goodwin, founder of Bedfordshire-based automotive upholstery specialist, Dave the Trimmer. “Thankfully, due to the value of old Porsches skyrocketing in recent years, today’s owners are correcting the ills of the past by treating those very same cars to cabin furniture repair and restoration work. For the most part, factory specification is being observed, but in the case of restomods, many enthusiasts are embracing an ‘anything goes’ attitude and are personalising their Porsche to suit their individual tastes and requirements.”
This approach is nothing new. From the mid1980s, well-heeled Porsche customers were invited to take advantage of the manufacturer’s exclusive Sonderwunsch (Special Wishes) programme, where the only limitations to the final specification of a Porsche subjected to the service were the owner’s bank balance and imagination. “There were some wild creations,” laughs Dave. “While some of the less aggressive finishes made their way into series production, the oft wacky combinations of bizarre patterns, brash colours and unusual materials went some way to proving money doesn’t buy taste!” A conveniently placed example of a Special Wishes creation currently sits in his workshop. “It’s a super-rare 1994 964 Turbo S Flachbau, one of only seventy-six built and one of only twelve examples configured with right-hand drive,” he confirms. “The original owner specified Speed Yellow paintwork, but then decided to add bright red carpets and black seats with red piping. The steering wheel, gear knob,
handbrake lever and dash binnacle fascia are made from wood. It’s an odd combination.” So thought the car’s current custodian, who has commissioned Dave to retrim the seats in black without the jarring piping, and to fit new black carpets throughout.
HIT FOR SIX
Since he established the company in 2012 (following time spent working as an upholsterer for Aston Martin and many years employed at now defunct luxury coach trimmer, Barton & Son), demand for Dave the Trimmer’s services has seen the company’s workforce grow to a team of six, with some of the UK’S best-known independent marque specialists relying on the firm to upholster their signature builds. Private commissions come thick and fast (“mainly from 964 owners, but we also serve plenty of 993 drivers requesting Gt2-style interiors”), but whatever the Porsche rolling through Dave’s doors, choice of material is key. And we’re not just talking leather versus Alcantara. “I see no end of substandard retrims,” he sighs, “not only in terms of workmanship, but the leather used. When restoring or returning a Porsche interior to stock specification, accurate colour and quality of material is key.” On a full retrim, differences between old and new shades of black might not be noticed, but an obvious example of where closely observing OEM details is essential comes when repairing damaged or worn hide in an otherwise perfectly presented Porsche. “Let’s assume the owner of a new 911 has somehow managed to rip a seat bolster. The leather in that car won’t have faded and is unlikely to have experienced any other wear. This scenario demonstrates why it’s vital to use the correct colour, thickness and texture of leather, as well as the factory-spec thread for stitching. Any variation will stand out like a sore thumb. Sadly, not all upholsterers operate with this attention to detail.”
Looks are one thing, but from a technical perspective, there can be more serious implications in using poorly considered materials. “We regularly get asked to re-cover
A BROWN 1981 911 SC TARGA SITS IN THE WORKSHOP, PROUDLY EXHIBITING ITS PASHA ‘TOMBSTONES’
Targa roofs,” Dave reveals, noting our interest in the pink Porsche parked next to the not-so-mellow yellow Turbo S. “Coarse vinyl used at the point of manufacture can dry out and crack with age, as well as prolonged exposure to the elements. It’s not unusual for a Targa owner to complain their car is letting in rainwater, only for us to discover the roof panel has been retrimmed using material thicker than what was originally specified. Essentially, excess vinyl is wrapped around the roof, meaning its dimensions are too big, only marginally so, but enough for the panel to push away from where it’s supposed to sit, having the effect of letting in water, usually at each corner.”
We ask what the most unusual request a Porsche owner has given him in the near decade Dave the Trimmer has been established. “Funnily enough, it was pitched to me this week!” he roars. “A 997 owner, who happens to be a vegan, asked me to quote for removing all the leather in their car and replacing it with Alcantara.” The synthetic, suede-like textile is commonly used in automotive applications and can regularly be seen wrapped around dashboards, door cards and seat centres. “It remains very popular, as does Porsche’s classic range of fabric patterns, including Pepita, which we’re regularly asked to apply to new 911s, affording them a hint of old-school cool in an otherwise thoroughly modern Porsche sports car.”
Pleasingly, a brown 1981 911 SC Targa sits in the middle of the workshop, proudly exhibiting its colourcoded Pasha-finished ‘tombstones’. Across the room, a roll of black and white Pasha is being readied for fitting to a visiting customer’s car. “Pasha has definitely made a comeback in recent years,” says Dave, prompting us to ask what the next trend will be. “Tartan,” he
AN ILL-JUDGED COLOUR OR A POORLY CONSIDERED AESTHETIC COULD BE AN EXPENSIVE MISTAKE TO MAKE
replies, without hesitation. “I’m sure it’s going to grow in popularity over the course of the coming year or so. Thankfully, whatever a client wants, whether Pasha, Pepita, tartan, pin stripes, Porsche script, any other pattern and in any OEM colour, we have no problem sourcing the correct material for the job. We’re also able to emboss leather with the Porsche crest or a design of a customer’s choosing. There really is no limit to what we can do.”
Dave’s team is even introducing laser etching to its list of services, a method of personalisation allowing for truly bespoke patterns. It’s something he’s trialling on his beloved 964 Carrera 2. This idea of meshing of new technology with classic furniture is something he recommends in other aspects of an interior retrim, too. “If you’re having the seats out, door cards off, headlining dropped and carpets removed, you’ve been presented with the perfect opportunity to renew wiring, upgrade speakers and fit a modern head unit. You could also fit heated seat functionality, LED lighting and any other luxury feature your car might be missing.” Before you beat your fists against a wall in frustration at not being able to decide between a retro-styled Porsche Classic
Communication Management infotainment system or a (significantly cheaper) Blaupunkt Bremen SQR 46, however, Dave recommends you have a firm idea of what you’re trying to achieve when commissioning an upholsterer to blitz your car’s cockpit. “We get many requests for Singer-style interiors, but customers often change their mind, opting for something more subtle by the time the job starts. An ill-judged colour palette or a poorly considered aesthetic could be an expensive mistake to make, which is why I recommend talking through your ideas with an upholstery company, like ours, experienced in the field of Porsche interior design, not only to provide you with fresh thinking, but also to give you the opportunity to see a similarly trimmed interior in person, before you jump in with both feet, perhaps not fully appreciating the impact an unorthodox finish may deliver.”
Deciding on the final fit and finish of your restored or recommissioned Porsche is the aspect of the job most owners get the biggest kick out of. Thankfully, when taking a tired air-cooled classic from zero to hero, the possibilities are almost endless. Special wishes?