There was a reason we got a great deal when we purchased our '71 Road Runner project car-the car was in the standard condition of a used and abused musclecar and needed to be pretty much completely refurbished. Luckily, our Road Runner was fairly complete and came with most of its parts; they just needed some attention before we could re-use them. The interior of our car was no exception as the carpet was tattered and torn, the dash cracked, the headliner all but missing, and the seats were different colors and in desperate need of recovering. Fortunately, with new parts from YearOne, a little help from Emo's Upholstery, and our added labor, giving our car an extreme interior makeover was easier and less expensive than you might think.
Being the do-it-ourselves types and having more time than money, we decided to perform most of the work to our car's interior ourselves. Actually, we've found that with some basic hand tools and good parts, it's pretty easy to make a car's interior look significantly better, it just takes time. You'll remember that it took us about a day to replace the headliner of the car, which we covered in a previous issue. In this issue, we'll tackle the carpet, dash, and, most importantly, the seats to make our car's interior much more aesthetically pleasing. If you have the time and patience, you can do the same to your car with similar results. We aren't shooting for show-stopping perfection here, just a nice interior that looks good and makes the car more pleasing to drive.
The first step of any project should be to evaluate what parts you have, what you'll need, and what can be reconditioned. When we took a close look at the interior of our Road Runner it was a mess. Originally a Winchester Grey color, a previous owner had changed the color of the interior to black. Rather than spending the money and time necessary to change the interior back to grey, we chose to complete the interior in black, which will be a nice contrast to the grey exterior of the car. Not that it would have been too difficult to go back to grey, we just think that enough grey is enough and like the look of a black interior.
Taking a look inside our car, it was obvious that we'd need front and rear seat covers, as well as new carpet, kick panels, and armrests. A quick call to YearOne verified that they had most of our items in stock, so we had our new parts on the way in no time.
While the majority of interior parts for most musclecars are available from aftermarket companies like YearOne, there will always be certain parts that either aren't reproduced or are cost prohibitive to purchase. We'll need to clean up and repaint items such as our lower door panels, dash, and front and rear window trim. Our window cranks and door handles aren't bad enough to warrant rechroming, so we'll just polish them and re-install them in the car. The new carpet is easy to install, and, as you'll see, installing new seat covers is pretty straightforward as well.
When it came to our cracked dashpad, we had a dilemma. While the new part is available, it sure does cost a lot. Since we don't have the original engine for this car, we're not too worried about it being a concourse restoration. our friend Emo at Emo's Upholstery offered us a nice compromise. Rather than recovering our dashpad, which never looks quite factory, the option of a hard, plastic covering called a "cover-lay" is economical and looks similar to the original dashpad. Best of all, Emo installed the cover-lay for less than half the cost of a new dashpad.
With the combination of YearOne parts, some help from our local upholstery shop, and lots of hard work, we made our interior look respectable and much better than the tattered mess that we started with. All told it took us about a week's worth of evenings plus a couple of weekends to do all the work, but the results are well worth it. Our interior looks nearly as good as new, and it makes our car much more pleasurable to drive. After all, everyone else sees the outside of your car, but you have to ride in it. Might as well make it a place you enjoy riding in!
When we got our '71 Road Runner,...
When we got our '71 Road Runner, it didn't have much interior to speak of. Follow along as we give it an extreme interior makeover with new carpet, seat covers, and trim from YearOne.
After gutting our Road Runner's...
After gutting our Road Runner's interior, we found that, fortunately, our floors were solid. Even so, we treated the minor surface rust and painted any questionable spots. We didn't get fancy, just whatever color rattle-can paint we could find. After all, it all gets hidden by the carpet.
While waiting for our parts...
While waiting for our parts to arrive, we started sanding the metal frame of our dash and prepping it for paint. This can be done to all of the interior's metal trim.