Reworking the interior in a classic car is one of the most important and value added parts of restoring a car. It ranks almost as high as a new paint job. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as some may think and if you are not willing to do the work and have to send it to a shop it can become very expensive. An extensive interior restoration, which would include new carpet, seat covers, headliner, dash pad, door panels, package tray and various miscellaneous trim items can easily run into the $2,000 to $2,600 + range depending on the car.
Basically there are two types of carpet offered for classic cars. The first is Loop-pile and as the name implies the fabric is woven in a loop formation. This is the style of carpet that came in the cars of the 60s and early 70s. The second is Cut-pile. This style has the brush look and is the type of carpet found in most modern cars.
Since the Gran Sport is very close to being factory original throughout I decided to install the Loop-pile type of carpet. If you are considering purchasing new carpet for your classic my suggestion is to not be guided by price, especially if you are the one who will be doing the installation. When I am shopping for carpet here are a few descriptive terms I am looking for:
1. I want it to be a custom cut for the specific car I am working on.
2. I am also looking for a carpet that is Custom Molded or Press Molded, this is carpet that has been formed by the factory to fit the indentations of the car's floor pattern such as the drop in the floor area forward of the seats and also to the rear of the seats. Molded carpet will also have a rise in it to accommodate the center hump covering the drive shaft and transmission.
3. One last item on my list is that the carpet has sufficient jute padding attached. The jute padding will help to reduce both exhaust and transmission heat as well as reducing interior noise. The only downside to thick jute padding is that it makes the carpet less flexible. All the more reason to purchase a Custom or Press molded carpet.
So with the above said, what you will see being installed in the GS carries the following description; Loop-Pile 80/20 ( 80% Rayon and 20% Nylon compound, same as factory and very durable) Custom Molded with 36-oz jute padding. This is high quality carpet and came with an official GM Licensed Product tag that guarantees it conforms to the original GM quality standards. Purchased through Year One Parts.
When you are looking at the picture of the carpet in the catalog it appears as if it is ready to simply be dropped into the car once the seats are removed. Not really the case. It has been folded and packed for shipping in a flat box that has probably been sitting on a shelf for months before being shipped to you. As a result, it has creases and lumps from the packing and does not look like the perfect picture in the catalog. Once you receive the carpet I would suggest you remove it from the box and lay it out on a flat surface for 3 to 5 days. This will help to remove some of the unwanted lumps and creases. Placing weights on the worst of the areas will help.
Loop-pile is a heavy duty carpet that is naturally stiff and with the added 36-oz of jute it becomes even more difficult to manipulate. I highly recommend a steamer as it will help to relax the fibers and make the carpet much easier to work with. These are two types of steamers that I have used. I prefer the smaller black unit as it can be brought into the car and also because it is trigger controlled. This unit is made by Singer and can be purchased at stores such as WalMart, Target and Ebay. Obviously, the larger one is a clothes steamer and it can also be used, however I find it bulky and the steam flow is constant.
This is where the installation and fun begins. Seats, console, seat belts, and door sills have been removed. This is also the time when you may find some unexpected rust holes in the flooring. Fortunately, this car has solid floors and that was not an issue.
Always start with the front section. This is the most difficult area to work and the most time consuming. This section is not a perfect fit regardless of what the ad states. You will have to trim areas such as along the front fire wall, both sides that fit under the door sills, headlight high beam switch, if located on the floor, and a hole for the shiftier if a center console is installed in the car. This picture shows the front section just placed in the car. Note some of the creases and lumps are still in the carpet from packing. Before cutting or measuring use the rubber heal protector that is built into the carpet as a guide. Position the carpet so that the heal protector is properly situated under the gas pedal and brake pedal. Once this is done look at the rear edge of the carpet that will be going under the seats (has finished edge) to make sure it is not at an angle and is 90 degrees to the door sills. THIS IS THE TIME TO MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE.
At this is point I have been using the steamer and hand pressure to get the carpet as smooth as possible and molded to the flooring. If necessary, do not hesitate to go over any ridges or creases a few times with the steamer, it will not damage the carpet or cause the jute to separate. With this completed I made most of the major trim cuts for the front section and it is in place. As a note - the carpet needs to overlap into the door sill area about 1/4 inch. When the sill is replaced it will press down on the carpet and hold it in place.
As to the screwdrivers - when you are at the stage where both the front and rear carpets are in their final place and you are ready to re-install the seats, seat belts, etc., it is much easier to locate the various bolt holes while you can still pull the carpet up and see and feel their location. If it is a bolt, just cut around it with a razor knife. If it is a hole, mark it with something pointed such as a screw driver and cut an X over the hole. As this area of the carpet typically has the jute backing, I cut out the carpet and jute so I can actually see the hole. This makes it much easier to get the bolt to catch the threads. Never use an electric drill to make holes in carpet as the drill has the tendency to catch fibers of the carpet and wrap it around the bit and in a split second it will pull a run in your carpet and I know of no way to repair it. Also, as you re-install the seats check to make sure that there are no electrical wires that will be under the seat railing.
Some final touches to the interior.
This is the armrest on the driver's side door. With the new carpet and the remaining components in this car's interior being in excellent condition I could not let this eye sore remain.
Even though this Buick is considered an "A" body car and was designed to compete with the GTO, Olds 442 and Chevy Chevelle, almost everything seems to be carried to a higher level. This armrest for example is made up of four components. There is a chrome back plate. the armrest base, metal trim and the armrest pad. It is the armrest pad that is damaged. On most "A" bodies the armrest pad is 11 inches but on the Gran Sport it is 16 inches. The passenger's side armrest was in good condition but when ordering replacement armrest pads they are only sold in pairs and they only come in one color: black. The cost is $80 for two pads. Over the years I have worked frequently with vinyl dye so I was not concerned with a color change, my main concern was with finding matching colors. The armrest is actually two colors. The pad is Ivory and the base is Slate. I removed the complete passenger side armrest and made a visit to a paint and body supply store that carries my favorite brand of vinyl dye which is SEM. This "Made in the USA" company produces excellent paint and vinyl dyes. If the surface is prepped properly it is as durable as the original color. They also carry a large selection of colors.
This is the restored pad and armrest. I redyed the armrest pad, put a new coat of dye on the armrest base and polished the trim. As I stated above, the armrest pads are only sold in pairs, so I restored both the driver's side door as well as the passenger side. Now both are like new.
New carpet installed, restored both armrest, buffed the sill plates, redyed the seat belt retractor covers, redyed the hard backing on the bucket seats, refurbished the complete console including new bulbs and wiring for the shift selector, replaced the rear speaker covers and dyed them to match the package tray.
The finished product.
Hope this was helpful!