Thursday, December 28, 2017

Scimitar Restoration Part 1

Twenty years is a long time to wait for anything, but waiting for the chance to drive the car in your garage for 20 years is a really long time!

My father has owned his Reliant Scimitar SE5a for quite a few years, and it always needed a re-trim, which is handy given that my original trade was car upholstery. He was enjoying the car when my mother was still alive until a crash saw damage to the front right corner of the GRP bodywork.

The body was repaired and re-sprayed by Minari, but all the glass was left out and the interior stripped for me to attack the inside.

I aquired some tan Connolly leather which matched nicely some wool headlining I already had in stock, but several jobs and relationships took me away from the family home. Then a marriage, divorce, my daughters abduction, my mother passing away, redundancy and a spectacular breakdown stopped me touching the car.

This year though I made it a mission to get the interior done by the end of 2017 so the car can be put back on the road in time for a planned road trip with my father in August 2018. 

No pressure then, so how have I got on?

First job was unfastening the headlining which attached to the roof by a combination of rods, screws rivets and bars. Loops sewn onto the wool headlining material and the rods fed through and fixed by a screw either end that I'd placed back on the roof to make sure I didn't lose them.The sides were then glued to the window surrounds. The front is still to be glued around the windscreen because we have to attach the aerial and wire it up, but it is not a big job, so as good as done.

Seats next. Carefully separating the cushions and squabs from the front seats, which had split covers and were in one hell of a state. The centre sections were glued to the seat foam, which required very careful unpicking with a sharp blade to keep the foam intact. The foam being moulded rather than hand cut would be difficult to replace, so preserving the foam where possible was important. Buying a spare front seat allowed me to replace some perished foam from the drivers seat.

The tan leather is a little lighter than the original brown leather and plastic dashboard. The latter can't be replaced easily and a limited amount of leather means a combination of the two shades would be part of the finished interior. The seat centres were originally to be trimmed in some material chosen by my mother and father, but a change of heart led to some head scratching. Then I remembered some black ribbed and toothed vinyl I had on a roll. Both Mum and Dad approved of this choice before she passed away so that made for a really nice contrast on the finished covers. 

First I had to unpick the old covers, which as I'd mentioned earlier, were in a bit of a state. So some detective work and experience helped me make replacement sections in leather for the front face and some matching vinyl for the backs to spare some leather. With the centre sections sewn in, seeing Dads face light up told me straight away that the new covers were going to be just what he wanted.

Being one-off's, meant I didn't have the luxury of perfecting the patterns or sewing perfect before signing them off, as I'd do for production items, so the perfectionist in me feels frustrated with the odd wrinkle here and there, but Dad says he loves them, so I have to swallow that.

Unfortunately the rubber spring loaded webbing was completely perished so we bought a new pair from Graham Walker, the Scimitar specialist. Unfortunately the new webbing was substantially narrower than the old ones, so we had to be creative in order to make up the shortfall. These are the hold ups that slowed the job no-end.

Ok, seats covered, but still not put back together I bought some carpet to replace the knackered old stuff. Coverdale carpets make good quality stuff and I go to them for most of the carpet sets I make for kit cars, so some Benheim Autumn Leaf was bought for the Scimitar and I started stripping back the crusty old stuff. Boy was this a chore. The rubber backing had completely perished and the original carpets had been fixed with strong contact adhesive. The centre console and rear armrest were taken out to allow access and during a week off work I gradually scraped away the crusty old carpet and make up new carpet sections, which I fixed using a tacky spray glue.

The difference was obvious and the new carpets lifted the interior straight away. I made a new handbrake gaitor out of the leather and sewed it into the new centre carpet...

With nearly all the carpets in place I could turn to the rear seats and made new covers in the same way I had done the front seats. 

With the first seat cushion glued up and put in place you get a really good sense of how the finished interior will look. So at the end of 2018 I've fallen a little short of the schedule I'd set myself, but progress has enthused both my father and Brother, so with a little help we might between us get the car back on the road by spring.

I've filmed most of this progress made on my go-pro-ish cam so there will be a video or videos on Enwin's Motors when the car is finished. 

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