My workday began with flattening out the rear panel that goes beneath the rear window. It was a nice sunny day, so I took advantage of it by working outside and soaking the warped panel with water. The rougher back side of the panel absorbed water better than the smooth finished side, but it still took several applications of water to get the panel to absorb enough water to become flexible. There were some weights, and some old irons at the shop that I used to slowly work the panel flat enough to trace a new one.
I received quite a lot of e-mail and advice on what kind of material to use for my back panel after I mentioned I was considering using aluminum as a substitute. Most people thought the metal replacement would bring its own set of problems with very little to gain. The metal would have a tendency to rattle if not properly padded, and the resonance factor of aluminum could also be worse than the original panel which actually does a pretty good job at deadening noise. If I used aluminum, I would not be able to staple the leather to the panel like the original one was, so everything would have to be glued. I started to realize that the aluminum would expand and contract with changing temperatures, and may affect how well the glue held. Another consideration is that the metal would definitely transfer heat faster than a wood based product, so it may also dry out the leather quicker.
With all these thoughts and advice, I reconsidered and stopped by Home Depot (A huge home improvement chain in the US), and found some 3/16 inch tempered hardwood for my back panel. It comes in either 4 feet squares, or 4X8 foot sheets. Since the back panel was just wider than four feet, I had to buy the 4X8 sheet. Luckily, I got it to the shop in one piece without if blowing off the roof of my Toyota!
A jig saw with a fine tooth blade made cutting the panel a breeze. I carefully fitted the defroster assembly and trimmed the panel to perfection. I’m now going to take this panel to the car to check its fit. Once I’m satisfied with the fit, it’ll go on the pile of things to be covered in leather!
One of my door panels was stripped so I will also take it up to my Ferrari to check it for fit. I’m leaving the other panel completely assembled to use it as a guide when we make the first one. I’ll take some craft paper up with me to make a template of the other one after I see which holes go where.
Work continued on my seats in the other part of the shop as I worked on my panels. Here’s Joe working on sewing up the covers for my front seats. He’s already finished all the covers for the rear seats, and will be done with the covers for the front seats soon.
It’s so exciting to see the leather taking the shape of my new Ferrari seats!
With all the covers nearing completion, Frank and I really need to figure out what to do about the cushions.
As I showed before, they are really in bad shape. The foam surface is hard, and crumbling. After removing the bad foam, you can see how much has to be built up to attain the original height.
We have two ways to go with the restoration of these seats. The first one is to try and salvage whatever we can, and build up what was bad with new foam. The second choice is to completely replace the old foam with a new piece carved out of a solid block of foam. François’ concerns are that new foam never seems to have the same feel as the old seats so trying to keep the old foam is important. Frank went to foam supplier to try and find something that would match the softness of the original seat foam, and came up with nothing.
Looking for advice I decided to call Ed Mann, an upholsterer in Ontario that did some upholstery work for a fellow Ferrari owner Campbell Bryson. I originally contacted Ed to ask what he thought about using aluminum for my rear panel, but the conversation turned towards the seats. He confirmed that finding foam to match the resiliency of the original stuff is near impossible. The modern foams are harder, and don’t match the molded foam rubber of the old formula. He suggested we try our best to save what I have.
Examining the old foam, and feeling the new stuff, I can begin to understand what they’re talking about. The old foam rubber is perforated from behind with these large holes. They create a very soft even feel when pressed down. The modern foam is soft for the first inch, but seems to resist your pressure the harder you push. Replacing this old foam completely with the modern foam could be disastrous, so we’re going to try and build up what’s missing.
This will not be an easy task. The top layer of foam in some places has disintegrated to the perforation layer below, and other areas seem completely fine. The plan is to form a new layer of foam following the contour of the original seats. This contour layer will try to stay in the range of 1 inch thick, and be attached to the original foam after the top is sliced off to make for a good joining surface for the contour layer. Another top layer of softer foam (probably 1/4-1/2 inch thick) will be applied to complete the cushion. This is the plan, but this is all subject to change as we rebuild the foam!
I want to take this time to thank Ed Mann for his suggestions and advice for my seats. Although Frank is pretty experienced with Ferrari seats, it’s always good to get a second opinion. Ed has upholstered many Ferraris from 308s to 275GTBs, and has customers ship him work from hundreds of miles away.
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