Bill Meub’s ’55 MG TF

While Bruce’s ’52 TD is off to the body shop for paint, I’m moving on to installing a new interior in Bill’s ’55 TF. Panel and seat kit are both from Moss Motors and I’m impressed with the general quality and authenticity of the materials. The TF currently has a rather tatty interior made from expanded vinyl in a no to pleasant shade of “dirty” tan. The new kit is as per the original interiors—leather seats (faces) and vinyl everywhere else. For those who havent’ yet tackled this job on their TD or TF, my plan is to try and give a step-by-step primer on the basic trim work.

Here are some general pointers:

  • Pay attention to the location and type of fasteners as you’re removing them. Just like on mechanical work, it’s a good idea to bag them individually so you’ll spend less time digging through your parts bucket looking for that last screw you need. It’s also a great way to find out if you’ll need new hardware (an almost 99% certainty unless your working on a virgin car).
  • Take pictures of your tear down, especially the removal of pieces you’re unfamiliar with. They will be a godsend later when you’re trying to remember how something went together.
  • Be patient and don’t get in a hurry. While the materials your working with are forgiving, they can also be damaged easily if you’re not careful.
  • Don’t through anything away until you’re finished installing the new interior. The old parts make great references.

TAKING IT APART

Tear down—This wouldn’t seem like that big a deal but getting your new interior to look it should is largely dependent on paying attention to how the old one came out. There is a definite order to the installation of the various parts and pieces. Getting things out of order will make for much more work than is needed as well as imperil the quality of the outcome.

  • Remove the seats and set them aside. This is a good time to repaint the frames as you will be removing the coverings and can easily remove the seat squabs to detail the frames.
  • Remove the floor carpets. The fronts should just unsnap. The rears may have been glued in. If they have, be very careful removing them taking care not to pull any of the pile through the backing.
  • Remove the left and right front kick panels. Start by removing the nuts holding the dash to the body sub-frame sides. It was common to use trim screws to hold these panels on at the leading edges. Remove them. If the panels are original or made like originals, they will be held into the wood frame by either brads or staples underneath the hide-em strips. Carefully pry the panels off. The front kick panel and the sill panels should be connected by the hide ’em.
  • Remove the dash pad which is affixed to the cowl with studs and nuts. See my not in the Reassembly area for removal tips.
  • Removing the door panels begins by removing the door handle hardware and side curtain escutcheon plates. The door catch cover is held on by two small machine screws. Interior door latch should be held in by four screws—two machine screws and two wood screws. Remove, bag, and tag. Separate the interior latch from the outside handle spindle and set aside. The side curtain escutcheon is held on with two wood screws, remove and set aside. As with the kick panels, carefully pry the panels off the door. Inspect the wood and repair as needed to provide a a firm purchase surface for the new panels.
  • Remove the top (with the top in the down position) by first lifting the flap around the back and removing all of the staples. Next, remove the four screws (two per side) that hold the top frame assembly to the rear quarter panels. Remove the top assembly and set aside in a safe place.
  • Remove the rear tub surrounds (three pieces) by removing the screws. Save and set aside. These pieces will be reused and recovered.
  • Remove the storage deck lid by removing the hinge screws on the body side.
  • Remove the storage front cross piece by removing the two screws (one per side).
  • Remove the left and right quarter arch panels, then the vinyl strip on the rear tub surround.
  • Remove the rear quarter panels by carefully prying them from the body. If you still have the rear storage face carpet installed, you’ll need to peel the edges back to fully remove the quarters.
  • Lastly, remove the wheel arch materials including any underlayment that may be present. This surface will need to prepared for the new vinyl by  sanding any residue glue off with #80 grit paper.

You should now have a completely bare interior, Carefully inspect any stapling or gluing surfaces for integrity and repair any anomalies that might affect the bonding or stapling of new materials.

PUTTING IT BACK TOGETHER

Handy Tools
Like most jobs, having the right tools really helps and doing interior is no exception. The only difference is, unlike working on the rest of the car, the tool list is minimal. Here’s what I would recommend:

  • Osborne Staple Remover—If this is the only specialty tool you buy for this work, you;re going to love this one…and you’ll be using it allot.
  • Air stapler —This isn’t an essential tool (the panels were originally installed using a special nail), but it will pay for itself in time savings and just plain make it easier to do the work. A decent quality upholstery stapler will run you about $140 and run just fine off any small portable compressor. After your interior is finished, you’ll find plenty of uses for the stapler afterwards. Buy 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ staples to fit you tool.
  • Glue Pot—I like the 160z size with the brush in the lid. Keeps things neat and makes application a breeze.
  • Trim Cement—Buy the real stuff from a trim supply store. It’s made to do the job, has the right tack, and sets up easily.
  • Tack Hammer—Another Osborn tool that’s really a must have. Buy the good one with the curved head. It’s simple a better tool than cheaper straight head variety.
  • Side Cutters—You probably already own a pair of these. The best tool for removing partially extracted or broken staples.

Reassembly—Panels, Doors, and Cockpit Surround

Dash pad – The dash pad is a bit of a bear to remove. You can make it easier by removing the turn signal switch from the dash (trafficator), unplugging the small dash illumination lamps from their sockets, and removing the two dash board bolts (one on each end) that screw into the side bulkhead. You’ll need to take these two bolts out anyway as you can’t remove the kick panels with them still installed.

To re-cover, trim a piece of the bulk material from the Moss kit about two inches wider and two inches longer than the pad. Don’t worry about the curves, just cut it straight. Mark the center of your vinyl strip (on the inside) and the center of the dash pad (on the wood side). With the vinyl face down, lay the dash pad, wood side up matching your center marks. Wrap the vinyl around the pad at the center and staple on each side. Now, pull the vinyl at either end making it curl just a bit and staple. Do the same at the opposite end. With the center and ends secured, start at the middle and work your way to each end, sapling as you go.

Weather seal – The weather seal starts at the top of either side of the dash and wraps completely around the car to the opposite side.

Seats – The seats are the one area where having some experience and knowing how to finesse the materials is a big help. That said, if you follow what I;ve done and take your time you should be bale to turn out a very credible job.

Begin the seat dis-assembly by removing the track. The cushion is held in by the screws that hold the left/right sliders in. Once removed, the cushion comes right out. With the cushion out, turn it over os it’s bottom side up and remove all the staples, making sure you clean up and broken or partial bits so you don’t rip your flesh on them during reassembly. Bill’s seats had been reupholstered at least once before and the last fellow had added quite a bit of cotton batting to make up for the poor materials. I removed all of it and revealed the seat squabs in excellent condition.

To re-cover the cushion, I start by applying just a touch of spray adhesive to the area where the seat breaks. Line up the cover, carefully positioning it so it is just proud of the entire perimeter. Starting at where the seat breaks, pull the skirt over and staple underneath on each side. Rotate the cushion 90 degrees and staple the center of the front/back skirts. Complete the stapling starting from the centers and working out. Trim any excess from the bottom perimeter when you’ve finished securing the upholstery.

For the seat backs, carefully remove the old covers and side skirts inspecting the tack strips for excessive damage or wear and replacing them if needed to give the new staples a solid purchase.

 

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