Stalled projects are the most dangerous

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This tested my patience and it is important to make sure each hog ring pulls in the correct spot so the cover stays evenly placed. Kyle Smith

It’s been a winter filled with working on my 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, and before last week, none of it was work I had planned to do. I got caught up in the while-I’m-in-there trap after the white coupe’s cooling fan did what all aging metal will eventually do—fail.

Now it’s late January and I’m looking at a to-do list that I wrote in November, with nothing crossed off. Now that the unplanned wrenching (and parts buying) is out of the way, it’s finally time to start hammering on that list.

First order of business: continuing a project I started back in September. My lovely Corsa lived most of its life in the Texas sun, which wreaked havoc on the vinyl interior. The driver’s seat back was split, the bottom foam completely broken down and unsupportive. The passenger seat was at least together, but badly sun scorched and faded.  

The blazing Texas sun had not been nice to the 53-year-old interior materials.
Years of blazing Texas sun wasn’t kind to the 53-year-old interior. Kyle Smith

Upholstery work is something I learned during my time at McPherson College while getting a Bachelors of Science degree in Automotive Restoration. It takes some practice and attention to detail, but recovering seats is something a home enthusiast can absolutely do. You don’t need the formal training to get a great finished product, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The biggest help is that Clark’s Corvair Parts, with all the interior parts I needed, was a phone call away. In just a short time, three large boxes landed on my doorstep. From carpet to headliner, I had everything I needed to refresh this tired cockpit.

From the fitted carpet all the way to a new white headliner, a few clicks and a credit card number put them on my front porch.
From the fitted carpet all the way to a new white headliner, a few clicks and a credit card number put them on my front porch. Kyle Smith

I finished carpet was first. Then the plan was to do the seats one at a time, which meant I could continue to drive the car, just not with any passengers. It was a good plan, except it removed all motivation to keep working on the interior because the car was still drivable. And it felt more like a race car than it ever has—and that is kind of fun.

Four months passed from when I took the cover and foam off the passenger seat. One big lesson I have learned in my time with cars, is that the longer a half-finished project sits, the less likely it is to get done. It was time to get hog ringing.

The right tool for the job. there are lots of hog rings in a pair of seats. If I was doing another pair of seats I would buy a nicer set of hog ring pliers. Don’t be cheap on this tool.
The right tool for the job. There are lots of hog rings in a pair of seats. If I ever do another pair of seats, I’d buy a nicer set of hog ring pliers. Don’t cheap out when it comes to this tool. Kyle Smith

The springs and base of the seats were in good shape, which saved me a lot of time and effort. The foam went on quick and easy, but the initial placement of the covers gave grief until I remember to cut through the foam so the listing wire attached to the springs and the two in the seat cover were easier to hog ring together.  

Cutting holes for the seat back pivots is intimidating, as you only get one shot and if it turns out wrong it will show. The trick is to stretch and ring the cover over the pivots so the vinyl is in its final place, then use the edge of your hog ring pliers (or a small hammer) to tap around the edge of the pivot until the vinyl cuts through. This will cut a perfect circle in the perfect spot. You’ll feel like a pro and it’ll look like you’re a pro.

The finished product. There are a few wrinkles that a steamer could get out, but once it is able to sit out in the sun for a bit and sat on for a awhile it will wear in perfectly.
The finished product. There are a few wrinkles that a steamer could get out, but once it is able to sit out in the sun for a bit (and then sat on for a awhile) it will wear in perfectly. Kyle Smith

It’s a rewarding project when done right—once I put the last few rings in the passenger seat base and stepped back it was easy to see clear progress. The seat base soaked up maybe 4–5 hours of my time. But it’s winter and I’m not big into snow-shoeing, so I’m missing out on anything outside the workshop anyway. Which means if you need me in the next week or so, you’ll find me clamping hog rings on the driver’s seat.

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