You want to do what?
By John Baines
A number of years ago, quite a number in fact, when I was but a lad, I have a notion that someone told me it was possible to ‘paint’ leather upholstery.
With this vague thought in mind I decided to do something about my Cloud 1. SFE375 had been born in March 1958 in sage green with green leather and carpets. The second owner had the car painted white in 1970, it being then the principle vehicle of a small wedding car fleet. The upholstery remained green although being adorned with fake tiger skin seat covers (it was the Seventies) it did not conflict too much with the paintwork. I purchased the car in 1977 in then reasonable condition.
I continued with the wedding car business and added a Bentley S1, also white, to the fleet. A few years later a Cloud 111 LWB in Masons Black made up the complement. For a variety of reasons, which are another story entirely, I repainted the Cloud 111, during the Eighties, in Black over Burgundy.
By the time that the Nineties arrived, I owned only the two Clouds, now just for pleasure and decided to change the white Cloud 1 to Black over Burgundy, thinking that they would make a nice pair. This then, is the point of this missive, whilst both cars looked quite resplendent in their matching, rather regal colours, the Cloud 1 still had green upholstery with tiger skin seat covers. It really needed to be changed to something that would match the paintwork, maybe red or indeed burgundy. I successfully ignored this for the next twelve years, always intending to do something about the interior.
With my original notion that upholstery could be painted, I embarked on the quest to verify this. The first stop was the club web site discussion area, where I received quite a lot of well intended advice, also telephone numbers and web addresses of firms who could possibly help. Whilst most of the companies contacted did offer leather ‘rejuvenation’ products, most baulked at the idea of a complete colour change, especially from green to burgundy. “You want to do what?” Speaking to two specialists, re-upholstery was suggested as the correct route.
Eventually, via the RROC site I blundered across the name ‘Leatherique’ based in the USA. Via e-mail I was told everything I wanted to hear, “No problem”, “Green to Red, simple”. “You just need leather rejuvenator, a cleaning and preparation solution and a quart of paint”. Wonderful.
Having chosen ‘Mulberry’ from a computer screen swatch, the relevant bottles were ordered from the States. Not inexpensive at one hundred and seventy five dollars plus the same again for carriage, but a fraction of the four thousand or so pounds to re-upholster.
With renewed vigour, the interior was completely stripped out, seats, door panels, arm rests, piping, trim etc lying all over the garage floor.
How many cows are in there? It seems like a complete herd.
Incidentally with the interior trim removed, I reckon you could park an (Austin) Mini inside a Cloud 1.
Eventually, after a few weeks and a few problems with Federal Express masquerading as Customs and Excise, the magic liquid arrived and a couple of weeks later, all the leather had been cleaned.
So many different bits.
Some areas were quite badly ‘scuffed’ whilst others, being covered with tiger were in reasonable condition.
Next the preparation solution was applied. The instructions, alarmingly, read “apply the preparation solution to a small area and spread using 300 wet and dry sandpaper”. Being a fairly sceptical sort, I first tried this out on a piece from under the rear seat, which was obviously out of sight. An hour and two rolls of paper towels later, a still green but muted strip of leather emerged and was left twenty-four hours to dry out.
Time to apply the paint. After following the instructions to stir thoroughly “some of the pigments are heavier and will sink to the bottom”, the first of two coats were applied by brush.
I am sure I did not order pink.
No need to worry, however, as after drying it turned a very definite iridescent purple, well, an improvement on the pink, if nothing else.
With some trepidation, the second coat was applied and left to dry. Some hours and a minor miracle later, a Mulberry leather strip was unmistakably evident. It even looked quite like the computer screen swatch.
Having spent many hours, stripping and cleaning, it was obvious that extra labour needed to be sought.
Women are better at painting anyway and I have an understanding wife.
Apart from that, I needed to make a new door panel and the door
cappings required attention. Help was requested and given.
Slowly but surely, all the pieces were carefully painted,
all turning miraculously Mulberry in the final stages.
Some four weeks later SFE 375
s back in one piece looking quite magnificent
and colour co-ordinated
Now I just need to get those sills done.