Whilst mechanical work is being undertaken to make the car more driveable (further posts to follow shortly), I’m also continuing with some less messy tasks to make the interior a nicer place to be. Whilst it’s not the worst car I’ve ever sat in, there are a few glaring issues which would ideally be fixed before the car is pushed into regular use – namely the very cracked dashboard, the ripped headlining, the sagging front seats and a lingering less-than-fresh odour which seems to be emanating from the carpets.
Whilst I am still exploring options regarding the first two tasks (including the seemingly herculean task of replacing the headlining), I was however in a position to do something about the latter two – the seats and carpets.
For those with a keen memory (or at least the ability to scroll), you will be aware that I replaced the original ripped and mismatched front seats a few months ago with a much better pair I sourced from a guy in Tasmania. Whilst the vinyl is in great condition, the rubber diaphragms which sit underneath the foam seat squabs had perished meaning that much of the support that British Leyland had originally engineered into this fine piece of in-car furniture had been lost.
The picture below shows the better of the two original diaphragms (I was a bit hasty about removing and disposing of the worst one before thinking of taking a photo) and how it has perished and split in many of the places where it is attached to the seat frame. The diaphragm from the driver’s side, which was the worst of the two, had split along the entire length of its rear edge leaving virtually no support between the seat foam and the car floor.
Until relatively recently these diaphragms had been unavailable to buy new and, in lieu of finding un-perished NOS replacements, I have read quite a few stories of innovative owners piling books, pieces of timber or even bricks beneath the seats to restore some of the lost support. Luckily, a few years back, Chris Witor had managed to get these re-manufactured in high quality rubber so this is no longer the issue it once was – I duly purchased a pair and set about fitting them to my existing seats.
The diaphragms are held onto the seat base by 12 metal clips which, once the diaphragm is perished and slack, are pretty easy to remove with a pair of long-nose pliers. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of these might be missing – especially if your existing diaphragms are perished to the point of splitting – so you might want to source a few more in advance if this is the case with yours.
Whilst removing the metal clips is simple enough, using them to fit new, un-perished diaphragms is a little trickier as in order to provide proper support for the seat base, the diaphragm needs to be stretched taut across the seat frame – securing the first few clips is easy, but to get the final clips in place the diaphragm needs to both be stretched laterally and pushed inwards towards the seat foam at the same time as inserting the clip into the hole in the seat frame. This task gets progressively more difficult as more clips are inserted and things tighten up.
A second pair of hands would definitely have helped with this task but as my better half was not available at the time I found that heating the new diaphragms with a hair drier prior to fitting helped me to stretch and contort them just enough to finish the job – although getting the final couple of clips in place prompted the use of some choice language and left my fingers feeling a little on the bruised side for a while afterwards.
The new diaphragms transform the seats completely – they’re nice and firm as BL intended and offer a noticeable amount more support than they did with the perished ones. The new diaphragms also feel equally as good quality, if not better, than the originals so will hopefully last a good few years.
With the seats removed from the car, it was disturbingly obvious that the carpets were in a bit of a state – once an opulent shade of coppery-brown that personified everything that was good/bad* about the 1970s (*delete as applicable), they had taken on a distinctly murky grey tint and exuded the odour of 40 years worth of stale cigarette smoke and general filth. Running a hand over the pile (albeit probably unwisely) left a surprisingly greasy film – I’m not sure if this was from past maintenance or the result of several decades of engine and gearbox fumes seeping into the cabin. Either way something had to be done.
I’m no particular stranger to filthy cars – I have bought my fair share of bargain basement runabouts in the past and have always managed to bring even the shittiest of cabins up to a level of cleanliness that approaches acceptable. My product of choice for this task is Autoglym’s Interior Shampoo which is now available in Australia (about $16 from Supercheap Auto).
It’s easy to use – simply spray lightly over the area to be cleaned, scrub with a clean, damp cloth and repeat if required – and can be used on carpets, upholstery, plastics, headlinings etc. It works wonders (the evidence of which will be present in your bucket of water) and leaves a pleasant yet subtle new-car (ish) fragrance.
Whilst my well-used carpets were never going to be returned to their factory-fresh state, this stuff lived up to my expectations and significantly improved the look and smell of the soft finishes inside my car. The photo below shows a before/after shot taken mid-treatment. The passenger side of the car closest to the camera together with the gearbox tunnel had been cleaned, the slightly depressing greyer area furthest from the camera (complete with somewhat concerning blood-type stain) had not.
In total the cleaning produced six buckets of filthy and rather greasy water from the carpets.
After being left to dry overnight and given a quick vacuum to restore the pile, I was very happy with the result. It looks ten times better, the interior smells much fresher than it did before and, best of all, there’s not even the slightest trace of blood left. Just the dash and headlining to sort now and it’ll be 100%. Well, 75% – but that’s probably the best I can hope for given my starting point.
I’ll leave the seats out for now until I have finished the gearbox swap as I feel they are safer inside the house than in the car whilst I’m fiddling around with it. It’s very spacious in there without them though and I must admit to having a cheeky beer in the back seat the other day whilst planning out the next few jobs to do. It was like being in a limousine. A terrifying, driverless limousine with blood-stained carpets…