At the first Hot Rod Revolution in 2007, I ran into a perfect little ’32 5-window. It was your quintessential NorCal hot rod – late 40’s/early 50’s style, perfect stance, soul, personality, and history. I studied the details for quite some time, but spent extra care to check out the interior. See, it was only a few hours before that I had obtained the Tardel/Cochran coupe and my mind was already thinking about what to do with the interior.
There was just something about the guts of the ’32 that really drew me in. It was aged honestly, had perfect texture, and just felt right for a hot rod built in the era that I so admire – the late 40’s. As it turns out, that wasn’t by accident. After speaking with the owner of the coupe, I learned that the car was first built in 1949 and the interior remained largely unchanged. With this new knowledge in hand, I really studied the car.
The one element that intrigued me the most was the seat cover. Done in black vinyl with a hound’s tooth insert, the seat looked and felt like an old Sunday coat. It wasn’t flashy per se, but it certainly had more substance than a race car seat. I guess I would call it “purposeful” without losing sight of style.
A label on the bottom cover read, “Sears Roebuck and Co. Standard Bench Cover. Manufactured in 1947.”
Armed with that information, I hit eBay just about every week looking for a duplicate cover to wrap my swap meet seat. And then I found some pretty discouraging information. I was doing some research for another project and discovered an old Sears catalog from ’48. Two types of seat covers were listed:
1. Deluxe Bench Covers -Rich plaid or subtle hound’s tooth check. Available in brown, black, red, and green.
2. Standard Bench Covers – Basic cut. Colors and patterns may vary.
See, while the “deluxe” covers gave the buyer some options as to what colors or patterns they may prefer, the “standard” covers were essentially just pot luck. They were manufactured from scrap textiles left over from other parts of Sears’ business. Pot luck or not, I was shit out of luck.
Still, I couldn’t forget that seat in the ’32. In fact, I would often find myself tagging along with Marcie to the fabric store just to browse patterns looking for the right hound’s tooth. A few months ago, I found something almost identical – the perfect shade of slightly faded black along with a “dirty” white in just the right size of check. Undaunted by the ridiculously high price courtesy of Ralph Lauren (at least he is a car guy), I ordered a couple of yards on the spot.
Just a few days later and almost as if it were destiny, I got a call from John Joyo at the Austin Speed Shop. Sean (Fat Lucky) had a window opening soon that is just the right amount of time to do a model-a seat. I think I was down at the shop bugging Sean only hours later. We picked out a super soft black leather and I told him what I was after:
“Nothing fancy. Black leather with the hound’s tooth insert and large old style pleats. I want it to feel like an old seat cover… or maybe an old coat. In any case, I want it to feel and look old fashioned.”
Of course, you don’t take a project to Fat Lucky and expect him to take too much direction. He’s too witty… too creative… too mentally free to listen verbatim. I knew that going in and couldn’t wait to see what he came up with.
A week later, I got an email.
“It’s done. Come get it.”
With no hesitation, I bailed on a shopping trip with Marcie and headed to South Austin. As soon as I saw the seat, I knew it was right. The colors were spot on, the insert “pattern” that Sean crafted was so thoughtful, and the craftsmanship was simply off the hook. More important to me though was the texture… It feels like a Sunday coat that your Grampa might have worn. In the end, that’s really all I wanted.
And of course, the seat and materials are still brand new. By design, we used a fabric that was not treated (UV or any other way) and a leather that was ultra soft. Idea being, the seat should age fairly quickly and the high quality materials should make sure it’s a graceful process. So right now, I’m like a kid with a new pair of tennis shoes – proud of my new stitches, but can’t wait to wear them in.