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  Installing an aftermarket Leather Interior on your 3000GT seats
   

This install page's latest incarnation is now here in the install section.

I drive a '95 3000GT, and I just realized this car is over 10 years old now. Now, I keep it in pretty good shape, watch the paint, make sure it is waxed professionally with all the tips the guys at Meguiar's could give me, etc.

Do you have questions?
Want to know specifics about models available, colors , stitching, shipping, etc?
Call the guys at leatherseats.com. They have several hundred different patterns for just about every make and model.

LeatherSeats toll free # is:
1-866-639-7328.
You can also email at sales@leatherseats.com.

 

I take care of the engine as well as possible, change the oil, etc. Maintenance is definitely on my mind. But there's an odd thing about my cars leather.. after 10+ years, it's just been around too long. It's do ne... no leather conditioner will work on this puppy. I never saw it 'brand new'. As far as I know, it's pretty nice compared. to, well, 4 years ago when I bought it. Man was I wrong.

The fact is leather can be as nice as possible from the factory, but use and wear and tear are unavoidable, and your seats become the glaring indicator of just how old your car really is. This show car got "Is that new" all the time. when the doors are closed. I got "what year is this" much more often with the doors open. because they could tell by the seats it was getting pretty old, as my seats became torn and tattered.

Interior wasn't even in my top 10 things to do.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of my interior earlier. It's not something you think of first off in this world of body kits and neon lights. but it should be. It's such an incredibly omni-present piece to your cars appearance. Sure, YOU don't see them so much when you are seated, but you sure as hell feel them in comfort every moment of the drive, and every time anyone else looks at your car, be it a show or just driving around, it WILL be seen just as much as that front lip you bought. probably more.

So why don't people do a new leather installation? We'll, it's going to cost more than that front lip. and I think the main reason is the installation is going to cost a bunch on top of it.

Well, we're all a bunch of do-it-yourself guys, and watching someone do an installation on our car is for someone else. We want to install it ourselves. and you can.

That's where aftermarket leather interiors come in.

You can get a substantially better price on top of the line leather that any "professional" installer would be using, and all we have to do is spend a little time doing it ourselves. It can be any color, any style, different color sticking, two tone. and best of all it uses your stock, very comfy seats as the base, and makes them comfortable again. (Yes, they get A LOT more comfortable. after installing mine the difference was amazing. I had no idea how broken down my seats were.

The big thing holding us back is. can we do it ourselves? I thought of a leather install like my transmission. just not something I want to touch because I know nothing about it, and if I screw it up, what then? Well, luckily I had my hand held through the beginning, and I must say, it got me to make the first snip, but I really didn't need it. And now that I know, I'm going to tell you too, because it really isn't that hard, and for the benefits, it is a NO BRAINER.

So where do we start?

Well the start is actually the fun part. Head over to leatherseats.com. There are flashier websites on the web, but there are not better companies or prices. I know this because I dealt with them all. LeatherSeats answered their phone and stayed on the line for about 40 minutes while I asked every question in the book, worried about whether or not I could do it. and that was leatherseats.com. That's the sort of support I want, and I stuck with them. It didn't hurt the pricing was great, and that's why I stayed with them and eventually worked out a deal.

It also didn't hurt at all that they had already written an installation overview for the DIY Network using. you guessed it: the 3000GT. It just so happened when I called the guy I spoke with was working on a. yeah, 3000GT. Seems it was in the stars.

Take your time deciding what look you want for your new interior.. This leather is going to last a long time, so make sure what you pick isn't the fad of the moment. Get familiar with all the color options, stitching color, etc. You can get perforated or not. it's your call. Just think it out. Maybe right now blue and yellow seats seem really cool, but imagine that in 4 years when you're not a UCLA student or not showing your car as much as you thought you would. Think long term and stylish.

Luckily my decision was easier because the Spyder is classic styling and my design cues have never been "wild" but rather going for a more "tasteful exotic". I went with two tone seats. charcoal on the outside, and "slate" on the inside. When my kit arrives I was pleasantly surprised; these matched my stock beige color and the gray on my interior so close it was amazing.

Now that I've picked my color and got my leather kit in the mail it's time to get started.

Lets get to the tools now.

The tools I needed were pretty simple. To start off you need "Hog Ring Pliers". Here's what they look like:

Actual Hog Ring pliers

They are used with. you guessed it, hog rings. Here's what hog rings look like:

Actual Hog Rings

You put the hog ring into the pliers like this:

Actual Hog Ring Pliers in actual use

And the pliers easily bend the hog ring into a nice triangular ring shape that will hold whatever is attached to it in place pretty easily. If this looks familiar, it's because this is the exact same thing they use on fences to keep the chain link attached to the poles. As a matter of fact, while there's all sorts of fancy Hog Rings out there for you to buy, the ones I bought said "Chain Link Fence tension Wire Clips: Hog Rings" on the front. I bought a bag of 200 at the local OSH Hardware for about 4 bucks. The pliers right in the same area were about $9.50.

I also bought a pair of snub nose wire cutters to take off the old hog rings. The snub nose is so that mechanical advantage is on your size and the stock rings get snipped easier. If you don't have these, buy them. they were about 12-16 bucks, and well worth the time I saved trying to use wire cutters or some other totally inappropriate tool. Having the right tool for the job is essential, and I guess that means my dad was right about at least one thing.

Now you have what you need to start, so get going!

Where to start, where to start.

Start in the back. As you well know the back seat of a 3000GT is best suited for newborns and those shorter than 4 foot nothing. Chances are while you the new leather for the back seats you wont miss them too much. Why did it take me three hours? Mostly because I was enjoying the learning curve, seeing how the stock leather it attached to the car, etc. Once you get a good idea for how the stock leather is attached with the stock hog rings, you'll have a good idea for how the rest of the project is going to go. just different places for the rings to be. This comes fairly quickly because it's pretty obvious.

I should probably mention that I brought my back seats in from the garage and did the entirety of this project sitting on my couch watching movies. There's no reason why this can't be a relaxing project, and frankly, rushing it won't help at all. Take your time, and it'll be better served all the way around. I did the 'seat back' of the back seat first.

The leather for the back seats comes off like unwrapping a package. As you cut all the rings it will unwrap slowly, and then you can pull it off. Be careful that you pay attention to where the rings were, what they were holding onto, etc. This will help things to be more intuitive when you put the new leather on as you'll have an idea of what they are talking about.

Chances are the old hog rings were attached to a metal wire. These hard metal wires go throughout all of the different areas of your interior and form a skeleton for which the leather attaches too. Some of the other things the leather will hog-ring too is parts of the metal lacing that runs through the backs of the interior. This part looks most like what a bed spring pattern looks like.

That's going to be pretty easy..

...so now we'll show you the front seats. If you're worried about the backs, just go over this tutorial, because we will cover all the same stuff.

Removing the seat from the car

How do you get the seat somewhere to work on? First, get the seat out of the car by removing the 4 bolts holding it to the car. Look underneath as power seats have some wires that need to be disconnected. The connectors are easily visible. They are easier to get at if you unbolt the seat first and tilt it back to get underneath.

This is a good opportunity to clean your carpet too. If you don;t have a steam cleaner, get "tough Stuff" foam carpet cleaner. Scrub your stains out with it, following the directions. It's awesome stuff, and you won;t get a better opportunity to get at your carpet easily.

Stock OEM 3000GT seat.. passenger side. Old, broken down, stained & destroyed

The seat is basically 2 pieces, the back and the base. We will start with the back as it's easiest to start taking apart. You'll want to take off the seat backing first. Accessing the screws under the plastic covers is easy.

The backside of a front seat.. amazing

There's the plastic covered screws at the bottom. Take those off, and the piece slides out with a few metal tabs from the top of the seat towards the bottom.

Hiding under the plastic covers is an ordinary screw.. amazing

OK, so i forgot you'd need a screwdriver, but it's still easy.

Already we can see the leather edges and the stock hog rings

The back is off, and we can now see what you will be getting very aquatinted with now.. the wire framework underneath the leather. This is about it every one.... once you have an idea of how the OEM hog rings are holding the stock leather on to this metal framework, you've seen everything to co me... because it all attaches this way.

Snub Nose Pliers cutting the first hog ring. It has begun!


It might be a good time to point out that the stock "hog rings" are very small, copper looking, and round. They didn't actually use hog rings like we are using, because they have big robots to put these rings on. Just don;t freak out because their rings are small, and ours are much bigger and angled (triangle). The leather will still pull tight and be fine. The bigger hog rings are much easier to work with as well.

Continuing to cut the hog rings

After unwrapping the leather from the backside you can get at the front side hog rings. Some of the hog rings are pretty easy to see, and of course there is a pattern to where they are placed. You'll get a feel for how many inches they are apart. You'll feel tension in some places and know one is there, and dig down to get at it. All the while, keep in mind that you'll need to put hog rings back in these spots, so don't forget where it is.

Peeling back the old leather

You can see 4 spots where the hog rings where in the center. Those 4 spots were the place that brought in the leather at the seams. You might be able to tell that there is still one hog ring up there in the corner.

Leather pulled taught underneath the seat

As you pull away the leather you'll see all the different ways that the leather is attached. Keep all of this in mind, as there will be a test.. when you put the new leather on!

Snub Nose Pliers cutting a hog ring off a metal framework piece.

here's a good shot of a hog ring on the metal framework. This framework is where all of your hog rings will end up for the leather. The metal runs through and back out of the foam that makes up the cushion of the seats. Take care not to pull so hard on it that you tear the foam.

Plastic Clip on base of seat. Your foot may look different.

To the left here you can see a plastic tab piece that wraps the front leather down and pulls it taught. It's one of the few places that hog rings aren't what's holding the leather, but it is still easy to detach.

Seat with the base off

I found it easier to just remove the seat base to do it. You'll see as you work how to get at the leather and attach the hog rings easiest. This is also a good opportunity to clean your chair.. I took some soap, water, and then armor all to the plastic recliner lever and surrounding plastic. It's almost impossible to get to all of this in the car, so why not take a few minutes to get it looking perfect?

 

Here we got the headrest piece out. You push the base together & it comes right out. Note where the hole is, because once the leather is wrapped, you'll need to poke a hole so you can shove that piece right back in.

Shoot to the future.. the headrest position piece goes back in.

This is out of order, but here's how we put the headrest piece back in. Just a relatively small hole is good to push the piece through, and the leather will stretch. If it is too small, just cut it a little more. remember you can cut more, but you can't cut less, so go slow and watch the leather stretch as it goes in.

Starting to put on the new leather!

Laying out the new leather to see what goes where.

Now that you've stripped the old leather off, it's time to put the new leather on. You have to keep in mind that you have to do the innermost hog rings first. The inner rows of the seams we mentioned before need to be done first. Then work your way out, until you get to the edges. I took one row at a time, and as you work it's obvious how this should go. If you end up missing something, you can always cut the hog ring and go back and get the one you missed.

There is allot of room for error and if you do mess up it's not the end of the world.

Take care to massage the leather into place. It's not plastic.. it stretches and bends. It also sticks, so sometimes you may need to lift up and pull over a corner and get it into the right place. Make sure that you get the leather fitted on the part you are working on carefully. It is easier to go slowly and look at corners, making sure the peaks/corners of the leather are on the peaks/corners of the foam.

 

Leather base reattached

here we are with the leather reattached at the base. The back is done at this point. Lets take a look.

Back done without the base attached.

here you can see the back on and done. You'll notice some creases in the leather. These can be massaged out for the most part, and of course after a few weeks the leather relaxes and these creases pretty much go away completely. You can see the plastic clean too... the seat is looking better than new!

Seat ready to go back in.

Here's the finished seat, ready to go back in! The power seat is heavy and unwieldy, so if it seems like you can;t get it back in get someone to help guide it. Those wrinkles will relax in time as the leather stretches slightly to fit the seat. You can see the backseats are already done and installed as well!

Let's see how it looks in our 3000Gt Spyder!

Looking brand new and better than ever
Side angle
Close up and blinging

Your initial reaction to new leather seats, besides the obvious complete updating of the look of the car, is how they FEEL. What you don;t realize is that the old broken down stretched leather over the years lost all of it's comfort. I used to think the foam did all of the cushioning, but it really is the leather seats that makes all of the difference. The seats felt brand new, and I couldn't believe that they were my old seats. If I hadn't done it myself I'd think the foam had been replaced.

So what are you waiting for.. this is THEE mod to do to your ride, and nothing else changes a car so entirely than new leather. You feel it, you see it, and you'll love it!

Do you have questions? Want to know specifics about colors available, stitching, shipping, etc? Call the guys at leatherseats.com. They were extremely knowledgeable with my car, and have several hundred different patterns for all sorts of cars, not just the 3000GT.

Their toll free # is 1-866-639-7328.
You can also email at sales@leatherseats.com.

 




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