Cocomats: An Enduring Motoring Accessory Revived Thanks to a Chance Encounter

Paid article presented by CocoMats.

 

What helped define a sports car back in the day? A snarling exhaust, just the right amount of chrome, and a set of cocomats. 

You could have ordered a set of these iconic mats as a factory accessory item from your Porsche, Mercedes Benz or BMW dealer or right out of the Vilém B. Haan catalog advertised in every issue of Road & Track. You just needed to specify the application and color. A heavy-duty vinyl heel pad for the driver came standard. 


Cocomats, as found in the Porsche 356B accessory catalog.

Cocomats, as the name suggests, were woven from coconut fibers. The end result was a long-lasting mat that offered depth, texture and insulation while allowing moisture to circulate–remember, not all cars came fully carpeted back in the day, so these mats might’ve found themselves sitting on top of steel floorboards or a simple rubber mat. 

These cocomats were also self-cleaning, since dirt would simply fall through the material. End result: a rich-looking mat with few, if any, downsides. 

From the ’50s and well through the ’70s, cocomats served as a popular choice. They worked in anything: Benz or Beetle, Morgan or Mini. American or Japanese marque? Cocomats fit well there as well. 

By the middle of the ’90s, however, cocomats had been conscripted to time. An era had ended.

Cocomats: Back by Luck

A stroke of luck in 1996 reintroduced cocomats–all thanks to a shipping snafu. 

Jeff Allwine, an importer of clothing at the time, had ordered a sample shirt from a factory in India. Instead of the shirt he ordered, however, he received a parcel with a sample of woven coconut fibers. 

The contents of that parcel from India were supposed to go to the United Kingdom. Somehow, they landed at Jeff’s California home.

“Well, it was a mistake that I got the cocomat package in the first place,” he explains. “I was supposed to have gotten a sample pique knit shirt from India, and DHL had somehow switched the contents of the package and I received some woven coco matting.”

But–and there’s always one–he continues: “What really got me going and excited is that I was in a Beck/Arnley foreign parts and accessory shop a day after getting the package, and someone walked in and asked if they had any of those coco car mats.”

That encounter triggered a demand switch, he explains, so he did some research: No one was making cocomats at the time, so he contacted Gary Emory from Parts Obsolete–father of Porsche outlaw builder Rod Emory–and bought a couple of old vintage sets to inspect and copy. 

Then Jeff contacted that factory in India: Could they supply more material? 

Jeff launched his own cocomat company–simply named CocoMats.com–later in 1996 but performed a few updates. He added a nibbed rubber backing that helps secure the mats and also stops dirt from going into the carpet. “All you have to do is shake them out or bang them against a tree and all of the dirt comes out and they look like new again,” Allwine explains.

After time in California and then Connecticut, CocoMats.com is now located in Fort Mill, South Carolina, a city with a rich tradition in millworks. 

More Colors, More Offerings

Today’s offerings dwarf those of yesteryear. First, more colors: Back in the ’60s, you had fewer than 10 choices; today, that number tops 20, in a mix of solids and multi-tones. 

“We also send out free swatches of any of our colors so customers can lay the swatches in their interior and make sure it complements their car’s interior,” Allwine explains. He also offers a high-tech option: “We also offer a virtual swatch that can be pulled up on an iPad or tablet and laid on the floor of the car to look at the various colors we offer.”

CocoMats.com isn’t just limited to those coco fibers. Sisal mats are offered as well. These mats are made using fibers from the agave sisalana plant. Compared to cocomats, sisal mats feature a thinner and tighter-woven fiber. 

“Lots of people use the name of coco and/or sisal in talking about cocomats,” Allwine explains. “They are different materials and offer different looks and characteristics and benefits. 

“Coco was the original mat started by Porsche–closely followed by other European can manufacturers–in the late 1940s,” he continues. “These were unbacked and laid over the rubber mat on the floors of their new 356 models and they helped to hide the dirt and add some color to the interiors. For instance, almost all of the earlier interiors were black, so if you had a red 356 and a black interior, you would put in black/red cocomats and that would dress up the car and keep it looking clean. 

“Sisal mats came in the ’70s and were in many cars. In fact, the Porsche that Steve McQueen drove in ‘Le Mans’ and that sold a couple of years ago to the Peterson Museum for over a million dollars had some old, raggedy black sisal mats in it. We had sold cocomats in black-white to the customer who sold it to Peterson Museum, but they had also saved the old sisal mats as well.”

The sisal material can also be woven into a checkered pattern, a look pioneered by BMW in the ’70s for their Campaign of Colors. 

A synthetic sisal, sold by CocoMats.com under the Nylon 6.6 model name, is also offered. “It has sisal look and feel but is a tough synthetic and lasts much longer than natural fibers and can be used in mud and snow conditions and always looks great,” Allwine explains. The CocoMats.com catalog also contains mats made in sea grass, woven vinyl and wool. 

In addition to more materials, more patterns are offered today as well. Custom applications are also possible: Existing ones can be modified as needed, or mats can be created from customer-supplied patterns. Need a cocomat for the cargo hold or as cover for folded-down rear seats? That’s also on the menu. 

Cocomats have been a timeless part of the automotive scene for more than half a century. “It is such a classic look and feel,” Allwine says. “It brings back so many happy memories for people.

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Comments
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Loved the Cocomats in my Mercedes. 

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/8/20 6:44 p.m.

I have them in many of my old cars and love them. Nice to finally learn the whole story.

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/8/20 10:20 p.m.

I worked for a cocomat dealer after graduating from school. Here's our catalog. I had sisal mats in my Sentra SE-R but it was new and sporty. Today I have cocomats from Cocomat.com in the 911. The checker ones would look good in the M3.

RWP
RWP New Reader
4/9/20 10:52 a.m.

Two comments:

1)  Coco mats are the best...sets in my Z3, E39 BMW 530, and Porsche Cayman.  

2) When I got out of army and back to school and work in Atlanta in '72, Automod was our local go-to store for all things sports car.  As I recall, owner was Brian......., nice guy.  

 

architect7779
architect7779 New Reader
4/9/20 11:02 a.m.

I have a set in my Evora - fantastic service & quality!

pdq356
pdq356 New Reader
4/9/20 12:54 p.m.

Some years ago I finished a 356 Carrera 2 in Oslo Blue with tan and registered it for the Cars in The Park Show on Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock. It had taken 4 years to finish but looked great although some what plain with the black rubber mat in front. At the last minute I ordered a set of the multi-brown mats from Jim that showed up the day before the show. The woman who was judging the '60's sportscars opened the drivers door, looked inside, saw the cocoa mats and said "I love those mats, I had a set in my MG years ago". I don't think she even looked at the engine or in the trunk. I won First place and got a trophy big enough for a bowling league award.  Now I put them in every Tub that rolls through my garage. They really make the car.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/9/20 1:40 p.m.

In reply to RWP :

Yep, Brian and Linda founded Automod. I can't remember where it was originally located, but when I worked for them, the company was based on Osborne Road in Brookhaven--just a few feet off PIB. Automod served as my grad school. In addition to cocomats, I learned all about Weber, Momo, Nardi, Zender, Kamei, Amco, Hella, Cibie, Koni and lots more. 

mikewilensky
mikewilensky New Reader
4/9/20 1:45 p.m.

Back in the late 1970's, I used to buy cocoa mats at Grand Auto for around $30.00 a pair. They were of pretty good quality. Today, I see them for sale online for well over $100.00 a pair! Goodness, at that price, are they worth it?

spider94r
spider94r New Reader
4/9/20 4:38 p.m.

Coincidentally, just this week I ordered a set for my Miata, and plan to get a pair for my Cayman, too. They are classic.

mrichlen
mrichlen New Reader
4/9/20 9:42 p.m.

Does anybody remember MG Mitten?  IIRC they sold cocomats. 

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/10/20 9:56 a.m.

In reply to pdq356 :

Wow, what a testimonial. Put these mats in your car and you will win the show. LOL

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/10/20 9:57 a.m.

I have mats coming for both my Boxster (the newer style explained in the story) and my GTI (the classics).

 

mbrouill
mbrouill New Reader
4/10/20 11:12 a.m.

In reply to mikewilensky :

$100?  I wish.  They start at $179.95 now adays

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