Restoring the Tiger’s Interior

Thermo-Tec heat shield was very easy to use.
Paul Suddard (left) and Dieter Lange put a seat together.
We are very pleased with our nearly finished interior.

Although Tiger seats are needlessly complicated, the job was pretty straightforward.

Early Sunbeam Tigers offer something the later ones don’t—a variety of interior color choices. Where most Tiger interiors were black, black or black, our early car’s original color combination was Midnight Blue with Azure Blue interior and dark blue piping. Since we live in hot, sticky Florida, we are not tremendous fans of black interiors. We were thrilled to discover, after studying our car, that its original Azure Blue interior had been painted black by a previous owner.

We had also decided that we wanted to upgrade the interior materials from what came stock in the car. We looked and looked, but had a hard time finding a similar leather sample that matched the color that was in our car originally. The closest we found was from Spinneybeck. We were very impressed with both the quality and size of the hides we got from them, although at roughly $500 a hide (it took just over one hide) it was a bit more expensive than we planned. Once you cut into the second hide, you cannot return it. Had we been able to find a matching vinyl, we could have gotten away with only one hide.

We matched the Azure Blue carpet with carpet from Bill Hirsch. Again, we wanted to upgrade the carpet. We have always loved the look and feel of Wilton Wool carpet. This beautiful, soft carpet is found in cars like Rolls Royces. It may sound pricey, but $300 (15 yards) bought us enough material to just barely outfit our Tiger.

With materials in hand we made our own interior. We got started with the help of family member Dieter Lange. An upholsterer by trade, Dieter has been helping us with project car interiors since my first car when I was fifteen years old.

Although Tiger seats are needlessly complicated, the job was pretty straightforward. The first step is to carefully disassemble everything. You need to photograph and mark how every aspect of the interior goes back together. When it comes to the seats, you take them apart to their individual pieces of cloth. Again, you need to mark with chalk exactly how and where each section of seat attaches to another. You then cut patterns out of the new material and begin to sew the pieces back together. We picked up new foam and straps from Classic Sunbeam Auto Parts, which made the job a lot easier.

In the past, Dieter and I have had to recreate the foam—piece by piece if contoured foam for a car was not available. This step is very important for proper seat comfort and support. With the seats done we recovered the various interior panels, which was not very complicated.

We then turned our attention to the carpet. The Wilton Wool carpet is thicker than the cheaper stuff that came in the car, which made it a bit more challenging to work with. Before we laid down the carpet, we installed Thermo Tec heat and noise shielding, a very easy-to-use material. While we have not started the car yet, previous experience makes us feel that this is a very essential step in any restoration process.

We cut the carpet following the old carpet as a pattern and then bound the edges with dark blue piping material left over from the seats. Piping, by the way, is nothing but regular narrow strips of vinyl sewn around small-diameter pieces of rope.

We were able to complete our interior for about $1500 in materials and a week’s worth of work. This is about the price of a vinyl interior from any of the Tiger parts suppliers. We do have nearly $500 of leather left over for the next project we want to do in Azure Blue.

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