Planning for the Future…Looking for input 4

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One of the things I like the most about doing a restoration is the research and planning on what my options are for the finished product. The MGB is an excellent choice for a restoration because there are so many ways you can go and the parts are so readily available…for the most part.

Up until the Mazda Miata (MX5), the MGB was the most popular sports car ever imported into the US, with over 500,000 examples coming to our shores. Their popularity speaks volumes about the strength of their design and the fact that so many are still with us some 33 years after they left our shores, puts the lie to the old belief that they were so poorly built and unreliable. Today, almost every part is still available and there are many upgrades to bring modern technologies to all areas of the ancient engineering (i.e. brakes, suspension, performance and comfort).

The real question facing anyone undertaking a restoration is just how far they want to go in bringing the car into modern era. This is a matter of great debate among enthusiasts and there are as many opinions as there are people. They run the gamut from the absolute stock purists that demand everything be exactly as the car left the factory, to the modern day devotee who wants all the modern conveniences and upgrades, right down to power windows, door locks and A/C.

Who’s right? The answer is simple….YOU ARE. This is your car and the only person you have to please is you. After all, you are the one doing all the work, paying the bills and have to live with the results of your decision for many years. So there is really no correct answer other than what pleases your tastes and expectations. Build the car that you want, a car that pleases you and will that will make you proud and give you years of pleasure. Do your research, consult the experts…your friends and fellow enthusiasts, check out the blogs and boards and look at as many examples of other people’s cars as you can. Then go home, sit down and consider and weigh it all. Come up with what you want, then make it a reality. Know that you can always change it later, but be sure to make it yours.

For my part, I am blessed to have several different cars that I have taken different approaches on. My Triumph TR7 and my MGB Roadster are lightly to moderately modified and modernized. Their rehab included things like upgraded suspension components, modern/upgraded alternators and starters, beefed up wiring and lighting and a great sound system. They are great everyday drivers that have some upgrades to make them more comfortable and perform better. I took a different road with my Rover 2000TC. It is as close to stock as is practical, with few modern upgrades (which it really doesn’t need). Looking and driving this car is exactly as one would expect when it came out in 1969, with many of the original parts still looking and performing as designed. Sometimes perfection can’t be improved upon, and so it is with the Rover.

I am planning to take much the same approach with the GT. I would like to keep it looking as stock as possible, while making some subtle improvements for reliability and performance sake. I plan on keeping it the original color, which I really like and have had on several Triumphs in the past. (Changing the color of a car is a HUGE debate that causes many passions to flair…never mind painting it a non-stock color)! I have not made any firm decisions on the engine and will wait until I get a better idea of its condition. If it turns out that it will need to be rebuilt, I will have to make some significant choices at that point. (switch to a 5 main bearing engine, performance upgrades during the rebuild, etc., etc.) I do plan on upgrading the suspension slightly with poly bushings, leaving the rest pretty stock, but with new components.

The one area that I am still vacillating on is what to do with the interior? This is a decision that will be both very visible and directly impact on the comfort and enjoyment of the car. It’s also an area that the owner can really add their personal touches and make the car truly theirs.  Overall, I will keep the interior very close to stock with original carpet, seats and dash. I will make small upgrades that will be less noticeable, but will add to the comfort…things like additional sound deadening behind the panels and headliner, hidden LED lighting in the foot wells and putting a better stereo in the car. (I will use period looking modern components and work to hide the speakers).

I am looking for input on what I am considering doing when I reupholster the seats. While the current seats are in pretty decent condition, they could use a refresh and also lack the white piping that added a unique look to the interior of these cars. While I would love to reupholster the seats in the original leather, I am considering going with the cheaper vinyl seat covering and adding a bit of a unique spin to them.

Black leather/vinyl seating looks great, but can get quite hot in the summer. Anyone who has found themselves on a sunny day fidgeting on blistering hot convertible seats, knows the feeling of which I speak. While the GT is a hardtop, the seats can still get uncomfortable in the summer. The answer is cloth seats. While later GTs had cloth inserts in their seats, the early one did not. My thoughts were to add some cloth to the pleated area of both the front and back seats. I have found a very nice black and white hounds tooth cloth that would have a period correct look and add a nice, unique touch to the interior. To tie it in with the rest of the interior, I was also considering putting it in the top, ribbed section of the door cards and bordering it with black piping. Here’s the material, seats and door card…..

Front Seat with Insert  Rear Seat Insert Area

Door Panel Insert Area  yourautotrim-store_2269_167115075

This will be a project and I may even attempt to do the inserts myself, since I have access to a commercial sewing machine and Dirk just sewed his own leather interior on a 1932 Rover Riviera. I think it would add a unique touch and really personalize the car, all while making the interior a like more comfortable.

I am open for opinions, suggestions and other people’s experiences. I won’t be getting to the interior for quite some time, but I’d like to have a plan in place when I do. Please share your thoughts and opinions and maybe you can say that you had a hand in the finished car.

I await your comments…..


4 thoughts on “Planning for the Future…Looking for input

  1. Reply Paul Zink Dec 2,2013 8:27 AM

    The idea of having houndstooth cloth inserts on the seats is interesting and has practical benefits, but I’d think carefully, because it’s a very traditional — perhaps signature— German car interior design element (witness early Porsche 911s, M-B 300SLs, etc,). So, do you want to sacrifice a traditional English touch like roll and tuck seat upholstery for a Teutonic look? If it were my car, I’d replace the original seat facings with same style. It has that wonderful vintage look that makes the pre-69 MGBs look distinctly classic (just like the large banjo-spoke steering wheel, which I’d kill to have on mine).

    As for the doors, what I would do is add a black cut-pile carpet panel to the bottom third of the door, which is period looking and creates a discreet and luxurious look. You can even get door panels finished like this from the UK.

  2. Reply Kurt Steele Dec 2,2013 2:35 PM


    That’s a very good point about the Teutonic look. My idea was to add a bit of cloth to help make the seats a little more comfortable in the hot weather. Maybe just add a plain black material, rolled and tucked like the original style. It achieves the same look, but adds the comfortable cloth insert.

    I also like your idea about the carpeted door panels. Good call. Do you have a source for them? I’m in talks with The Roadster Factory in PA. they have a shop (the Magic Carpet Co.) that makes most of their soft wares and can add in the cloth inserts. While I’m a long way from worrying about the interior, I just want to have a plan as I get funds.

    Thanks again for the input!!

  3. Reply Kurt Steele Dec 6,2013 3:57 PM

    After getting more feedback offline and speaking to others, I am leaning towards agreeing with Paul. I think that the hounds-tooth fabric isn’t the right look for an MGB. While it certainly would be a nice, contrasting touch, it just may be too German looking for a British car.

    I am now looking for sources for a plain black woven material to do the tuck and roll sections with. I’ll also probably limit the cloth to just the seat areas and go with Paul’s other suggestion of putting carpet on the bottom section of the door panels. That will be a nice look.

    On a wholly different subject, I found a source for white-faced Smith gauges in the UK. Now that’s a cool look. Once I get some good photos, I’ll be sure to post them for all to comment on.

  4. Reply Dave LaChance Feb 18,2014 4:06 PM

    Kurt, if you like the houndstooth, don’t rule it out for its “non-Britishness.” Triumph used a check just like it — in fact, I have black-and-white houndstooth upholstery in my Spitfire.

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