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Interior - backer boards - Oct 4, 2009

Before moving on to the next major part of this build (interior and upholstery), a brief note of explanation. Initially the plan was to have Dan TwoLakes do the interior. In fact, in a previous journal entry, I show the car being delivered to Dan’s shop.

As most of you are aware, Dan is an exceptional upholsterer. And because he is so good, he has a ton of business coming through his doors. And there were a lot of people in line for his skills ahead of me. And being the impatient guy that I am, when I finished with the overhaul of the engine and had nothing to do, I decided to alter my plan and take a stab at doing the interior myself.

So I fetched the car back into my own shop, bought myself a Tacsew upholstery sewing machine, ordered in the materials I figured I would need, and set off to climb a brand new mountain...custom interior work. And quite a mountain it has been already. With the exception of the very crude seats I made for the roadster project, I’ve never done anything of this sort before. So I’m learning with each step along the way.

Photo # 1 shows the first major challenge for this particular interior. The curves around the back and top the cockpit, the big curve over the rear window, and the curves running down each side of the car at the roof line. My first thought was to just cut corners (literally) and angle off these curves to make them flat areas. But everyone I talked with about this felt that took a great deal away from the esthetics of the car, and that the curves on the outside of the car should be shown on the inside of the car as well. But as I quickly discovered, making nice curves in upholstery backer boards is no easy task.

Photo # 2. I’m going to show you a number of failures here...just to demonstrate the learning process I have been going through, and also to alert you to some of the pros and cons of the alternatives I tried. My first idea was to heat and bend lightweight plastic to form backing boards for these curved areas. I had some abandoned ceiling fixture panels stashed away and made a number of attempts to bend and shape these lightweight plastic panels with my commercial heat gun. But no matter what I tried, I could not properly control the heating/cooling process and the panels would warp and twist in unwanted places. They were also somewhat fragile and difficult to cut accurately.

Photo # 3. At this juncture I read Don Taylor and Ron Mangus’s book “Custom Auto Interiors” to see how they formed curved backer boards. They highly recommend the use of heavy paper or chipboard, glued up in layers, to make the backers. So my next attempt was to use poster board and card stock (about the weight of a business card) to make something resembling a paper mache form.
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