Sunday, June 25, 2017

Interior Modernization Project, Part 7 - Some Optional Stuff!

With the leather fiasco behind us, it was time for Cesar and me to start thinking about exactly what would be covered in leather, what would be left alone, and what parts might end up being covered in a material other than leather.

Cesar initiated the conversation by sending me the following photos, with the wooden stick pointing at the part he was wondering about.  A keen eye will also spot the white pin stripe taping, which indicates where we were discussing where the red stitching might go.
Instrument Gauge Surround

For the gauge surround, Cesar pointed out that this trim piece is very susceptible to scratches. He proposed to cover it in leather, unless I was going to cover in a special plastic paint or made into carbon fiber.  After some discussion, we agreed wrapping in Alcantara would be the best solution.
This central dashboard piece.
 Since mine is a Series 3 (kohki) version, the finish of this central dash piece feels almost sandpaper like. Cesar didn't know that, and due to it being easily scratched proposed it also be wrapped in leather.  I told him no need, I would order a new piece in Japan, with a new driver's side window controls to match.
Center console coin tray
Next was this center console bit.  As you can see, whoever owned this previously had installed two switches or lightbulbs and had drilled out two holes there.  Cesar again proposed leather.  I was more interested in carbon fiber, except I wasn't sure who I could find who could do so. Since this piece pops out of the console, we agreed to worry about this piece later.
Handbrake and handbrake boot
 Cesar wanted me to send him my handbrake and boot, which he would rewrap in the Cardinal leather to match the rest of car.  Easier said than one, because I still wanted to keep my car operational so I wasn't about to remove the handbrake.  Instead, I found one on eBay, however the seller refused to send to Mexico, so I had it sent to me instead here in Japan, and I would forward it on...
Shift boot and plastic frame
Cesar offered to wrap the plastic piece in leather. Again however since I planned to get a new piece that would match the central dash and the driver's side window switch controls, I told him that I would send him my shift boot (which I had to modify to work with the Getrag) as well as the plastic frame. I sent him the below annotated photo, just in case:
Red - leather; Yellow - leave alone; Pink - carbon, hopefully
As for the piping, I thought it looked great (he had actually sent me a video showing the white tape applied all over the interior) because it was actually fairly conservatively done. Too much red stitching might look over the top, but we wanted a look that was OEM, and the stitching to be actually functional, as if the cow hide had to be stitched together by design.

Incidentally, I had also proposed some ideas as well. Being that no one is allowed to smoke, eat or drink in my car, I decided that the ashtray at the rear of the center console was useless.  I had a couple of ideas:
Apologies to the copyright holder of this photo. 
Again, sorry to the copyright holder.
Cesar liked both ideas. I thought that the air vent would be useful, however while the USB outlet would only require two wires running to it, the air vent would require not only, some kind of tubing from the air con unit, I would have to find a third party vent that would fit in the rear console space. So the air vent would be a technical challenge.

And then, as fortune would have it, one of my fellow R33 GT-R owners by the name of Marc Binet (Belgian guy) showed me some R33 GT-R interior parts he had himself reskinned in carbon fiber:
I was particularly impressed with how cleanly the carbon weave was - it's straight everywhere.
Wow! Except for the gloss, this might work very well. 
 When I talked to Marc about doing this coin tray in full carbon, it turned out that all the extra curves, not just in the coin holder area but in the larger square area, would make the job more difficult.
This was for reference only. I wanted this piece to be leather.
Choices, choices. 
So I had found my carbon fiber part supplier. For anyone interested, I would advise them to contact Marc. His pricing is incredibly affordable, and as you can see the work quality is fantastic! (You can see more of his work here.) Tell him I sent you!

The hard part for me was, trying to decide what parts in the car interior to do in carbon, versus Alcantara or leather.  But meanwhile Cesar started work on the dashboard...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Interior Modernization Project, Part 6. More Parts!

So after coming to the conclusion that there was no way to "save" the "Bentley" leather that Hydes had sent, we went ahead with Plan B, which was for me to pay Cesar for the replacement cost of the Wildman & Bugby "Cardinal" automotive grade leather he already had in his workshop.

And even though this was a quick and easy decision for me, at no time did Cesar push me to make this decision, instead he kept sending me comparison photos like this one to make sure I really was comfortable with my decision.



But by now, I wasn't willing to give Hydes a second chance, and frankly at this point, if Cesar said it was good stuff, then I believed and trusted him. So, minimal down time, not all is lost as we decided to go ahead with the W&B leather.

It was actually during this time (while I was arguing with Hydes for a refund, unsuccessfully) that Cesar went ahead and fixed the glove box door and the airbag cover, as shown in his other videos I posted previously. However, I had also decided to send in the pieces from the interior that were missing. So I got busy and started removing parts from my interior.

My finger is pointing to a hole I drilled out. This was so I could run the electric cables for my ETC card reader as well as the Blitz Boost Controller that both usually reside in the glovebox.

Also, Cesar mentioned he needed the lock cylinder

The other pieces are the plastic under the dashboard above the driver's left leg, as well as the ignition key surround.

The arrow points to a wear point on the left rear passenger side panel
 - I'm hoping that the leather will make it look much better!

I can't even remember what caused this. Maybe when I removed the seat once and it rubbed up against this?

The hidden side isn't much better, with broken tabs and the staples holding the vinyl on loosening. So, the re-upholster with the leather came just in time?

Packed up, ready to go...

And about a week later...


So now, all interior parts (except front door inserts) had been sent to Cesar. I was hoping I would not have to send the front door inserts, so at this time I was still search Yahoo Auctions for a Series 3 interior.

Meanwhile, as I describe in my next post, Cesar and I began discussing details...like carbon fiber and alcantara...

Interior Modernization Project, Part 5.5. More Photos of the Sub-Par Leather

Sorry everyone, I was planning to write about some parts that were sent to Cesar while this whole leather fiasco was happening, but I stumbled upon some more photos that Cesar had send to me when he first received the leather hides and unwrapped them in his workshop - I think they show just how bad the leather from Hydes really was!

Cesar also wrote a comparison between this leather and the "Cardinal" automotive grade leather he had obtained from Wildman & Bugby.

He first concluded that both appear to be chrome tanned "full grain automotive leather"  - he noted that:

"1. Both have a natural surface... it means, the bovine hair was removed and the tanners left the 'natural imperfections' on top... more on (the one from Hyde's).

2. Both are 'aniline through dyed'... it means, while tumbling procedure the 'aniline tint' penetrated through into the crust.

3. Both are pigmented on top, probably two or three coats of pigment... (the W&B one) shows a uniform coat while (the Hydes one) shows different shades.

4. Both were slightly embossed with a very thin grain pattern on top... (W&B)'s leather has a uniform embossing all over and (the Hydes) looks similar, but it seems to have another slight embossing pattern over it.

5. Both have the 'automotive finish'...it means both have a special sealer on top...(W&B)'s looks a little more flexible and (Hydes)' looks brittle. This 'sealer' is a coat of lacquer (probably three coats for automotive daily traffic purpose) to add firmness and protect the material from water, UV rays from the sun, and other agents that could cause damage to the surface. (Hydes)'s leather looks more plasticized than (W&B)'s...my teacher Paul Ford, a leather restorer from New Zealand, taught me that a good lacquer should have also pores to let the material breath, otherwise, imagine, the leather sealed as a plastic...leather is an organic material and needs to be feeded, moisturized once in a while as if it were a human skin.

Now, I am going to describe the smaller leather material between...it is a 'top finished leather' or 'corrected leather'...it means before full grain embossing, it was ironed with a big roll or press to erase all of the natural imperfections, scars, mosquito bites, etc. in order to get an almost uniform surface, so the embossing pattern would look uniform as the sample I show in the video...this 'corrected leather' is less valuable than a 'full grain leather'.

So, an 'automotive full grain leather' which was ligthly embossed with a smooth pattern is always going to show the imperfections a natural leather has. I wanted to comment you this, because you have to be conscious that some very minute imperfections would appear on top...it means, it is natural leather and not a full embossed leather as a vinyl...but of course!, not too much imperfections, as the supposed bentley's...that is why, good leathers are sorted out in a tannery."

I'll let you readers draw your own conclusions...











Infuriating, isn't it? I guess if Hydes had apologized and refunded even part of what I had paid, I wouldn't be so upset...in any case, I'll post about the parts as I originally planned, tomorrow!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Interior Modernization Project, Part 5. Leather Finally Arrives but...

The leather from Hydes finally arrived, direct from Arzignano, Italy!

Unfortunately, the first thing Cesar noticed after he unwrapped the packages was that the leather was skived to 0.7-0.8mm, so thin that in places, there was barely any leather left!



Now, we could probably work around that, but if you look closely, you can see that the leather appears to have polygonal lines in the leather... not good.















Additionally, there were areas where Cesar ran his standard tests - he first squeezed some parts of the leather to check on the pliability - and found that, the leather lacked this quality. Good leather, he said, recovers its form almost immediately, while this leather remained like "a piece of tissue paper."  He also conducted a stretch test, and found it good - it stretched and came back to its original dimensions almost immediately.  He then tested to check to see if this was actually automotive leather - he rubbed it several times with a white rag and no pigment was removed, affirming that it was automotive grade leather. However, he did mention that it appeared very plasticly, like cheap pleather sold in the USA.

In response to this, I immediately contacted Hydes and tried to see what kind of support they would give me. The short answer - NONE! No rebate, no discount, nothing. Plus, they insinuated that Cesar didn't know what he was doing.

Reading between the lines, my GUESS is that Hydes simply buys left surplus leather from Italy, and arranges shipment to its customers. Sometimes, they get good stuff, other times like in my situation, not. But Hydes likely cannot give me a discount or refund because they themselves are not in control of the process. They DID offer to try to sell the leather to me, but I would have to pay for shipment to Canada... uh... NO.

Meanwhile, Cesar was trying to figure out a way to "save" the leather. He explored taking the leather to a local tannery to see what they could do, as well as to see if there was enough material around the damaged part that we could use...

We also sought a second opinion from Mr. Ashley Wildman of Wildman & Bugby, a well known UK supplier of leather, and someone who had supplied Cesar with automotive grade leather before. Without mentioning Hydes, we simply described the problem, where upon he gave me a full education on automotive leather. He also affirmed to me that Cesar knew what he was doing.

However, I did not end up buying anything from Mr. Wildman (he knew this going in). Instead, Cesar happened to have some automotive grade leather ("Cardinal") he had already ordered from Wildman & Busby (for his own project) and offered to sell them to me at his replacement cost. So this became the new plan.

While all of this took a few weeks to play out, sometime afterwards, Cesar made a video about leather and how to judge its quality, etc. for his youTube channel.


I should mention that, during this entire leather fiasco, the remaining parts needed to begin work on the interior, finally arrived at Cesar's studio in Mexico. I'll go into that detail in my next post.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Interior Modernization Project, Part 4. Parts Repair and Sending More Parts

As soon as Cesar unwrapped the dashboard that had been sent to him from the UK, he inspected the dashboard. And having never seen an R33 GT-R dashboard before, he video taped his inspection so I could review it as well.

Most obvious was the broken hinge for the glovebox door.  We also noticed some screws and the corresponding screw guides missing.  Cesar also claimed that he found a small imperfection on the central curved part of the dashboard, but reassured me he could easily fix this by leveling it out with some epoxy resin. 

In any case, you may have already seen the following video, where he ingeniously fixed the glovebox hinge (ironically, I would end up sending him my own glovebox, with door, because I had to send him the lock anyway, but I think his fix is probably better than OEM...)


He also noticed that one of the pins that guides the dashboard into the car body frame, was broken. And, he also spotted that the passenger airbag lid appeared to be off. So he went ahead and fixed these too.

Finally, we noticed that there were still some dashboard pieces missing... this meant that I would have to send him some parts off my own car or find pieces from Yahoo Auction.... Cesar explained to me that, even if the piece was not to be covered in leather, it would still be necessary to have it, in order to make sure there would be enough clearance once the leather was added (e.g., he would sand down the layer onto which the leather was glued, by the same thickness as the leather - a few millimeters).

The biggest piece missing was the center cluster - you know that massive piece that incorporates the A/C vents, has a 3 DIN opening for the sub gauges, HVAC and stereo, and curves around to the driver door.  
This piece!
Luckily as the GTR shares this piece with the other 33 models, I was able to find this cheap used one, and the seller agreed to send directly to Mexico.

The other pieces we needed and which I sent to him were: Steering column cover, left and right kickplates, the plastic piece above the driver knees, and the speedometer surround. (I mentioned some of these in my previous post).
The plastic piece above the drivers knees





























I immediately began thinking... carbon fiber or Alcantara...

You can see, at 7:00 in the following video, all of these pieces.



Having made my first contact with Cesar at the end of June, it is now end of July. In one month, good progress I think... except still waiting for the leather. Also, there are some other pieces I will have to send in myself, soon. These will include the glovebox lock and latch, the ignition key cylinder surround, the parking brake,  and likely, the two rear seat side panels... 

So far, so good! Except of course this is when Mr. Murphy and his Law came into play...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Interior Modernization Project, Part 3. Sourcing Some Parts...And Planning Ahead

After the leather was ordered, while we waited for it to arrive, I decided that it would make sense to start sending Cechaflo (first name: Cesar) the parts he would cover in leather.

Initially, the plan was to send in the inside door panels and the rear seat panels, and then do the dashboard/center console last, as I still need to drive my car once in a while I wanted to keep my original dashboard. It also didn't help that I couldn't find a used series 2 or 3 (with passenger airbag) dashboard.

This is when I got lucky - as I kept trying to find another dashboard, when I messaged my buddy Tim "Moff" Nichols in the UK. He's a fellow 33 owner/fan and also runs a car related business, The Moff Shop, where some of what he does is dismantling cars.  And yes he had an R33 dashboard and center console, and he was also happy to supply me with those pieces for this project!  So, I decided to hold off sending my door and rear seat panels, in the hopes that while Cesar worked on the dashboard, I would be able to find spare Series 3 pieces on Yahoo Auction or eBay.

Tim was kind enough to send over some photos to show that the dash appeared to be in decent condition...




So I paid for shipping and the pieces were on the way to Cesar. Thank you Tim!

However, because the dashboard was missing a few pieces, I ended up finding some more used parts on Yahoo Japan (one seller agreed to send directly to Mexico) and I also took some harder-to-find pieces off of my own car.

Like this gauge surround piece.
And this piece from the bottom of the dash, above the driver's legs
Meanwhile, while Cesar was waiting for these pieces to arrive, we began to discuss some of the detail work that I wanted him to do, for example, as he had never seen an R33 GT-R before, I had to explain what exactly I wanted covered in leather, and what I wanted left uncovered.
Red arrows for what would be covered in leather, and yellow for what is to be left untouched.
Pink to ask him what we should do there. 

We also discussed other details, such as his stitching technique, for example:







Incredible! I have no complaints here...
And as you likely saw in the Speedhunters article, he also showed me different thread spacing and coloring options:
Black wide stitching
Black narrow stitching
White wide stitching
White narrow stitching
Wide red stitching
Meanwhile I had my friend Russ, fellow car nerd (mostly FD3s) and known worldwide for his blog RE-xtreme, do some quick photoshop renditions to see whether red or white stitching (and single or double) would look good on the dash:
Single stitch red thread, mock up
Double stitch red thread, mock up
Double stitch white thread, mock up
And where would such stitching go on the doors and rear seat quarter panel?
Hmm. Maybe... I guess this car isn't really designed for stitching...
And the rear seat side panels, I guess this is the only logical way to do this?
After what seemed like an eternity, the dashboard and parts finally arrived at Cesar's shop in Mexico, and he promptly sent me some photos... And then he and his son produced a very slick video for the world to see.
Enjoy!