Saturday, December 29, 2018

Out with the old, in with the NEW (Robson Leather Steering Wheel Re-Do)

One last post to close out 2018, and appropriately by swapping out the old with new. Or at least "re-newed."

Some of you may recall a few years ago when I first switched over from the OEM steering wheel to an aftermarket one, I found a nice and rare but very used Ital Volanti Imola R wheel.

Because it was worn, I decided to get the wheel re-done in a nice black leather, with perforations on the side grip areas, at the world famous Robson Leather in Tokyo.  I was generally happy with the quality of the leather and the new thickness of the wheel, and it matched the OEM interior very well.

However, once I had the interior completely redone by Cesar in high quality leather... well I noticed that the grain of the steering wheel leather now did not match the smooth finish of the rest of the leather interior (the OEM interior finish has this wrinkled simulated "leather" finish). This could not stand, and the cognitive dissonance generated by this mismatch was driving me nuts.
See how the leather appears wrinkly? This was the original grain of the leather I chose for the first re-wrap.
At the time it matched the OEM interior better.
Luckily for me, Robson Leather always has a tent up at the annual NISMO Festival, so I undid a few Allen bolts and took the wheel with me to this year's NISMO Festival on December 2. The plan of course was to save a few yen sending the wheel in, as well as to be able to inspect for myself the quality and grain of the leather that would be used on this redone.

Moments after I walked up to the Robson Leather tent, Robson's president, Masa Nakamura, greeted me like an old friend and listened to my request.  Lucky for me this Nakamura-san is miles removed from a certain other Nakamura....yes I am still pissed off. Anyway, moving on...

The sample of Robson's Nappa leather against my wheel
Masa knew immediately what I wanted, and showed me a sample of their "Nappa leather." Strangely, while the color and the feel was what I wanted, the leather sample itself looked almost like pleather in terms of how it had been tanned and processed, especially on the non-exposed side.  Nevertheless, because the wheel is a high use area, I was satisfied with the almost plastic feel of the leather, because even if it was a lower quality leather than the "Cardinal" automotive grade leather from Wildman & Bugby in the UK that Cesar used for the rest of the interior, durability (which is what I assumed from how this leather felt) would be key here.

So, I requested a re-wrap of my wheel from Robson with the "Nappa leather" option with side perforations, as before. I was thinking about adding a red 1cm wide swatch to the center top of the wheel (as often seen in some recent sports cars), but when the Robson factory called later and told me that they could not guarantee it would be perfectly centered, I cancelled. Having that center stripe not centered would be super annoying for me...

Meanwhile, my car had no steering wheel.  I was told the work on my Ital Volanti would be "finished before the end of the month" - but I had no idea how long that the re-leather work would actually take. So, I found a cheap 6000 yen steering wheel on Amazon Japan, to attach temporarily, just in case I needed to move my car in a hurry.
Superfast shipping! I had in in less than 2 days!
Nice white cardboard box. Wrapped up well for a cheap wheel...
Not bad for 6000 yen, right?
The temp steering wheel arrived very quickly. As you can see, the material is a fake Alcantara and the diameter is smaller than the Ital Volanti, at 320mm. It also has a deep cone of 70mm. So I knew driving with this on would be interesting...and in fact, when I took the car out to get some gas, it felt weird. The wheel is probably too small, as the car felt twitchy, almost like a (very heavy) racing cart.  And the seating position was now weird too...

It doesn't look bad, but not great either and the yellow center strip didn't line up perfectly.
I was glad I didn't insist on this option for my Ital Volanti
Amazingly, fast forward only 2 weeks from the NISMO festival, and I got a package from Robson and inside:



Wow! Looks OEM in quality!
See how nice and smooth the leather is? Granted, this might be more expensive than elsewhere but for the awesome service and the quality I am not going to complain. Also, it's always good to have connections with people like Masa...

Here it is, installed... See how the leather of the wheel matches (at least in look) the leather of the rest of the dashboard and interior (the leather on the doors)?


Ok I realized that wasn't the best photo. How about from this angle?

Yes folks, quite awesome is the result! Thank you Masa and Robson Leather for restoring my faith in the Japanese aftermarket.  In 2019... yes my journey will continue in order to fix the remaining interior issues and the topical rust, but I'm also itching to do some more improvements in the mechanical area...

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a great holiday season, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year! Thank you everyone for reading and enjoying this blog. As always, drop me any questions or comments below.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

In practice leather is a kind of troublesome material so for anything that will be frequently touched/be exposed to harsh conditions it is usually coated which is probably why it feels like pleather.

Mot said...

Great way to send off the old year, with a new steering wheel.
Wish you all the best for the new year Aki :)

Matthew Adkins said...

Aki Ito! I finally found where to continue following your build, thank god! I really look forward to seeing updates!

Stefan J said...

A Nismo 365C or 365D would fit nicely with your interior.

Karl Donovan said...

"cognitive dissonance" Comment of the year! Having had my (option, keeping it real) MoMo steering wheel recovered, I can't put into words the amount of pleasure that can be obtained just by the feel of it..

Anonymous said...

happy new year! more updates please! we all live in jealously of your beautiful car! have a great year!