The Search for My Interior Shop

Afternoon everyone… thought I’d do a quick post to update you on my quest to find an interior shop here in Phoenix to handle the Chevelle.  I’ve now met with three shops (no names will be used since I haven’t decided yet)… one (Shop #2) was rejected fairly quickly because they essentially said “no” to just about everything I asked.  Not a great way to start with a prospective new client, wouldn’t you say?

Of the two other shops, I am presented with a challenge… namely, what value do I assign to quality craftsmanship and quality materials?

Both shops could do the work from a technical know-how perspective, but Shop #1 gave me a ball-park estimate of $4,000 to $5,000 for my interior.  Shop #3 gave me an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.  Keep in mind this is pretty much all-inclusive…  leather seat recovers, custom center console (leather wrapped), new customer headliner, new carpet, door panels, etc.  Right now the Chevelle has virtually NO interior so these prices include everything.

Now, at first glance those prices seem wildly out of whack.  That’s what I first thought, too.  Then I started asking questions.  Shop #3 only uses leather hides that conform to the standards once set by Connolly, the UK leather producer that supplied the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari and Aston Martin (Connolly stopped producing leather back in 2002 but their standards were maintained).  Click here to learn more.  This essentially means the coloring process goes all the way through the leather material, unlike cheaper hides where the color is a dye that is applied only to the surface of the hide (and thus wears out quicker), and Connolly standard hides are simply higher quality from the onset.

Shop #3 also has more experience with custom interiors, like what I have envisioned for the Chevelle.  That is not to say Shop #1 can’t do the work… I’ve personally seen examples of prior projects and they are top-notch as well, but Shop #3 has more years of experience doing custom work.  For example, I am looking to use 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO front bucket seats in the Chevelle.  That’s no problem for either company, but Shop #3 said the first thing he would do is replace the weak factory seat foam with new material since the factory stuff simply doesn’t last that long.  Shop #1 didn’t say anything about replacing the foam with new (not to mention custom) stuff.  These component costs start to fill in the gap between Shop #1’s estimate and Shop #3’s.

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you know that I am looking for true partners to help me complete this car.  Tony (Full Circle), John (M&M) and Sean (Top Gear) are exactly what I am looking for from an interior vendor.  Shop #3 impressed me with not only with the questions they asked, but the ideas they had on how to solve some of the tricky ideas I have, such as the stereo / navigation install I’m envisioning.  So… how do I value quality workmanship and quality material?  Is it worth it (to me) to pay an additional $10,000?  Perhaps.  I’ve waited more than 25 years for this project…. as Dina said to me this afternoon, “Why take the compromise route now”?   Sounds good, but an additional $10k?  Gulp.

So… the car is getting ready to head down to Mesa next Friday (3/22) so Sean can start the engine and transmission install.  I have approximately two months to contemplate my issue about the interior.  I have other companies to visit so perhaps I”ll find a clear-cut winner there.  My gut is telling me that I’m going to come down to “Shop #1”, which is quoting a cheaper price tag but is probably using an inferior leather product, or Shop #3, which has the higher price tag, but they bring the better material and the know-how to do it right the first time… and most importantly… craft an interior that will last my lifetime and then some.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts….   any feelings one way or the other?  If so, leave a reply below.  Thanks!!


A Quick PIcture Update

So, since you all survived my crazy-long post yesterday I figured I’d post a few pictures.   Just please keep in mind that the current work progressing isn’t quite as sexy or fun as the bodywork.  🙂

In these pictures you will see the work progressing on the new brake system… new booster/master/brake lines all installed.  Next up, bleeding the system and sealing it up.  You will also see the emergency brake lines hanging down… they’ll be strapped up soon as well.

Casey-Brakes-001 Casey-Brakes-002 Casey-Brakes-003 Casey-Brakes-004 Casey-Brakes-005 Casey-Brakes-006 Casey-Brakes-007

And the final picture is a fun shot I took just looking for an unusual camera angle…   Enjoy!



Update on the Electronics Package and Interior Work


Hello everyone!  I realize it’s been over a month since my last blog post… things are progressing but right now the work we’re doing doesn’t lend itself to frequent picture updates… we’re installing the brake system (master/booster and new stainless steel lines) and the new American Autowire wiring kit.  I promise I’ll try to snap a few pictures and post over the next day or so.

The subject of this update is more related to the upcoming work… specifically what I’m calling the “electronics package” and the interior work.  This one is a long read… just be warned!  🙂

Electronics Package
If you’ve had the chance to experience a car with remote start capabilities, you probably know how habit forming it can be.  Dina and I own a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ/RS with remote start via the key fob but also “worldwide” remote start via the Android app for On*Star.  Here in Phoenix our summertime air temps can reach 117 degrees or higher.  The temp inside the car is obviously far higher than that.  The ability to remote start our Cruze and let it run for 10 minutes with the AC on full makes a HUGE difference.

So now you understand why I was so excited when Dina forwarded me a link to the Viper website… no, not the former Dodge product… Viper Alarms.  They now offer a full alarm and remote start kit that uses a key fob AND Android/iOS smart app to remote start your car.  Even a 1971 Chevelle!  I’ve found a place here in town who specializes in their installation and they confirm it should be no problem whatsoever to install.  The Viper website has a compatibility chart but doesn’t go back as far as the 70’s.  It’s VERY cool tech for a tech-nerd like me.  I am opting for the GPS upgrade so I will receive alerts whenever the car goes outside of a geographical “fence” that I input into the system, if the car exceeds a top speed, etc.  The GPS upgrade also allows you to view the car’s location in real-time on your phone via the Viper app.

Once I get the car back from Top Gear, the next stop is SoundWerks (Bell Road and 41st Street in Phoenix) for the install.

I’ve also been doing a TON of research on new dash guage clusters.  With me moving to an LS-based engine we obviously have to make changes to nearly every support system in the car… fuel tank/fuel pump and sending unit, all the way forward to the radiator.  The car currently has a sweep-style Malibu dash that I plan to upgrade to a round-style SS dash.  That brings me to Dakota Digital and their VHX line of digital/analog hybrid gauges.  Click Here to visit their website!

While the gauge clusters come with analog (sweep needle) gauges, the technology behind it is 100% digital:


The cluster itself comes with speedo, tach, oil pressure, water temp, voltmeter, fuel level, odometer, trip odometer, 0-60 and quarter-mile timer.  That’s pretty significant for “out of the box” functionality, but the VERY cool part of the VHX family is the add-on modules that interface into the cluster, giving you the ability to monitor up to 16 additional sensors, all showing in the two LCD screens.  Neat and clean!   I’ve decided to buy modules that will add the following functionality:

* Independent temp sensors for each cylinder head (BIM-12-1)
* OBDII/CAN interface to my powertrain computer (BIM-01-1)
* Compass w/ outside temp (BIM-17-1)
* Fuel Pressure and Vacuum sensors (BIM-03-1)

Also, Dakota Digital has additional electronics modules that I’m planning to have installed:

* Electronic Cruise Control (CRS-3000)
* Retained Power w/ auto headlight control and interior light dimming (PAC-1300)

You’re probably starting to get the idea that I want to make my Chevelle into a rolling example of modern electronics conveniences in a nice, tidy 71 muscle car.   Once again I have my partners to thank on this…. Sean at Top Gear Motorsports will handle the VHX dash cluster install with all of the add-on modules, and Josh at SoundWerks will handle the Viper SmartStart GPS / Alarm install.

The last piece of the electronics package is the stereo system.  I have a number of ideas (based primarily on Pioneer autosound equipment) but final decisions will need to wait until I talk with my interior shop (TBD) about whether I will need a semi-custom dash.

And on the top of an interior… well, I have identified a number of potential shops in the Phoenix valley but I won’t start interviewing them until I get the car back from Top Gear and SoundWerks.  That’s right… for the first few months the interior of the car will be bare… two front seats, some seat belts and a wicked dash cluster.. but that’s about it.   Dina and I plan to tackle the DynaMat install right after we  get the car back from Top Gear but the rest of the interior will need to wait until I find the shop with which I’m comfortable working.  I can share some basic concepts so far:

* Two-tone grey leather interior.  I believe the gray colors inside will blend with the silver stripes on the body.
* Custom center console.   This might be where the new stereo resides, along with the AC/heater controls…  and two cup holders big enough for Circle-K thirstbuster cups!
* Leather or some kind of “soft touch” material to cover most (all?) of the hard plastic on the dash, A-pillars, etc.
* Front seats – I want them to be fully powered on both sids, with many adjustment points.  I loved the front seats from a 2012 Chevy Malibu LTZ but since that is a four-door car, the front seats don’t fold forward, which is required for a two-door car like the Chevelle.  Options include investigating some tilt-forward seat mounts, or different seats like something from a C6 Z06 for example.
* The rear seat package out of a 2012  Chevy Malibu measures almost the exact dimension of the Chevelle interior so we’re thinking of modifying one to mount in the Chevelle then cover it with the matching grey leather.  That would get us modern rear seat belts but also should net us the modern LATCH system for child seats (yeah, we might someday have a junior crewmember in need of a ride with Dad!)
* Aftermarket 3-point front seat belt systems (the 71 Chevelle came with the old-style two-belt systems.. one belt for the lap and a second belt for the shoulder)
* Huper Optik window tinting, so block maximum amounts of UV (critical in Phoenix for both heat reduction but also for interior material protection)

So… as you can see (and thanks for making it all the way through this long update!)… lots more work left on Renovatio.  Stay tuned!  If the schedule holds, she will be headed to Top Gear Motorsports the end of next week to start the engine/trans install!