Rejuvenating (very dry) leather seats

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#1
I'm starting this thread to put my attempts at leather seat renovation in front of you guys. Hopefully it'll be successful, but we'll have to wait & see!

I've posted a few pictures elsewhere & repeat them here for completeness:

The seats are in my 1964 2000 'OCC' & I doubt that they've ever had any feed or care. This is the driver's seat after a bit of cleaning with general leather cleaner.

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However, after talking with others, I took the plunge & cleaned the leather with thinners which made a huge difference:

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This seat in particular is badly cracked although it is only the surface & not right through:

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I have tried feeding the leather on the rest of the seat with Autoglym leather balm, but it didn't soak in that well but this is probably due to there still being too much old colour on the leather. I then tried using steel wool in association with thinners & managed to get the back seat cushion like this:

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Some of the colour has been removed as can be seen. I have then used the above leather oil (from a saddlery shop) which is absorbed very quickly by the leather that has been prepared in this way, so will use it for the rest. It is very oily when you put it on:

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Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#2
Anyway, back to the driver's seat. After reading several reports & comments, I decided to treat the cracks with flexible leather filler. I had already soaked these successfully with the Autoglym leather balm many, many times before applying the filler.

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There is already one application in the above picture. The instructions say to use a hairdryer to dry the filler, but after a few days it dried naturally. It is almost like a cream when you put it on & dries to something like bath sealant!

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It can be sanded down, so I'll try that once it's reasonably level with the leather's surface.
 
#3
-I also used furniture clinic products on the interior of my P5B, I first used their product to soften the leather, then removed all the old paint with aceton and then used other of their products. Even fitted repair pieces in combination with the flexifill. It is 3 years ago now and still in excellent condition
Peter
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#4
I have now built up sufficient leather filler to sand it back a little:

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On the last application, I used a warm fan to dry it reasonably quickly, as the instructions advise a hair-dryer. As said earlier, the texture is a bit like bath sealant.

I have sat on the seat driving the car a few times since the filler was applied & it seems to be flexible but holding fast as well, so it's looking good so far.
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#5
I have now sanded the filler level with the leather surface & it's looking good:

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The correct colour for this interior is 'Biscuit' as mentioned before. Here is a piece of leather I cut from under a seat probably 12 or so years ago!

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The car's vinyl has hardly altered (except being a little dirty) but the leather is more like a faded 'Buckskin', so will really alter when it's re-coloured. Plenty to prepare before then, though.

This seat has been cleaned several years ago, but I never got the grab handle done on the door, so it's got 41 years of grime on it since it got laid up in 1978!

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I feel I'm making a bit of progress with this, but it's likely to be winter before it gets finished.
 
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Ban306

Active Member
#7
Well done Phil looks like a grate project keep up the good work may kindly ask are the seats in a P6 actually leather ?
 
#8
Mostly, except where they're ambla (vinyl) or cloth. Leather predominates though.

Yes, this is an interesting read. I'm generally more interested in interior than exterior renovation myself.
 

Ban306

Active Member
#9
Thank you for your reply Rovering, so the seats are a ambla vinyl with a bit of leather mixed in?
Same here I am interested in interior at the moment I working on remaking new door cards
 
#10
I wrote that wrongly. Ambla was the Rover version of vinyl which was used instead of leather & was mainly fitted to export cars. It survives the years much better than leather.
Most P6's have leather seats but it's only the seat facings that are leather, the seat sides & rears are vinyl. This is the case in the vast majority of cars from all manufacturers as leather is expensive. I don't know what percentage of P6's have cloth seats but as l said, leather predominates.
 

ghce

Well-Known Member
#11
Leather here in NZ on the earlier cars and ambla on the later cars, cloth only appears on the last of the runout P6's and of course on the VIP I spotted here in NZ a long long time ago.
 

PeterZRH

Well-Known Member
#12
Ambla is an ICI brand name and still going. Throughout much of its life the 3500S got Ambla as standard, leather an option. Remember the manual car was the cheap version and the 3500 the premium model.
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#13
I seem to have got the hang of removing the top shiny surface of old leather.

I had been wiping the leather with thinners then rubbing with steel wool, but the thinners evaporates so quickly that this is difficult. I decided to try dunking the steel wool in thinners before rubbing the leather & can report that this works much better :)

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The 4 right-hand fillets have been done here. The leather balm / dressing oil soaks in very well after this.
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#14
I've got a little more confident now & am revisiting those parts that I've already done. The end result is the removal of most of the colour except that that is in the grain:

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The right hand side of this seat was done earlier & the rest of it has been done twice at this point. The leather in the fluting is especially supple now compared to what it was. Now for several more doses of leather dressing...

It's quite lucky that the exposed leather is similar in colour to 'Biscuit'; hopefully when I apply the colour it will cover well.
 

PeterZRH

Well-Known Member
#15
The colour you apply is usually water and PVA based. You can get good and quite durable results but you will lose the original feel of them and you'll need to avoid wearing jeans as the dye transfers. What you definitely need to do is condition the leather until you can't condition it any more as it will no longer be easy to do it in future as it effectively seals the seat.
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#16
The colour you apply is usually water and PVA based. You can get good and quite durable results but you will lose the original feel of them and you'll need to avoid wearing jeans as the dye transfers. What you definitely need to do is condition the leather until you can't condition it any more as it will no longer be easy to do it in future as it effectively seals the seat.
Thanks Peter.

I’m hoping they turn out better than that! I did the process many years ago on a P6 but not as thoroughly & they were pretty good.

Also, I’m taking my cues from a friend (sadly no longer with us) who did a cracking job on his P6.

I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed! They should certainly be better than they were....
 

Demetris

Well-Known Member
#17
To add further on what Peter said about conditioning after painting with these materials, at least in my case they resulted on seats that became sticky, mainly during the summer, and the paint sometimes transferred itself to the clothes.
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#18
What you definitely need to do is condition the leather until you can't condition it any more
I must have liberally applied 4 coats of dressing to each seat. They're just now starting to take a little longer to absorb it all, but they're still dry again in 3 or 4 minutes :oops:. I'm going to buy another tin tomorrow :D
 

Phil Robson

Well-Known Member
#20
I've now got all the leather colour stripped (as far as I can anyway) & have soaked everything in "Leather Dressing" at least 5 times :oops:. Some surfaces are now beginning to have had enough & are taking time to soak in - I thought it was never going to stop!

This is a stripped seat squab vs. a cleaned but original squab for comparison:

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The stripped leather certainly feels softer & supple to the touch (some parts better then others), whereas before it was smooth & hard.

The next step is to do the colour so I have now ordered a leather recolouring kit from 'Woolies' & I am sending a sample of original leather to match to.

In the meantime, I considered whether or not to recolour the vinyl parts of the interior. I know there's special 'paint' for this, but I did do a whole interior with the leather colour many years ago & it came out pretty well. Anyway, this time I decided to thoroughly clean the vinyl to see what it was like. I tried with white spirit & then leather cleaner (a 'Decosyl' type fluid), neither of which made much difference. I then turned to the trusty thinners, which I knew would have to be used very sparingly as it can melt the vinyl. However, the results are quite amazing:

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What I thought was 'clean' was still ingrained dirt! Luckily, the cleaned vinyl's colour is very close to the leather's true colour :):

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(Colours vary in these pictures due to the various lighting conditions - fortunately they are consistent in real life!)

I'm therefore going to only recolour the leather & 'just' clean all the vinyl & hopefully they should look reasonably similar. Being separated by piping should help the deception! I intend to spray the leather colour on in many fine layers, so will have to mask all the vinyl which will be a pain to do, but hopefully the results will be worth it.
 
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