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DIY: Interior reupholstering part 1 - The gluing

27 February 2011
Gothenburg, Sweden

Thought I would share my recently acquired knowledge of interior reupholstering. But first, I would like to give a big thanks to all the people who have contributed with their knowledge, expertise and experience to this great forum. I've gained a lot of insight and basically all the knowledge I have of the NSX originally came from reading up on hundreds and hundreds of threads and posts, and reading the wiki. So a BIG thanks!


My name is Johan, I am 26 years old and I am a happy and proud owner of a 1991 Veilside Widebody Acura NSX which I got my hands on almost a year ago now. The car is stock except for the widebody kit, rims, exhaust, rims and painted interior panels (Formula red, same as exterior).

Now, the car is over 20 years old and the interior is not in a good shape and I would like to do something to it. Enhance it. And then I found these awesome NSX's:



Quickly found out that the cost of getting this done professionally would set me back at least 3k, if not more. Now, I did seriously consider this option, but then I met a guy named Christer aka "marbling" who owns an Opel GT. He had done all the reupholstering himself, check out his build thread here:


Christer gave me the courage and inspiration needed to tackle this job myself, and he provided answers for my questions before I started and a few tips and tricks. :biggrin:

Enough of this talk, let's walk the walk!

The basics

There are many ways to do upholstering work, I'm presenting one way of doing it which works for me. This part will cover the process of wrapping plastic or wooden interior panels without any stitchings. That will be covered in part 2.

The interior panels in the NSX consists of three layers. First, the structural part which forms the shape of the panel, made out of molded plastic or wood. Not very exclusive, but it does the job. The second layer is made out of a thin piece of foam which gives the panel a feeling of being soft, when touched. The third layer is the actual fabric. The fabric is glued to the foam which is then glued to the structural part (or stapled). So no rocket science here. On to the process.

Step 1

Prepare yourself for this project. This is not a weekend project if the entire interior is being done. Plan ahead and realize that your car will probably be sitting in the garage for a couple of weeks, maybe even months. Get all the equipment and fabric required before doing anything, otherwise you'll risk performing a task without the proper equipment, resulting in a sub-optimal end result. And order more fabric than you think you will need, the same goes for the glue.

Shop list:

*Fabric of your choice in sufficient amount (I started with 10 m2)
*Foam layer in sufficient amount
*A suitable bonding agent
*A good quality stapler with 4 mm staples (length of "legs")
*A good pair of high quality scissors
*Some sharp knives in different sizes
*Marker pen (normal ink pen will do)
*Some cheap brushes
*Suitable tools for removing the panels from the car

Some notes on the glue. I am using a water based contact glue. Easy to work with, dissolves in water if not cured, and gasoline removes cured glue. This contact glue needs to cure for about one hour, and both parts need it. When fully cured, the two parts are brought together and it's instant stick! No second chances. But if it goes wrong it can be pulled apart and the glue can be "rolled" off from the part using your thumb. Then just redo it.

Warning! Make sure the glue you are using are adapted to your climate! You don't want the glue to release and form air bubbles under your panels, as this will ruin your interior completely. It can get pretty hot in the sun somedays.

Some notes on the foam. 2 mm thickness is a good rule of thumb. Too thick, and you won't be able to get it around edges. To thin and it won't fulfill it's purpose. Where to get? Any store that sells laminate flooring. I use some which is supposed to be placed under the floor.

Step 2

Remove the interior panels you wish to reupholster from the car. Now, this could be a DIY guide by itself, but the excellent service manual serves this purpose perfectly. Take your time, do it step by step in the order the manual states and it won't be any hazzle.
I got the instrument panel out in about 6 hours myself, of which at least 2 were spent eating snacks and occasional walks to stretch my legs. The entire interior was out in less than 12 hours, of which about 8 were working hours without any rush. It's not difficult, just takes some time.

Tip 1: Be careful when removing the parts which are mounted to the car with clips. They are stuck pretty darn hard sometimes. Easy to brake the plastic, which I did for some of them. Don't panic if that happens, just glue it together again, it will be like new.

Tip 2: Whenever a panel is removed, collect all screws and/or clips and place them in a small plastic bag and seal it. Make a note on the bag which part the fasteners belong to, in order to ease the installation later on.

Tip 3: Don't panic by the sight of the naked interior of the car, with all of the electrical harness exposed amongst other things. It looks worse than it is.

Tip 4: This is a good time to to some proper wiring for an aftermarket audio system or other aftermarket electrical items. Also a good time to to some work to the AC system, like replacing the evaporator if it's leaking, like mine is.

Some pics of the process:

Step 3

Start with the easiest part. The more complex shape and larger size of an object, the more difficult it is to work with. The easiest parts are the two flat panels sitting behind the seats, on the wall.

Remove the old fabric and foam from the part. Staples are pulled out with a flat headed screw driver and pull the fabric and foam from the part.

Use the old fabric and foam as a template for the new foam. Place it over the new foam and draw the contours with the marker pen. Don't place it on the wrong side or you'll end up with a fabric with a mirrored shape! Add a cm or so in order to minimize the risk of having an undercut part. Too large is better than too small, you can always cut away later on, but not add. Cut out a proper amount of the fabric aswell, but a tad larger in size than the foam piece. (Pic showing the A-pillar original fabric)

If you are using the same type of glue as I am, this is how to apply it. Use one of the brushes and apply a thin amount of glue to the underside of the fabric and the foam (not the side where you have marked!) and let it cure until fully hardened. One hour was enough for me. Follow the instructions that came with your glue.

Place the foam with the side with the glue on it on top of the fabric. Take your time and get it right! No second chances. Make sure that the markings are within the fabric edges. Put as much pressure as possible on the surface for a couple of seconds.

Since it sticks immediatly, you can start to work right away. Use the scissors and cut along the previously drawn lines.

Take out the glue again and apply a thin layer to the underside of the foam/fabric piece and to the panel (the correct side!). Let it cure for about an hour. Again, follow the instructions for your glue.

When fully cured, wrap the fabric/foam around the panel. This is the most difficult step, take your time and do it properly! If you get it wrong, you have to redo it again. Put pressure on it for a few seconds as before.

Fold the edges onto the backside of the panel. Staple it to the part or use glue here like before. Get it real tight and snug.

And you are done! With one panel at least :smile:

If there are any holes in the panel, just use a sharp knife and cut it out afterwards.

The A-pillar, driver side:

Thats it! Just a few more to go :biggrin:

It's pretty straight forward and not that difficult. Just takes a lot of time. Plan for about 3 hours per part, including the curing time. You can do several pieces at a time.

Step 4

Reinstall the panels in the car. Follow the service manual!

If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them, if I can. Happy gluing!

Ps: Cost so far: Under 500 bucks, and that's for the whole interior!

Wow looks good so far, can't wait to see the final end results. I'm also in need of re-doing my interior on a Project car I'm building right now. Not sure if I'm going to attempt myself or get someone to do it for me at the moment.
Nice work, for the pc's that have stitching are you gonna do stitching or just do glue and staples? Do any mixing w/ the contact stuff your using? I use the super strong spray adhesive from 3M.
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Wow looks good so far, can't wait to see the final end results. I'm also in need of re-doing my interior on a Project car I'm building right now. Not sure if I'm going to attempt myself or get someone to do it for me at the moment.

Thanks and neither can I! I am super eager getting it done, but that is not always a good thing. Rushing it won't yield any satisfactory results. Trying to put strains on me. The nice thing about a project like this is that you don't have to do it in your garage. Take the panels home and to it alongside the normal daily stuff. Live life like normal during the curing times, and spend the 20 minutes in between wrapping stuff.

As I said before, it's not difficult just takes a lot of time. If time is an issue and money is not, then I would suggest taking it to the professionals. If you got time and you think you would enjoy such a mod, do it yourself.

Nice work, for the pc's that have stitching are you gonna do stitching or just do glue and staples? Do any mixing w/ the contact stuff your using? I use the super strong spray adhesive from 3M.

Thanks. The parts which have stitchings are the dash, door panels, steering wheel, shift boot, seats and the shift knob. I'm going to stitch all except the shift knob (aftermarket). The contact glue I'm using is ready to be used directly from the bucket. No mixing with hardeners required.

I can really recommend 3M, the pros are using it and it is probably the best alternative out there, albeit at a higher cost.

Great post! This shuld go in the sticky DIY section.


Pics of the dash finished?

Sorry no. Haven't started with that yet, leaving it for last. It is the most complex part and consists of several different sections which need to be stitched together. But I'll promise i'll get pics up as soon as a part is finished!

That is awesome, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. Subscribed.....

Thanks! Your interior is stunning! Really tasteful choice of colors. I've drooled over the pics of your interior for several months :tongue:

Subscribed! Can't wait to see more from this thread. Gave me courage to try this out on my 97 Eclipse GST Spyder.

Good luck! Feel free to post pics of it in this thread if you like.
great thread and awesome details! Thanks for sharing your work and I look forward to seeing the end results.

Thank you! I'll update this thread whenever I have new stuff ready. I only have time to work on this during the weekends, so expect to see new pics every (almost) monday this winter :smile:
Update and some more tips

Me and my girlfriend Emma spent the weekend wrapping more stuff and trying out new techniques. I'm glad I have a girlfriend who also has an interest in cars and modding stuff! She is going to kill me btw for posting pics of her without make-up and proper clothing! :eek:

On to the project. Yes, some parts are so easy you can let your girlfriend do it (now I'm definitely #1 on the shitlist!). First up are the "sloppy leather" inserts from the door panels. They were easily wrapped but the sloppy leather were glued with some extra-terrestial nanotech solid-state super glue that required *some* violence to break. I'll let the pics do the talking:

No more sloppy leather in my doors! :biggrin:

Letting other people do the dirty work for me is something I've been doing before aswell. My old Nissan 180SX with Tindra helping me out taking it apart:

Over to the next part in line. Passenger side A-pillar:

Nice and flat.



Next part is a quite long panel that sits behind the seats, on the wall. Four hands here instead of two greatly easy this operation a lot and reduces the risk of getting it wrong.

A door panel detail, wrapped without the foam. The foam layer is only required for the parts which were like that from factory.

Emma taking the glove box hatch apart.

This is how the glove box looks like without foam/fabric:

Not very sexy. Now the difficulty increase quite a bit. Pieces and panels with a shape that spans in more than two spatial planes (= more than two degrees of freedom) requires the foam and fabric to be forced around the curves and surfaces, which is possible if the stretch is within the holding capacity of the foam or fabric. This is not always the case which results in the fabric folding and ugly creases are formed. Much like the factory sloppy leather inserts for the doors. Forcing the fabric is greatly eased if the foam layer is glued first to the panel, and then gluing the fabric onto the foam. If the forcing technique doesn't provide adequate results, there is only one option left. Dividing the fabric into two or more sections and sewing or stitching the together. I found out this the hard way for the glove box:

Forcing the foam layer around the glove box hatch.

Cutting away excess material.

Looks much better!

As you can see, the glove box has surfaces in three spatial planes, and the foam had to be stretched over the third surface, which was succesful.

But, as you can see, the fabric I'm using is to stiff to be able to do this succesfully. The creases can be seen in the left part. Not acceptable! Had to tare everything off, clean the part and redo it. It currently sits with the foam layer only, waiting on me learning to use my sewing machine :tongue:

I'm doing the steering wheel. This is probably very difficult to succeed with, but if you don't try, you'll never learn! :smile: If I fail, I'll go aftermarket but I want to keep the SRS system.

Killing the original stitches.

Steering wheel leather off!

Steering wheel without the leather. Actually looks quite ok, if the glue would be removed.

A upholstering-DIY arch enemies. Especially the little white ninja cat from hell.

I've previously said that I won't do the shift knob. Actually, I couldn't keep my hands off it! Tore off the leather after killing the stitches, used them as templates and started hand-stiching the alcantara to it, using the same seam pattern as OEM. Turned out ok but far from acceptable. I'm going to redo it, making it even better.

Due to the fact that I failed with the first attempt with the glove box and failed two times on another part, I didn't have time to do any more this weekend. But I started learning sewing with a sewing machine. It was like 15 years ago in elementary school when I used one of those last time.

Loaded with extra strong thread. I'm using an ancient and robust Husqvarna 2000. Probably more than 40 years old.

I encountered some problems with the seem, and couldn't get it right. It involved tweaking and tuning the resistance of the upper and lower threads and some other stuff which called out for expert assistance:

Mummy to the rescue! :biggrin:

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I always say never let touch anybody your car, DIY forever! :)
I always say never let touch anybody your car, DIY forever! :)

Awesome thread. It amazes me what some people will do.


thank you for sharing this project with all the intracate detaiil + pictures!

Time on summing=well worth it

Thanks guys, really appreciated! Gives me more energy for this crazy project!

Sorry for the bad image quality though, I only have access to my cell camera. When I'm done I'm getting a professional camera...

Small update
I spent this weekend getting drunk, doing some club jumping, watching TV and eating pizza and thai with some friends and collegues in Malmö and a night at the ER but I was able to get started on some parts during last week. About the ER... While walking home from work friday night i all of a sudden lost my ability to move my left foot. Almost totally paralyzed, and I couldn't feel a thing when touching it! Really scary feeling! Got a CT scan of my brain and I was glad to see that I had one, and no bleeding. Recovered quite quickly. Today I'm at about 95% of total strength so it was probably just a nerve that got stressed somehow. I'm going to see a neurologist just in case though. OK lets take a look at what I've done:

Part of the steering wheel assembly.



While doing this, I pretend that I'm back at kindergarten, smearing paint and glue everywhere!


Glue hardened. Starting wrapp process. Quite the special case, as this part needs covering all the way around.




Done all around, now just the folding and trimming part left.





Hand stitching the ends with red thread to conceal it.

Turned out really good!





Next part in line:


All the knicks and scratches can be seen in the leather. Those things are really annoying when trying to enjoy the car.








The lid (not completed yet)


The boring and time consuming work:


Finally done with the scraping!

Hopefully a lot more to come next monday, since I'm spending this weekend wrapping stuff with Emma! :biggrin:

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Lookin' good.

one note: make sure the top material you are using has a high U/V rating. The last thing you want is to go through all that work and have the material fade in a year or two.
Lookin' good.

one note: make sure the top material you are using has a high U/V rating. The last thing you want is to go through all that work and have the material fade in a year or two.

Thanks. A very good point indeed, especially for targa owners or people who drive with their windows down alot (broken AC). Our windows filter out all UVB and UVC but not all the UVA. Due to this, I'm thinking of adding a UV opaque film to all of my windows:


The version that has a transmission of 90 % (visible light) sounds good as I want all my windows "tinted". Anyone have any experience with this or similar?

Also going to get the fabric impregnated for extra protection.
all looking great, here's how i did my gear shift and steering wheel, it might help you get the finish you aspire to. http://www.nsxcb.co.uk/showthread.php?8624

use 2 needles on the basket-ball stitch, gives a more even finish... basically it fills in the spaces in the stitches on your first gear knob picture.

been there, done that! HTH
Inspirational thread bro. I've actually started on a couple pieces of my own with a few more underway. Keep up the good work!

<a href="http://s586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/?action=view&current=CAM_0229.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/CAM_0229.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Started with the glove compartment door, center console, knee bolster.
<a href="http://s586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/?action=view&current=CAM_0241.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/CAM_0241.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
<a href="http://s586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/?action=view&current=CAM_0212.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i586.photobucket.com/albums/ss301/sublyminal7/CAM_0212.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
This thread is absolutely incredible!

This really has me wanting to do my door inserts. are you using alcantara?