Project Respect: Restoring Comfort And Class With Classic Industries

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If you’ve ever needed a quick lesson on the laws of thermodynamics and what they do to cars, picture your favorite late-model Chevy ride – Corvette, SS, Silverado, just pick any one – and think what its interior will look like in roughly 30 years. It’s an ugly thought, right?

IMG_1342Barring careful and loving ownership, you’ll find that a car’s interior has been subjected not only to sun damage over the years, but a vast array of drink, food, spilled nail polish, pet hair, and more. Every crevice, crack, and corner of the vehicle will include some trace of a previous owner. Fixing interiors is a messy business, but someone’s got to do it.

But, what can you do if the pieces you have are too far gone to reuse? Here to answer that call is Classic Industries, a company with a massive catalog of restoration parts and products that act as the finishing touch on thousands of builds across the country. Based out of Huntington Beach, California, Classic Industries covers a wide swath of automotive culture, catering to vintage and late-model GM cars and trucks, as well as musclecars.

Our resident third-generation Camaro, Project Respect, has already been through a great deal on its journey toward total rejuvenation. It is a 1991 model that has definitely aged since it rolled off of the assembly line. The car was first purchased by our shop tech, Sean Goude, in 2010, with the intention of making it a vehicle worthy of its given title – Respect – and this latest dose of help from Classic Industries revolves around taking the 24-year-old interior, and giving it a much-needed refresh in the form of seats, visors, and more.

Presto-Change-O!

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Since being founded nearly 40 years ago, Classic Industries has sought to supply customers with high-quality products that make restoration a relatively easy process. Our conversation with Classic Industries’ Ray Yager gave us a lot of insight into the process of how the company’s products are made, how they improve stock components, and what happens to car interiors with age, among other topics.

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Leonard’s vision and motivation paved the way for the company’s growth, to where it is now with 200 employees and two warehouses storing over 100,000 part numbers’ worth of products.

Quoting founder and CEO Jeff Leonard, “Our company’s success is simple. We seek out and market the products people need to maintain and restore their classic vehicles. We make sure to carry the absolute highest-quality parts possible, and we sell them at a fair price. We manage our inventory so we can deliver the products in a timely manner. Most importantly, we strive to provide excellent service, whether it’s helping a customer choose the right item, or processing an order or a return.”

When it comes to car interiors, the ways in which they can degrade and deform are many. “After hundreds of thousands of miles and decades of sun exposure, moisture, and temperature variations, all automotive interior parts are bound to deteriorate,” said Yager. “This is an unfortunate fact of life, and something that car restorers deal with on a daily basis.”

After hundreds of thousands of miles and decades of sun exposure, moisture, and temperature variations, all automotive interior parts are bound to deteriorate. However, these damaged components can be replaced, and these vehicles’ interiors can be made to look brand new again. — Ray Yager, Classic Industries

Yager continues, “However, with the market growing for original-style restoration parts, these damaged components can be replaced, and these vehicles’ interiors can be made to look brand new again.”

Saving money is always a concern when planning a restoration, and many people will consider pillaging a junkyard, or trying out eBay before reaching out to the aftermarket. Yager knows the temptation is there, but advises against doing so for good reason. “For most of the models we cover, stock replacement parts are simply not offered by dealers anymore,” he said. “In rare instances when NOS (new old stock) parts are available, they’re typically very hard to find, and prohibitively expensive to buy.

When buying used parts at junkyards, people are trading parts for ones that are already compromised. They’re cracked, faded, worn-out, or well on their way to such conditions. As for eBay, the sellers are often unpredictable, inconsistent, or completely incorrect about certain applications. And, if there is an issue with a part, returning or exchanging it can be difficult. Our reproduction parts, however, are brand new, in stock, ready to ship, and can easily be returned or exchanged if necessary.”

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Cars or trucks, young or old, if they’re made by General Motors, Classic Industries is one of the leading providers of aftermarket parts and accessories for restoration purposes.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Third Generations

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The parts we secured for the Camaro included seats (PN 816009BKBK), seat brackets (PN 81168/81169), floormats (PN K2776001), console lid (PN 14035760), and headliner/sail panel/sun visor set (PN 829201). In keeping with the already established all-black theme of the car, we went to the dark side when selecting our parts from the catalog.

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The Sportsman Pro seats have an all-steel frame with TIG welding done to them. The floormats, meanwhile, are actually made from the 1974-81 model years, but have a cool look that lends well to Project Respect.

The seats are ideal for street use, because they mix racing inspiration with consumer-grade comfort. The bolsters are positioned slightly higher than the cushion, and work with the wings to keep the user seated. “They’re larger and firmer than the stock bucket seats, resulting in improved driver stability, especially during hard cornering,” offered Yager.

Much of the seat’s strength comes from its TIG-welded steel frame.The injection-molded foam helps handle the task of comfort and durability as well. What’s more, the seats are fully adjustable with preinstalled sliders, and come with all the right components to accommodate a five-point harness. “With the correct adapter, we also offer the Sportsman Pro seats for a variety of GM vehicles,” said Yager. “Chevy II/Novas, Impalas, GM trucks, Tri-Fives, and more.”

The floor mats, meanwhile, are actually intended for the second-generation Camaro (model years 1974 through 1981), but we found them to lend a perfect look and style that Project Respect needed. Yager affirmed that these floor mats are made in the USA, using 100 percent heavy-duty nylon cut-pile carpet, which is the same material used as the company’s reproduction carpet sets.

“The mats also feature color-keyed serger-bound edges, and heavyweight gripper backing,” said Yager. “Each front mat is machine embroidered with the word ‘Camaro’ in bright silver lettering. These mats are officially licensed by GM, and available in a variety of other factory colors.”

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Classic Industries’ products play an integral role in rounding out Project Respect.

When it came to reproducing the console lid, Classic Industries closely followed the factory mounting hinge and latch assembly to assure exact fitment. Since the new lid was already black, we were good to go on our end. But for those of you who want a different color lid, not much work is necessary to make the change. “We offer Original Equipment Reproduction (OER) paints that are designed to precisely match a vehicle’s original interior coloration. In the case of the center console lid, it should be removed from the vehicle, cleaned thoroughly, sprayed with OER’s surface preparation formula, and then painted using the appropriate OER paint.”

A single kit carried the rest of the interior essentials – sailcloth, visors, and headliner – that would put the final elements in our hands to wrap up our Camaro’s cabin. “Our suppliers spend many hours in R&D on each of their products in order to closely match the appearance of the original GM parts,” said Yager. “The texture, color, and fit, are then carefully rechecked during our merchandising process, before we ever offer new parts to the public. If a certain manufacturer’s part does not meet our quality standards, we will not sell it, and will seek out a different manufacturer that can produce a more accurate part.”

The Interior Comes Together

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With the exception of the seats, the reconstitution of Project Respect’s interior was not a complicated task. The old seats were unbolted and removed, as was the old console lid. The Camaro didn’t have stock floor mats either, so that was a non-issue.

The console lid is hardly a challenge to install.

The console lid is hardly a challenge to install.

Sure enough, we got a good fit on the console lid. Two bolts were all that held the lid in place, and a curved strip of metal acts as a supporting hinge that goes in and out of the console as the lid is lifted and lowered.

If anything was a challenge, it was getting the new seats installed. We thought we could skip a step by assembling the brackets to their respective seats and fitting them into place as a whole unit, but the bolt holes refused to line up correctly. We had to first fit the brackets into place, and then drop the seats on top of them.

Left to right: the bracket is installed first to line up correctly; the seat is dropped into place and bolted in; the view from the driver's side shows a big change compared to how the interior was before.

As for the headliner kit, this was a process that required nothing but time to take care of. Camaros of this generation use retaining clips, lights, and interior molding pieces to hold the headliner and sailcloth in place. We removed the dome light first, and then the sunshade, coat hooks, shoulder belt escutcheons, molding, and headliner clips. The headliner, which uses a foam backing, can be flexed to remove it from the cabin and out through the hatch; the sailcloth panels, meanwhile, were small enough to fit through the window. The new headliner and sailcloth panels were installed in the reverse order that we took care of the stock headliner. The visors, held in by screws, went in last.

Top row: the headliner and sun visors round out the black-on-black look we have going on with Project Respect. Bottom row: the floormats are made for 1974-'81 Camaros, but they look great in a 3rd-Gen like Project Respect.

Once the headliner was all installed, we gave the interior a quick once-over with detailing spray and a microfiber towel. Standing back and looking at the cabin, we were pleased to see that everything was looking worthy of respect and admiration.

The Fun Doesn’t Stop Here

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So much of Project Respect has changed since it began. From the paint to the suspension to the drivetrain, this car is a far cry from its lackluster status as a beater when it first rolled into our shop. Now that we have the interior dialed in, it’s a pleasure to drive around on the highways of Southern California.

Our friends at Classic Industries supplied us with the products to restore the interior, but they also gave us the opportunity to put a fresh spin on an well-worn but capable Camaro. Attitude and character are communicated all over the car, from its paint to its exhaust; and now we have an inside appearance to match.

Check out more from Classic Industries by visiting its website and Facebook page, and keep it locked here to stay on top of this and other awesome project cars being worked on.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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