A custom upholstery job can do wonders to complete the look of a car. We’ve all seen cars with show-quality paint jobs that are brought down by an old, worn interior – or lack of upholstery altogether. We’ve also seen what a stunning interior can do for a seasoned car or one that’s been left untouched on the outside. There is no arguing that a nice, clean, or custom upholstery job really does wonders to finish the overall look of a build.
The one problem with an extravagant or even a simple upholstery job, is the cost and the relative hassle of having to take the car to a professional shop to have it done. Most reputable places are so busy that you end up on a waiting list. Once your turn finally comes around, it’s still going to take weeks or months to get your car back. As enthusiasts, no matter where our cars are, we all feel the same anxiety about letting someone else take care of it.
It’s a custom interior in a box. You pull it out of the box, and put it in your car – Larry Ashley
Imagine that instead of waiting for someone else to cut and install a custom upholstery that’s going to cost upwards of $20,000, there was a better option? What if you could do it yourself in a weekend for only a little more than half that aforementioned $20,000. No, this isn’t a hypothetical — the folks at TMI Products (TMI) are making that dream a reality.
TMI makes and sells complete, custom upholstery kits that you can install in your garage or driveway in a weekend. This concept both excited us, and sort of boggled our minds at the same time. How is that even possible? We wanted to know more, so we talked to Larry Ashley, director of marketing for TMI, and he gave us the low-down on their custom kits.
“It’s a custom interior in a box. You pull it out of the box and put it in your car,” Larry explained. That sounds easy enough. Although TMI does make custom interiors for many makes and models, we were fortunate enough to follow along as one of the company’s brand new Tri-Five kits was being installed in a car. “With the Tri-Five, you can install the kit in roughly twelve hours,” Larry said. The kit comes with everything you are going to need, and the design possibilities are endless.
TMI has done all the legwork to get the kit ready to install. They’ve engineered it with the DIY builder in mind. “Basically, you start with the simple stuff like the dash pad,” Larry said. “There is a trim piece by the windshield that you take out, click the dash pad in place, screw in the trim, and you’re done.”
It’s not only the dash pad that’s easy to install, it’s every piece of the kit. The door panels are ready to go into the car, and instead of using the old nail-style clips, the new TMI door panels use the modern plastic-style clips that can be removed and reinstalled countless times without causing any headaches. “Simply remove the old door panels, tape the supplied template to the door, drill the holes, and install the new door panel,” Larry said. “Once the doors are drilled, the door panel snaps in place.”
Part of what makes this kit so quick and easy are the seats. The typical reupholstery kit comes with all the necessary parts and pieces to put covers on the seat frames: burlap, foam, hog rings, pliers, and seat covers. The TMI kit eliminates that entire process, as the pre-assembled seats come in a box, ready to bolt into the car.
“The rear seat can be ordered as two buckets with a center console or a bench seat that looks like two bucket seats” Larry detailed. “What’s neat about our kit, is you take your old seat out, open the box, and click the new rear seat in. You’re talking about getting that done in ten minutes.” Now you don’t have to worry about rusted or broken springs, paying a professional to install the covers you just bought, or dealing with the hassle of putting them on yourself. The kit really does make it that simple. The entire interior is that way! “No one has ever done it like this where you get a whole built-in frame and everything,” Larry finished.
The front bucket seats are also simple to install. The outer mounting brackets on the TMI bucket seats work with the factory holes. All you have to do is drill the inner mounting holes and you’re ready to go. “The nice part about these seats is they fully recline, and they sit a good 3 inches lower and 5 inches further back than the original seats do. That gives you more room around your head and at your feet.” If a bench seat is more your speed, TMI offers front bench seats as well.
Along with the dash pad, seats, and door panels, this complete kit also includes the simple stuff like the carpet and headliner. The carpet is not a standard molded carpet. Instead, it’s a multi-piece carpet designed to fit the car no matter how it’s been modified. “People are constantly modifying the transmission tunnel,” Larry explained. The TMI carpet is designed so that it has one large piece to cover the tunnel and smaller pieces to cover the footwells. “That way, no matter how much you’ve modified your tunnel, you can always get it to fit nice and cover everything.”
The headliner is another aspect of this kit that makes it out-of-this-world cool. “The headliner is a very unique situation,” Larry said. “And that’s because you have cars both with and without sedan posts. The cars with no posts (hardtops) afford a much easier install. There is a trim piece that goes all around the headliner. You take that trim off, pull the old headliner out, and our headliner goes in.”
Since the headliner is a one-piece design, if your car is a sedan, either the windshield or rear window will need to be removed to install the headliner. There is no rolling and unrolling of fabric, or concerns of wrinkles showing up during the install process. It is a rigid structure that does not have any bows. It sits tight against the ceiling and you actually gain a little head room. “As simple as it sounds, it’s really that easy,” Larry told us.
A Truly Custom Look In A Box
“We also offer a center console to match your front buckets,” Larry said. “The console is the only piece you have to modify to fit your car. That is because everyone uses different transmissions, and the shifter location is never in a set spot.” With the TMI console, all you have to do is cut the console to fit your shifter and install the provided bezel and boot. “We really thought about this for the custom guy.”
“The other thing we offer is a three-spoke billet steering wheel that you can have covered in the same material as the seats and door panels,” Larry explained. “It’s not a half-wrap like some others you’d see out there, it’s a full wrap. We wrap our material and hand stitch the covers onto the steering wheel.”
There are twelve pattern designs to choose from, and the color combinations and options are endless. The folks at TMI can send you swatches so you can get exactly the look you want, or you can send them your own material and they’ll make the kit based on that. No two kits will ever be alike, and that’s a big part of what separates them from most of the other upholstery kit retailers.