Working with interior/exterior trim and upholstery

March 1, 2008 | By Richard Prince


I am preparing to restore my 1979 Ford Bronco as a daily driver. The body is in excellent condition and the paint is really pretty good, but with some minor hail damage and parking lot dings, I’m going to do a complete paint job. I’m also going to restore the interior.

I’d like to do a body off, but with limited time and equipment, we will do the under carriage and body the hard way, with wire brushes followed by East- wood’s Rust Conversion treatment and then under body paint.

I have a friend that spent several years doing body work and painting, and he has volunteered to help me do that part of the project.

My questions are as follows: Should I remove the body trim?

My body guy says it is nearly impossible to get all the trim back on properly, and I take the chance of damaging it during removal. None of the trim is dam- aged except the two pieces on the tailgate, which will have to be removed anyway to address rust issues. I will repair those two pieces upon either repair or replacement of the tailgate.

The interior door panels are grooved green trim panels that had silver-topped ridges. They are spotted and need refinishing. How would I go about achieving the refinish of those plastic panels?

The seats are in pretty good condition and still have the original fabric in places. One small tear can be seen in the upper left corner of the seat back. However, the lower half of the seat cover has been replaced by a piece of green vinyl. The rear seat is in perfect condition and appears as new.

Where can I locate the OEM fabric for the lower half of the front seat, and what is the proper method of repairing the tear seen in the upper corner? (I want to know the proper repair procedure before consulting the upholstery shop.)

Any other tips to make this project easier or successful would be appreciated.


While I agree that you do run a risk of damaging the trim when removing it, I disagree that it’s nearly impossible to get all of the trim back on properly. It certainly is difficult, but with a boatload of patience it can be done.

One problem you may well run into is rusted retaining clips and difficulty find- ing exact replacements. But the likelihood that you’ll find some rust beneath the trim is a compelling reason to remove all of it.

If you discover trim fasteners that are damaged beyond repair, you can usually find replacements from a company in Cold Spring, Kentucky, called Auveco (

Go to their Web site to browse their product line and find a distributor who sells their products. Bear in mind that you may not find the exact clips you need but oftentimes you can modify currently available clips to work with your application. You also can locate a distributor by calling .

You can refinish your plastic door pan- els with the same basic techniques that you’d use to restore any painted surface. Strip the old paint if it’s peeling, bubbling, etc. using a plastic-safe stripper. Your local body shop supplier will have several different brands to choose from.

Test whichever you buy on a small section on the reverse side of the door panel to make sure it doesn’t harm the under- lying plastic.

If the old paint is solid, you are normally better off thoroughly scuffing it with a relatively fine sandpaper (#320 or #400 grit) and then priming/sealing and painting over it. Before stripping or sand- ing the original paint bring one of the panels into your paint supplier and ask them to match the color (assuming you’re not changing the interior color).

The original seat covers in your Bronco feature a pretty funky pattern. I found numerous businesses selling what they represent to be original-style 1979 Bronco seat upholstery but none of it looks like the upholstery in the photos you sent along with your question. I think your only feasible options are to work with a talented upholstery shop to find the closest match that will work with what’s left of your original upholstery, or replace all of the upholstery with currently available reproductions so that at least it all matches. As far as fixing the tear is concerned, since it is on a sewn seam a good upholsterer can take the seam apart, “tighten it up,” and then re-sew it.