Mk2 Resto Project – Going Straight to Plaid

(Editor’s Note: While the last post in this series was just over a year ago, work never completely ceased on our Mk2 Resto Project.  We’ve got some catching up to do, so let’s get to it.)

It all started with a phone call.

Wait—back up. It started with a web search for interlagos plaid.

Though the project car is, indeed, a first-year Mk2 (we double-checked the VIN to confirm that it’s a 1985), there were just so many anachronistic parts and options on the car, we had to take a step back and do an inventory. The first thing that was decided was to ditch the later “Big Bumpers”, which in some places were held on with sheet metal screws right through the plastic and into the bumper rebar itself. But the second thing that we decided on—and almost a selling feature of the car—was to keep the interior, which had been transplanted from a 1990 GTI.

gti-recaro-pre

Recaros were definitely the hot setup when the Mk2 was new, and are still the most sought-after upgrade with the vintage crowd. Even the sketchiest of examples command huge money, despite collapsed side bolsters missing handles, and worn fabric around the corners. Reupholstering them isn’t cheap either, and as our budget dwindled quickly by nearly 40% in the first few weeks with replacement parts and upgrades, making do with the anachronistic, though still OE VW, ‘Sport Seats’ was the best option.

An option somewhere between the thinly-padded race-replica Recaros, and the flat-bottomed base-model Golf economy seats, the factory Sport Seats featured a wider backrest (for some of our more, ahem, Midwestern physiques). The seat foam and door bolsters were all in really good condition, but between the cigarette burns, and an aroma that can only be described as “smoked crotch”, the seat fabric itself had to go. So that brings us back to us scouring the interwebz for unique materials with which to reupholster the seats, and Interlagos fabric.

She’s Gone to Plaid!

jpm-rolls

With ludicrous speed, we found JPM Coachwork’s site, where we were shown VW fabrics by the yard with options ranging from Interlagos Mk5 and Jacky Mk6 plaids, to the GTE blue-variation of Mk7 Clark, and even the monochromatic variant from the Scirocco R. Our tastes lean towards the current color scheme, as it matched the white/black/red motif of the car itself. Already well-known and respected in the Subaru community, we were a little surprised to see such a strong selection of VW-specific fabrics on their site.

gti-plaid-sheet

So we did another quick search, this time on the Vortex forums, and found a glowing review of the company and their services. Our initial intent was to order fabric and find a local upholsterer, but after our phone call to talk to both Joe and Alex at JPM, we couldn’t think of anyone better to help us realize our goal for the project.

off-to-jpm

Rather than remove the seat covers for them to disassemble and re-cut in new material, JPM suggested we the entire interior down to them. This way they could not only take the material apart themselves, but then scan the individual panels and make vector diagrams for future projects.

All the Trimmings

So while they were working on the seats & door cards, we had them send us some material for the remaining interior trim bits. Three yards of Clark upholstery fabric was enough to cover the headliner, the parcel shelf, and the speaker covers.

plaid-headliner

Because an all-plaid interior would be a little ridiculous—and it was hard enough getting the pattern to line up with just the parcel shelf/speaker panels—a complimenting trim was needed to complete the retro-sporty interior look. JPM had the answer once again with genuine Alcantara fabrics, also available by the yard.

alcantara-pillars

About a yard of Alcantara was enough for all the trim pieces we could wrap. Parts like the pillar covers to match the tops of the door cards and the headliner trim were as simple as cutting to fit and some serious 3M spray adhesive, after a thorough cleaning, of course. Nothing can screw up glue like a surface that’s oily with ~30 years of use. A thorough scrubbing with Windex, followed by a rubbing alcohol wipe-down did the trick.

One interesting thing we learned about Alcantara is the bias—it stretches in one direction only. So it’s important to figure out which way you’ll need to pull beforehand if you want to try to duplicate this. For us, it was a hard lesson to learn, but luckily we realized this early one, when we found that the shape for the C-pillar covers was the same for left-side vs right-side, if rotated 90 degrees.

Keeping Quiet

Now we have an interior almost completely devoid of hard plastics, so replacing all the original “mouse fur” & sound-deadening was next on the to-do list before we could reinstall the carpet. The RAAM mat two-stage material was chosen not just because of it’s anti-NVH properties, but because the 2nd layer of closed-cell Ensolite foam could double as under-carpet padding.

mousefur

Nearly 60 sq/ft was required—about 15 sq/ft was just for the underside of the roof—but all the nasty, mildew-y original padding has been replaced, and as much of the inner door skins as we could reach, as well as the floor, are now covered. The car makes an impressive thump when you close the doors or the hatch, and rapping your knuckles on the roof or body panels doesn’t give you a tinny, hollow sound any more.

All together now

After just a couple short months of test-fitting and tweaking of both the original VW pattern, and our initial plans for the design, it was finally here. Sure, we got photo updates along the way, and likewise teased them in the build thread. But the day finally came when we got to unbox the completed interior, and we couldn’t have been any happier.

jpm-installed

Without removing or diminishing the original shape of both the seats and the door cards, JPM managed to create a retro look with modern materials. The Clark plaid gives a solid nod to the 80s, while the juxtaposition of Alcantara and fabric brings it all to the 21st century. Most impressive of all is how the original red plastic trim was reused to continue the sight line started at the dashboard.

jpm-installed-2

Between JPM’s incredible upholstery work, and from our covering every inch of bare metal with RAAM mat (and as much hard plastic as we could find with Alcantara), this is turning out to be one of the quietest and most modern-appointed mk2s around.

Up next, we overhaul the engine with period-correct upgrade parts and then tackle the bodywork finishing, lighting, and more.