Reconditioned Leather Seats for the Citroen - Faine 405

By: Jon Faine

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Jon Faine gets busy with the elbow grease as he attempts to put suppleness back into the Citroen's old leather pews

Last month’s exciting instalment had me upside down and then on my knees. Leather does that to some people. I have never tried bondage, but it has to be easier on the joints and more fun than trying to restore dried up and cracked old skin. And I am still talking car seats here.

I bought some old leather seats for the DS Citroen, as explained in last month’s instalment. They needed some TLC. I have seen years’ worth of ads in this and other magazines from companies promoting magic properties for leather restoration products, promising that all that is required is to buy some extravagant expensive elixir and ‘shazam’ the seats will look like new. How hard can it be?

Well, let me tell you. I have now discovered muscles I never knew were there and now I have aches in places where I used to play, to quote Leonard Cohen. Last time I worked this hard was when I did bob-a-job for the Scouts and had to wash and clean the man next door’s Honda S800. He was very fussy.

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Before bolting in the reconditioned leather seats, I spent hours rubbing slimy goo into the dry seats and working the greasy muck into all the stitching, crevices and folds, massaging as if my love life depended on it. Which years ago it did. But this time the skin was less responsive than even the worst romantic encounter. Elbows were the only bits greased.

I provide you with ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots for contrast. I have tried several different products and cannot tell any difference so far. The main variation seems to be in how much energy I can muster and how my fingers and aching shoulders and elbows are feeling afterwards.

The seats have been remarkably transformed. They clearly love being loved. Much like people really. A deep soft rich chocolate velvet has replaced the greying parched blistered surfaces that I originally found. Instead of looking like my heels at the end of a beach holiday, they now resemble a baby’s buttocks. Alright, I exaggerate. But only a little.

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The original front buckets ought have big puffy headrests. They came with the car but I do not like them. They interrupt the spacious airy feel of the cabin, so I have blanked the headrest slots off and gone without them entirely. The DS is such an iconic design, the lower seats show off the glass envelope to perfection. The headrests are stored for some future owner to decide if they want them.

The rear seat needs a backing plate – the back of the seat is the front wall for the boot. I fabricate the piece from black painted three-ply and use cable ties to attach it to the steel frame instead of the metal staples the factory used. Sadly the small rats nest in the horsehair stuffing has to go – cruel I know. It all looks terrific once finished, even if I say so myself.

The front seats – once fed and revived – prove impossible to install. I spend half a day upside down and sometimes on my belly with fingers squashed under the seat rails trying to get the bolts aligned until I realise my error. The slides go in without the seats. Then the seats go onto the slides. Once this light bulb goes off, it all falls into place for the front seats. The rear ones just clip in, and now for the door trims.

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The driver’s-side door trims are both good to go back on. There is a tiny hidden pin that holds the window winder on, with a spring keeping tension on the backing plate. The passenger’s-side door cards are warped and water damaged and I now await new cards and clips that are on their way from the big Citroen supply shop on the other side of the world.

Caring for leather seats is just like a relationship. They can be rejuvenated with some work, but it is much harder than you thought it would be. But then the rewards are greater than you expected too. Regular attention is rewarded. To ignore them until they are hurt is courting disaster. You get back what you put into them. Just buying flowers and chocolates – or leather goo – when cracks appear will never suffice. By then it is too late. Caress them respectfully and gently and pay attention even to the bits you cannot see. And snuggle in for the ride of your life. And you thought you buy this magazine just for advice about cars?


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