1976 BMW 633i: Re-Trim

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen

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BMW 633 trim 01 BMW 633 trim 01
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The BMW 633 seats get a fresh retrim thanks to Prestige Auto Upholstery

Bugger. The driver’s seat on Brunhilde the 1976 633 BMW developed a nasty crack down a seam in the back, which kind of blew a hole in the plan to keep the running costs down. Having purchased the car for a mere $7500 I was hoping to keep the overall budget to $10k. Nice idea, but it hasn’t worked.

You see by the time we put in new wheel bearings all round (maybe not strictly necessary, but this is a 40-year-old car), rebuilt the brakes, dealt with numerous minor issues and replaced the dampers all round with fresh Bilsteins, our total budget was probably closer to the $12k mark. Still not a fortune for what was in its day a high-end GT car.

Having the seats give up the ghost was a mixed blessing. The downside is you know going in that it will cost an absolute minimum of $1000 a throne (it can easily be much more) to sort it out. On the up side, the padding was well and truly past its use-by date, so now we had an excuse to fix it. Frankly, the driver’s seat was becoming a novel form of torture.

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This time I went for the simple approach, which was wander just around the corner from the palatial Unique Cars offices and talk to young Ley Grigg of Prestige Auto Upholstery in sunny Oakleigh. He’s been at this stuff for 41 years and should know what he’s doing by now.

Because I wanted a restoration rather than a new design, Ley reckons the process is pretty straight-forward: assess the condition of the seats, decide on a final material and work out the cost. In this case the rear seats were fine, while the backs (actually separate panels)and headrests of the front seats were also in good shape. So, really, were we restricting the resto to the front row with refreshed padding and new covers for the bases, plus fresh fronts on the uprights.

The trick was to match the leather as closely as possible to the original. After checking a couple of options, we settled on a fine-grain Nappa.

Someone had already replaced the covers on the bases, but with a cheap vinyl, so I wasn’t sorry to see them go.

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The original coconut fibre padding was breaking down in places – leaving a fine red dust under the seats, so this was fixed and foam used to boost it back to where it should be. I’m not exactly a jockey when it comes to size and weight, so it was good opportunity to allow for this.

Ley reckons one of the tricks when doing this is not to follow the old covers too closely when it comes to sizing up the new ones. Leather will shrink over time and you need to make sure the new material really is made-to-measure.  As it goes together, there’s a quick final check to ensure all the internal seat mechanisms are working the way they’re supposed to.

All up the job took a little over a week and came in under my $2k budget. It may seem like a lot, but the Bimmer was originally trimmed in leather and there’s no beating it as a material. Once you’ve had a car plastered in hollowed-out cow, you really don’t want to go back.

The new padding has made a world of difference – suddenly it’s returned to being a comfortable mile-eater.  Meanwhile the seats look great.

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So what’s next? It’s a toss-up between some minor body repairs, or fixing the crack in the dash…

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