There is nothing to match the soft feel, warmth and opulent smell of leather upholstery when in good condition but, although it has durable qualities, if left to its own devices it eventually becomes brittle and starts to disintegrate. When this stage is reached, a once attractive and comfortable interior looks shabby and feels even worse!
It is very unusual to find “ top of the range” cars of the Fifties and Sixties with imitation leather upholstery .
There were a few models that appeared during these years where the manufacturerer, to cut costs, fitted door and side panels made from imitation leather.
The one thing that these materials have in common is that they ineffective and might even do a lot more damage than good.
Another mistake that many restorers make is to use a silicon based cleaner to bring up their leather.
While this can be effective on simulated leather, with the real thing applying silicon will cause the leather to “shine” and be difficult if not impossible to remove.
Instead of plunging in at the deep end, to the inexperienced considerable research must be carried out before a single drop of any chemical substance is applied to the upholstery.
Fortunately, it needn't be like this; for a little regular care and preventive attention, plus - where necessary - revival, will ensure that the leather in your car will last and look good for many decades.
Taking care of leather not only helps retain its suppleness and good looks, but will also save you money in the long run, as renewing leather upholstery is not cheap.
Proper cleaning and feeding of leather should be carried out on a regular basis -ideally every 6 months to a year.
In every case, the leather should be cleaned before it is fed, or the food products will not be able to properly penetrate into the hide. For routine cleaning use warm water (but don't flood the surface) and a good quality leather or toilet soap -never use detergents. Leather which has been neglected will require the use of specialist cleaning products.
Care is needed when using cleaning agents.
Only ever use products which are specifically stated to be suitable for leather, and even then take care, especially on older hides which were 'surface coloured', as opposed to later types which will have been 'soak coloured' (i.e. throughout the fibres of the leather).
If too harsh a solvent is applied to surface-coloured leather, the colour may be lifted from it.
If the surface dirt is coarse in nature it can dealt with using a soft brush.
For leather in sound condition, hide food (available as a soft paste) is appropriate. Alternatively, saddle soap, which is of a much firmer consistency, can be used. This imparts a longer-lasting finish, but requires a lot more effort to apply. Even new leather can be treated with saddle soap - up to perhaps three times in the first year, and then once a year.
If the leather is already showing signs of brittleness, first apply a liquid leather dressing (several applications may be needed), which will help to restore its natural softness. Only then should hide food be used, having allowed several weeks to elapse after the liquid dressing treatment.
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All you need to know about restoring and maintaining UK or European cars of the Fifties and Sixties- as well as the history of the great cars of the era and the people that produced them.