Restoring the interior of a Porsche to its original glory

Restoring a ’53 Porsche interior requires the hand of an expert

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When it rolled into Expert Upholstery in Gloucester City, N.J., the interior of this rare 1953 Porsche 1500 Super needed a jump. Upholsterer Rose St. John recharged this classic’s mostly intact interior and restored it to its exact original showroom state.

The Porsche is one of the few that were manufactured by hand in the ‘50s, making this project especially appealing to St. John. “The whole project was top-of-the-line. It called for more of an art than just car upholstery,” says St. John, who upholsters automobiles, furniture, restaurants and marine applications.

In fact, marine fabrication is what opened up this opportunity for St. John—she had made boat covers for Bill Garvey, the Porsche’s owner. Garvey purchased standard kits that failed to fit, so he decided to go custom.

“She showed me a lot of her work and it was fantastic,” Garvey says, referring to St. John. “She did an unbelievable job. I just can’t say enough about her.”

St. John worked with Garvey and two other restoration mastercraftsmen to restore the Porsche to its original glory. Finding fabric presented some difficulty for St. John, but she discovered the right shade of corduroy in the back of a Philadelphia warehouse. The entire interior of the Porsche was stripped and reinstalled by St. John, who used most of the original stuffing and hand-stitched everything.

“The whole thing was pulled in and shaped with hand-stitching because that’s how it was done originally,” St. John says. “Everything was hand-whipped to the synthetic burlap. There were no hog rings involved—everything was hand-stitched.”

The entire auto is 99 percent original, right down to the screws and tacks. St. John documented the process, which took the team over a year to complete, with high-resolution photos and detailed notes. The time, research and patience paid off, as this classic racer is once again raring to go.

Do you have a project you'd like us to feature in Save My Seat? Send details of your project, along with before-and-after pictures in the form of print photos or electronic images (tif, eps or jpeg of 300 dpi or greater) to Kelly Frush, Editor, Upholstery Journal, 1801 County Road B West, Roseville, MN 55113, or e-mail them to krfrush@ifai.com. All images become the property of Upholstery Journal and cannot be returned.

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