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"RATIKI"  1965 Chevy Suburban

Pretty On The Inside


Scouring through vintage rod magazines, I landed on the period interior I was after: late fifties, early sixties rolls and pleats. I decided on a relatively simple design, using pearl white vinyl for the outers and rolls and pleats for the centers of each seat. I wanted a contrasting material for the inserts, the sort of thing you'd come across in a vintage Cadillac. I delivered the truck to Mario's Upholstery on South Congress in Austin, whose work I had admired at a local car show.



For carpet, I chose sixties style loop in gun metal grey. I sourced six pairs of aircraft style belts with period-appropriate chrome aircraft buckles and grey webbing to match the carpet. I had retractable units made for the front buckets. The manufacturer, WestCo, sent color samples of both the belt webbing colors and retractor housings to match the carpeting. I wanted the front buckets (sourced from a mid 90's Honda) to look like sixties era low backs, and to match the stock benches. To achieve that look, Mario chopped the front seatbacks 2&1/2" and rounded off the side bolsters for an old school look. He added bolstering to the rear benches for improved comfort . All told, Mario and Elias, his right hand man, did quite a bit of foam sculpting to make the seats match.




I scrounged up a pair of '74 Chevrolet ninety-degree swivel front seat bases, just like the ones my dear old dad had in his '74 Monte Carlo. Very trick. Crippen Sheet metal handled mating the seat frames to the swivel bases, reconfiguring the height and the seating angle. Per my measurements, the rear of the front seat tracks were lowered three quarters of an inch, while the fronts of the tracks were raised three and a half inches. The result? Fully adjustable seats that look retro, but feel modern,  ideally situated relative to the pedals and steering column.

Just in case you were wondering what the heck swivel buckets are, here they are in action.


No sooner than the seats went in, we hit a major snag.  Mario's went out of business. For the interior's final touches I enlisted Fat Lucky's, who'd I'd heard great things about.

Turning to the rear side panels and headliner, it occurred to me that bringing bamboo and barkcloth into the interior might be interesting. Kind of like a vintage rattan chair. One, I'd never seen it done before, and two, it would lend an unmistakable tiki/beach vibe. Finding suppliers of bark cloth and bamboo through Google, I sent off for test swatches and sample chutes. Once they arrived, I ordered a bundle of eight foot strips of bamboo, cut into half chutes and authentic reproduction bark cloth. The real challenge was finding the right colored bark cloth from the dozen different samples I'd had sent to me from the Big Island. Good ol' Kevin Peake was instrumental in helping me pick the right sample. I believe his exact words were, "Oh, dude. It's perfect. Stop dickin' around with those other swatches and order that one."


The shifter housing, a repurposed center map console from a '63 Ford Falcon, now serves several purposes, housing the ignition switch, a 23" Lokar nostalgia shifter, a second pair of AC vents and looking kinda cool, in my humble opinion. I looked for other opportunities to integrate vintage American interior pieces. The steering wheel is from a 1963 Cadillac. I bought it on E-Bay in fixable condition and used a POR-15 wheel restoration kit to bring it back to its former glory, capping it with a Mooneyes bullet horn button to match the Burb's dash knobs. I had Donnie Twomey shoot the wheel two-tone green and silver. Dome light bezels from a '65 Buick Riviera are now used to frame the Infiniti tweeters in the Burb's C-pillars. Speaking of speakers, Infiniti woofers are mounted in the lower doors and a pair of Infiniti 10" Subwoofers are mounted in the rear side panels.

I ended up putting a rattan mesh material on the dash to match the bamboo motif. Incidentally, the bamboo chutes were a butt load of work to install and just about everyone--short of my buddy, David Hepp -- thought I was nuts to attempt it. If I had realized what a pain it would be to install, I'd probably have skipped it. Sometimes ignorance is a good thing.







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