Question: I read the article on keeping an old Toyota Corolla safe (“Safeguarding an old faithful against theft”, Car Clinic, December 9) with interest. I, too, own a 1989 Toyota Corolla which, likewise, has given me remarkably good service over 26 years. But the “software” on the car is showing wear and tear — the leather seat stitching, for instance, is splitting, especially on the driver’s side. What options are available to have such items refurbished? I would like to keep the car for another 26 years! I don’t think one can swop the front seats around, and seat covers might spoil the inside appearance of the car.
Answer: They don’t make them like that anymore, Ron. I quite understand that you want to hang onto the old girl for many years still. The upholstery, plastic trim, roof-lining, door rubbers, carpets — the “software”, to use your beautiful term — are often the first items that betray the age of a car. Refurbishment can be problematic because you want to find a competent yet affordable upholsterer.
The best I can suggest is that you visit a classic car club’s monthly meeting, seek out the owner of a car similar to yours with impressive, original-looking upholstery, and get the contact details of a reliable, skilled and affordable upholsterer. Car owners in the Johannesburg area are fortunate to have one of the very best classic car clubs in the country (if not the world!) in their midst, namely The Piston Ring (www.pistonring.org.za). It’s a big club, based at Modderfontein, and superbly organised. A visit to one of their meetings (the third Sunday of every month) is guaranteed to be a huge treat for any classic car nut. You may even want to become a member — all vehicles over 20 years old are eligible. While on the topic of plastic, rubber and leather trim, this is the one place where, despite my general scepticism of snake oil lotions, I will recommend that you apply a good preservative regularly. I have found Autoglym’s vinyl and rubber care excellent for plastic and rubber parts (for best economy, apply it with a small, soft brush), while Wynn’s make a good leather treatment. Our harsh South African sun is particularly unkind to rubber, plastics and leather, and good preservatives make a significant difference.
–For all your motoring queries, please contact Gerrit Burger: firstname.lastname@example.org