People love classic cars as was clearly seen at this year’s London Classic Car Show (23-26 February).

More than 37,000 people packed into the ExCel arena over the four days to see around 800 of the world’s finest classic cars. All the big brands were there, with pride of place going to Ferrari, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing

We were delighted to be among the exhibitors and to answer those all-important questions about caring for car leather upholstery. It was also great meeting some of our existing customers like the guys at Investor Classics who are doing some fantastic classic car restorations. To us a classic car is more than just magnificent bodywork, precision engineering and automotive nostalgia. While keeping the moving parts in perfect working order is essential, it’s just as important to keep the leather interior in top condition.

A classic car should not be confused with a vintage or antique vehicle, which is normally 100 years old. The word classic generally defines cars that are 20-30 years-old with a historical value, making them collectable and worth restoring.

Why leather

Using leather for car upholstery was a natural transition from the old horse-drawn carriages, which had leather seats. Originally, vegetable-tanned cow hide without any surface colouring was used. It was then treated with oils and grease to make it waterproof, in the same way as for horse saddles. Gradually, improved techniques made it possible to colour the surface, making it less sensitive to soiling. From the late 1970s, the vegetable tanning process was replaced by chrome tanning.

The rate at which old leather shrinks and hardens – a common problem in old cars – depends upon the tanning process. Vegetable-tanned leathers will shrink at much lower temperatures than their chrome-tanned counterparts. But, whichever method is used, car leather interiors need to be cared for. It’s not just drying and cracking you need to worry about. If not looked after or stored incorrectly, particularly in humid conditions, the leather can be damaged by mould.

Old Horse CarriageClassic Pick Up Truck with cow fur interior


Caring for car leather

The adage of prevention is better than a cure applies to caring for car leather. Regular maintenance with specialist leather cleaners, softeners and preservers will keep it supple. However, it’s important when cleaning old leather to be aware that the colour can easily be removed. For this reason, we always recommend testing any cleaning product on a hidden area first.

In the event of mould developing, this can be removed by a mixture containing equal parts of vinegar and water.

We recommend the following products for optimum car leather care:

COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner for barn finds and heavily soiled leather

COLOURLOCK Odour Remover to take away any smell of mould after cleaning

COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver to keep the leather soft

COLOURLOCK Leather Softener to restore the suppleness of dry leather

Keeping the patina on old leather

People used to consider patina as damaged and expected any restoration to make the leather look like new. But that attitude has changed and patina is now seen as adding value to the car and so any repairs are done with a view to retaining the grain.

Jaguar e-type patina

Repairing damaged leather

Once leather has shrunk it is practically irreparable and the upholstery and other leather-covered interior parts may need to be replaced.

But it is possible to repair cracked, ripped or scratched leather. Grease, stains, burns and colour damage can also be removed. We have many years’ experience in restoring the natural finish of old leather and are more than happy to help and to advise.

Aston Martin DB6 restoration Classic Mercedes SL500 restoration Mazda MX5 restoration

Remember, taking as much care of the leather interior as the bodywork and engine will help to preserve your car’s classic status.

Here are some photos of the show to end the post.

Classic Corvette Matchless Motorcycle Classic Rusty Pick Up Truck