Bring on the fun fur: how should I pimp out my Chevy van?

June 6 |
Chevy Van © by mikeporcenaluk, used under Creative Commons license.
I am about to purchase an '86 Chevy conversion van, and I want to re-do the inside. I'm talking fur and funky fabrics everywhere.

Might any of the super crafty DIY readers have any ideas on how to go about reupholstering seats/floor/ceiling/walls? What's the best budget-friendly way to go? Staple gun? TONS of hot glue? I want to make my funky furry fun mobile a reality! -Sapphire

  1. I don't have much to contribute about this, as I've never re-done a vehicle, but I can tell from experience in my RV, hot glue is NOT the way to go. The inside of a vehicle gets too hot for hot glue to actually work on holding anything.

    2 agree
  2. I like your style. My first car was an 82 Dodge conversion with shag carpet and velour cushioned walls/ceiling. I loved that van. I love costume vans in general. I would skip the hot glue that's def not going to work. Better be safe than sorry and google the hell out of this one. It's not day to find custom van guys out there anymore but I would look for someone with some expertise on this.

  3. I work at a shoe shop and we actually do recover seats and such. To do so youll need a sewing machine for sure. A fabric store is a great place to get material from you may also want to look at leather factory online. They have awsome leather hides. Take the seats out and remove the material from them. From there take it completly appart at any seems. youll mark out the pattern on your fabric of choice to go back on it. Cut them out and sew it back like the original. (Also its better to use nalyon thread when sewing any thing its stronger than cotton.) This can actually be very difficult if you have no experiance in it. The first one I did looked rough but it worked.

  4. I'm not sure how the weight of the fabric will affect things, but you can actually buy spray headliner adhesive. Stapling will work as an extra reinforcement, but the fabric will sag between the staples. I suggest scraping out the foam and gluing it directly to the "wood" underneath. That foam is the enemy.
    Fair warning: pretty much anything you do will result in the fabric falling and needing to be put back up.

    Can I be a downer for a minute? The fluffier the fabric, the more smells and stains it can absorb. Maybe you run a clean ship, but I personally don't. I know there'd be Cheetos stuck in my shag carpet forever.
    I've been in some FUNKY (and not in the good way) vehicles with fluffy fur stuff inside. They had this musty, dusty smell at best, and the odeur of stale farts and rotten milk at worst. I hope that's not going to be the case for you, but it's really something to think about. It's hard to clean that shizz.

    In the event that you've never seen it done and are open to some different ideas, a friend of mine tore out the foam and fabric from her headliner and hand painted it. She did her's to look like the sky. She then trimmed the edges with pom pom trim. Funky without the funk.

    2 agree
    • Can fun fur be washed? Could you sew slip covers or pillows that can be unzipped or unsnapped instead of upholstering so that you can pull it out and chuck it in the wash to get any smell out? It would probably be easier than upholstering anyways, so long as you can get the measurements right.

      You could also glue on the bases for snaps along the ceiling and then sew and hem a fitted ceiling fabric. You might need to add a couple of snaps to the middle and along the sides if the ceiling is curved. That way you could have a funky ceiling, but be able to 1. switch it out to another fabric whenever you wanted and 2. wash the fabric.

      You may have to super glue the snaps on, but they could be pretty hidden and so you'd retain re-sale value (if that's a concern for you).

      • Fun fur absolutely can be washed, but it's a tricky beast. It needs to be washed cold, it needs to be dried with no heat, preferably on the line. Any time in the dryer results in matting. Vacuuming fun fur is something I don't advise. It works well on new stuff, but with time and heat, clumps can come off.

        Re:snaps. Snaps are a good theory, but I recommend more than a couple in the middle. The fabric will do absolutely anything in its power to sag with gravity. You can't stretch the fabric taut because of the curve of the ceiling, and over time, it'll loosen up anyway. So you have to secure it A LOT in the middle.

        I've been in a lot of cars with saggy headliners. My mom was a maven at repairing it, but there are few things as annoying as having that crap touching your head. It's a sore spot for me! I champion the properly secured headliner! XD

    • "stale farts and rotten milk" is totally my new prog-rock band name.

      2 agree
      • I LOVE Prog-rock, and "Stale Farts And Rotten Milk" is really a good Prog name…right up there with "House Of Vaudeville"! Are you really in a Prog band? We invented conversion vans–and school busses!–in the '70's.

  5. If you've got a conversion van, this probably isn't an issue, but you can see how we built a bed in the back of our Ford E-150 here.

    I'm going to agree with the commentors who don't think hot glue will cut it. Most glues and adhesives don't hold up well in a hot van.

  6. Sewing machine: You need access to an industrial one or at least to a very good and very sturdy home machine. Leather or vinyl requires a big needle and a lot of oomph from the machine. Not only can you break the needle on a standard home machine, but you can burn out the motor trying to sew large quantities of leather. (Not that anybody in my family would know from experience or anything…)

    Rave's right that the seat-upholstering process, while straightforward in concept, takes practice to get right — you're dealing with materials that are heavy, bulky, and recalcitrant.

    Fake fur fights back even more than vinyl. You must trim the fur from where the seams will be and be very careful about matching the directions of the nap. And yeah, it's incredibly difficult to clean, plus it matts. Same goes for anything plushy with a pile.

    If you use fabric-fabric, buy upholstery fabric — the heavy stuff from the 60" bolts — and look for a tight weave, restrained texture (nubbiness is okay, but embroidery will be a disaster), and friendliness to being sprayed with a protective coating like Scotchgard. See if you have a local store that sells bolt-ends or otherwise bills itself as a discounter of professional-quality fabric over-runs.

  7. I do this to every car! My current Prius has green wavy velvet seats and leopard print mats. The wavy velvet is pretty standard on low-riders but joyfully unexpected in a hybrid!

    If you're not an experienced seamster, you may want to make slipcovers with a stretch material- it'll be way less frustrating, but won't last as long. Bench seats are infinitely easier than bucket seats to upholster.

    Carpet binding is expensive, and I definitely want mats that can be removed. I cut carpeting into the desired shape and then rub Shoe Goo (totally okay in heat and cold, I live in the deep south) into the edges to keep it from fraying. Once that dries, I glue upholstery piping (the kind that looks like rope) around the edges to make it look finished. Viola! Custom mats!

    I love faux fur too, but I'm a smoker and it seems so flammable… so I confined it to the head rests. Not too much contact so it hasn't gotten matted and nasty.

    Don't forget about dashboard toys! There exists a velcro JUST for dashboards, it's perfect for attaching small somethings to your dash. I have a few tiny Maneki Neko cats. I also have a few bendy skeletons playing around in the rear window area.

  8. Watch Pimp My Ride to see people actually recovering the seats and putting the glue on. Sometimes they will say exactly how they're doing it. I know it's not a show anyone would say has any value, but they do give tips.

  9. I've spent the last five years restoring a 1992 SUV and I can tell you, first hand, it is a project that will never end.

    Before seriously considering interior work you need to take care of the outside. Rust, especially on an older vehicle is a nightmare. I went to night school to learn autobody for this specifically and I can not recommend it more. A project of this magnitude can be done by a professional, but no amount of money can convince your local shop to do it right. I've spent thousands in time, parts and supplies and my instructors have all said that I've dealt with and fixed problems a typical shop would have painted over. Your dream project is a professional's ugly nightmare.

    You will find problems along the way:

    Mechanical problems take time to develop and most of the time, you don't see them until it's too late. After spending hours under a vehicle with a pneumatic grinder and rust flakes in your hair, you will see a developing problem before it becomes a costly repair. I was able to save myself a huge hassle when I spotted a massive rust hole on my leaf springs I wouldn't have otherwise seen until they broke.

    Just when you think you're done, you will find horrible horrible problems that you are miserably incapable of fixing alone.

    I could go on and on with stories and pitfalls, but I won't. Just know that every old vehicle restoration starts with an idea of what color you'd reupholster the seats and how awesome you're going to look rolling through your neighborhood on a summer afternoon, on your way to the car show. This can be an amazing, satisfactory project, but it will also be a huge, HUGE, pain along the way.

    And it will never, ever end.

    1 agrees

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.