Why Are Detroit Books So Hard to Find?

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on March 21st, 2012

One of the questions that we often hear auto trimmers ask is: “Why are Detroit Books so hard to find?” Seeing as upholstery shops need them to order original automotive fabrics and suppliers rely on them to market their goods, it seems almost counter intuitive that they’re not so readily available.

We decided to contact Detroit Body Products, which publishes the Detroit Book, as well as De Leo Textiles, which produced the comparable “Lion Book” up until 2009, to get to the bottom of this issue.

Why is it so hard to find Detroit Books?

Detroit Body Products publishes a new Detroit Book every year. However, they’re so expensive to make that not a lot of extras are produced.  The company publishes a set number of books based on demand figures received from suppliers like Miami Corporation, DLT Upholstery SupplyThree Rivers Supply and Lindsey & Hall. Detroit Body Products then distributes these books to suppliers, who in turn brand them with their company’s contact information and sell them to auto upholstery shops.

Detroit Body Products does not sell directly to auto upholstery shops. Nor does it reproduce old books. According to the representative we spoke to at Detroit Body Products, there’s not enough demand to warrant bulk reproductions and single reproductions are just too costly.

So how can I get my hands on an old set?

There are two ways to acquire a set of Detroit Books – neither of which is ideal.

The first is to wait for an old auto trimmer to retire or pass away and buy them from him or his descendents. But in a fairly disconnected trade like ours, it’s difficult to know who is about to retire. The Hog Ring, however, aims to change all that by connecting trimmers in a way never done before. (Check out our auto upholstery forum!)

The second is to piece together a collection from a variety of sources. Representatives at both Detroit Body Products and De Leo Textiles advised us to cold call suppliers – as they may have a book or two lying around collecting dust. They also advised us to contact upholstery shops, as you never know what you might find. Some may have doubles or specific-year books they hardly use.

However, be prepared to pay a hefty price. Books can run as high as $150 each. So a set from 1990 to 2010 is easily a $3,000 investment.

What do I have to do to build a new set?

To receive a new book and start building your collection from the current year onward, simply contact a supplier and ask to be put on its Detroit Book list. The supplier will include your shop in the figure it reports to Detroit Body Products and a book will be produced for you.

The De Leo representative that we spoke with advised us to submit our book request to the supplier that we do the most business with. According to him, suppliers will place a higher priority on reserving a book for shops they view as regular customers. Infrequent customers, on the other hand, are given lower priority.

He also advised us to submit our book requests before the Spring of each year – as that’s when Detroit Body Products gears up to sell its new book for the upcoming year.

Tips / Advice? If you have any tips or advice on how to acquire a set of Detroit Books, please let us know in the comments section below. Also, feel free to use our auto upholstery forum to let other auto upholstery shops know if you’re in the market to buy or sell.



31 Responses

  1. degreeve says:

    Great article, they seem to be making less and less of these. We currently pay $180 cdn per book. Our set of books goes back to 1960. Funny story (not really) when our shop moved a few years back a box was missing 1950 – 59 books, they accidentially got thrown out…D’oh!

  2. Stone's Upholstery says:

    anybody want to start a waiting list to inherent these as they are passed along. It’s such a long process with out them.

  3. roddin1 roddin1 says:

    I think we should use forum when we need to find specific material put in make,model and what you need to get detroit number to provide to the supplier? I know miami has pics on there website as well of detroit material from different years.

  4. stitcher_guy stitcher_guy says:

    Pictures on something like the Forum is a good idea. A few weeks ago I contacted Original Auto Interiors for cloth for an IROC Camaro needing one seat repaired. I took a pic of the two materials I needed out of my 1986 book. E-mailed the pic to OAI and got word back what was available. I’ve also done that for some other trimmers through e-mail. They’ve let me know year and make of vehicle, and a general description of the material. Then I snap a pic of the page(s) that probably has the material, and they confirm. Then it’s up to them to call the supplier and order the material based on the numbers provided with the pic.

    It can be time consuming, but when you are trying to pinpoint an exact material, it sometimes is the only way. It helps to have access/ownership of books from 5-10 years old. These are the most-used books for general repairs (plus, older than that and the odds get horrible that the material is even still available).

    • Nadeem says:

      When this works, I think it’s great. However, I’d be a little wary only because some fabric colors are so similar that they really need to be seen under good light and in person to make an accurate match.

      You know – when there are like 3 different variants of grey, with only a slight difference in hue.

  5. theinteriorguy theinteriorguy says:

    These books are a life saver! We inherited a lot of original materials from a previous upholster. Have spent the last month identifying them. 300+original body cloths so far. Wouldn’t have been able to do it with out these books. My collection spans from 82-2011. Oldest material I found came out of an 82 Camaro!
    I was told by a supplier if you can’t afford to purchase them every year at least get them every 2 years. ( The material usually changes about every 2 yrs) I wish they would send you the missing colors and actual material for the pieces represented with pictures though.

  6. 4Hcustoms says:

    It’s a lot harder to find these book’s at a reasonable price. With the technology these days why don’t they make a ebook, With the pics and the codes. Really all we need are the codes the pics will make sure we are in the same ball park. Come on ppl lots think out side the box. You can always just cross refference online it takes about fifteen minutes.

  7. EDWARD says:

    BEING RETIRED, I SOLD SHOP AS A LUMP SUM, ILL AGREE THAT THE BOOKS SHOULD BE EBOOKS ALSO IT WOULD CUT DOWN ON EXPENSES FOR NEWCOMERS TO THE TRADE AND GETTING OLDER BOOKS IN GOOD SHAPE IS SOMETIMES HARD TO DO. THE ONLY TROUBLE I WOULD SEE IS THAT YOU WOULD NOT HAVE THE FEEL OF THE REAL MATERIAL AND THE CUSTOMER MAY WANT TO SEE A SAMPLE FIRST HAND .BUT YOU CAN LOOK AT IT ANOTHER WAY THATS WHAT BUSSINESS IS ABOUT , IF YOU COULD JUST PURCHASE A COMPLETE SET ALL THE WAY BACK LIKE A SET OF LAW BOOKS OR EITHER WE SHOULD HAVE A BETTER LIBRARY HU. BE GOOD TO HAVE AN ORIGINAL MATERIAL HANDLER IN EACH STATE TOO.

  8. Justin says:

    I have the 1981-1987 and 1991 books for sale

  9. tom says:

    Every once in awhile I come across some single books bought 2006 and 2004 for 75.00 each like you say hard to find. I got them from a original fabric supplier. got lucky. I know a guy who has sets going back but wants gold prices too.

    • Nadeem says:

      Hi Tom. There’s someone selling a set that dates all the way back to 1960 in the ‘Buy, Sell, Trade’ section of our ‘Auto Upholstery Forum’.

      Then again, chances are 80% of those materials are probably discontinued…

  10. Judy says:

    Over the years we have bought out a couple of shops. I just had one of my guys inventory my extra Detroit Books here’s what I have:
    1 each from 1990-2010
    1 each from 1990-2003
    1 each of 1994-1997
    1 each 1957-1989
    2 each 1964
    1 ea 1965-1968
    1 ea 1970, 1971, 1973, 1989, and 2001

    If you or anyone you know is interested, just email me at durhamupholstery@aol.com.

    • Steve Ingram says:

      I have 1957-2001 detroit books and am interested in getting some of the newer books if you still have extra copies. Even though most of the fabrics are not available it saves time in finding out. Please let me know if you still have any books to sell.

    • victoria's upholstery says:

      i am interested in any books you might have left. i have had some book fall apart,also destroyed in a flood in my shop, along with a couple gone or disappear. so if you have any left i would be interested in those. please email me back and let me know if possible thanks

  11. Chris Harvey says:

    I have for sale a collection of Detroit books from 1973 to 1991. Sold as complete set only. Includes a “World Book” of import fabrics. Email me with your offer, Thanks

  12. Chris Harvey says:

    Me again, it would help if I gave you my email address: HiFiHarv@aol.com

  13. Steffy1106 Steffy1106 says:

    Does anyone have an ISBN number from the back of the book?? Please let me know. Thanks! :)

  14. Ron Nelson says:

    I have Detroit and DeLeo books from 1956 on.
    The worst year for the books was Detroit book 2000. The adhesive did not hold the samples . I have two – never out of the box. Please contact me at autoweave@comcast.net if I have the year you need we can negotiate the cost.

  15. chuck conley says:

    I HAVE A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF BOOKS FROM THE EARLY SIXTIES THROUGH TODAY. I WOULD LIKE TO SELL THEM AS A COMPLETE SET IF POSSIBLE.
    IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED EMAIL ME AND I’LL GET AN EXACT YEAR / QTY / LIST / ETC OUT TO YOU, WE HAVE RECENTLY SHUT DOWN THE UPHOLSTERY SHOP AND NEED TO CLEAR OUT SOME ITEMS.

    • Tina says:

      We are looking for a large collection from 1953 through the present. Ideally we would like three collections. Let me know if you are still interested in selling your collection.

  16. JP Kraft Jr says:

    Chuck,

    do you still have those Detroit Books? I am interested to buy the set. Please email me at jpkraft@corepg.com

  17. Brady says:

    Hello!
    I have 1971-2009 Books in fantastic condition! If anyone is interested please don’t hesitate to give me a call 775-787-7134

  18. don says:

    i have several books mostly 1080′thru 90′s.detroit,larry dennis co.cooke supply,j&j supply,southwest fabrics,etc.all are original automotive interior trim,fabrics books.18 total books. call 214-578-1754

  19. mike bertell says:

    So glad I found this web site. It has been so well needed for years. I am soon to be retiring after 40 years. Trimmers seldom get notarized for their hard labor of love. Oh the days when nothing was premade and perfection was a must. The time has come for me to call it quits. I have a set of matchup books from 1953 to 2013. Most are Detroit but a few Lyon tossed in. I will probably sell the set when the time comes.
    Keep up the good work.
    All the best. Mike


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