What does it take to create an award-winning hotrod interior?
Television shows would have you believe it’s a simple task that can be completed in only a week. But that’s incredibly misleading. In fact, the process can be very grueling.
Take for example the interior in this 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle. Dave Vos, owner of Customs by Vos in Griffith, Indiana, estimates that it took his team nearly 1,000 hours to complete.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Customs by Vos has won many prestigious interior awards and was featured in the pages of Street Rodder, Super Chevy and American Bagger magazines.
Renowned for combining modern, cutting-edge designs with excellent craftsmanship, Customs by Vos attracts clients from across the United States.
Many admire the shop’s work so much that they give Vos and his team carte blanche to do whatever they want — which is exactly what happened with this ’71 Chevelle.
“The customer gave me free reign with design, and wanted something with a modern look. He wanted something that would set apart his car from others,” Vos said.
The team didn’t disappoint — custom fabricating and trimming nearly every aspect of the Chevelle’s cabin in the finest materials.
Custom Bucket Seats
Vos choose a unique color palette for the project, combining burgundy leather sourced from Hydes Leather’s OEM Bentley Motors line with medium grey suede. The two colors and textures contrast beautifully, especially on the seats.
Forgoing the original buckets for a more modern look, Vos retrofitted front seats from a 2000 Honda Accord in the Chevelle’s cabin. He then trimmed them in a stunning pattern, including flared diamond stitching on the insert panels and his signature double topstitch along the perimeter.
The rear bench seat was replaced with two bucket seats built from scratch to resemble the front row. Vos started with a plywood structure that he layered with high-density foam before shaping and sanding it to match the dimensions and contours of the front seats.
The choice to replace the factory bench seat with individual buckets was more than just cosmetic. “The bottoms lift up for access to hidden storage and the amplifier for the interior speakers,” Vos explained.
Center Console and Dashboard
To split the seats, Customs by Vos fabricated a gorgeous cascading waterfall console that extends the full length of the cabin and butts up against the dashboard, which was also created from scratch.
Designing and building the dashboard was an immense undertaking. Not only did it have to look great, but it also had to fit gauges, air condition vents, electronics and other creature comforts. Of course, ergonomics also factored into the project.
“It started out with a sheet of 1/16″ thick aluminum that we rolled and bent to give us a shape to work off of,” said Vos. “From there we built a gauge cluster to house aftermarket gauges. To give the cluster a cleaner look, we took three gauges out of the dash and moved them into the front of the console. From there we fabbed up a dash pad out of fiberglass.”
“We also mounted an Alpine 9″ touch screen in the front of the dash. Although the Alpine unit comes with control buttons that typically mount to the sides of the screen, we wanted a cleaner look that wouldn’t show all of the radio components — so we moved the control buttons down into the console. Doing this required us to lengthen all of the wiring from the radio to the controls and build a one-off radio bezel. The original bezel was repurposed as a shifter boot in the console. It was worth the work though, because that turned out to be one of my favorite features in the interior.”
“We also mounted the a/c, vents and plumbed it all. Once the dash shape was finalized we built new A-pillar covers and a new header panel cover which houses some hidden dome lights, a feature that convertibles don’t usually have.”
Of course, it’s all wrapped in supple burgundy leather and adorned with a double topstitch to match the seats.
3D Door panels
Keeping in line with the modern theme, Customs by Vos chose to replace the Chevelle’s flat door panels with custom-made panels with 3D shapes.
To start, the team fitted 1/16″ thick aluminum sheets to the doors to account for proper shape and clearances. The metal was then covered in paperboard, on which Vos sketched his design. The drawing served as a pattern for the front and rear door panels.
“We cut the design out of a dense 2″ polyurethane foam on the band saw,” said Vos. “The foam pieces were then sanded out to the desired shape to create the 3D look. Once the foam pieces were to the desired shape we put a thin layer of fiberglass and bodywork over them, checking the gaps to perfectly accommodate the thickness of the leather.”
The panels were then wrapped in leather and adorned with the same flared diamond stitching found on the seat inserts. A handmade armrest with an impressive billet aluminum ornament became the focal point of the driver and passenger doors.
The Chevelle’s floor received as much attention as the rest of the interior.
To reduce road noise in the cabin, Vos first laid down a layer of Dynamat sound-deadening insulation. To achieve a “smooth” look on the floorboard, Vos employed a unique trick: “We glued down layers of firm closed-cell foam on the floor, which we sanded smooth. I really like how the transition from the floor to the console worked out. I flared the sidewalls of the console to meet with the shape of the foamed floors, giving it a smooth almost seamless transition.”
The team then covered the floor in grey Daytona weave carpeting and finished the edges off with leather-wrapped sill plates.
In building this ’71 Chevelle’s interior, Customs by Vos went far beyond the typical services of an auto upholstery shop. Not only in custom fabrication but wiring too. The team installed all electrical components, including the touchscreen navigation head unit, JL Audio subwoofers and speakers, LED ambient lighting and even power windows.
Reflecting on the enormity of the project, Vos said: “It took a team effort to build the interior. The more I do this the more I look forward to putting my ideas together with other talented designers and builders. We can usually come up with some pretty awesome ideas!”
Awesome, indeed. In fact, we’d call it a masterpiece.
[All photos by John Parli Photography]