Restoring Mk1 seats

  1. My model of MX-5 is: NA
  2. I’m based near: Guildford
  3. I’m looking for technical help or recommendations on: Restoring leather seats

If the leather is torn; for small holes, filler kits from Furniture Clinic and Glypton will work, but will not provide an invisibile repair (plus not that long lasting)

If cracked, but not split, the filler plus a dye works well

If scuffed or the colour has worn off, then the dye kits from Furniture Clinic and Gliptone work. They may have a standard colour that can be blended in or they can custom mix a colour based on a sample; I used a tiny bit from the bottom of the seat.

The procedure is broadly:

  1. Clean the seat thoroughly with IMS or the cleaners from the dye suppliers. This will strip out the wax and grime. Probably ther most important step.
    2.“Rough” up the leather; the suppliers supply a scrim-like pad. I’d found 800 grade wet n dry works as well. If your seats are a dark colour, they will look a mess. If the leather used is a decent hide, there is no issue
  2. Clean again, and get the surface prepped.
  3. Apply the dye. Its not actually dye, but a flexible paint that takes to the leather. Ideally, you should use an airbrush to apply, and these can be provided in a kit by the dye suppliers, but they are of low quality. You can use a sponge to apply the dye by dabbing onto the leather. Dont wipe the leather with the dye, and it ends up looking like you used a bruch. Dab it on, building up layers; I recommend a hair dryer to dry between the layers. In fact, before you start, its worth going over a seat with a hair dryer (or heat gun if you are careful) as this will tighten the leather, and take out sags.
    Once plenty of layers have been applied, and you are happy with the finish, apply a sealer (like a lacquer) to the top using the same technique. This will slow your good work being undone. It will give the seats a shiney look, but the suppliers will supply a matt or satin finish that you apply on top of this (mat/satin is not as hardwearing as gloss).

I’ve used the technique to restore a Nardi steering wheel, and also a set of factory Mk1 sports seats.

These seats would have originally been a black nubuck leather finish, but had been recoloured red. I wanted to takem back to black, but I know achieving the original finish to be difficult. The seats likely date from 1989-90, and were part of a small batch that were made using prototype parts. The leather is original.

The seats as original;, circa 2005

As I received them in 2012

So you can see how the paint had worn away. I had these in a S-Limited for a while, repainting them red.

But a few years ago, I wanted these for another car (best Mk1 seats I have sat in by far). So the seats were stripped down, and the colour finish brutally stripped back; proper leather can take a lot.

And finished.