Tech: Making Swinger More Cozy

SWINGER INTERIOR_edited-2

Longtime readers of our magazine are well aware that we’ve been keeping busy with our 1971 Nova, Project Swinger. We recently brought you the last two updates regarding our exterior trim and getting our LSA engine running, so now it’s time we tackle the interior installation.

Interior-2

What We’ve Installed Into Swinger’s Interior:

  • PROCAR front seats (PN 80-1000-51L/R)
  • PROCAR front seat adapters (PN 81506/81507)
  • Grant LeMans steering wheel (PN 1070)
  • Dynamat insulation (PN XGM N2 D,F,P,R,T,U)
  • Dakota Digital gauge cluster (PN VFD3-69-NOV-Z)
  • Classic Industries interior trim:
    • Interior door panels (N63046)
    • Window cranks (4, PN K037597)
    • Inner door handles (PN 7743521/7743520)
    • Dash pad (PN 87489365)
    • Carpeting (PN 53146601)
    • Glove box (PN CA104)
    • Headliner (PN N12301SP)
    • Kick panels (PN 9614814/9614815)
    • Arm rests (PN 8769926/8769927)

As mentioned in a previous story, the original upholstery was pretty torn up. Since we’ve given our revitalized X-body a complete makeover mechanically, and cosmetically, it only makes sense to give our interior the same treatment.

Despite its impressive hardware, we wanted to stay away from the hardcore, stripped out, no-frills cockpit, as we wanted this Nova to be a comfortable driver to and from the autocross circuit. 

As with our subtle exterior upgrades, a simple stock restoration won’t do, and we’ll be upgrading our interior with PROCAR leather bolstered bucket seats, Dakota Digital gauges, a Grant steering wheel, a new dashboard, sail panels, headliner, and carpeting – all from Classic Industries. It took a lot of careful planning and hard work, but the end result was well worth it.

Preparing for the New Interior

If you’ve been following along with Project Swinger from the beginning, then you would know that it’s been an uphill battle from turning the old derelict into a thing of beauty. We touched on some of the interior parts that we used for this build awhile ago, but over the course of time, more and more parts have come in. Since we had to install new Classic Industries floor pans, we already removed the old interior trim a few years back prior to paint.

For those of you just now catching up, let’s just say that the old interior bits have been discarded long ago, and weren’t even photo worthy – that’s how bad they were. But the good news is that out of all of the original junk, we were able to salvage the rear seat.

But the seat wasn’t left alone, since we basically tore it down to nothing; partly to make way for the fresh upholstery, but mostly because we had a little “cut and paste” to do on the seat frame itself. Why? Because the mini-tubs we installed into Swinger’s body structure wouldn’t allow the proper fitment of the rear seat in its original form.

Sean cut sections out of the seat frame to narrow it to fit inside the wheel tubs.

Making modifications to the backseat called for some home-grown ingenuity.  What would have probably taken your author 37 years, our shop dawg Sean was able to get done in about 37 minutes – measuring what had to be removed, cutting out the unnecessary parts of the seat frame, and welding the edges back in place. Basically, he narrowed the seat just enough to fit perfectly between the mini-tubs as if it came from the factory!

With that out of the way, we sent the seat frame off to a local upholstery shop to get it covered in the black leather that would match our front PROCAR seats perfectly. Hey, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Sure, we could have tossed it aside – saving time, money, and weight, but we wanted the Nova to be fully functional in every possible aspect.

As you can see Sean's craftiness has paid off, and the seat frames fit perfectly, accommodating the mini tubs like they were born there.

Before we could install the fresh interior, we had to install the insulation. When you’re building a hot rod or musclecar with a lot of horsepower, it’s pretty typical that you’ll experience increased in-cabin heat, vibrations and noise levels. Plus with an old car like this, it’s normal that the original insulation will be nasty, dirty, and pretty tore up. That’s how ours was, so instead of reusing it, we elected to replace it altogether.

But instead of replacing the OEM insulation with the same old reproduction material, we put down a layer of Dynamat throughout the interior (including on the roof, floorboards, doors, package tray, under the seats, and the trunk space). Dynamat is much more effective and efficient than the OEM-style sound insulation.  It serves three purposes; sound-deadening from the outside, blocking the external drivetrain heat, and isolating vibrations from said drivetrain.

It’s constructed from a patented material – consisting of a lightweight, elastromeric, butyl and aluminum constrained-layer vibrational damper. It fuses to the car’s body panels with an adhesive layer that sticks to the surface securely, with little effort.

For the Nova, we went with thier Xtreme “Custom Cut” series, which was pre-cut from Dynamat specifically for the ’68-72 Chevy Nova. Each section is sold individually, so we ordered all six kits for the Nova. To see which kits were ordered and their prices, click here. Dynamat currently offers the Custom Cut Xtreme kits for many popular GM, Ford, and Chrysler musclecars. It saves the car builder time and energy, taking the guess work out of having to measure the right dimensions for the vehicle.

Installation couldn’t have been simpler – we simply removed the Dynamat from the boxes, laid them out on the shop floor, and installed them in their designated location. Prior to installation of course, we made sure there wasn’t any dust or debris on the surfaces. When you’re applying the Dynamat insulation, make sure you break out the roller to apply the insulation evenly – we don’t want any air bubbles. This helps the Dynamat not only stick to the surface better, but ensures that it does its job 100% – and will last a lifetime.

Before we could lay down the carpet and install much of the interior, we installed Dynamat material to quell the noise that we'll be experiencing from the engine, autocross track, and the street. It goes on relatively easy, making sure we apply it properly.

Installation

With the rear seat back from the upholstery shop, and the Dynamat laid throughout the interior, we set to work with the rest of the job at hand. That meant installing the headliner, which is never a walk through the park. It takes a lot of patience to say the least, but taking our time, and employing the help of a second pair of hands always helps.

It’s something we don’t recommend doing on your own. With the headliner in, we installed the dashboard that will be holding the Dakota Digital gauge cluster in place. To learn more about the Dakota gauges used in Swinger, click here. The next order of business meant that we had to install the Grant Collector’s Series steering wheel (PN# 1070) and adapter kit that allowed us to mount the wheel to the GM steering column.

The Dakota Digital gauges really help bring the Nova into the 21st century, and will provide us with a much more accurate range of information - just what you need in any car that has been modified as much as Swinger has.

The steering wheel gave the Nova a touch of class, while providing the old X-body a look that’s both modern and classic. The “three dimensional, dual plane look design” harkens back to the woodgrain OEM steering wheels of the ’60s, like those found in classic Novas and Chevelles. But the difference is that the  steering wheel is thicker, giving the driver more grip, and is made from higher quality materials.

Now that the digital gauges were hooked up and working, and the new steering wheel actually allowing us to turn the front wheels, we laid down the Nova’s carpet. The black Classic Industries carpet (PN NC68731101) arrived pre-cut, and we installed it in a matter of minutes with little fuss. Once in place, we installed the door sill plates on the driver and passenger sides, along with the seat mounting brackets.

Next, we installed the rear sail panel and rear interior side panels prior to installing our now narrowed back seat. You won’t be able to install the rear side panels with the seat in the way. With our future backseat passengers covered, we started looking forward. Namely, the front seats, interior door pull panels, door handles, window cranks, front kick panels, and shifter. 

We saved the front seats for last, since installing them next would leave limited space from installing the rest of our interior components. Next on the list was popping in the shifter plate that installs into the carpet, and halos the edge of the floorpan which makes room for the shifter through the floor. It installed easily with four screws and we connected the shifter to the Tremec 5-speed transmission, along with the shifter ball.

The shifter assembly could have been saved for last, but it helps us shift the car in and out of gear so we could move it around the shop if need be. Plus, we were anxious to make the Nova mechanically complete. 

The TKO shifter is what we'll be relying on to shift the Tremec TKO6060 gearbox around the twisties of an autocross.

The TKO shifter is what we’ll be relying on to shift the 5-speed Tremec TKO600 gearbox around the twisties of an autocross.

Next up was the interior door panels. The Classic Industries reproduction panels (PN N77001) go into place just like the factory originals did, by locking via a series of clips. They’re made to mimic the look of the OEM panels perfectly, and if you were to lay a NOS door panel next to these versions, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. The restoration business has clearly come a long way since the ’80s, back when aftermarket “reproduction” parts barely looked like the originals they were based on, and color matched components were a hit-or-miss crapshoot.

The time we were installing the new interior pieces from Classic Industries, we continued to be impressed with the quality and how well everything went together. It should – Classic Industries has spent decades and countless hours of R&D developing their restoration parts to meet the demands of not only the enthusiast, but to the concours restoration crowd too. The concours crowd can spot a phony part from a mile away, so when Classic Industries reproduces something from the OEM, they go above and beyond to ensure that every crease, stitch, and the material quality is spot on to what was created when the original part was new.

The door panels, shifter assembly, bucket seats, and other aspects of the interior were all installed by our very own in-house technicians, although the upholstery on the back seat was farmed out. *Editor's Note: The shift knob was borrowed from one of our 6-speed equipped project cars, as the correct unit was still on backorder at press time.

Conclusion

With Swinger officially fully assembled and ready to handle the twisties, we are glad that three solid years of hustling on this car has finally paid off. We have a car that’s both classic and contemporary, and can hang with just about any car from any era. Not only does this car have tons of power, massive stopping abilities, and incredible handling prowess, we have an interior that’s both comfortable to sit in and as sexy as it looks. 

We just hope that all of our work pays off, and everything works in sync as it should. Stay tuned for our final wrap up story where we take Swinger out to Adams Motorsports Park and have our in-house editors put the car to the test. It should be interesting… and fun. Stay tuned!

While we continue ironing out all of the bugs and put the finishing touches on Swinger, at least we have the burden of the interior installation off of our shoulders. The effort was definitely worth the work, and we have a cockpit that’s inviting, comfortable and modern – while still having the old school style. In our eyes, it’s perfect.

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About the author

Rick Seitz

Being into cars at a very early age, Rick has always preferred GM performance cars, and today's LS series engines just sealed the deal. When he's not busy running errands around town in his CTS-V, you can find him in the garage wrenching on his WS6 Trans Am, or at the local cruise spots in his Grand National.
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