When it comes to the soft goods used to create the perfect custom interior for our rides, there are many options. Everything from factory-appearing to full-on custom applications is available for many popular classics and muscle cars. One company that has made a successful business of building beautiful interiors is TMI Products out of Corona, California.
Since the company was founded in 1982, the folks at TMI have greatly increased the options available to customers when sizing up the perfect interior for their rides. The company’s offerings have grown to include not only seating, but also consoles, floor covering, door panels, and headliners. Going one step further than simply an “interior in a box” offering, TMI also provides a long list of customization options for its customers to personalize their rides even more.
The availability of custom-designed interior components allows any enthusiast to make a statement with the build of their ride, but deviating from OEM may be intimidating for some. We spoke with the folks at TMI about some of the company’s offerings and how they help customers choose the right components for their sweet rides. We also contacted the knowledgeable team at Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin about some of the tricks of the trade they use when installing a TMI interior into a customer’s car.
Choosing A Custom Interior That Fits
We asked TMI’s Ross Berlanga about some ways the TMI sales staff helps customers choose the perfect interior from the company’s broad scope of products. “TMI has vehicle-specific applications for many popular cars, so no measurements are needed,” he says. “As far as seat styles, it really comes down to someone’s driving style, or what functionality are they looking to achieve.”
He goes on to explain if a person is just cruising to their local hot spot, a seat such as the TMI Pro Classic or even a Cruiser Classic, which has limited side-to-side support due to small bolsters, will fit the bill and be quite comfortable. On the other hand, if a person is looking for more performance and needs a seat to keep them firmly planted behind the steering wheel as they fly around an autocross course, then they will want to go with something more like a TMI Pro Low Back seat that has strong bolsters. If a person is looking for even more support, they’ll want a race-style seat that has purpose-built holes in the headrest for a four- or five-point harness. A seat such as the TMI Pro Chicane would achieve the best of comfort as well as performance.
TMI also offers a variety of styles to match your ride’s specific build. Ross explains, “The TMI Pro Classic or Cruiser Classic seats are very square, which have been a big hit with our truck customers. The Pro Low Back or Cruiser Low Back Seats have a little more performance styling to complement its bolsters, which work well with a muscle car or any performance build.” TMI looks at how a seat fits within a completed interior, and with that in mind, TMI offers comprehensive interior packages for many popular vehicles that will bolt in over a weekend in your garage.
Personalizing Your Car’s Custom Interior
Even if your ride isn’t one of the popular ones that TMI offers specific components for, you can still utilize all the great looks and upgrades available through a TMI product. TMI has helped make building a custom interior easy by offering the seat dimensions in the product details on each seat. Enthusiasts can get the basic measurements of the top, side, and front of any TMI universal seats. A customer can then use these measurements as a cross-reference with their vehicle’s interior. We asked Dan, the lead interior technician at Muscle Car Restorations, about how they ensure the entire interior has a perfect fit, feel, and quality.
“Make sure ALL the interior pieces are in place when measuring for seats,” he says. “Interior components are a major expense of building a car. You don’t want things like door skins or the shifter rubbing against the leather once everything is installed.”
You may still want to retain the rear seat frame and just re-skin it with a cover from TMI featuring a matching design. The company has the necessary measurements for many popular models and can create a design that matches the new front seats perfectly. The MCR team has been installing and creating interiors for years, and sometimes there isn’t a cover available, or the interior needs modifying to compensate for mini-tubs or other modifications.
Dan and the staff at MCR have narrowed factory rear seat frames on several cars and then re-skinned them to match the TMI-supplied front seats. In the rare case the company doesn’t offer a matching rear seat cover, one would need to be created, which would entail sewing up a custom design to match the font seat. Be sure to order enough of the matching material for the rear seat, as well as any other areas that will be covered with the same material, when you order the front seats. When creating a rear seat cover, Dan recommends contacting a TMI customer service representative and ordering approximately five yards of the same material that will be used in the front seats. This ensures the grain and color dye of the material will match once everything is installed.
When it comes to bolting in those brand-new seats, there are several options available. TMI has an extensive Installation Guide listing to help you install your new interior and also offers many seat-specific mounting options to mate those custom seats to the floor pans of your ride. TMI’s seat brackets are heavy-duty, welded construction, and have a durable, black powdercoat finish. Dan confided the TMI Pro-Series seat brackets are a quality product and even if they need to modify them slightly to match the mounting points of the car, they are much further ahead than building their own brackets.
Getting The Perfect Interior The First Time
While the expense and effort of creating the perfect custom interior may seem significant, a complete TMI Interior is far more cost-effective than a high-end interior shop. The quality TMI products have the lasting effect to stand the test of time and will far outweigh the effort put into it. There are also several suggestions from the folks in the know that will help you to get the perfect interior on the first try. The staff at MCR suggest you do a little seat shopping first. You can attend a few car shows and experience the seats in similar vehicles as yours. Strike up a conversation with the owner, and ask if you may sit in the seat to see how it feels. Be mindful though, you’re sitting in someone else’s perfect interior, make sure it stays that way!
Also, be honest about the intended use of the vehicle. Not having enough support throughout the autocross can be just as unnerving as working out the relationship with very supportive bolsters on a long ride or when trying to exit the vehicle. Both Dan and Ross emphasized the importance of making sure the seat matches the mission of the car.
One final recommendation, and the reason Dan and his team have fostered such a good working relationship with the folks at TMI, is to start with quality products. Dan finished the conversation by saying they never have issues with quality stuff, which is why they start with TMI products on so many of their builds. It’s also why you can trust TMI to make a spectacular custom interior for your pride and joy.