1975 Chevy Laguna - Comfort Zone
If Looks Could Kill, The Interior Of Our Laguna Would've Had Us Six Feet Under A longtime Ago. We Finally Take Matters Into Hand.
From the February, 2010 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Johnny Hunkins
The interior of our '75 Laguna...
The interior of our '75 Laguna project car has come a long way since we bought it. Getting this far cost just under $1,600-the majority of that going for Procar by Scat Rally 1000 seats, carpet and upholstery from OPG, weatherstripping from SoffSeal, and a Stewart Warner Performance tach.
No matter how nice your engine, your paint, your rolling stock, or your drivetrain, your project car just isn't going to get props with a trashed interior and dry-rotted weatherstripping. Even if you don't care what others think, a trashy interior is neither comfortable, nor does it give you the sense of pride you want in your hot rod. Case in point: Our Laguna's interior had all the allure of the inside of a garbage dumpster when we got it. The list of health department violations encompassed (but was not limited to) completely worn-out carpet, hammered sill plates, incorrect and unsafe seats, split upholstery, and an undetermined sticky, smelly goo that covered all the touchpoints such as the steering wheel and gearshift knob.
Much of the work on the interior was accomplished at the same time we did the wheels, tires, paint, graphics, and other exterior tweaks like the custom spoilers. That work was accomplished at Heath Elmer Restorations in Gilbert, Arizona, with the help of Heath Elmer and Keith Kanak. Our thanks go out to Elmer and Kanak for helping us tackle this hazmat job.
To understand how well-spent...
To understand how well-spent our money was, you have to first know what we started with. Even though the gut was in shambles, the floorboards and door skins under all this mayhem were in extremely good shape-and our Laguna project wasn't even a "California" car.
The decision to take on an old project, especially one that isn't super popular, isn't an easy one. You may like a '75 Laguna as much as a '69 Chevelle, but finding key parts for an interior restoration can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we found out that Original Parts Group (OPG) and SoffSeal makes goodies for our oddball Laguna-stuff like weatherstripping, carpet, and upholstery kits. We also discovered a place called Dixie Monte Carlo Depot that makes a lot of stuff for Lagunas, including a very nice vinyl dash cap for $75. (This cool piece, PN DB00187, attaches to any torn or split dash pad with RTV, and can make your dash look brand new. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of parking our Laguna in the Mojave Desert with the windows rolled up on a 119-degree day, and the cap got too wavy from the heat. Unless you see temperatures like we do, you'll probably be OK with this solution.) Another cool product we liked even more after it was installed was a pair of Procar Rally 1000 seats. These have a classic muscle car look with the support of modern seats-they're the best of both worlds, and at about $330 apiece, aren't that expensive either.
Our interior job began with...
Our interior job began with humble beginnings at Heath Elmer Restorations in Gilbert, Arizona. Here, PHR freelancer and all-around good guy, Keith Kanak, has already pulled out the old Datsun 260Z seats and is yanking the console for refurbishing. We found over 30 years (30 pounds?) of junk hiding in the nooks and crannies.
The Laguna no longer feels, looks, or smells like the inside of a 13-year-old's room, which is saying a lot. The vast improvement inside the cockpit makes our junky dashboard and instrument panel stand out all the more, so we'll need to come back to that in a few months with an improvement there. Right now, we're scoping out the services of Just Dashes. We've seen some of their work in some of the cars we've featured, and it's impressive. Before that, however, we're going to swap our loose torque converter for something tighter, and head back to the chassis dyno for next month's story. If all goes well there, we could be ready for a drag test soon after that!
|Project Talladega The Cost So Far
|'75 Chevy Laguna
|Phoenix 700R4 trans, flexplate and converter
|Sherwin Williams paint, materials, and labor
|Makeover (tires, wheels, graphics, seats, etc.)
|408ci solid-roller small-block
|Global West rear suspension
|Global West front suspension
|Global West front brake upgrade
|Engine and trans installation
|Dr. Gas side-exit NASCAR exhaust
|CPP 500 Series steering box
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT
|Black carpet kit, '75-77 Chevelle
|Black rear upholstery kit
|Roof rail weatherstripping
|Procar Series 1000 seat, left side*
|Procar Series 100 seat, right side*
|Procar seat bracket, '73-77 Malibu, left side*
|Procar seat bracket, '73-77 Malibu, right side*
|Interior vinyl and fabric dye, flat black
|Billet steering wheel
|*Cost of these items was included in April 2009 story installment
Part of the interior restoration...
Part of the interior restoration started while the Laguna was in paint jail. Elmer pulled the stock hinges, soda blasted them, and rebuilt them with new hinge pins. This will make the door swing straight and level where it used to sag and drag against the sill. These were painted black and reinstalled along with new door strikers.
The most transformative change...
The most transformative change to the interior came from these Scat Procar Rally 1000 seats. These chairs manage to do what few others can: They preserve the period muscle car vibe with their styling, stitching, vinyl fabric, and low-back design, while providing the support that only modern seats can give. Procar even makes seat brackets for the '73-77 Chevelle. Seats and brackets will set you back about $750.
The rear upholstery in the...
The rear upholstery in the Laguna was totally spent, so when we discovered that OPG actually makes these for our car, we jumped on a set for about $110. Removing the old covers here involves the tedious task of unbending several dozen hog rings that hold the upholstery to the seat frame.
After stretching out the new...
After stretching out the new OPG seat cover on the seat frame, you'll need to attach it to the frame with hog rings, using a set of hog ring pliers. The OPG rear seat upholstery even comes with buttons. These insert into the upholstery, and fasten to the seatback frame for a contoured look. Check out the opening photo to see the results.
Our OPG-supplied carpet set...
Our OPG-supplied carpet set was of high quality, and fit the floor pan like a glove. It helps to unfold the carpet and let it flatten out for a few days before installing it. The biggest job here was taking measurements for the shifter position directly from the car's interior, and transferring them to the carpet along its centerline. You'll want a tape measurer, masking tape, and a carpet knife to cut your shifter opening.
Our Laguna uses both studs...
Our Laguna uses both studs and boltholes to secure its seats. Cutting holes in the carpet for the studs was a simple matter of finding the stud and cutting a slot. For boltholes, you'll need to poke around with your finger and then make a cut. It's not as simple as it sounds.
Unfortunately, nobody makes...
Unfortunately, nobody makes reproduction sill plates for the '73-77 Chevelle/Malibu/Laguna, which is surprising since they're the same as a Monte Carlo of the same year. We decided to refurbish ours with some soapy water, some Scotch-Brite, and a wire brush. Big dents were worked out with a planishing hammer on the edge of a vice. The results turned out quite nice, and cost nothing but our labor.
Dupli-Color Vinyl & Fabric...
Dupli-Color Vinyl & Fabric Paint is an indispensable tool for restoring any interior, because let's face it, you're never going to find NOS or reproduction pieces for everything. A can of this can make any interior part look new again, and we used a lot of it. Summit sells it for $7.95 a can, but you can find it in most auto parts stores like Auto Zone or Rock Auto.
If this was a cooking show,...
If this was a cooking show, I'd probably be saying "Bam!" right now. The Laguna's center console went from tired to brand-new with about a half a can of Dupli-Color HVP-106 (flat black Vinyl & Fabric Paint). The texture is actually closer to satin black than flat black-don't let the description on the can fool you. This looks way better than gloss black.
The Procar seat brackets needed...
The Procar seat brackets needed a little persuasion (gratis Elmer) to perfectly match the holes in the floor of the Laguna. The important thing to remember is that these brackets fit a lot of different cars, but once the floor tabs are aligned, the seats will end up at the proper height and seat angle. After messaging the brackets, we touched them up with some satin black spray paint.
After tweaking the brackets...
After tweaking the brackets and mounting them to the adjusters and the seats, it was time to bolt those babies in! Things started taking a turn for the better about that time. Take a look at the torn headliner-we're going to circle back around later and tackle that with some other remaining items on the to-do list.
The SoffSeal weatherstripping...
The SoffSeal weatherstripping comes in two parts that need to be purchased separately-the door weatherstripping (PN 5017, $89), and the roof rail weatherstripping (PN 5035, $82). You'll want to start in the corner, and work your way out from there, compressing the lip into the channel with your fingers. The door weatherstripping has stubs that snap into small holes in the door frame-the blunt handle of a screwdriver is a good tool to use for that.
Now the bad news. Our dash...
Now the bad news. Our dash pad was totally spent, especially after taking out our non-functional factory A/C. We'll be sending it out to Just Dashes to get it rebuilt back to new, and bring that to you in a later story. We did replace our ancient Sun tach with a new Stewart Warner unit (see October 2009-"Gimme Back My Bullet"), and found a non-descript billet steering wheel at a swap meet for $50. We also added some Summit electronic gauges for $89.95 that we also showed you in the October 2009 issue.
We've been collecting this...
We've been collecting this group of parts from Laguna enthusiasts Larry Belcher and Steve Yoder (whose car was featured on the cover of the December issue). Shown are a stock gauge panel, glovebox, ashtray, glovebox door, shifter bezel, and a bag with a visor hinge, and a retaining circlip for the shifter knob. A lot of Laguna stuff is just not available anymore, so it pays to do some networking. We'll tackle this stuff when we get our dash pad back from Just Dashes. In the meantime, we'd like to give a shout-out to Belcher and Yoder for all their help!
The Laguna's console was grungy,...
The Laguna's console was grungy, and needed lots of TLC with some soapy water and some Scotch-Brite. The console lid hinge is a plastic membrane that had long since split. We bought some metal kitchen cabinet hinges from the hardware store and screwed the hinges to the lid and the box. It's not perfectly lined up or even, but at least it works now.