After spending a substantial amount of time and effort buttoning up and finalizing my interior, I of course did what only makes sense and ripped it all out again! I felt like I left some things on the table in a few areas, and I know I won’t be completely content until the results meet exact standards. I’ve lost count of how many times I tinkered with the interior, but I resolved to undergo one more phase and tackle it with gusto. I want to finish strong and bring closure to this seemingly never ending saga.
I removed all of the main interior panels, including the AiM Dash, and the door cards. I promptly foraged for a large bicycle box and shipped the latter to the good folks at ESH Upholstering, who previously worked on my Spirit-R Alcantara covers, to join the seats in a similar fate. Even though I fought with myself to hold off on reupholstering the door cards in Alcantara for as long as I did… In the back of my mind, I knew that they would inevitably need to be done. Always follow your instincts and save the delays.
As for the whereabouts of the interior plastics, I will share their details in a later post. Hang tight and check back, it should be worth it.
While I was attacking the interior, it was a great opportunity to remove and access the exterior door handles.
I later cleaned and disassembled the door handle mechanisms completely. The idea was to replace the pull-up handles with cast aluminum variants. The OEM handles are made out of plastic, a grotesquely poor material choice by Mazda here, and while mine are in great shape, it was a precautionary measure to replace them. They will sooner or later snap at the pivot point – they all do. Furthermore, I wanted to enhance the sense of quality to the car by having metal handles, since they feel better to the touch when opening the doors. The less plastic touch points, the better.
I ended up purchasing a set of black aluminum handles from a vendor called Rotary13B1. Unfortunately, the powder coated finish I received on the handles were inconsistent, one was textured and the other was smooth.
After bringing this to their attention, Rotary13B1 was nice enough to send me another pair with better matching finishes. However, one of the handles on the new one had a casting mark that showed through the surface. I opted to just keep my original set and plan on refinishing them in conjunction with the triangular surround pieces altogether. This is the only way to ensure consistency. Otherwise, the aluminum handles appear to be accurate in shape and fitment.
Going back to the door cards, ESH completed the reupholstering after only a couple of weeks, right on time! Although I could have had the door cards redone by a local shop and saved the hassle of shipping across the country, I entrusted them with ESH due to their previous experience with this specific job. They already had the pattern nailed down and also, more importantly, the prepping process. Here’s a look at what it takes. These pictures were sent to me by ESH and are a little low in size, but more media should follow in the near future.
First, it is crucial to chemically clean the panels in order to remove the years of built up oil-based protectant applications. The solvent used is like an adhesive remover and dries out the vinyl. Below is a comparison of the cleaned panel next to a new, black vinyl that exactly matches the factory material.
As if that wasn’t harsh enough, the next step was to physically sand the panels with 40 grit. Not an easy thing to stomach given the good condition of my door cards, but a necessary evil. ESH repeated the sanding and treating of the panels about 5 times each. After each session, the panels were placed under the sun to identify completion. Any area that might create bonding issues with the glue will present itself as a more normal black finish. The prep work is done when the panels remains a thoroughly faded white under the sun.
In order to wrap in Alcantara, all of the trim and pieces needed to be stripped off. ESH did a great job putting everything back into place, including the weather stripping along the window. Albeit the Alcantara is wrapped on top, all of the trim should still reinstall like factory.
And here are the door cards reupholstered in black on black Alcantara.
They look fantastic in pictures, I can’t wait to install them into the car. But the project is not yet over. More on that next.
Check out Blue eyeing my Dad’s plate of food.