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Leather Interior Refurb / Colour Change DIY

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During the Xmas break I tackled refreshing / changing the colour of my leather interior.

I was lucky to pick up my 330ci with a full M3 Nappa leather interior in Kiwi - this was one of the things that first sold me on the car, having a nice contrast with the Orient Blue, not to mention the higher quality leather and the huge amount of electric adjust in the seats.

The interior didn't have any rips / tears and seemed in decent nick, but after living with the car a few months I had swapped out the dash trim, repainted some of the interior plastics and re-trimmed the steering wheel, the leather was clearly the weak link in the interior with minor cracking, UV damage flaking and colour variations throughout.

I originally tried an Ebay liquid leather type kit to do a quick 'freshen up' but it was evident trying match 15+ year old Kiwi leather was a waste of time (mine had faded to more of a yellow and factory kiwi is surprisingly green which I was not a fan of). The plan escalated from there.

I figured if I was going to go to the trouble of restoring the leather, why not go for a colour change to something I would love instead?

Pics:

Original colour and contrast with exterior

Condition of seat bolsters / flaking of headrests etc

 

 

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I've really admired several M3's with Cinnamon interiors on Instagram, although I've seen plenty of photos of Cinnamon where it looks very orange - possibly due to flash used / lighting but I wasn't quite up for the risk and I didn't have time to order different sample colours from the UK if I was to get this done during the Xmas / New year break.

I therefore settled on Caramel, which is an E39 M5 leather colour, very popular in the US - quite a rich tan, with a nice warm tone I felt was safer and would look great with the Orient Blue paintwork - certainly felt like a safer option than Cinnamon but still different to other E46 leather options.

After a fair amount of research, I went with Furniture Clinic in the UK, who stock a range of BMW colours, using their leather colourant (a durable, highly flexible, latex leather paint) and their matte topcoat which gives a factory matte look while adding feel and durability.

https://www.furnitureclinic.co.uk/Leather_Dyes_Restoration

Great products with excellent reviews and there are several huge DIY threads on international forums with seemingly good longevity.

I started by removing the interior and disassembling everything. Despite taking half the car apart previously to do an audio install, I was surprised how long this took as the electric seats came into what seemed like a thousand pieces - I removed the lower seat cushions to get maximum coverage and switched the driver and passenger seat bases as my driver lower bolster was slightly collapsed.

The door cards were also a lot of fun, with the leather inserts requiring the removal (wood chisel and hammer) of about 40 plastic welded rivets on each panel, again to ensure I had the best coverage. I eventually put them back together with some 9mm screws and washers.

 

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So with the interior in pieces, I set about prepping the leather - an extremely important part of the process and the point of no return:

1. Scrub down with horse hair shoe brush and water to get dirt off

2. Rub down with acetone using a green scouring pad - this starts to lift off the factory top coat and colour

3. Rub down with Isopropyl alcohol with a green scouring pad - lifts off more colour and any oils / silicones left to improve adhesion

4. Light sand with 600grit sandpaper - 'tooth' up the surface a little and made the leather beautiful and smooth ready for paint.

 

From here I started (the fun part?) painting, first by rubbing in two coats by hand, getting into all creases. This looked absolutely hideous and was quite discouraging, looking like I had smeared fake tan all over green leather with terrible coverage - not to worry.

 

Now the actual fun part began, spraying on the colour using an air compressor ($70) and Trade Me HVLP spray gun ($25).

After two coats of sprayed colour the vision really started coming together, being very easy to get even, smooth colour all over, on difficult surfaces and into little gaps.

After two more coats, sanding between each coat, coverage was complete.

At this point colour was quite intense and while pretty good, looked and felt slightly cakey in parts - not bad, but not amazing either.

The matte clear top coat however came to the rescue - after 4-5 coats of this, the leather looked and felt amazing - some a fantastic finishing product - it toned down the pigment a little, gave a lovely matte finish and added a really silky feel to the leather - beautiful stuff.

Pics:

Work in progress

Lower seat examples - before prep / after first spray coat - still greenish/ final spray coat / matte clear coat

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Finally, after letting it all dry / cure for 5-6 days, I reinstalled the interior (not much fun), gave her a good groom and a photo shoot.

I'm stoked with the colour and quality, there are a few tiny areas where I would have liked to do a better job but you would only notice by having it specifically pointed out and eyeballing from 6 inches - for day to day use it perfect and my wife thinks I'm crazy to think otherwise.

The colour is a great, classic navy / tan combo with the orient blue and IMHO has enough wow factor without getting into 'marmite' territory.

Only issue I've run into is my airbag light is now on, I believe due to switching the passenger and driver seat bases with the passenger occupancy sensor no longer in play.

Hoping I can clear that and get the sensor delete thing from Ebay / TradeMe.

I'm a little anxious to see how this wears - supposedly should be good for years (we can but hope) - at least this car rarely see's passengers and I now have the perfect colour match for any driver seat touch ups that may or may not be needed in the future.

Its been finished 3 weeks with daily driving and several beach trips (i.e. wet, salty bums) and looks perfect.

Final pics once completed - looks and feels better than most new cars inside now.

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Wow. That is a stunning transformation! 

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13 minutes ago, str8_6 said:

Wow. That is a stunning transformation! 

Thanks mate! Ended up being a hell of a lot of work but stoked with the result and colour 

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The best BMW interior colour. Where'd you get your steering wheel done? That looks great too

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2 minutes ago, BozzaFC said:

The best BMW interior colour. Where'd you get your steering wheel done? That looks great too

Cheers - yeah, since ogling over posters or red Ferarris with tan interiors as a kid, I've always wanted this kind of colour interior...

Ebay wheel wrap - took wheel off and about 2-3 hours with a needle and thread - surprisingly perfect fit and feels great:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/DIY-PU-Leather-Steering-Wheel-Cover-for-BMW-E36-E36-5-E46-5-5-Series-E39-M3-M5/123160799804?hash=item1cacf4aa3c:g:zAwAAOSwZGJcwS2t

https://www.ebay.com/itm/MEWANT-Custom-Genuine-Leather-Steering-Wheel-Cover-for-BMW-5-Series-E39-M3-M5/362698740720?epid=28029194137&hash=item54728793f0:g:x5kAAOSwIXZdKCO1

I went with black with partial perforations and black thread, accidentally ordered PU leather but its still nice, I'm sure the leather would be better for a few more $$ - you can get ///M stitching / alcantara etc as well if you like - great cheap mod.

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Holy crap that's awesome.

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That looks fantastic. Really. 
 

Hats off to you for doing a DIY. A lot of people (myself included) either wouldn’t know where to start or would chicken out at the first bump in the road during the process. Seeing it through and coming up with something that looks like this, you should be proud. 
 

I have to ask though, are there any remaining bits of the interior which are sort of amplified given that you have done the seats, wheel and other trim? Sort of like painting half your house and then the original bits which have aged are really noticeable.

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Thanks! 

Nothing obvious, interior is pretty mint now except my front and rear pillars definately need recovering. 

In a perfect world I would get a new centre console as I'm not totally satisfied with my repaint of it and I like the idea of trying piano black trim instead of the carbon cube. 

There's always something 😂

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that is so nicely done! 
 

I had an e39 m5 with a caramel interior. It had a quick touch up of the leather at some stage in its life and after using some mothers leather cleaner on it, i started seeing the colour of the cloth on the seats! I tried leatherique and that turned the leather all sticky which i assume was the touchup paint reacting. What you have done to your seats is exactly what I was planning to do, but then another M5 came along for sale. Haha.

Well done!

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9 hours ago, BreakMyWindow said:

that is so nicely done! 
 

I had an e39 m5 with a caramel interior. It had a quick touch up of the leather at some stage in its life and after using some mothers leather cleaner on it, i started seeing the colour of the cloth on the seats! I tried leatherique and that turned the leather all sticky which i assume was the touchup paint reacting. What you have done to your seats is exactly what I was planning to do, but then another M5 came along for sale. Haha.

Well done!

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Beautiful car! Yeah, seems durable so far but early days - the clear top coat should really help though. 

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You Should head along to the next Akl meet this Sunday out in Penrose. Be very keen to see this amazing interior.

 

 

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1 hour ago, BreakMyWindow said:

You Should head along to the next Akl meet this Sunday out in Penrose. Be very keen to see this amazing interior.

 

 

That could work well actually as I'm dropping my wife at the airport Sunday morning. 

 

Car is getting bonnet resprayed at the moment but was supposed to be finished yesterday so should be back for the weekend 👍

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Sam, car looked amazing today at coffee meeting.

Were you on Lake Rd heading towards devo this afternoon ?

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Yes, I have to agree, the interior looks even better in person than the pictures above. I'm not sure I'd have the guts to attack the leather like you did but the results are amazing.

Props.

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Epic job Sam, can’t say how impressed it was in person, great outcome makes a special car 

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Spectacular result!

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14 hours ago, sweetm3 said:

Sam, car looked amazing today at coffee meeting.

Were you on Lake Rd heading towards devo this afternoon ?

Cheers! 

Yup, was off to Cheltenham for a swim 👍

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There’s an e36 being wrecked onFB that looks to have the same or very similar colour.

I think yours is a fantastic job by the way.

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On 2/6/2020 at 4:56 PM, Palazzo said:

There’s an e36 being wrecked onFB that looks to have the same or very similar colour.

I think yours is a fantastic job by the way.

Hmmm, think the E36 had a similar tan - Modena I beleive? considered that as well. 

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That could be it. Very close though.

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