1960 Bel-Air
1960 Bel-Air
1960 Bel-Air

Flexin’ muscle on a 1960s Bel Air restoration

The Chevy Bel Air, a luxury car back in the day, turned heads no matter what street it cruised down in the ’50s and ’60s—and it continues to do so today.The third-generation owner of a 1960 New Zealand model Bel Air decided about six years ago to undertake a ground-up restoration and modernization of his tired-out (but still running) classic vehicle so that it could be enjoyed by future generations. By the time it made it to Napier Auto Upholstery’s shop, the owner had already restored the original jet-black paint colour.

“Our client’s grandfather painted it white, as there was another [muscle car, a] Ford in the town and he wanted his to be different,” Malcolm Wilkie notes in Napier’s 2022 International Achievement Awards (IAA) upholstery award entry.

For the interior pleated seats, the client took inspiration from a two-door 1960 Impala that features a houndstooth pattern. Besides seats, Napier Auto Upholstery installed carpets, door panels, a shifter cover, the rear window deck, front and rear seat belts (which were not mandatory at the time the car was built), the trunk lining, the interior roof lining, sun visors, and soundproofing. In addition, Napier fitted new windows supplied by the client, window channels and speakers.

“One feature in particular that was included in the American model but not the New Zealand model was the speaker grill in the back seat,” Wilkie says. “This was an added decorative feature that our team had to source and fit.”

The complexity of the project “was putting an inspired two-door American model into the reality of a four-door New Zealand model,” he says. “In particular, getting the lines accurate throughout the whole vehicle was difficult, as houndstooth increases gamma oscillations in the brain, which are associated with headaches, ultimately meaning our team would have sore eyes and begin to second-guess measurements if they looked at the material for longer periods of time [such as when] cutting and sewing. Hence why this had to be sewn in bite-size pieces to ensure accuracy. Although this may have been a complex material to work with, we successfully succeeded with an astonishing end result.”

Indeed. The project won the Outdoor Fabric Product Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) award in the upholstery category in 2022. Photos: Napier Auto Upholstery. July 2023 Specialty Fabrics Review

Awards 2022
Ofpanz 2022 Awards Dinner

Outdoor Fabric Products Awards 2022

We are excited to say we smashed some more goals here at Napier Auto Upholstery! At our recent Outdoor Fabric Products Association of NZ awards held in Nelson we achieved the following....
Tessa Paaymans - Year 2 Apprentice of the year and overall apprentice of the year
Malcolm Wilkie - Won the Upholstery Category for the 1960 Belair full interior

Napier Auto Upholstery Helps Out a Local Student
Napier Auto Upholstery Helps Out a Local Student
Napier Auto Upholstery Helps Out a Local Student
Napier Auto Upholstery Helps Out a Local Student

Napier Auto Upholstery Helps Out a Local Student

In October 2021, Napier Auto Upholstery had the opportunity to work with a local student from EIT. Ingrid Savill is a year 7 design student at IDEA School who is studying furniture design and approached our team to help assist her with the making of her fabric shelf that she will have on display at her upcoming exhibition in November.

Ingrid chose to use a vegan leather made from 100% Polyester called ‘Eastwood Tan,’ from a company called Warwick Fabric.  Ingrid’s fabric shelf sits on two wooden dowels and is joined in the centre with some plain stitching. The idea of the wooden dowel in the centre is that it is a decorative feature only that serves no function.

Ingrid came in with her seat and back cushions already made, with the intention that our team could match the stitching on the fabric shelf, in order for her piece to look complete. The idea of the fabric shelf is to be used for storage like blankets or scatter cushions.

Fast forward to November, Ingrid attended the EIT exhibition and received plenty of positive feedback about her bench sofa.  We are thrilled that we were able to help out a student and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

Girls Show their Passion for Fashion and Cars
Hawkes Bay Today Local News, Saturday, July 3, 2021

Napier women, Bobbi-jo and Tessa, sew up annual awards for upholstery. It takes Bobbi-jo Wilkie about eight hours to hand stitch and wrap leather around a steering wheel.

For her it's a combination of her passion for both cars and fashion. Last week, Wilkie, 36, who works at family-owned Napier Auto Upholstery Limited, won the tier 2 award at the annual OFPANZ (Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand) conference.

“It was awesome winning the tier 2 award. It was a goal I had set out for the year,” she said.

Apprentice motor trimmer Tessa Paaymans, who works at the auto shop with Wilkie, won the tier 1 award and got overall apprentice of the year at the conference. “This is an industry women can totally dominate in,” Paaymans said. “My mission for car upholstery is to make people push boundaries.”

Both Wilkie and Paaymans previously studied at EIT and completed a Level 4 Certificate in Fashion Apparel. Paaymans also studied Applied Industries at Toi Whakaari in Wellington. Wilkie was introduced to motor trimming from a very young age, with her father Malcolm owning Napier Auto Upholstery in 1982, before she was born.

At the age of 11, she got her first job at Napier Auto Upholstery, doing odd jobs around the workshop. With her love of cars and 25 years’ experience in sewing and her skill in pattern making, she decided to try motor trimming. “I love working with hot rods and muscle cars and am currently in the process of restoring a 1960 Bel Air. It takes a couple of months to restore fully the interior of a car. I really love restoring Camaros – that era of cars are really fun to upholster.”

She also loves the different choices of fabric she can work with, which allows her imagination to run wild, but she has a favourite. “I love working with nappa leather, it’s really nice to work with it and I like the feel of it,” she said. “It’s used a lot in the fancy European cars.”

Wilkie currently works at and manages the workshop and has shares in the company and will take over once her dad retires. Paaymans, 27, has 14 years’ experience in sewing and has a background in fashion and costume. She has spent her life around vintages, classics, speedway and track racing.

She started restoring cars with her dad found years ago and knew that using her skill base in design and sewing would be a good match for auto upholstery, which let her to Bobbi and Malcolm and their vast knowledge.  “I started sewing when I was about 13,” Paaymans said. “There used to be lots of wearable arts competitions and I used to enter them. I really like doing it. I also got contacted by New York fashion Week in 2017 to showcase a collection of six garments,” she said.

“After completing my diploma, I went to work at Weta Workshop for two years, Then I can back to Hawkes Bay. My dad has stated a car restoration business at home, so I joined him,” and soon after she stated working with Wilkie.

Winning the award for Paaymans was “amazing” and she wanted to highlight the achievements, so more people were aware of how to get there.


Fuelling Our Passion

Congratulations to our shop manager Bobbi-jo who is forever learning and sharing her passion. She has just completed another certificate in Industrial Textile Fabrication - Level 3.

The training programme included a mix of practical training and assessment, undertaken in the workplace, and eLearning, allowing her to complete theory elements of the programme at her own pace. She had access to videos, learning activities and course assessments.

Awards 2021
Awards 2021
Awards 2021

Outdoor Fabric Products Awards 2021

We are excited to say we smashed some goals here at Napier Auto Upholstery! At our recent Outdoor Fabric Products Association of NZ awards held in Auckland we acheieved the following....
Bobbi-jo Wilkie - Year 2 Apprentice of the year
Tessa Paaymans - Year 1 Apprentice of the year and overall apprentice of the year
Malcolm Wilkie - Highly Commended in the Upholstery Category for the Model A Sports hood he made

Apprentice Of The Year 2020

Bobbi-jo's quality craftsmanship and attention to detail caught the eye of the judges. “I was pretty shocked, but also really pleased,” she says. “At the start of the year I had written a list of goals for 2020 and one of those goals was to win Apprentice of the year!”

Motivated by this year’s successes, Bobbi is showing no sign of slowing down, in fact, she’s already got her goals set for the next year. “I want to take out Tier 2 and overall Apprentice of the year!” she says. More info  www.ofpanz.co.nz


Classic Napier Mail News 2003

Malcolm Wilkie and his team of professionals have literally got it covered when it comes to all your vehicle upholstery requirements. So if you're tired of the worn carpet of annoyed with the rip in your upholstery, then leave your vehicle in the hands of the expert team at Napier Auto Upholstery who also offer a complete interior replacement if that's what you're after.
"Anything at all to do with the interior, then we do it, even if it's modifying a seat that may be uncomfortable for on reason or another," he says, pointing out that even the height of your seat can let your down.
"Some people find the bolsters in the seats of new cars are too high, so we'll modify them to suit individual comfort, because there's no need for the driver to have to put up with an uncomfortable ride."
As well as welding, repairing seats, convertible tops, tonneau covers, van seating, replacement seatbelts and all interior restoration work, Malcolm and his team of Colin and Tim can bring your vehicle back to its pristine condition.
Call in and meet the guys at 20 Thames Street, in Pandora, or give them a call on 835 8365. Click Here