Rejuvenating the seats
Considering its age, the leather of the Jaguar XJC seats was in good condition with no tears or holes, the stitching was tight and the leather was reasonably soft.  The seats retained that used leather patina that is quite acceptable for a leather interior in a classic car of this vintage and only displayed the expected "age and wear marks".  The vinyl areas were in excellent condition except for coming unglued in a few spots, but nothing needed replacing.

The interior was originally removed to assist with the body restoration but it soon became obvious that this was an ideal opportunity to also renovate the seats, interior trim and carpet etc.

After comparing various options I decided that the Leatherique range of products from the USA were ideal to add some new life to the leather, and so began the rather messy redying saga that took a few weeks.

First step was to dismantle the seats and cut a small piece of leather and vinyl from under the seats to be used for colour matching the dye.  I sent these off-cuts to Sydney to the Australian Leatherique distributor.  When I looked closely I found that the interior had a various shades of colour in the leather and vinyl, therefore the colour was matched to “average” the original "Olive" colour of the factory trim.

Using general purpose automotive paint thinners and heaps of clean rags, the original lacquer based dye was stripped from the front and rear leather seat facings.  This removed the old dye and provided the best possible surface to apply the new dye to.  I was very careful to keep the thinners and old dye off the vinyl surfaces to prevent damaging them.

After stripping the dye, several generous coats of Leatherique Rejuvenator Oil (over a few days) were applied and  thoroughly massaged into the leather and stitching.  The Rejuvenator Oil softens and revives the leather and to provide the best result the seats were left to dry for a week to allow the oil to soak in.

I then applied two coats of Leatherique dye which had been colour matched to my leather samples.   Small foam brushes were used on the flat surfaces (to stop brush marks) and a small paint brush with hard bristles used to work the dye into the stitches and seams.  Thin coats are best and you have to be careful to avoid any build up or the water based dye will dry in lumps.  Particular attention was needed in the seams and around the stitching to thin out the application and spread the built up of dye.

After leaving the seats to dry for a week they were then given a thorough hand buffing with old towels to bring out the satin lustre in the leather.

I was very pleased with the final result which was a great improvement on what it was like before.  The seats were supple and well presented and showed no signs of the wear that was evident before the Leatherique treatment.  Although the seats didn’t look new, the improvement was accomplished for a few hundred dollars instead of the thousands a new leather retrim would have cost.  And the Jag still retained the patina expected of a vehicle of its vintage.
Original seat before being rejuvenated with Leatherique products
An amazing improvement achieved without breaking the bank
The rear seat also benefited from the Leatherique rejuvenation process
The Carwood timber veneer kit arrived ready to install
The extra timber enhanced the interior and provided a more luxurious finish to the Jag
Additional Timber Veneer

The interior of the Coupe was crying out for some extra timber veneer.  The central dash and glove box lid were the only areas originally finished with polished timber and the rest of the dash and console area was finished in either silver metal or black vinyl. 

To add a further touch of class to the interior I approached Carwood, a local company that specialised in Jaguar interior timber refurbishment.  I purchased a timber veneer kit to replace the original centre console, radio, ignition switch and light switch surrounds. 

The additional timber veneer really lifted the appearance of the interior and delivered the splendid finish that Jaguar should have provided when it was first built.

Restoration completed

The XJC Jag was off the road for just over twelve months.  The restoration cost a lot more than I had first planned and also took four times longer than expected, all due to an ever expanding list of items that I added during the rebuild.  At times the restoration was my worst nightmare come to haunt me and at other times the source of a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.

Thankfully the good times outweighed the bad and the end result was a magnificent Jaguar XJC 5.3 that will provide a great deal of pleasure for many years to come.  I did get a bit carried away and rebuilt or replaced a lot more items than originally planned but I restored this car to ensure that it lasts for many decades into the future.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely not!  Any future classic car that I buy will be fully restored by a previous caring and fussy owner like myself - I have learnt my lesson.  Well, no not really, because I repeated the same thing with my next vehicle, an E-Type Jaguar!

Check out more photos of the Jaguar XJC restoration