Curbside Tech- Giving My Interior a Little Style

My Starting Point- A sharp eye may be able to spot the peeling trim on the door panel trim and turn signal stalk.


Last week, covered the changes I made to the gauge cluster in the El Kylemino. This week, I’ll cover the appearance and functional changes made to the rest of the interior. I made most of the changes to improve the overall lock, but when possible I also try to improve overall function.

At the time of purchase, the interior was complete but sun faded, and had no significant rips in the panels or upholstery. The dash has a few cracks ad the carpet is worn out, but I planned to live with these faults. However I wanted to upgrade the radio, replace the brougham era steering wheel and change out some of the cheaper trim pieces used in the base model interior.

On all my projects, I follow a couple basic rules. I’ve never really written them down, so this is a fine time to do so:

  1. When possible, use OEM parts instead of aftermarket options. To my mind, OEM parts have the same or better engineering and are available at junkyard prices.
  2. Avoid spending money on cosmetics. I’m not a big fan of patina, but the cost of paint jobs and shiny reproduction parts is often MUCH more than mechanical modifcations.
  3. Try to maintain a period look. Aftermarket stereos and 20″ wheels will NOT appear on any of my cars.
  4. Don’t make changes for the sake of change.

Of course, I’ve broken most of these rules at some point (except #3), so consider them more guidelines than hard and fast regulations.

Black knob, shiny lock cylinder- I prefer consistency in my locking mechanisms.


With the guidelines established, let’s  take a look at my interior updates. Shortly after I bought the car, the ignition lock cylinder jammed, and I noticed something odd- GM installed a flat black glove box knob, but a chrome ignition lock cylinder.

My black ignition switch- Check out those fine gauges in the background!


For consistency, I replaced the broken part with a black switch.

I’m not a fan of black plastic, but it’s better than peeling chrome.


Also, while I had the steering column disassembled, I changed out the turn signal switch for a new one. The original part looked a bit dated and suffered from peeling plasti-chrome. You’ll also notice the new part supports cruise control and delay wipers, changes I’ll review in later posts.

My new radio panel- As you may recall, a buddy gave me the deluxe tape deck, but I paid for the USB charging port.


I mentioned my radio upgrade in an earlier post, but I also replaced the cigarette lighter with a USB charging port. The port fit right into the lighter hole, but needed a little pizzazz. To finish off the port, I glued a trim ring off an accessory shift ball to the dash face.

My “new” steering wheel- I’ve been meaning to realign the bowtie for two years…


This three spoke steering wheel finished off my dashboard changes. I could have bought an aftermarket wheel for 100 or 200 bucks, but I put this one together for $75 using junkyard parts and a custom cover. As an added benefit, an OEM wheel supports the factory steering lock, unlike some aftermarket wheels.

An example of my starting point.


Step one was this junkyard Jeep steering wheel purchased for $15. Jeep has used this wheel since the seventies, and since they used Saginaw columns up through the late eighties, the wheel bolts directly to the El Camino column.

When I peeled the leather back, I discovered this foam glued to the spokes. Fortunately, it peeled off and cleaned up nicely.


To protect today’s delicate fingers the Jeep wheel included padded spoke covers. I prefer the look of bare spokes so I removed the leather and found the earlier style wheel underneath.

I can’t stand slip-on steering wheel covers- Give me the lace up style every time.


I also changed the wheel color using a lace up steering wheel cover. I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this cover, but the beige portion has not help up well (admittedly, it’s my working truck and I’m pretty tough on vehicle interiors).

Jeep center cover, Chevy emblem.


The steering wheel also needed a bow tie in the center cap. I peeled one out of a Cavalier steering wheel, and trimmed it to fit in the Jeep horn button opening. Voila- A custom wheel at junkyard prices.

The final product- I’m not a huge fan of the blackout tape, but it looks MUCH better than the peeling plasti-chrome.


With the dash board updated, I moved on to the door panels. Over time, the plasti-chrome trim had peeled off, and the square black door pull caps looked cheap. As in REALLY Cheap. To address these issues, I covered the trim with black out tape, and then bought four bright door pull covers to add a little flash to each door panel.

The current carpet- The nap has worn off exposing the backing.


I still plan to change out the bench seat for a pair of buckets, and install a new carpet, but for now the interior work is complete.