With 50 years of abuse on its seats, Project Biting The Bullitt, is definitely long overdue for some upgrades inside the car. This became even more evident after we recently completed restoring and transforming the car’s exterior this summer. We wanted to bring BTB’s interior up to modern levels of comfort and materials, without sacrificing the car’s classic appearance. To do this we turned to TMI Products.
Based in Corona, California, TMI, began making interior components 32 years ago. Sometime in the late 1980s they added Mustang interior parts to their product line as well as other muscle car products. Since then they have continued to innovate in the materials and styles they offer, catering to both the concurs restoration crowd, as well as the custom and restomod customer.
TMI’s 240,000-plus square foot facility in Corona, CA, is where they manufacture all of their products.
TMI builds everything in the USA at their 240,000 square foot facility. They pride themselves on providing products that fit like the originals, and have the look and feel of original products (if that’s what the customer desires). TMI produces everything from stock-style replacement interior components for classic to late model Mustangs, to major upgrade components such as those we’re using in Project BTB.
Foam is sprayed into a mold before being cast into the shape of the seat foams. When it comes out it's ready to be put on a seat frame and covered
A lot of customers were trying to fit aftermarket or modern seats in their Mustangs. We thought what if we reshaped the foam, added some bolstering, and adjusted the upholstery to match? -Larry Ashley, TMI
In addition to stock style replacements, TMI produces a line of seat covers and foams known as their Sport series. The Sport series brings modern comfort and seating support to classic Mustangs. These new products add bolstering and support that was previously lacking in our gen-one Mustang seats. This alternative to aftermarket seats allows classic Mustang owners to outfit their cars with modern comfort, while still retaining many of the features and benefits of traditional Mustang seats like style and low profile. “These new seat foams and covers have some of the look and feel of the original interior, but bring in modern comfort and support,” says TMI Marketing Director, Larry Ashley.
Ashley tells us, that the idea for the Sport series of seats was inspired by market trends and what they saw their customers doing. “A lot of customers were trying to fit aftermarket or modern seats in their Mustangs, and struggling with the brackets or other issues. So we thought what if we reshaped the foam, added some bolstering, and adjusted the upholstery to match? This way they don’t have any problems with the installation.”
Left: One of the few automated processes involved with the seat covers, all the material is cut using a CNC machine. Center Left: Pleated material is also sewn by machine before being assembled to other pieces by hand. Center Right: The only other automated step in assembling the seat covers is the embroidery machine. Right: Skilled TMI employees sew all of the seat covers together.
Our nearly finished rear seat bottom cover goes through some of its final sewing steps.
One of the coolest things about the seat cover and foam options from TMI is that there are hundreds of ways to configure your car. Between seat foam styles, seat cover styles, and custom options, you can select what’s not only going to make your comfortable, but something that will also ensure your Mustang stands out at the next show, cruise, or race. TMI can also cover these in either a vinyl or leather material depending on the customer’s preferences and budget.
Top Row: Left and Center Left: Our rear seat bottom frame needed to be modified in order to clear our mini-tubs. The lower frame had previously been modified, this also required the foam to be adjusted properly and custom covers to be made. Center Right: Rods are transferred to the new cover or replaced if needed. Right: Spray adhesive is used to help secure the seat cover to the new foam and the foam to the seat frame. Bottom Row: Left: Our rear seat back foam. Center Left: The new seat covers are carefully installed over the foam and frame. Center Right: More retaining rings are installed. Right: The back side with the seat cover, and foam completely installed
Our completely upgraded rear seat with new Sport R foams and custom covers from TMI, ready to install in Project BTB. This rear seat design is their newest rear split bucket.
The seat components from TMI fit the original seat frames, and this is a project that almost any enthusiast can handle in their home garage. The beauty of this is that the seats will fit like stock, because their frames haven’t changed. It really is a way to get the best of both worlds, the support of a modern seat design, with the fit and look of a classic seat.
The front seat assembly is very close to the rear seat process. The seat is assembled in halves, with either the old rods transferred to the new covers, or new rods installed all together. The seat cover is held in place by a combination of spray adhesive and retaining rings, also refereed to has hog-rings.
For Project BTB we chose the Sport R series of seats and covers. We chose the black and gray vinyl and suede seats. Since we’re running a racing seat for the driver’s seat we didn’t install that seat for this article. We did however, reupholster and install new foam in the rear seats, which included foam bolsters and patterns to match the passenger front seat, and the rest of our new interior.
Top Row: At some point in BTB's life the rear seats were re upholstered, although we have no way to know how long ago this was. The front seat was a junkyard take out from a '67 Mustang. Bottom Row: From purely an aesthetic standpoint the TMI Sport R seat foams and covers are a huge improvement over what BTB had installed. From a comfort, function, and fit standpoint they're also much better. We are keeping the driver's front racing seat in place so that the car will continue to meet NHRA rules for track use, and allow the use of our GForce racing safety belts.
If you’ve ever had to put a headliner in a classic Mustang then you already understand why this headliner from TMI is such a big deal. The original bow style headliner requires that the front and rear windscreens be removed in order to install it. This means that installing a typical classic Mustang headliner requires some very special tools, a call to a glass company, and the possibility you may need a new front or rear windscreen before it’s all over.
The TMI one-piece headliner is made using a fiberglass mold which the headliner material is attached to. Normally this headliner does not require removing the front or rear windscreens. In our case those were already out due to our recent paint job, and our full roll cage also prohibits any other form of installation. So the headliner was put in place prior to reinstalling the glass.
If you’ve ever had to deal with the factory headliner, you know that replacing the traditional bowed type can be time consuming and expensive.
TMI sells their one-piece headliner to resolve this problem. Although it is marketed as a one-piece, it’s actually five pieces all together, the single piece name stems from the fact that the largest portion is a single piece that doesn’t require removing the glass, similar to the headliner in modern cars.
This headliner is a molded design, “You basically cut your old headliner out, slide this new headliner in, and it is held in place by the rubber moldings for the front and rear glass,” says Ashley. The included A-pillar panels and sail panels also help hold up the headliner as well. While having a buddy handy to help you position things, this does turn installing a new headliner into a one man job, that any enthusiast can perform, without the need to remove the windscreens from the car.
The headliner also includes new sail panels and A-pillar panels, which are also made using molded fiberglass with headliner material attached to them. The headliner and panels are held in place using the rubber moldings for the glass and doors, and factory fasteners.
Another added benefit of the one-piece headliner is that it’s molded to the roof of the car. With the elimination of the factory style bows, this means more headroom, and a headliner that’s not loose, or wrinkled. More headroom is always a great thing for BTB’s owner and primary pilot, our Editorial Director Mark Gearhart, who’s noggin tends to swell a bit after he rips off a fast pass at the track behind the wheel of BTB.
The difference in appearance of the new headliner, and the improvement in head room is dramatic.
The new TMI dashpad is covered in materials to match our seats, including the double stitch which gives a modern and tasteful touch to the interior, tying everything together.
In addition to the various styles and color seat covers that TMI offers they can also produce custom interior options based on customer needs, just as they did for our interior. This includes custom colors, custom cover materials, and even to some extent customization of the seat foam. This service can provide any vehicle with a truly unique appearance.
Traditionally if you’re restoring or hot rodding a classic Mustang you’ve had very few options as to how the dash looks. The dash pad options have almost always been limited to factory vinyl replacements. TMI saw a a huge gap in this market, since many builds these days include custom interior components, they wanted to give their customers an option to have the dash match the rest of the interior, much as it would in a modern car.
TMI achieved a more aggressive and modern theme with the dash pad by covering it in materials that match the car’s upholstery. This allows those going with a custom pattern or color to have a dash that compliments the appearance of the interior. Additionally the pad features a suede insert in the center, and double stitching along its perimeter to match the seats. “The pad is still made out of the same base materials as the original, so it has that soft padded feel, but it doesn’t have that traditional textured look, we’ve given it a much more modern and aggressive appearance.”
Left: The original plain black dash pad. Center and Right: The small details like the stitching, cover material, and suede center really make the TMI dash pad stand out.
We chose TMI door panel inserts since they will clear our roll cage without interference. They also attach using the factory hardware locations. These colors were custom selected to match our seat colors.
Lokar sent us the door pulls, and the short style window cranks which clear our roll cage perfectly.
BTB frequently makes fast blasts down the quarter-mile. We installed a roll cage in the car long ago to keep up with the type of performance it was capable of. To that end, we were somewhat limited in our options for the car’s door panels. We had TMI send us a set of their two-tone door panel inserts to match our seat cover selection. This will allow for proper clearance with our roll cage, without having to modify the panels. It also completes the look and feel of BTB’s interior upgrade.
With the interior now looking as good as the exterior, Project BTB is finally ready to head back to the track, or just down the road to the local burger stand for lunch. Either way, we’ll be riding more comfortably than ever before thanks to the new interior components from TMI.