How to a make a custom centre console

Robert Zahadi from Kam Motor Trimming shows us how to make a full-length custom centre console

Photographers: Angus MacMaster

With flat floors and leather everywhere, Robert Zahadi‘s customised ’69 Camaro needed one more touch to finish it off.

Rob’s ’69 Camaro features a full custom interior using late-model Monaro bucket seats, flat floors and intricately detailed door trims, all wrapped in medium weight biscuit-coloured leather. Even the dash and hood lining are leather! It’s all highlighted with darker perforated leather details, polished stainless button-head bolts and polished 4mm-diameter billet rod inserts. Here, Rob shows us the steps on how he constructed this trick piece.

So let’s get into it – one custom console, coming up!


how to do a custom console1. The console is longer than your average piece of cardboard, so Rob taped a few pieces together for the template. Once formed, the shape is transferred to 3mm MDF and cut out with a jigsaw. The bottom edge of the console is flat, other than gentle kick-ups at the front and back. This is done deliberately to create a clean, elegant line where it butts up against the upper edge of the smoothed-out tunnel.

how to make a custom console2. Spreader blocks were cut from 45x18mm pine, then glued with PVA wood glue and stapled in place. Note how the top block (main) sits 6mm below the top edge — this is to accommodate the filler panel added in later (see Steps 15&16). The console needs to be wide at the front, for a double-DIN head unit, and narrow at the rear to fit between the seats, so the spreader blocks vary in width to create the desired taper.

how to make a custom console3. Once the console’s profile has been defined by the spreader blocks, the top void is filled in using multiple strips of 12mm MDF. Note the lower spreader block just in front of where Rob is working. This block, plus one at the front and another at the very back, sits atop the tunnel, supporting the console. They’re not quite flush with the bottom of the console, allowing it to sit over the curve of the tunnel.

how to make a custom console4. When the glue’s dry, drop the console in place to check the fitment. Don’t be surprised if it needs some massaging for a consistent, tight fit. Note the clean line formed between the bottom of the console and the side of the tunnel. This is why it was vital to get the cardboard and foam covering the tunnel just right (done previously with the leather-covered flat floor). Any undulations in the tunnel’s surface become obvious at this stage.

how to make a custom console5. Rob settled on a teardrop-shaped opening for the shifter, which follows the console’s taper. Determining the right size for the cut-out is tricky — too big and it’ll look bulky and awkward, too small and you won’t be able to slip the console over the shifter during installation. Nibble it out until it’s just right. For added strength, you could add fibreglass underneath, which would make the structure super-rigid.

how to make a custom console6. The theme used on the door and floor panels was carried over to the console’s flanks; more cardboard and wooden templates were fashioned. Due to the console’s slim profile, the elements in the design were reduced and thinned out. However, the strip containing the stainless button-head bolts is the same width as used in the door trims and floor panels — this feature ties the three together.

how to make a custom console7. Before beginning the trimming process, the edges of each panel were sanded smooth as the leather will show up any imperfections. As with the doors and floors, the console’s side panels were covered with high-density 5mm foam. The excess foam is trimmed off (inset) with a sharp knife. This needs to be done very neatly as any irregularity will also show up in the leather once it’s wrapped over the edge.

how to make a custom console8. The long curved strip that the button-head bolts will be screwed into later is not layered with high-density foam. This makes the strip a different thickness to the other panels. Rob did this to give the sides of the console some added detail. The leather is a medium thickness (around 1.5mm) from Sweden. Rob chose it for its colour, which contrasts beautifully with the Camaro’s bright blue paintwork.

how to make a custom console9. Holes for the button heads are drilled undersize (inset) and threaded into the panel. Leather is wrapped over the bottom edge of the strip and just the forward section of the top edge (arrow). The rest of the top section will wrap over the upper edge of the console after the strip is glued in place. Positioning needs to be exact so that once the leather is wrapped over the top edge, it looks like it’s one piece.

how to make a custom console10. It takes planning to get all the pieces fitting neatly together once covered. On butt edges, you have to allow for the material thickness. This leather is 1.5mm thick, requiring a consistent 3mm gap between the wood pieces prior to wrapping. The trimmed panels are glued in place using Liquid Nails. However, Rob uses hot-melt glue to hold them in place while the Liquid Nails cures — around 24 to 48 hours.

how to make a custom console11. Spray contact is one of the motor trimmer’s trusted materials. Properly applied, it forms a strong bond that can last for half a century. However, it’s a bugger to clean up so Rob uses masking tape to keep it away from areas where it’s not wanted. It’s best to remove the tape while the glue is still wet. If you let it tack off, it becomes quite stringy and won’t give a nice clean edge when the tape’s peeled away.

how to make a custom console12. Note how the sides of the console protrude above the top. This lip serves two purposes — it’s an ideal place to start and stop the leather trim, separating the sides from the top, and once the top panel is laid in place, the whole lot will end up flush. To enable the panel to attain the desired flush fit, the leather must be pushed hard into the corners. A wooden or plastic spatula is ideal for this task.

how to make a custom console13. Adding the front sections (one either side) is one of the most difficult parts of the job as the panels must line up with multiple edges. With the panel glued in place, the leather is wrapped over the top and front edges. The front edge (head-unit mount) is especially tricky as there’s not much surface area to glue the leather to. Precise glue application gives maximum adhesion so it won’t peel later.

how to make a custom console14. Rob used the lower wood panel (before covering) to curve the billet rod to the correct profile. The rod sits in a narrow channel and is held in place with super glue. This channel is created when cutting the original wood insert panels — an extra 7mm (4mm for the rod, 1.5mm for the leather on either side) was trimmed off the panel that runs across the bottom of the console.

how to make a custom console15. Time to drag out the cardboard again. Rob simply folded the cardboard at the point where the console kicks up sharply — the 3mm MDF had to be back-cut to form such a sharp bend. The shifter hole was cut out and the area just in front separated, for the perforated insert template. When transferring the form to MDF, Rob allowed for the thickness of the leather, otherwise the covered panel wouldn’t fit.

how to make a custom console16. The shifter boot was stapled to the vertical edge of the cut-out. This gives the leather a nice form that neatly wraps the shifter without impeding movement — it slips over the shifter once the handle is removed. The section in front of the DVD/tuner (and another section at the very rear) were trimmed in a darker perforated leather to break things up and stop it from looking like one large, bland expanse.

custom consoleWRAP UP
The detail and lines of the console tie in neatly with the rest of the interior. With the front of the console wedged tightly under the dash and the rear snug against the rear seat squab, it isn’t going anywhere and didn’t need to be screwed in place.

For a shorter console, mounting screws could be hidden under the top cover panel, which would be left removable and held in place via Velcro or trim clips. Using 18mm-thick blocks across the top allows full weight to be placed on the console’s armrest section.

With any flat floor installation, everything must be custom-made, which chews up plenty of time. The console and floor sections consumed an additional 20 hours on top of the 40 hours invested in the rest of the trim.

It also chews up a lot of leather — allow around six square metres, and another couple for the kick panels and console.

Chev Camaro rearRob estimates there’s around 30-odd squares in the rest of the trim work, so leather floors really bump up the total cost. But it does give the interior a clean and sanitary look.

Contact Rob at Kam Motor Trimming on (07) 5593 8110.