Restoring vintage Momo steering wheels

Reupholster steering wheels or leave them as they are?

I love old steering wheels and since you’re reading this, I assume you’re into those vintage things too. The history that comes with them, the old leather, the smell when you get in the car, the feeling when your fingers slowly wrap around the rim. The relationship may not be erotic, but vintage steering wheels exude a certain charm. For some, the dependency is so great that they can’t get enough of them, can’t stop buying them, whether they need them or not.

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But, would you reupholster a steering wheel? New leather, a new skin? Out with the old, in with the new? Does the thought feels good? Or is it discarding the story and covering it with a brand-new, non-labeled white sheet that doesn’t belong there? Well, one could certainly philosophize about it for a number of years and end up with the same amount of arguments. Preserve the old, care for the skin? Or exchange? Certainly also a sign of our time to put aside what is broken all too quickly and to replace it with something new that is constantly available at any time. And that applies just as much to relationships as it does to steering wheels or other car parts. Hardly any repairs are made anymore, rather complete assemblies are replaced.

If you take a look at my collectibles, I not only have NOS time capsules from the 70’s and 80’s in my storage, I also have some sins that hurt my eyes. But once it’s too late, what to do? What if the steering wheel itself is still significant enough or there is an emotional bond or the skin is simply beyond saving? Or even long gone? Then I guess you could at least try to save what can be saved. Simply removing the old leather is out of the question for me.

But I’m often asked if I know anyone who does a good job reupholstering vintage steering wheels. Someone who uses old style leather and is able to restore a steering wheel that afterwards looks like it came out of the factory in 1970 or so. One day I was looking for a steering wheel that I had sold and wanted to ship out when I found something else. A Momo Prototipo from the stacked logo period, made between 1968 and1973, still in good condition, straight, no bends, no stress marks – but without the outer skin. So the time had come to do the inevitable experiment. Also because I get asked very regularly if I can recommend someone that can do first class work. I couldn’t.

So I did my research which took a long time, spoke to many people, described my request in detail, sent plenty of comparison photos showing the surface structure of the leather, showing the exact kind of stitching and type of seam that I wanted, every little detail. And when I think about the result, I feel so ridiculous and it seems to be unbelievable that I described all the important things in such a detail like I did. But yeah, it was like I’ve just described. I’ve shipped the skinless steering wheel to a very well-known and well-respected guy in Germany, an outstanding and first-class reputation preceded his company. The price was ok, not cheap but not overly expensive either. It was supposed to take two weeks, which turned into six, okay. And they wanted to send me photos before I should pay the bill and they would send me the steering wheel back. I got the bill and paid it, but I didn’t get any photos. Forgotten – was the succinct answer.

The “naked” Momo Prototipo – 360mm, made 1968-1973


Once there was a Prototipo logo

Four weeks later, when I held the steering wheel in my hands, my heart almost stopped. At first I thought it was a joke. Once again I looked at the emails, the photos I had sent, the exact instructions – and then the result. I couldn’t believe I was close to having a heart attack. I immediately emailed the manager of this German restoration specialist – that he couldn’t be serious. And I only got a cheeky and succinct answer back: You get your money back, we are obviously not able to meet your excessive demands and expectations. Could hardly believe my eyes. I waited another six weeks for the money, I had to ask and remind him a couple of times. All I got were stupid excuses. I don’t want to name the company, but … Have a closer look. At all the details.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Stevie Wonder, I really do. But I think he should stick to making great music.


What a mess


Not even close to my requirements

In the last few weeks I have sorted my entire stock, not yet listed all the steering wheels, that would take months, I keep listing them one by one here on the site. I found three steering wheels that need love and care to shine again, great candidates for restoration. Either back to the original state, or individualized, just as you like it. With leather in the color of your car or the color of your girlfriend’s eyes. Something unique at a very reasonable price. And if anyone has had an outstanding experience with a reupholster guy, I’d love to share it here. Anyway, before you think about reupholstering, try to save and restore your vintage steering wheel.

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