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8 October 2021

A Wheel of a Time: Treatment of a 1908 Argyll motor car (Part II)

argyll motor poster

This wonderful 1908 Argyll (to learn more about its history, click here) recently received treatment at the Leather Conservation Centre to address structural issues impacting the leather which, in their pre-treatment condition put the leather at risk and made it very difficult to use the object safely without incurring further damage.

The Argyll, lovingly entitled Alexander, arrived for assessment from Scotland and we were able to get to grips with the condition of the leather of the seats and doors.

Alexander the Argyll before conservation treatment.


Overall, the condition of the leather was good considering its age. The biggest areas of concern were those which relate to the use of the car in the form of splits and losses around the main ‘contact’ points with users a.k.a anywhere where a hand, back or bum may have found itself. As a result of this wear and tear, many splits and losses can be observed over all of the seats (back seat, driver and passenger seat).

Passenger side back and arm rest before treatment.

There were several areas where attempts had been made to repair large tears. When faced with old repairs, conservators are faced with an interesting decision. In some cases, repairs can be of historical interest and significance, potentially showing contemporary repair techniques and as evidence of the ‘life’ of the object. However, old repairs can also be damaging and impact the longevity of the object whilst distracting from the appearance of the object. It is helpful to consider the repairs holistically factoring in the intention for the object and the ‘value’ of the repair.

We found two different kinds of repair (left) a stitched technique and (right) an adhesive technique.


Treatment began as most conservation treatments do with cleaning! All interior surfaces were cleaned using a range of brushes and vacuum with adjustable suction to remove dust and debris. Further solvent cleaning was employed to remove engrained soiling and residual accumulated white surface wax as necessary.

To strengthen the fibre structure of the leather, the surfaces were consolidated. This was especially helpful where the upper surface of the leather was lost.

The splits and losses were approached individually however, for the most part a patching technique was employed. Here, new leather was dyed to match the original and the edges of each patch were skived to a feather edge. This allows the patch to lie flush, to visually integrate with the surrounding area and prevent lifting. Prior to applying the surface patch, leather or a non-woven conservation grade textile was laid underneath the split or loss to support the area, whilst allowing flexibility. The surface patches were then adhered in place using a conservation grade acrylic adhesive.

Arianne applying a patch to the passenger seat back rest.
Before and after treatment on passenger seat arm rest.

The intention for this object was to be used again which means making sure the repairs are strong enough for people to sit in the seats, hold onto the arm rest, etc. With this in mind, the decision was taken to remove the old repairs as these had implications for the structural integrity of the nearby area, in addition to encouraging the degradation of the leather (the adhesive used was aging poorly).

Back seat back rest before and after conservation treatment.

Where the tears could be brought together with only minimal or no voids, a different technique was used. An acrylic based fill with flexible properties was used in combination with acrylic adhesive to bridge the tear edges together and create a level surface. This proved successful and is a technique we look forward to experimenting with further and employing in future projects!

Shannon applying a finishing topcoat onto the back seat back rest.

Following some finishing touches to protect the leather against the environment and to further integrate the new areas of repair, the car was complete….

Back seat before and after conservation treatment.

It was a very satisfying day when the car was collected as it gave us the opportunity to see the car in all of its glory in the daylight.

1908 Argyll after conservation treatment.

Just when we thought our day couldn’t get any better – we were overjoyed to have been given a ride in the Argyll!

We hope you’ve this brief treatment overview and learning about the history of Argyll Motor Ltd. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog for future exciting treatments at the Leather Conservation Centre.

The Leather Conservation Centre
Grosvenor Chambers
Grosvenor Centre
Union Street

01604 719766