NEW LONDON, Mo. — A love of classic automobiles and the immersive culture that surrounds them has been a part of Nash Simmons’ family for three generations.
His enthusiasm and bright spark of creativity shines through in every project he completes with two part-time employees in his shop, Nash Upholstery, at 409 W. 1st St.
The story began many years ago, through his family’s shared love of fixing up, driving and generally enjoying classic automobiles of every ilk.
Simmons remembered how he and his grandfather, John, father, Jamey, and brother Austin, always loved collecting and driving classic vehicles, painting them up and performing repairs along the way.
They completed each vehicle to personally enjoy, and they maintain that passion to this day. They restored the vehicles to a point where they could enjoy them, but no one had yet mastered the skills of upholstery.
Nash Simmons decided he wanted to take that next step, enrolling in a one-year upholstery course at WyoTech. He soon learned a variety of custom techniques, returning to establish Nash Upholstery — a nod to his name, as well as the classic American automaker — in April 2015.
“I’ve been busy as could be ever since,” he said.
The garage contains a collection of special vehicles that run the gamut of classics from just about every genre — a chrome-bedecked engine sits atop the frame rails of a flat-black painted 1957 Chevrolet two-door sedan. Nearby, a two-tone 1955 Chevrolet wagon beckons.
A Jeep Wagoneer — sure to evoke emotions from four-wheel enthusiasts — isn’t far away. Tucked in the right corner of the bay is a gleaming Volkswagen Microbus, with a convertible VW Beetle that appears to be moving closer to cruise time once again.
No two projects are the same, and Simmons approaches each one the same way — discussing in detail what the owner’s vision looks like. Regardless of the leather, textile or upholstery technique he employs, each project is personalized to what the owner is looking for.
He strives to make the result “seamless,” noting the humor in his description when so many seams are involved in the process.
“It’s your vision, and you can do it however you want,” he said. “I’m just here to make your vision come to life, basically.”
He uses specialty scissors, an endless selection of materials, glue guns, hand-formed foam, wood and a large array of sewing machines to make it all happen. He motioned to a white sewing machine in the center of his shop which he uses almost every day.
Simmons and his two part-time employees undertake projects of every scope imaginable. A late-model Buick LeSabre is receiving a new headliner, and company trucks, farm vehicles and other daily drivers in need of some TLC for their seats or other interior components provide a great deal of business along with more involved custom work.
No matter how any details are involved in a project, the owner’s reactions are positive. A lot of customers tend to put their visit to his shop off for a while, but their emotional response reveals the personal difference borne of the results.
“It’s just a lot of joy there, even in the new daily driver to the custom, older car — people find a lot of pride and a lot of joy in their vehicles,” he said.
Simmons paused to painstakingly apply a piece of pale-blue leather over a curved aluminum panel, destined to cover the air-conditioning system in a 1967 Chevrolet Impala hardtop coupe. The classic’s curving body lines soon reveal one of his largest projects at the moment.
Inside, the vehicle already sports a new headliner, and new rear seats are being fitted. The trunk is being “boxed off” with a wood structure to be covered with custom upholstery to give a “more finished look.”
A custom dash panel and custom-molded carpet meets a full-length center console built from scratch — sweeping between the front seats to the rear of the interior. The console will incorporate two sliding panels to allow for a storage compartment, cupholders and a wireless phone charger.
Behind the service counter, a small replica represents a ’32 Ford “Vicky” Simmons worked on, sporting a blazing orange paint job. The impeccable interior work features a saddle brown leather motif with a subtle sweep of chrome. The actual vehicle was given as a prize to a lucky winner who attended a car show in Kentucky featuring more than 10,000 registered cars.
Simmons is quick to commend members of the car community, including the two employees who accompany him on each project, big or small. They share a common bond that’s evident each time an automotive enthusiast meets another, regardless of the particular car, truck, hot rod or other motorized masterpiece they enjoy.
“It’s been really good. Since day one, the car community has been really good to me — and I couldn’t do it without them,” he said, likening them all to one big family. “There are a lot of really good guys around that have been really good to me.”