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Sitting Down on the Job, Part II

Reupholstering Can Be a Real Pain in the...SEAT

Apr 9, 2004

As we finished up last month, the seats out of my '78 Shark, "The Bat's Mobile," had been removed and stripped of their old seat covers and foam, and the frames were straightened out and welded in several spots. Not exactly a good start with the amount of repairs that were needed, but what do you expect with seats from the late '70s? This month we dive--quite possibly over our heads--into the ordeal that is seat foam and a cover replacement. It's not so bad, really, but it's long and frustrating work, and the kids should probably be down the street so they don't hear your anguished cries--or worse. In the end, I discovered that I had actually enjoyed my hellish experience and having a set of nicely recovered Stingray seats, that I did myself, gave me some serious Corvette-pride. Keep in mind, though, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, or not, Mid America now carries seat covers with pre-installed foam that were not originally available when we placed the order so long ago. That in itself, will save you a large amount of your sanity, or cash, should you decide to have someone do the work for you. So, with that, let's get to it.


Before and After

We started with the seat cover prep. With everything laid out on the floor, we began.

This part of the install requires quite a bit of hardware from Mid America. Our seats were so bad that we basically called in the entire list of items they offered. Hopefully your Vette isn't so abused.

Start by sliding the metal rods into their required flaps. The replacements provided by the kit we ordered are the same size--so it's not hard to figure out which ones are appropriate to which flaps. Just keep your old seat covers handy and learn by the factory example.

You'll notice there are several different-sized clips, and most of them are used for the seat cushion. The sizes are matched by the thickness of the foam; long for the thickest part and small for the opposite end where the foam is at its thinnest.

You'll notice there are several different-sized clips, and most of them are used for the seat cushion. The sizes are matched by the thickness of the foam; long for the thickest part and small for the opposite end where the foam is at its thinnest.

Adding the foam to the frame is the next step. There wasn't a lot left of the original pieces, and it was hard to believe that they were once as thick as the new inserts that Mid America carries. Right off the bat, no joke intended, I knew that once I finished restoring these seats, there would be a world of difference.

Using 3M's(TM) Super 77, I gave the frames a squirt where the foam would touch, and then did the same on the foam pieces themselves.

We applied the main backrest foam to its frame...

...and then added the final insert before letting the glue dry completely.

The same idea was applied to the seat cushion and its foam block--with the exception of Mid America's Lower Seat Repair Plate. With this in place (loosely attached for now), the frame is reinforced and won't fall apart from years of use--the reason we had to add so many welds. Now, it was time to move onto the seat covers!

The seat cover is applied for a pre-fit. Everything looked good, so we then attached the clips.

In a moment of genius--as rare as those may be for me--I decided the best way to get those clips through the foam and secured was this: take the smaller rods provided in the kit. Stick them through the appropriate places in the inserts and attach them to the clips.

In the case of the backrest, the rod-n-clip procedure will look like this.

Now, all you have to do is pull on the rod and slide reinforcement bars through the now-easily-accessed clips.

When you're finished with that little chore, your seat cushion will look like this.

Now all that's left is to attach the cover to the frame with these tabs (arrows) after you've made sure everything has lined up.

If your cover is having a hard time fitting, try lightly misting the seat cover, toweling it off so it doesn't soak in too much, and pulling it in the direction you need. After repeating this several timess, with a few moments left in between sprays, it should reach your intended position. Another idea is to leave the cover in direct sunlight. The heat should help just as much as the water would.

One down, one to go!

The same thing basically happens to the seat back cover. Pull it over the frame loosely to begin, and do the same operation with the clips and retaining rods as previously mentioned.

After we were finished pre-installing the foam and cover to the frame, we attached the seat catch last.

As with the other half, stretching, misting, and drying were involved several times over what the last piece required. My mission on this half was to get the wrinkles out of the top seam. For a first-timer, I think the finished job wasn't too shabby compared to what the first pass looked like.

The hog rings are next after the cover has been stretched enough. These simply clasp around the inserted rod--holding it to the frame through the factory holes.

With the cover attached and finished, we carefully secured a C-clamp to the bottom. We did this, so as the new fabric adjusts overnight--as we assumed it might--everything stayed at the same tension since not all of the pieces are installed yet. You'll notice our seat catch is missing in this photo; this was for photographical purposes only. Join us soon for the final installment on hardware attachment


Mid America Motorworks
Effingham, IL

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