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Restoring ’57 Corvette Seats--Part I

Al Knoch Makes Our Old Look New Again

Andy Bolig Jun 1, 2001

Step By Step

We’ll start with the seat bottoms. Al explained that they don’t just reskin the seats, they restore them. That means the seat frames get sand-blasted and painted, and new springs are installed. You can sand-blast and paint your own seat frames like we did, or you can pay Al to do it.

We’re jumping ahead a few steps, but it’s apparent how superior the new springs are over the old ones. Javier tells us he’s actually had mice jump out of the old spring packs as he was removing them!

There are eight springs used in the seat bottom. Each one is a different size and tension to provide as original a “feel” as possible.

They must be close, because they’re approved by the NCRS.

Now set the seat retainer into position. It will connect at the back of the frame.

The seat retainer also has two metal bars that go through the spring packs and connect the retainer to the bottom frame.

Many interior shops threw these rods away, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find any in your seat. They’ll be hard to find.

Al Knoch supplies a paper-coated wire kit that you’ll need to restore the seat. The wire provides mounting points for the hog rings, and the paper coating keeps the wire from damaging the surrounding materials.

Find the appropriate-size wires and install them on the seat retainer. They have mounting tabs on the back bar and the front of the retainer, and also will be hog-ringed to the springs.

Take the time to hog-ring all of the springs together, and to the retainer.

Also take the time to hog-ring the springs to each other and to the seat base. Make sure the springs are centered, or you’ll have to remove all of the hog rings to move them. They can be a real pig to remove (pun intended).

This ties in the entire spring assembly to work together and gives the best support possible.

Apply the burlap with wires on top of the springs and retainer. Install a hog ring or two just to keep it in place.

Next, install the batting jute to the perimeter of the retainer. This will protect the vinyl cover and also give the seat a nice rounded shape.

Install the seat foam over the burlap and make sure the two grooves on the top side of the foam match up with the two paper-wrapped wires you installed to the retainer. You’ll need to hog-ring the seat cover to the wire later using these two grooves.

Javier uses spray adhesive to help hold the foam. Note the dimpled backside of the foam.

Put one hog ring in the groove toward the back of the seat to keep the foam situated. It should grasp the paper-coated wire underneath.

At this point you’ll notice how the seat bottom has a nice rounded feel to it. This is no mistake. It’s the springs that make the difference.

More paper-coated wire slides into the wire pocket on the backside of the cover to attach the hog rings to the cover.

Javier installs some padding before laying the seat cover over the foam. This will give some body to the cover.

With the padding between the grooves in the foam, hog-ring the cover to the frame (making sure to stay in the groove).

Make sure you only go through the wire pocket and around the wire, not through the vinyl.

Javier puts more padding around the perimeter of the retainer...

...and hog-rings the foam to the seat springs and frame.

One of the tricks we learned from Javier was to put a small amount of padding in the corners of the seat cover at the front and back.

This gets rid of wrinkles in the vinyl and makes the finished seat look that much better.

Also put some padding in the front of the seat bottom before you pull the vinyl over the frame.

Flip the seat over and install the paper-coated wire into the pockets around the perimeter of the cover and the cover “skirt” at the rear of the cover.

They are different sizes, so make sure you use the right wires.

Before you fasten the cover, make sure the rear of the cover reaches the frame. Once again, you don’t want to pull all of those hog rings to move it.

Stretch out the cover to remove as many wrinkles as possible and start fastening the sides and front of the cover to the frame.

Work your way from the back of the seat around the front to where the seat adjuster would be; then go to the other rear side of the seat and do the same.

Finish by fastening the rear of the seat. Now fold the tabs at the corners and hog-ring them in place.

You can remove any remaining wrinkles by carefully poking from the bottom of the cover...

...or by using a heat gun to soften the vinyl.

The finished seat bottom looks great, and has the contour of the original.

The ’57 Corvette, just as the year prior, had distinctive interior panels that featured small squares embossed into the interior material. These are best described as a “waffle pattern.” We were interested in restoring our seats to as close to factory condition as possible with quality and fit to match. Al Knoch carries NCRS-approved materials to totally restore your Corvette interior, but what really impressed us is that he has a full staff of professionals who travel with him to major shows to do the installations while you wait! There is a fee for the installation, but seeing some of their tricks of the trade and some of the pitfalls this job entails, the cost of installation is money well spent.

We met up with Al Knoch at the NCRS Meet in Orlando, Florida, and followed along as interior specialist Javier Torres made our ’57’s seats look new again.


Al Knoch Interiors
Canutillo, TX

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