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C3 Corvette Seat Reupholstery - Gimme Some Skin
New Options Help You Reupholster Your Seats
Jun 22, 2009
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C3 Corvette Seat Reupholstery - Gimme Some Skin
The look and feel of new upholstery returns that showroom appeal to an interior. Tighten the springs and replace the foam to make the seat much firmer and make you sit higher
The old leather covers had become hard and cracked after a dozen years of Florida sun and sweat, and 100,000-plus miles of seat time. Tip: I 'rotated' the seats six years ago to equalize the wear by switching the well worn driver's seat with the seldom-used passenger's seat.
Maintenance tip: if you feel something hard pressing on the seat covering, remove the seat and inspect it closely. This wear hole was caused by a clip that worked loose. Another tip: apply penetrating oil on the seat bolts (from above and below) days before removing the seats. If the bolt still turns hard, hold the weld nut with vise grips or a wrench to prevent it from breaking loose.
After the seats are out of the car, remove the tracks. A 1/4-inch drive 3/8 socket fits through the front hole. Slide the track for access to the rear bolts. Tip: Use two people to remove the seat. It's not heavy but the sharp corners of the seat tracks instantly chip paint or gouge nearby upholstery. If a helper is not available, place duct tape on the sharp corners of the seat track.
The plastic seat back lifts up and off after removing the two lower attachment screws. If there is a seat latch, remove the bezel and then unbolt the lower end from the bottom cushion. Remove the hinge pivot bolts to separate the back cushion from the lower.
The upper end of the latch assembly is attached with two nuts. Peel back the upholstery and push aside or tear out foam if necessary to locate the studs. Sheet metal screws attached the latch assembly at its middle and the lower end. Mark the locations if larger screws were used in stripped-out holes.
Removal of the latch assembly provides better access to the three speed nuts that hold the upper molding on the back cushion. Two of the chrome molding studs are visible here, along with the larger two steel studs that attached the release assembly.
Remove any hog rings that attach to the "ribbon" springs on the seat foam. Tip: Clamp a large pair of vise-grips on the rings and twist to easily pry the rings off. Remove any hog rings that attach the seat covers to the seat frame. The back covers can now be removed.
Remove the lower edges of the seat bottom covers from the clips located on the lower edge of the seat frame. Use a screwdriver to spread the clip and then pull the cover free. Hog rings will also need to be removed, along with the bumper stop screws on the rear of the seat frame.
The seat covers are pulled deeply into the foam by clips that attach to metal rods which are inserted into flaps sewn on the underside of the cover's seams. This helps provide lateral support to your body. It also creates a sculpted look so the seats don't look like an overstuffed pillow. Note that the clips are of different lengths.
On the underside of the seat cover, it may be necessary to poke a hole in one end of the fabric flap to enable insertion of the metal rod. An ice pick, X-acto knife or small scissors work well. Caution, not haste, is advised in this step.
Mark the correct location of the clip on the seat cover after measuring the distance of the clip holes in the foam. Measure from one end for the side rods and from the centerline for the short rod. Install the clips by piercing the fabric flap and then making sure the loop goes over the rod that's inside the flap.
Attach mechanics wire to the free end of the clips to facilitate guiding the clips through the foam and to help pull on the clip to compress the foam in the next step. Bend the wire so that it can't be knocked from the clip and so that it doesn't snag when going through the foam.
If the clip holes do not extend all the way through, a solder gun with a spade tip can quickly cut the sides of the hole. Remove the excess foam plug with needle nose pliers.
Install the foam onto the seat cover while guiding the wires through their holes in the foam. Then pliers can be used to grasp the mechanics wire and pull each clip out through the compressed foam to enable the "wave" rod to be slid through the clip's end.
The pressure and friction on the rod increases with each additional clip it goes through. Vise grips proved useful to pull the rod through the last clips. Installing the foam to the seat covers was the most tedious part of the job. The sidebar shows a new option that allows this part of the job to be skipped.
If the seat frame ribbon springs are loose, tighten each loop by squeezing it close to its radius. After 300,000 miles, these springs were stretched and were rattling loose in the frames. After a few minutes they were tight and firm again. (Plus my grip was stronger for hand shakes.)
Cut and featheredge the foam away from the hinge bolts if you don't want the leather or vinyl to rub against the metal hinge. Tip: to further prevent scuffing of leather when seat hinge moves, cut large plastic washers and insert these with 5/16-inch flat washers to shim the hinge away from the upholstery.
Slide the wider side of the spring clips over the lower edge of the seat cover, with the clip's smaller gap on the inside. Then compress the foam and fold the edge of the seat cover down over the edge of the seat frame. If the foam is new, you may be in for some wrestling.
Press the rods against the seat springs and fasten with hog rings. Tip: place towels or carpet on the work surface to help prevent scratches or tears in the new covers.
The major work on the bottom cushion is complete. It's now plain to see how the rods and clips pull the seat covers into the foam to give it a sculpted look. They look so good, it's tempting to stop and admire them. But two minor steps are needed to complete the bottom assemblies.
Carefully mark and cut the holes for the seat back release and the bumper stops. First, use an ice pick inserted from below through the frame weld nuts. Then use a screwdriver to better locate the proper position and an X-acto knife to cut in the right direction.
Note that the release has a little sideways adjustment. Also, a thin piece of plastic is under the bracket to protect the upholstery. The bumper stops also utilize a plastic washer where they contact the upholstery.
Washers can be installed on top of the seat frame to shim the stops upward. This moves the seat back to a more vertical position and thereby can keep the seat back from hitting the deck lid.
The procedures for installing covers and foam on the seat backs are similar to those used on the bottom cushions, with a couple of notable differences. Foam for the 1973 seat back had an additional piece located behind the frame at the top. Trimming was required where the two pieces abutted and also at the locations of the latch assembly and shoulder harness guide.
To prevent any unsightly bulges, it was necessary to trim the foam and then slide the seat covers over the foam and frame a few times to see the result. Tip: Sprinkle baby powder on the insides of the covers to help them slide on. Also warm the covers with a heat gun or hair dryer or place them in the sun to make them more pliable.
Secure the rear foam piece to the frame with spray glue before installing the seat covers to facilitate assembly. After the seat covers have been attached with hog rings to the frame and the springs, the latch mechanism can be slid in under the foam.
Installing the seat back molding was a challenge because the studs could not be pushed deep enough into the new foam and covers to start the speed nuts. Cutting 10-24 or 12-24 threads on the studs with a die enables regular nuts to catch on the first 1/8 inch of the stud and solved the problem.
Tighten the molding nuts judiciously to draw the fragile cast part into the new upholstery without breaking a stud or warping the molding. Time spent trimming excess foam from this area is appreciated now because it permits easy access to the two outer studs. Next, install the seat latch assembly.
Cut a flap in the upholstery along the inside edge of the molding for the shoulder harness if so equipped. Note that the molding can be ordered with no slots or with the seat belt slot precut for the left or right side.
Install the plastic seat back and then install the bezels for the shoulder belt and the release button. Be very conservative in the amount of material you trim for the button and the belt; it's far better to trim and try a few times than cut beyond the bezels. Make sure you slide the release strip into the seat back and install the hinge screws. To prevent the hinge screw from working loose, install a jam nut against the weld nut. Fold the seats forward a few times and check the release.
If the seat tracks are rusted, POR-15 provides an easy, tough coating to restore their appearance and protect them. Scrape and wire brush the rusted areas and clean the surface with a degreaser or solvent if necessary. Tip: wear gloves when applying POR-15. If it dries on your skin, it will be there for days.
This is a good time to inspect and repair or replace the seat belts. Tip: After seeing many seat belt mechanisms ruined by corrosion, I decided it's better to remove the large plastic cover that often traps water there. Just be careful to keep items from going under the seats; they could temporarily jam the belt.
The seat bolts deserve attention--their lower end extends underneath the car, getting abuse from road spray and grime. After cleaning the threads and repainting, apply grease or an antiseize compound liberally to the threads. You'll be glad you did next time the seats need to be removed for new carpets or other refurbishing.
They look so good you may want to put them in the living room for a while to admire. However, with the seat tracks and knob installed, they are ready to put in the car. Again, I'd recommend using a helper to prevent the sharp edges of the tracks from chipping paint or gouging upholstery.
Install all four bolts loosely and then move the seat back and forth a few times to make sure the tracks are aligned and sufficiently parallel to operate smoothly. Installing the rear bolts can sometimes be a challenge; make sure you don't cross-thread them. Many people have, or have just omitted them.
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