Any time you embark on restoring or modifying a car there are always price surprises from the parts department. Often, a piece you may expect to be expensive proves to be quite affordable, but more often than not the reverse is true.
After purchasing a '60 Corvette, whose last miles were done a quarter-mile at a time, it was apparent it would need everything. This car hadn't had an engine between the framerails since the big-block was sold off over 25 years ago. Making matters worse was an undetermined amount of time spent outside with a typical leaking hardtop. The interior parts were subjected to moisture that produced an abundance of rust on the little bit of steel found on the interior.
After repairing the rusted seat mounts in the floor ("Seat Time," Oct. '14), we turned our attention to repairing the actual seats. The factory sliders were rusted completely together; there was absolutely no chance of moving the seat on these stock sliders. Remember the bit about surprising prices? Well, we were astounded when we saw the price for a set of reproduction sliders, and since this car is not going to be a 100-point restoration we decided to adapt a set of universal seat sliders to the original 1960 seat frames. Of course, if you are going for a full-on restoration your choices are to either rebuild the original sliders—and, yes, parts are available—or simply buy the somewhat pricey but 100 percent perfect reproduction sliders.
We ordered a set of universal seat sliders from Speedway Motors in Nebraska, and with shipping they arrived at our door for well under $100 for both seats. The next trick would be adapting these sliders to the stock seat frames. The original Corvette sliders are bent on an arc, no doubt one of the reasons they are expensive, while the universal seat sliders are straight and flat.
As it turns out, adapting the sliders to the stock seats was pretty straightforward, using angle iron for mounts inside the bottom of the seat frames. We worked hard to keep the seats as close to the floor as possible and it appears we are about 1/2-inch lower than stock. That may not sound like much, but if you are 6-feet or taller and sit in an early Corvette you tend to resemble a circus bear because real big guys almost look over the windshield. Another advantage of lowering the seats as much as possible is the additional steering wheel clearance.
The last requirement we placed on this modification was to have it look like a Corvette seat adjuster. Since our stock sliders were rusted together, we considered cutting off the adjuster arms and welding them to the universal sliders. That would have worked and made for a perfect stock appearance. However, while we were cleaning out the car we found an extra white knob that once saw service as the inside door handle. We opted to mount this knob on top of the adjuster rod. This gave us a "real Corvette part" and it blends perfectly with the inside door opener. It took us a few days to figure this all out and do the fabrication, but in the end we're pleased with the results. Follow along with the photos to see how to slide a C1 seat on a budget.
01. The fore and aft adjustment was controlled by this release lever. Here’s an interesting note, on the C1 only the outside slider had a locking mechanism to hold the seat in position. Just one of the many things that would not pass safety standards today.
02. After removing the seat frame from the car we flipped it over and mounted in our vise. We were amazed at the amount of rust on the sliders, and yes, that’s a mouse carcass lodged in the back of the rail.
03. The passenger side seat was in somewhat better condition. These sliders could actually be rebuilt with a readily available rebuild kit from your favorite Corvette parts supplier.
04. Of course, the bolts holding the slide mechanism to the seat frame were rusted solid and when soaking them in penetrating oil for a couple of days didn’t work we decided to cut the nuts off. A couple of minutes with a cutoff wheel and the caged nut was removed, freeing the slider from the frame.
05. After checking prices on reproduction C1 seat slider mechanisms we opted for a set of universal seat sliders from Speedway Motors at a fraction of the cost for exact reproduction units.
06. Of course, the reproduction units would bolt right in and we would have been done in about an hour. The universal sliders require some work fitting the seat frames. The first step was to remove the adjuster lever and cut off the mounting studs. Once again the cutoff wheel sliced through the welds in a matter of minutes to release the adjuster arm. We removed the arm to make room for modifications and to bend the arm.
07. With the adjuster arm removed from the bracket, we removed the spring that holds the lock lever into the slider (top right corner of photo). The spring will be replaced after the mounting is complete.
08. Later in the process the arm would require some reshaping so it protrudes through the same opening of the seat frame as the stock adjuster arm. This is simply trial and error until it fits.
09. Of course, first we must actually mount the sliders to the seat frame. To accommodate this we fabricated four mounts from 1/8x1-1/4-inch angle iron. A hole was drilled in the center and a 5/16-18 nut was welded to the inside of the angle.
10. The angle mounts were welded in place on the seat frame. The rear mount was trimmed to recess it down in the seat frame 1/4-inch, while the front mount is flush with the seat frame.
11. With the slider mounted to the frame, we began fabricating the mounting pads that would mount the assembly to the floor. The rear mounting pad required a circular relief in the plate to provide room for a socket wrench during final assembly.
12. The mounting pads consist of two pieces of 3/16-inch flat plate welded to form a mounting pad. Then holes were drilled and these pads mounted in place. The sliders were then placed atop the mounts and scribed for position before being removed and welded together.
13. This overhead view of the slider mechanisms bolted in place illustrates how the mounts were fabricated and hold the sliders to the floor. The seat frame bolts to this assembly.
14. Making the locking mechanism disengage on both sliders required the addition of these arms, they measure 1-3/4-inches long. This allows the adjuster rod to move in the same direction as the stock seat adjuster. This is the driver-side seat assembly.
15. Here is the finished assembly with the connector bar between the two sliders fabricated from 1/8x1/2-inch flat stock. The adjuster rod has been reshaped and bolted to the slider plate. On the passenger side, the added arm is pointed forward for the proper action. Also note the front mount and the forward position of the slider.
16. With the slider assemblies bolted in place we test-fit the seat frame to see if everything aligned properly.
17. Certain the seat mounts were in the appropriate position we sent our rusty old seat frames out to be sandblasted and powdercoated. The cosmetic improvement and future protection is remarkable.
18. The actual slider assemblies were treated to two coats of Eastwood Chassis Black, providing a great finish and protection from the elements.
19. The slider mounts to the new seat brackets through the original mounting stud holes. This is the front mount.
20. Remember that relief we cut in the rear mount? That makes installing the rear bolt with a socket real easy.
21. And here is the finished product ready to be bolted in place. We have complete rust-free frames and sliders, and the added safety of both slide mechanisms locked in place after adjustment.
22. We test-fit the seat frames in the car and were pleased with the results. The seats can slide fully forward until they hit the transmission tunnel and also adjust completely to the rear.
23. Here is our final installation. We welded a 1/4-20 Allen cap bolt in place to hold the C1 inside door knob to the adjuster lever. We like the look, and notice the seat now sits just over a 1/2-inch lower than stock. We’ll take all the room we can get in an early Corvette. Also note how much cleaner and more compact this is compared to the stock lever. vette