If you’re doing it right, you spend lots of time behind the wheel of your vintage Corvette. And while comfort isn’t exactly a priority inside the cockpit of a C2, the seats are actually pretty stylish and comfortable. The low back design is clean and compact, and the low profile seat bottom allows you to sit low in the car for optimal headroom and legroom in the tight confines of a 1963-’67 Corvette coupe. Our project car is a 1964 coupe, which went through some changes in the ’80s. This included swapping the worn-out original seats for a pair of aftermarket racing bucket seats. Thirty years later, it was time to bring back the timeless looks of the original seats so we decided to restore the originals. Luckily, they were tucked away in storage, so even though they were in bad shape, at least we had a starting point.
Corvette America is known for its reproduction upholstery parts, so we called them up and ordered everything it would take to freshen our stock seats. This included new black vinyl seat covers (PN 445520), new foam set (PN 25464), corrugated seat wire kit (PN 41741) and seat cover installation kit (PN X2082). Corvette America offers every piece for a full seat restoration, from the smallest clips to complete seat frames if you’re starting from scratch. For this project, the parts tab ended up being approximately $700. Your price may vary, depending on the condition of the seats.
For someone with upholstery experience or prior seat cover installation, this could be a weekend project. If you’re a novice who wants a challenge, be prepared to spend some time using a trial and error approach. Tool requirements are pretty minimal, with the only major tools being hog ring pliers, but you’ll also need assorted screwdrivers, some good scissors and maybe a hammer for stubborn pieces.
The thought of installing seat covers can be a bit intimidating, especially when you see the time consuming process. We didn’t want to tackle the job on our own so we called up “Uncle Joe” Shaver, who is a retired upholsterer. He didn’t recall installing any C2 Corvette seat covers in the past but he certainly knew some tricks that saved time and frustration. That’s not to say that the process was easy, but having a pro handle the job was worth every penny, as you will see by the finished product.
Also, know that Corvette America offers seat cover installation services but there is a great deal of satisfaction from taking on this project at home. Our seat cover project gave this 1964 Corvette coupe a fresh look, authentic fitment and added comfort, thanks to the excellent products from Corvette America and the hard work from Uncle Joe. Follow along with our seat rehab project and you’ll find plenty of valuable tips for your own project.
01. Your seats probably aren’t this rough, but the seats for our project had been sitting on a garage shelf for about 30 years. And before that, they were in a 1964 Corvette coupe for 20 years of service.
02. The chrome plating is showing its age, but a little bit of work with a soap pad removed the surface rust. Corvette America offers new seat side chrome, but we decided to stick with the originals.
03. Next, it’s time to start removing the hardware from the seats. The plastic bumpstops for the seatback are held with Phillips head screws. Be sure to label all of your hardware, because some of it may be reused.
04. The seat side chrome is held in place with Phillips head screws. When the chrome piece is removed, you’ll notice that it covers a gap in the seat cover where the vinyl material is pulled together with hog rings.
05. After the seatback and bottom are separated, it’s time to remove the hog rings and S-clips. The clips should pop off pretty easily, but the hog rings can be more challenging—pliers can be used to grip the ring.
06. Removing the hog rings and S-clips allows you to peel the seat cover off of the frame and foam. In the case of our seats, the loop clips were attached to the covers with string. Joe cuts the strings to remove the seat cover.
07. With the seat cover removed, it’s obvious that we need to replace the seat foam. The new foam will make the seat more comfortable and offer a much tighter fit for the seat covers. Even if your seat foam looks like it’s in good shape, now is the time to replace it.
08. The seat frame is pretty basic, once it’s stripped down. Joe removes the hog rings that hold the burlap and wires in place. Now would be the time to carefully sandblast the seat frames and repaint them.
09. Moving on to the seatback, Joe removes the hog rings that are hidden by the seat side chrome. More hog rings can be found at the bottom of the seatback.
10. The cover for the seatback is held in place with a spike strip. Joe used a screwdriver to carefully straighten the spikes so two layers of material can be removed. The front side of the seat cover rests against the seat frame while the backside of the seat cover overlaps and is held in place with the same spike strip.
11. Joe cuts the seat cover to access the upper retaining clips that attach the foam to the seat frame. This is a time-saving measure that skips a few steps in the disassembly process.
12. With everything disassembled, Joe can start preparing the new parts and materials for assembly. He starts by gluing a layer of burlap to the foam for the seat bottom. This offers a foundation for the corrugated seat wires to rest upon.
13. Loop clips are used to pull the seat cover tight against the foam. The clips are made in varying lengths, which correspond to the thickness of the seat foam. As the foam gets thinner toward the rear, Joe uses the shorter clips. He then marks and punches holes in the seat foam for the clips to pass through.
14. Joe feeds steel wires into the seat cover seams. The loop clips pull against this rod to keep the seat cover tight against the foam. It slides into place easily.
15. The loop clips poke through the material, and Joe is careful to ensure the clip goes around the steel wire that is inside the seam. If the clip simply goes into the material without the strength of the wire, it will not hold the cover tightly.
16. After measuring, marking and installing the loop clips, Joe ties a piece of string to the clip and then threads the string through a large needle. This allows him to easily pull the clips into place.
17. With one row of clips pulled through the holes in the seat foam, Joe moves to the other side of the foam to align the seat cover and pull the clips.
18. The strings tied to the loop clips help with initial installation of the cover, but they also help when installing the corrugated seat wires. The loop clips hook to this corrugated wire to secure the cover.
19. The burlap that Joe glued in place earlier keeps the corrugated wire from digging into the foam while it’s being worked into place. Notice he is pulling on the string, and feeding the corrugated wire through the loop clip. When he releases the string, the seat cover will be pulled tight against the foam.
20. With the cover installed on the foam, Joe places the foam onto the seat frame. He sprays adhesive on the foam to keep it from scooting around on the seat frame while he wrestles the cover into place.
21. Rolling the seat covers over the foam is a very manual process and it’s a tight fit. Keep in mind that the seat cover is not glued to the foam so there is a bit of wiggle room if you need to make an adjustment to align the welting around the cover or smooth out wrinkles.
22. The bottom of the cover is fastened to the seat frame with small S-clips. The clip slides onto the seat cover, which has an extra layer of material sewn in for additional strength. The cover is then rolled over the seat frame and the S-clip slides onto the steel frame.
23. Joe pulls the material tightly around the back of the seat frame and hammers S-clips onto the frame to fasten the cover. This takes all of the slack out of the rear portion of the cover and helps to remove wrinkles.
24. The seat can then be flipped over so the seat bumpstops can be installed, using the original style Phillips head screws.
25. Moving on to the back portion of the seat, Joe marks the seat covers where the clips will pass through the foam and then hook to the cover. This gives him an idea of where to position the clips.
26. Joe ties strings to the clips and repeats the pulling process, as seen on the seat bottom portion. He places the corrugated seat wire in its position, and then pulls each clip, hooking it onto the wire. The thickness of the foam determines the length of the clip. You want the cover to be pulled tight against the foam.
27. Another method that Joe often uses is to simply use string to attach the seat cover to the foam. He pulls the strings tight and ties them onto the corrugated seat wire. After he gets them all tied, he can go back and adjust the strings—tightening and loosening until they’re tight and uniform.
28. Now the cover can be folded around the foam and the wires can be installed in the side welting. These small wires are segmented, so it takes a few minutes to feed them into the hole, and get them spaced correctly.
29. The seatback frame is installed into the seat cover and foam assembly. It should fit without any major adjustment of the cover or foam.
30. The bottom side of the seatback has a spike strip, which holds two layers of material. Joe straightens the spikes and then lays the first layer over the spikes. It is important to pull the material tightly, working out any wrinkles or imperfections as you go.
31. Joe installs the seatback cardboard backing, which gives the back of the seat a little more rigidity. Duct tape is used to hold the cardboard to the seat frame.
32. The seatback material can now be stretched and placed over the spike strip. This is the second layer of vinyl to utilize the same spike strip. After it is pulled tightly and placed over the spikes, Joe hammers the spikes to retain the seat cover.
33. Now, it’s time for more massaging as the covers are stretched around the foam. The idea is to remove the wrinkles before the cover is fully attached. If there is a flaw, it can be removed after the fact but it’s much better to do the hard work before the hog rings are installed.
34. Joe uses hog ring pliers to install stainless steel hog rings, which hold the seat cover in place. A row of hog rings travels down the sides of the seatbacks, and the seat side chrome will hide the hog rings.
35. The bottom corner of the seatbacks are a little tricky. The seat cover material is folding from four directions at this junction so you’ll have to determine how the various layers are stacked. After Joe determines the cleanest pattern, he installs two hog rings to hold it in place.
36. After the seat covers are installed the seats can be reassembled. The seat side chrome is installed and new adjuster handles are also installed before we bolt our freshened seats into the car.
37. While the process was lengthy, we are beyond pleased with the fitment and quality of the Corvette America seat covers, foam and hardware. Any wrinkles or imperfections can now be removed using a hair dryer or heat gun, but we’re ready to bolt these seats into place and go for a ride!