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1970-1981 Camaro Interiors - Recovery Plan
We Head Over To TMI Classic To Check Out Their New Line Of Second-Gen Seat Parts.
Aug 31, 2009
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1970-1981 Camaro Interiors - Recovery Plan
These seats are from a '71 Camaro and have obviously seen better days. Besides the thrashed vinyl, they also suffer from collapsed foam.
It turned out that the seats had been recovered at some point. Pulling off the puke-brown covers reviled the original vinyl. Not that it looked much better. We then stripped the front and back seats of their covers and ditched the worn out front foam.
Here's the resulting frame for the front seat. Overall they were in great shape, but it's common to have one or more broken springs in the bottom section. The frames are not available as reproductions, but there are plenty out there in the used market if you need one.
After painting all the frames black, we were ready to start rebuilding the seats. The first step was to glue the new foam from TMI to the painted seat frame. This makes installing the covers much easier. The replacement foam is made in-house at TMI.
The front seat can be pretty tricky to recover, so we recommend having a skilled upholstery shop do the deed. Nonetheless, one trick TMI showed us to help get the new covers over the foam was to use a thin plastic trash bag in between the two. This helped the new covers slide in place over the backs.
Metal rods were then slid into the seat covers at all the points where the covers would be tucked into the foam. The ends of the rods needed to be bent in to a loop to prevent tearing the new covers.
The three areas where the rods needed to be inserted are shown in red. The covers themselves are patterned from GM original samples. TMI uses the same methods of stitching, heat seams, and assembly as GM.
Using a pair of hog ring pliers, the rod that was inserted into the seat cover was attached to metal anchors called listing wires that are built into the TMI foam sections. As TMI's Dean Satterfield told us, "This eases installation by allowing the upholstery to be hog-ringed to the listing wires in the foam rather than fight through the foam to find a spring on the underside. This alone can save up to an hour per seat, as well as the hand and wrist pain from pushing so hard."
Once the seatback cover was in place, the bottom was wrapped around and secured to the seat frame. The trick is to get the new cover on straight so it has a uniform appearance.
Here you can see how the excess edge "piping" (also known as welt) was pulled around and attached to the seat frame. TMI uses an extruded solid-color piping as opposed to the vinyl-wrapped cord. This means it can never wear through and show the inner cord or white string like the wrapped version.
The new foam seat bottom was then glued to the seat frame. The foam itself is an exact match for the OEM unit, but the materials used are state-of-the-art polyurethane formulations. The result is an original look combined with modern comfort and durability.
Just like the seatback, metal rods were inserted into the lower front seat cover and hog-ringed in place. Once secure, the cover was pulled over the seat foam. The covers feature durable polyester cross-linked backing. TMI thinks that polyester performs far better than the cotton used in the original and in some aftermarket covers. It costs a little more, but allows TMI to offer a limited-lifetime warranty on their covers.
More hog rings secured the new cover to the seat frame. In this case, the rear was anchored to the frame.
Along the other three edges of the cover, there are plastic strips. These were flipped into a channel that runs around the seat frame's perimeter.
Here is the finished seat bottom. Note that hog rings are only used near the back. The red arrow points to where a small hole needed to be cut in the cover so the seatback anchor point can pass through the vinyl.
On a '71, the rear of the lower seat section is typically covered in vinyl, however, later year models used this plastic cap. We thought this was a cleaner approach, so we picked up a pair off of eBay. We then re-installed the seatback stops using a TORX socket.
The plastic seatbacks were beat to hell, and besides, they were brown. In the interest of time, we simply hit them with spray adhesive and covered them in some extra vinyl. If you want a more factory look, replacement plastic panels can be bought from companies like Classic Industries and NPD. Another option would be to order seatbacks from a '78 or later model since they ditch the plastic panel and utilize a zipper.
Unlike the front seats, the rear seats were pretty easy to recover. There's no foam to replace, so the new cover was simply put over the OEM padding. TMI's covers are made from 32-ounce vinyl, which is the same as what GM used. Some other brands are made from 28-ounce material, or even vinyl as light as 24 ounces. TMI thinks this is far too thin and won't hold up to use or have the same look as the original stuff.
Once on straight, the cover was pulled around and hog-ringed to the frame. The Madrid vinyl sourced by TMI for these covers has the exact same color, texture, and feel of what was used 40 years ago.
The lower rear seat cushions were done in the same fashion. TMI uses a vinyl material called Enduratex, which is thicker and more durable than what is used by some other aftermarket companies. It's stronger because TMI specifies that the vinyl include a cross-linked reinforced backing.
The new seats look way better than the tattered mess we started with. While the rear seats were fairly simple, the front seats were challenging enough that we would recommend letting a professional do the install.
Rather than just going with whatever sew-seam spacing the sewing machine came with, TMI was careful to pattern theirs after GM. By making sure the stitching has the same width and type as the original, TMI can produce a very authentic-looking cover.
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