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Bucket Seat Restoration - Seat Resto-You Can Do It!
How To Transform A Clapped-Out Set Of Buckets Into Something Worth Sitting On.
Sep 1, 2010
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Bucket Seat Restoration - Seat Resto-You Can Do It!
Here are the main components we picked up from Original Parts Group (OPG) to bring our seats back from the dead. The covers not only have all the stitches in the right places, they also have the proper Madrid grain vinyl. The foam is nice and soft—unlike others we have run across. If the foam is too firm, you end up sitting on the seat instead of sinking down in it. Placing the covers in the sun while you tear down the seats will help in installation later by softening the vinyl and making it stretch much easier.
Here are the other parts and sundries from OPG that will aid in the job and add all the small details. The first thing is the installation kit, which consists of hog rings and hog ring pliers. The three hog rings in foreground are set up in a sequence (un-bent, midway, and fully closed) so you can see how they function in holding the covers down.
The bumpers are used to...
...set the backrest at the proper angle, the emblems go in the backrest for an OE appearance...
...and the chrome trim and caps will finish off the metal panels.
Before any new parts can be installed, all the old stuff needs to come off. The best way to remove hog rings is to use a set of diagonal pliers. Grab the hog ring with the pliers and twist, which will un-bend the ring and remove it.
The hardware holding the backrest to the cushion is hidden beneath the back of the cushion cover. Remove the bolts with a 1/2-inch socket and keep track of the plate/tab because there is a left and a right for each seat, and they won't work if they get swapped side to side. The plates serve two functions, to hold the metal trim and provide a place to hog ring the cover.
With the seat assembly separated, turn your attention to the cushion. After all the perimeter hog rings are out you can turn the seat cover inside out to access the hog rings that are along the middle.
Once those are out, find and remove any hog rings that are holding the foam and burlap to the spring assembly.
With the springs exposed, you can find and replace any that are broken. Look closely at the spring that is on the outboard side; this spring is subject to the most abuse and is the one that is typically broken. Don't worry—OPG has a full selection of replacement springs for just about every year Chevelle. Also, inspect all the metal fasteners holding the spring assembly together. As seen in this picture, they work loose over the years and let the springs shift around, which can affect cover fitment and also makes a bunch of noise when you sit down.
Use a small pair of pliers to open the fasteners so you can reposition the springs back in their proper place. You should be able to find all the proper locations by looking for the small bent sections in the edge wire. After you have the spring properly positioned, bend the fasteners around both parts locking them in place.
Once you have the spring assembly tuned up, its time to put on the new foam. The foam from OPG already has a woven backing impregnated to the bottom, protecting the foam from the springs. As an added layer of protection and to provide a better surface to glue the foam down, we recommend covering the spring assembly with a cheap piece of material like velour. Hold the material in place with hog rings along the perimeter and along the center hold-down wires.
After coating the foam and the spring assembly with high tack glue, you can join the two components. The foam will pretty much line up on its own, but keep an eye on the center tie-down wires and the channels in the foam.
Once the foam is stuck, you can proceed with the cover installation. Step one is to turn the cover inside out, then line up the center hold-downs, and hog ring the rear hold-down where the original cover was attached.
The factory covers had a wimpy rope-type piece in the center hold-down listing that you can't really reuse. A stiff piece of wire cut to the length of the channel in the foam will provide better results anyway. Slide the wire in the listing, which will provide a nice strong bond between the cover and springs once hog ringed in place. Now pull the cover forward to line up the front edge of the cover with the front edge of the foam and install about four or five evenly spaced hog rings. Repeat the hog ring process on the other center hold-down listing.
Now for the fun part: Starting at the front, roll the cover over the cushion, turning it right side out over the cushion.
Make sure to keep the edge of the cover aligned with the edge of the cushion.
Once you have the cover rolled over the foam, hog ring the front edge.
For the side hold-down listings, the factory uses a stiff wire covered with a twisted paper. Over the years the paper degrades and makes feeding in the wire into the listing a pain. Wrapping the papered wire with some masking tape will help it slide right in.
Before you put a hog ring in the side hold-down, reach your hand up under the cover and orient the salvage to point down along the edge of the seat. Salvage is all the material on the backside of a seam and if it's not consistently on one side or the other it will make the seam look wavy.
Heat will help you work out any wrinkles in the cover, but be very careful if you are using a heat gun. It won’t take much to overheat the vinyl and melt it. If you are going to use a heat gun, one way to prevent melting the vinyl is to put your hand in the line of fire, so to speak. Your hand will let you know right away if you are applying too much heat. You are better off using a hair dryer as they get the job done, but don't get nearly as hot. That completes the cushion for now; there are a few more steps, but these can't be done until the cushion and backrest are bolted back together.
After doing all the same steps to the backrest as the cushion, you can glue the foam to the spring assembly. The backrest will require a little more glue around the edges. Line up the top of the springs in the foam again keeping the center tie-down wires lined up with the channel in the center of the foam.
After the center is stuck, spray more glue along the top of the back, sides, and bottom of the spring assembly.
Let the glue tack up before sticking the foam down.
Before putting on the cover you will want to install your emblems. In '66 the factory used one emblem per seat located about 8 inches from the top edge in the center pleat. I decided to install two emblems per seat in the outer and wider pleats. I'm not a total purest and think the emblems fit in the wider pleats much better.
For the backrest cover, line up the bottom, as the top comes over the crest a bit and make a mark on the foam. This will help you keep the cover in the right spot while you hog ring the center tie-down.
Just like the bottom cushion, you will need to flip the cover right side out, but the backrest will be a little harder. Slide one hand inside the cover while the other folds it over as shown in the first picture.
This will help keep the salvage oriented correctly during the process. Repeat the process on the bottom of the backrest, as well before installing the hog rings.
With both covers pretty much done, it's time to join the backrest to the bottom cushion. Remember to put the little brackets mentioned earlier in the right position. Now check to see if the pleats are lined up between the backrest and cushion. As you can see ours is a little off.
To cure this issue, remove the hog rings on the rear hold-down of the cushion (the first hog rings you installed). With these out, you'll be able to move the cover around enough to line up the pleats.
The back of the backrest is covered with a metal panel, which received a fresh coat of paint and the new chrome trim. The top of the panel slips under these two little brackets that were removed during tear down. The best way to find where they go again is to lay the metal panel in place and mark it with tape. Then use an awl to locate the holes in the frame.
The cushion cover comes together at the rear to hide the hardware...
...holding the backrest on.
There are a few little tails that come down and hide where the tracks mount up as well. They go like this and are held on by—you guessed it—more hog rings. Now the metal pieces that cover the sides can be installed.
The last thing is the two pads/bumpers that set the backrest angle. An awl will be the best way to locate the screw holes.
There you have it folks, a restored bucket seat. Hopefully, there is enough information in this story to give you the confidence to try the job at home.
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