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Installing seat upholstery


JohnD1956
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I am trying to install front seat upholstery on my 69 GS with a bench seat. I wanted to change my padding at the same time to try and eliminate that musty odor you sometimes get in a convertible. Unfortunatley this is not going so well.

I bought new cotton padding from a supplier. AAA grade cotton. Then I took off my original seat back cover fro the passengers side. I noticed the original padding was two layers of different color material, so right away I think I have a problem. Perhaps one is denser than the other? Anyway, I measured the thickness of the original and found I would have to double up the new cotton to get approximately the same thickness. The guys at Legendary said to put a modified black plastic trash bag over the seat which would help the upholstery slip on easier, but I never could get the cover on. It was so tight, I finnaly removed it as it looked like it was going to tear in the inside seam.

Has anyone had experience doing this with the seat upholstery from Legendary Interiors? Are there any tips you could share? Does anyone know how this was done at the factory?

Sheesh, I wish I never started this project!!!

JD frown.gif

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Right before installation, use a blow dryer on heat and work it back and forth over the section you are trying to get on, this will make the vinyl as workable as possible. If that doesn't work. Set it down, go drink a (beverage insert here) beer and come bck to it. The vinyl will stretch out eventually.

As a mechanic in a dealership, I would occasionally have to replace a seat cover. The new seat covers, made from fabric or leather, would always be stiffer then the used ones - meaning eventually the vinyl in your kit will loosen up. The important thing to remember is that on GS's you at least get a reasonable cost seat kit, on older cars, as you may know, seat kits are not available and custom tailoring costs big $$$ and may still not look like OEM

Keep us updated.

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I always let my new seat covers or upholstery sit out in the sun for a few hours before installing. That allows the sun to heat it up, and it gets much softer and more pliable. You can also use a heat gun or hair dryer, but the sun is better. At restoration school, I was taught to use burlap over the springs, then a layer of cotton batting, then foam (if it used foam originally), and then an old sheet cut to fit over everything. The sheet is soft, and allows the seat cover to slide a little. Slip the new upholstery, which has been warmed by the sun, over the sheeting, stretch it into place, and hog-ring the edges to the seat frame.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

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JD,

Key word here is Legendary. And a couple of other issues that come up with repop stuff. Legendary seat covers fit VERY tightly even over old, worn springs and padding. If you've replaced any of that things can get interesting really fast.

The repop foams are a one size fits all that fits nothing well, if you're using those. They are denser than the original as well as thicker/fatter and so forth. I believe the new ones are urethane rather than latex which changes their characteristics a bit. Resculpting will probably be needed to make them fit inside the pre-made seat cover.

Repop seat springs are a heavier guage-sounds great until they don't have enough give to make the seat sit right. Throw these into the mix with the foam and seat covers and you're trying to stuff.... Well, let's put it this way, a size 4 lycra whatever, won't cover a size 24 bottom without a real danger of catastrophic failure. Even if you get the cover ringed down, you may find yourself sitting ON the seat, rather than IN the seat.

Even though it's $, it might be worth taking the project to a local upholsterer recommended by your local club. He or she is probably familiar with those seats, and possibly even Legendary's work, so he/she can do what needs to be done to make them fit well.

Or, Legendary will install the seat covers for you if you pay them. If you are close, it might be worth it as I seem to recall some warranty differences based on who does the installation.

Pete-If this is the situation I think it is, heating the vinyl won't be enough. Of all the cars we've done, the ONLY interior problem with fit was a Legendary interior issue with seat covers. If the correct material is available anywhere else, I would choose to have an upholsterer make the seat covers rather than use Legendary. Unfortunately, some colors are only available from them.

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Thanks for the replies. I did change just the cotton, I left the original burlap on the springs, and re-used the original burlap and linnen batting surrounding the double layer of cotton. I am not that close to Legendary, but I am going to await a sunny day and give that a shot. If it doesn't work, I'm driving the entire mess out there.

I learned my lesson on this one...

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Pete,

Does it make a difference WHERE you start hog ringing? Does one start in the middle of a bench or bucket and move toward the sides/back? I will need to do my seats someday and was wondering. It would make sense to me to start from the center and work your way back but a modern seat is a lot different then the older seats.

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Jake/Bryan Moran--A wise man reads the shop manual for that particular seat and follows the procedure therein. The correct answer to the question depends on the seat, the sculpturing and how it's designed to fit, however, starting with the inner most pieces and working outward is usually a good game plan since ringing the outside down first makes it kinda hard to get to the inner anchors.

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Buicks Rule,

Thanks for the reminder to go to the shop manual. I remember seeing good clear photos in my 49 shop manual. It would be great if I could learn to do the sewing. Several months ago I looked into taking upholstery classes at the local community college but they did not offer them anymore. I asked one of the only 2 upholstery shops in town (2 other guys had retired) if I could apprentice part time and he said he did not have enough work to keep his guys busy.

But to do old seats right, pre-muscle car, has to be tough. On my 49 Roadmaster the seat is half leather, half clothe.

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Actually, it's easier. Making the upholstery from scratch when you can get the material means you're building the whole seat from the frame out and you build the components up to fit one piece at a time. While the repop stuff OUGHT to fit easier, it's a one size fits all cover that requires everything else to be modified on the fly to fit.

If the material can be purchased, even when seat kits are available, I would MUCH, MUCH rather do it from scratch and make sure everything fits than fight with a kit.

Most of my upholsterer friends feel the same way. They often spend more time messing aroung making a kit fit than they would working from the springs out from scratch.

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Hello John. I have been putting repo seat covers on my Impala SS.

Not from legendary but still very tight. I heated them up with a hair

drier and worked very slowly. Once they are on they will stretch out

eventualy by themselves. They have to fit tight cause if they didn't

they would be too loose afterwards. P.S. now you can set them in the sun!

Also, Are you going to be at Guptils this year with the 56?

Tom V

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Hey Tom. I'm sure to be at Guptils this year. Will be alternating between the 56 and the GS, if I ever get the GS seat done.

I did get the seat bottom done today. I think it came out good. 10020373439.jpg

I had to put the seat upside down on the driveway ( I used a piece of carpet remnant I had for padding) and then stand on the frame to compress it and install the hog rings. Worked well. But that won't work on the seat backs. Still I have an idea for them.

Next is the seat backs.

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Looks absolutely beautiful. That's the best part of this hobby IMO, when you have a worn out part and then you restore it to it's original form/function. That upholstery looks great.

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the seat looks great! i happened to see this thread and thought id look at one of your projects! was the seat ripped, or just old and worn out?

you mentioned the Guptils shows, i went to a couple of those last year with a friend, lots of fun cool.gif all kinds of stuff from every era. i was thinking id bring the '38 to at least a couple, ill have to find you when i go!

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There were rips in the pleats right where the driver sits. Also there was a awful looking stain in the original upholstery right there. Sounds gross but it looked like a pint of blood? I hope no one got stabbed while in there?!?!?

I did put in new cotton batting but had to reuse the foam. The stain had only gotten to the top layer of the cotton, and the foam looked clear, so hopefully it is okay.

I also had two weak springs right there. I used some 16 guage baleing wire to tie the springs perpendicular. It tightened things up perfectly.

This part really wasn't bad. It's given me more confidence to tackle the seat backs.

JD

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks BH. Unfortunately I am not so happy about the passengers side seat back.

Legendary said to use a cut off plastic garbage bag to cover the top of the seat so the upholstery would slip over easier. Someone else ( here on these forums I think) suggested using an old sheet. Since the sheet will breathe easier, I went with that. But I don't think I got enough padding at the top of the seat.

11521211789.jpg

Once we finished struggling to get the upholstery over the frame I decided to leave it alone. Here's a few things that didn't come out just right:

I'm not happy with this ripple in the side. fortunately it is in the inside surface where it is hidden by the other seat back.

11521194823.jpg

Another view, Maybe when I get it back in the sun it will settle in???

11521175482.jpg

And this seam just would not lay right no matter how much I tried to stretch it.

11521190061.jpg

But the upholstery is made extremely well. This corner matched my original cover exactly!!!

11521203218.jpg

I hope to do the drivers side this weekend. We'll see how that comes out.

JD

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Well, it's all back together. Can't say I'm crazy about it, but it is functional. We took it for a test drive tonight and I can live with it. I just don't like the wrinkles on the seat backs, but I can't do much about them. I'm pretty certain it is a padding shift problem, but I'm not taking them apart to try and get them smoother. My car is now officially a driver, and not a show car.

11920382345.jpg

In this picture it looks like the side of the seat is off the frame. I just checked it and now I think it is an overstuffed padding situation. The original padding wrapped around that frame edge and that's how I put on the new padding. I'm going to have to watch this situation to make sure the seat does not fail in this area.

11920395760.jpg

Here's the backside.

11920403884.jpg

Like I said, I'm not crazy about it but I am $300.00 to the good, which will go into something else I'm sure. Next time I'm paying the professional!

JD

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