I have re-discovered that bespoke trimming a car in leather is an expensive business and sadly it is something that I don’t have the skills or the tools to do so I have no choice but to farm the work out to a professional. But before I can do that I need to build the rear seat so that they have something to actually trim. The seat is fairly basic, a flat cushion to sit on and something to lean your back against. However I need to maintain access to the battery housed below the seat and I need access to the rear axle so that the oil can be changed occasionally. This means that neither the seat cushion nor the seat back can be permanently fixed into position – a challenge, I like that.
My thoughts were to hinge the seat back enabling it to fold forward so that I could use the storage space behind the seat. I grant you there is not a lot of space but it would be somewhere to put the wheel jack and maybe some tools. A removable seat cushion is conceptually fairly straight forward, it merely needs something to stop it sliding forwards onto the floor. The challenge therefore is the folding mechanism.
Luckily for me, last week whilst at the Beaulieu AutoJumble, I picked up a seriously rotten folding rear seat that ‘looked’ about the right size and was so cheap that I simply could not walk past it – I still knocked £5 off the low asking price arguing it was really junk and not worth taking home with him. It really was in a state – all of the plywood construction had de-laminated so it was bending under the slightest pressure, it was not really usable. The seat therefore was definitely not a keeper but it was very cheap and just what I needed. The high value part for me was that it would give me a template to see how a seat should be constructed AND a genuine seat folding mechanism specifically designed for the job. Hopefully in the short term, it might accept a level of rebuilding to give me a usable rear seat until I was ready for the trimmer to weave his magic. Fingers crosseed
First problem: the seat did NOT fit – it was about 100mm too wide and around 200mm too high. I knew the height would be wrong, that was no big deal but the width meant I would need to deconstruct the seat and modify it to fit. This was no real concern because I had zero intentions of keeping the seat as-is and as mentioned it was so cheap, it really didnt matter.
Below is the seat as purchased, as you can see the seat back folds down flat. Just what I wanted. The vinyl was covering a real mess.
First task was to remove the hinges which was easy as they simply pulled the screws through the rotted plywood. I cleaned them up and dressed the rivets to tighten up the workings. Once each hinge was working smoothly, I bolted them to the platform that houses the battery and would support the seat. All I needed to do now was measure the distance between the two hinges and remove the excess plywood from the seat cushion in order for it to fit the reduced space. This gave me a feel for how the ‘real’ seat base would need to be cut to shape at a later date. I now had a usable seat cushion.
I then turned to the seat back and the original plywood panel was way beyond recovery so I placed a sheet of 18mm plywood in the hinge then shaped it to match the contours of the rear of the car. It was then painted it with a protective coating of wood stain and bolted it to the hinges adjusting things as necessary. With the seat back in place I could try it out. The angle is about right as it supports your lower and mid back area acceptably. These seats will never be used for long journeys but they are fine for the intended use. The seat back cushion was exceptionally basic and I simply removed enough of the thin plywood (or what was left of it) so that the height of the cushion was approximately the same as the seat back. The cushion continues to fall apart but it is very temporary and provides a level of comfort in the interim. It also looks the part as it is old.
So this is what we now have: a temporary but surprisingly usable rear seat. Finishing things off my rear passenger guests – I fabricated a step along similar lines to the one previously made. Access to the rear seat is now a little less ungainly.
I now need to fabricate some form of a ‘lid’ to the storage area behind the seat and work out how to create a couple of locks that will secure the seat back from being casually tipped forward. A job for another day