Re-purposing seats

As much as aluminium seats are nice and light and racing bucket seats were a period fitting, somehow they just didn’t look right in our car. Being a 4 seater touring body, it was really crying out for proper period seats but they need to be pretty narrow and sit as low as possible. When I bought the car the two front seats were still there, albeit with some very badly damaged leather that was probably lunch for rats over a few decades. You may be wondering why I didn’t use those in the first place rather than forking out for someone to make me some aluminium seats. The short answer is that the original seats were designed for a saloon car and they are approximately 150mm too wide (each) to fit into the new ‘sporty’ bodywork so I could not use them.

I don’t know if it was a Eureka moment or the fact that I have never been able to sell the original seats meaning they didn’t hold much value to me, but the thought occurred that with a bit of effort, I could in theory, make the seats narrower which would give me a pair of genuine period seats that DID fit inside the bodywork… the question now was how on earth to go about taking 150mm out the middle of the seats.

Below is my influence – which happens to be a vintage Bentley, but it gives you a feel for the overall idea I have in my head along with the back seat which would be trimmed in a similar manner.

But I get ahead of myself I still have two seats that are too wide. Obviously neither seat can be wider than the centre line of the car because at least the drivers seat will need to be able to slide past its neighbour. Below you can see the challenge – the seat base is basically a shallow bowl shape fixed to a supporting hoop that forms the back of the seat. One thing was immediately apparent – that hoop is not vertical on both sides, one side angles out at 15degrees which is no good to me, so basically my worksheets is:
1. Cut a 150mm section out of the middle of the hoop, the back brace and the seat base,
2. Rebend the tube so that it is vertical on both sides
3. Adjust the hoop curvature so all the parts line up
4. Weld it all back together again.

How hard can that be (coughs theatrically).

So lets get to it… find the middle of the seat then introduce the angle grinder to it…

No going back now…

Next challenge… being absolutely certain that I don’t remove too much metal from the hoop, I don’t know how many times I measured 75mm from each half before committing to the cut.

In the picture below, you will see the tubes no longer line up which is no surprise because I have to re-bend the tube to make both sides vertical (when viewed from the front). The tubing is approximatly 3mm thick so it doesn’t take kindly to being bent, but being steel it succumbed to an oxygen-accetalene torch heating it up until it was cherry red and then using a little force, I convinced the tubing to take on the correct shape

at first they don’t meet…
After heating and reforming – now they do…

Finally above you can see the tubing has been fully re-welded and smoothed off. It doesn’t need to be perfect as its hidden inside the seat, but I cleaned up all the surrounding surface rust too and gave everything a coat of rust preventative paint.

Next step… welding the seat base back together. Now that is going to be a real challenge to my welding ability. Its very thin ancient metal, much thinner than car body work metal. I have never welded anything that thin before so I will need to go seriously slowly and carefully to prevent blowing holes through. A consistent bead of weld is likely to be impossible – it will almost certainly have to be a series of overlapping blobs which will then need grinding back. Thats fine but its not pretty, luckily it won’t be visible as its inside the seat…

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