Tricks Of The Trade


This is the first in a series for our seat cover installation guide.We will be adding other years as they arise in our shop. The following details our installation of a 1966 vinyl seat bottom. Most seat covers from 1964 to present are assembled in much the same manner so the reader should get quite a bit of mileage from our little article.

Special tools needed: You'll need regular pliers, needle nose pliers, punch, single edged razor blade and strong hands  (illustrated 1.). 

Begin by first removing the seat from the car. The seat is bolted to the floor only in the front for 1961-1966 Corvettes. Rear mounting is a push in bracket arrangement which decouples by pulling the seat forward after the front bolts have been removed (ill. 1). 

Remove the seat side chrome pivot bolts and plastic seat back stops using a phillips screw driver (ill. 2). Occassionally we encounter frozen pivot bolts. Heating the nut on the back side with a torch will expand the nut, breaking the corrosion bond between the screw and nut, works every time. Remove the screw as soon as the nut appears red while heating.

Remove all clips from the bottom edge from the old seat coverer. This is best done using regular pliers and turning the clip back and forth while pulling it away from the reinforced fabric. (ill. 3). The close up of the clip illustrated also depicts its orientation to the seat frame when the seat covering is installed. This is also a good time to check integrity of the seat frame itself as well as the sliders. Check the weldments for fatigue and metal cracks, 1968 - 1978 Corvette seats tend to need much attention in this area. Grease the sliders and connecting linkage.

Separating the covering from the seat foam at the seat insert is best done using a razor blade to slit the rod bag (ill. 4). The rod bag is the cloth type material which is about 3/4 inch wide and surrounds the seat insert. The rod, (inside the bag), is fastened to the seat springs via a figure 8 shaped wire clip. Using needle nose pliers, grab and open the figure 8 clip and pull the rod away from the clip. This method leaves the clip going through the foam while still secured to the springs (ill. 4).

Install the retainer rod into the bag. If you had to fabricate a new rod be sure to loop both ends. This prevents a loose rod end to protrude the seat cover after installation. Grab the rod, open the bag and feed the rod all the way through until it has travelled around the insert and finishes approximately 1 1/2 inches from the rear edge of the seat cover (ill.5).at the rear end of the seat ith the upper long connecting spring attached. Place shoe spring and its retainer over the pin. Insert socket screw driver through the wheel hub access hole and onto spring retainer, push and turn 1/4 turn to secure. A properly secured pin will have its little flanges seated into grooves present in the spring washer-like retainer. Use a cigarette lighter to burn the string which will release spring tension and secure the brake shoe.

Install all of the edge clips oriented as depicted (ill. 6) closeup. This is a snug fit and will require the use of pliers to properly install (ill. 7). At this point the seat cover (ill. 6) should be turned inside out so as to resemble the covering in (ill. 8). This is done to facilitate the attachment of the seat insert to the seat foam.

Mark both the foam and seat cover depicting the orientation of the figure 8 clips.(ill. 8). Noting the markings on the insert bag make a 1/2 inch slit (ill. 9). This will make a very difficult procedure much easier. This is the most difficult part of the project and probably the most important. The appearance of the seat insert when the job is done separates an amature looking job from that of a professional. What really needs to be done here is to compress the foam in much the same manner as a 200 pound person would when sitting on the seat. Absent that mechanism we have come up with this procedure. To date it has worked every time. Locate the seat insert exactly in the insert grooves on the seat foam. The notes made on the foam, depicting the figure 8 clip's orientation either in or out, determines which side of the rod to stick the needle nose pliers when grabing and securing the clip (ill. 8). Its best to start at one end, left rear end and progress forward, accross the front and back toward the rear of the other side. Do not jump around, as that would make each succedding clipping more difficult. Unfortunately the factory chose to orient most of the figure 8 clips with the opening facing inward. 

Pull the covering down toward the bottom edge of the seat frame. Before turning the seat over put a new piece of paper on the work bench protest the the new covering. Push the bottom reinforced edge of the covering around the bottom edge of the seat frame while catching the clip on the seat edge (ill. 10). You will find the rear edge more difficult to secure. Push down on the seat, compressing the foam, while securing the rear clips. 

Locate the side chrome pivot holes by scanning the surface with your finger. When located make a hole using a punch or dowell without moving your finger (ill.10)

Locating the seat back stop is a little trickier. Turn the seat upside down. Locate the seat back screw hole. Stick a rod or stiff wire through the hole punching through the seat covering. Make sure the rod is perpendicular to the hole surface so that the punched hole in the upholstery will be properly located. Leave the rod protruding through the upholstery while turning the seat right side up. Slide the seat back plastic stop down the rod and firmly hold it in place while securing the screw (ill. 12)

Wrinkles happen. Look to minimize or possibly eliviate them using a heat gun. Much care should be taken since vinyl can melt and leather can be excessively dried loosing its softness or supple. Always keep the heat gun moving back and forth over the wrinkled area, periodically touching it with your hand. When the surface temperature gets too hot to the touch stop heating. Let it cool completely, perhaps heating another area while the first one cools. The process may be repeated two or three times since it is both the heating and cooling process that shrinks the material (ill. 12). Leather should be treated with a leather conditioner when the job is done.

The completed job

1. Seat removal &  necessary tools

2. Remove side supports & seat cover retainer clips

3. Remove seat back stops & retainer clip close up

4. Cut retainer rod bag & repair retainer clips

5. Remove rod from foam & install to seat cover

6. Seat cover readied & clip orientation closeup

7. Installing clip & rod into retaining bag

8.  Mark foam & install covering 

9. Slit bag @ clip & connect clip to rod

10. Fasten covering to bottom frame edge

11. Locate pivot bolt hole & punch or dowel cut

12. Align seat stop & apply heat to wrinkles

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