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rockable 05-23-2011 06:17 PM

Upgrading Original Bench Seats Support For My 41 Plymouth
This has also been posted on the HAMB but I'm not getting much input. Thanks to silentpoet for the tip on this forum.

I am planning to finish my car as a RestoRod and I'm thinking ahead on how to do the interior. Part of my plan was to use the original bench seat, which I have.

I was talking to a guy Friday at GG Nashville and he said that he was not happy with his seats. He used the original seats in his late 30's Dodge but said that on a long trip they are too soft and not comfortable.

My wife and I both have sciatic nerve issues, along with lower back issues. Therefore, we need FIRM, SUPPORTIVE, seating like you find in most modern european sedans, for example.

I'm aware that folks like Tea's make custom bench seats that have firm foam support, side bolsters, lumbar support etc. (side support is not really an issue here for me) I would like to use the original frames but make them more on par with modern seats, as far as comfort. Since it's a Hot Rod, I don't care if the shape of the seats is a little different but I would like it to look sort of traditional.

So, here are my questions. How can I take the original seat frames and come up with a good, supportive and comfortable bench seat that won't kill us when we are on a long trip?

I assume the coil springs will have to be removed. Has anyone here done it? If so, do you have pictures, instructions or suggestions? Are most upholsterers able to shape and sculpt foam? Do they know how to do it so that it fits ME and doesn't sit like a church pew?

I've searched the archives but was not able to find anything of substance on this subject. Hopefully, this can be a good tech thread.

Thanks for your input.


DanTwoLakes 05-23-2011 07:20 PM

First of all, check out this thread: CLICK HERE Also look at this thread on spring repair: CLICK HERE The seat in this instance was from a '53 Chevy and had sinuous wire springs, not coil springs, which would hold up better over time than the coil springs in your '41. Chances are that your seat is probably pretty solid on the passenger side, but is probably pretty weak on the driver's side. Over time, coil springs lose their temper and become soft and not very supportive. Re-padding the original seat on a '41 (or any car seat that still has cotton and latex rubber for padding in it) is a no brainer. You are probably going to have a real challenge finding an upholsterer who is knowledgeable enough about seat spring construction and the different types, densities, and qualities of foam to be able to re-do your seat exactly how you want it. Believe it or not, the seat cover itself is the simplest part of the whole package. It is usually not possible to just switch out coil springs and put in sinuous wire springs or some other kind of platform, the technology is different in each instance because the base of each seat is totally different. The only way to know if your seat is salvageable is to strip it down to the bare springs and see what you have. The old coils could be replaced, but be prepared for some sticker shock at the cost of doing a complete makeover on an old seat. The job would be extremely labor intensive along with the fact that new coils and the right kind of foam are not inexpensive.

rockable 05-23-2011 07:24 PM

Thanks, Dan. I'm beginning to get the picture. I'm not convinced that even with new springs, the seats would be comfortable on long trips.

It seems I have two options.

Option 1 - build my interior to look traditional and not be comfortable on long trips.

Option 2 - put comfortable seats in it and not look traditional.

Is that correct? Or, would they be firm and comfortable with new springs and upholstery? I had a '63 Porsche 356 with rebuilt buckets that were very comfortable and as I recall, they were coil spring.

DanTwoLakes 05-23-2011 07:48 PM

If the old seats are done correctly with new materials, they should be just as comfortable as you want.

rockable 02-12-2012 03:06 PM

5 Attachment(s)
I finally got around to reinstalling my original seats. They are terrible. It is like they were designed to be part of the suspension, which they probably were. The front of the seat is 16" high and looks like a sofa!

When I sit on them, the seat sags about 4". This is about the right height for me, as I'm 6' 2" and I had to make adapters to move the seats back 2 1/2".

I'm worried that if I rebuild these seats as original, they will be too tall and not be very comfortable. But, I want to keep the original appearance if I can.

Can I build a frame within the original frame and use sinuous springs and heavy foam to build new seats? Are there any examples posted out here? If I do and I use firm foam, how much should I figure on my 210 pound frame compressing the new seat?

Or should I just cave in and buy some new frames from Tea's or Glide? It's very important that these seats be comfortable for long trips.

Thanks for your help.

DanTwoLakes 02-13-2012 07:50 AM

Do the seat cushions and seat backs drop into the frame? Can you take pictures of the cushions and seat backs out of the frame?
I can see how the seat back is attached, it hangs on the two brackets, and then bolts to the two nuts welded to the frame at the bottom.

rockable 02-13-2012 09:48 AM

Yes. The bottom just sits right in the frame with no hold down except the slight squeeze from the sides. The backs hang on the two hooks on the frame. There are two screws each that hold them in place.

DanTwoLakes 02-13-2012 10:35 AM

You could make a seat base out of 3/4" plywood that could be padded with firm foam. You can buy foam that you would barely be able to dent if you want, but if you use something like 65 to 85 compression foam it would support you just fine.

rockable 02-13-2012 11:02 AM

What are the chances of my findind something in a salvage yard (minivan?) that might be adapatable to the frame? If not, is there any reason I couldn't build a frame from tubing and put "no sag" type springs in it?

DanTwoLakes 02-13-2012 05:35 PM

You could build a frame from tubing and attach sinuous wire springs, but you will still have to pad it with foam, one way or the other. There is no other way to get the depth you will need.

rockable 02-13-2012 05:49 PM

Thanks, Dan!

rockable 02-18-2012 03:53 PM

5 Attachment(s)
Today I tried to figure out a way to use my original frames and pad them up with foam. Please review these pictures and tell me if this will work.

I used some crappy 1/2" Chinese plywood that I had on hand to make a pattern and test my idea. I used some 1" sq. tubing to make the top part that hooks onto the seat back frame and I used another piece to provide the bottom. This piece has two holes drilled and tapped into it so that two 1/4" screws can be installed from the rear with some dress up washers to retain the cushion to the frame.

All of this looks like it will work ok to me but I am NOT an upholsterer. I will take this to someone else to finish. The question that jumps out at me regarding the backs is how will they fasten the fabric to the square tubing. Should I weld on some of those little "shark tooth" looking tabs? Or will they just glue it?

The seat bottom will be cut from 3/4" plywood and should be very straightforward. I am assuming I can build the foam up to provide the incline on the seat bottom. Or should I fabricate something that puts the angle in?

Does anyone have any good sources for ordering the foam to build these seats up? Should I just glue the foam to the plywood?


DanTwoLakes 02-18-2012 06:56 PM

What you are doing will work. They will glue the fabric onto the metal, you won't need tabs. As far as the "incline", which is called pitch in the furniture world, the simplest thing is to angle the base, not the foam, but it can be done either way. Yes, the foam will be glued to the plywood. You should drill some 1" holes through the plywood to let the air escape through the plywood, both on the backs and the seats. Either that, or cut out large rectangles and criss cross the openings with elastic webbing.

If you can't find foam to your satisfaction on the internet, I can get you whatever you want from my supplier and have it drop shipped right to you. One online source for foam is Rochford Supply. CLICK HERE The firmest they have is 61 compression which should work O.K.

rockable 02-18-2012 07:56 PM

Thanks, Dan. I knew to drill the holes. This was just a pattern to test my idea. Would you recommend laying down a base of stiffer foam and then layering some firm on top of it?

There is an online source here in NC called I'll check them out.

Thanks again.

DanTwoLakes 02-19-2012 07:52 AM

I would stick to all one foam. If you mix them together it would be fine, but it may get pricey.

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