Saturday, May 10, 2008

1982 Jaguar XJ-S: Seat Replacement

Using metal coat hangers to replace seat webbing wasn't such a good idea after all. As you can imagine, they provided support but not much comfort. But with a limited budget what could be done? The first step was to remove the driver's seat and replace it with the passenger seat. That worked fairly well but I kept wondering what I was going to do when my wife wanted to go somewhere with me. After looking through the online phone book, I decided to call Affordable Auto near Painesville. The man on the phone told me seats from any car were $20 a piece. That sounded fairly reasonable as seats on craigslist were going for $25-80 each and I didn't know if they'd fit.

When I arrived, the first car that I saw was a beautiful 1994 Mercedes E420. The leather seats looked too good to be true. But ... tiny shards of glass covered the seats due to a broken windshield. After getting two pieces stuck to my hand, I wasn't real thrilled about the seats anymore. I also noted that these were electric seats which would be almost impossible to remove without battery power. The problem with electric seats is that the bolts usually get covered by the seat as it slides one way or another. Later, after looking over forty other cars, I eventually pulled a manually adjusted, leather, passenger seat from a 2001 Chrysler Sebring. The seat was beautiful and the measurements seemed just right. But when I got it back to the car for a test fit, I quickly found one measurement that I'd forgotten — the thickness of the seat cushion! With the seat in place, I actually had to tilt my head forward just to sit upright. I'm not kidding.

The problem is that the Jaguar XJ-S has a low roof line. Thus the "seat" of the chair must be very low to the floor and not very thick if a 6' 4" man is to enjoy the ride. The Jag seat is approximately two inches thicker than the length of my fingers. While the Sebring's would have been more comfortable, it's seat was three to four inches thicker. This meant that I had to visit row upon row of cars to find one that would actually fit. A 1995 Chevrolet Camaro looked to be a good option, but (alas!) it was electric allowing no access to the bolts. A pair of Pontiac Fieros would have worked but the seat frames were too rusty. Just before giving up hope, I found a 1984 Toyota Celica Supra. The driver's seat was in good condition, with a bolt pattern similar to the XJ-S. A few quick turns of a ratchet and the seat was in my arms headed for a test fit. Sure enough, it was close enough to risk $20.

The seat's bolt pattern was close but not quite right. The Supra's front bolts were attached horizontally as opposed to the vertical XJ-S' bolts. This meant using a hacksaw to remove the front "tabs" and drilling a hole in the sliding rail. Even so, the width of the seat cshion's front edge was slightly wider than the center console would allow. Brute force, however, enabled the seat to just fit. The rear of the new chair had holes through which the bolts could be vertically mounted. However, they were not in quite the right spot. Drilling extra holes nearby didn't do enough, so I used the hack saw and created a slot instead of a hole (see picture). This did the job and the seat is now happily installed ... by three bolts. The front right bolt hole wouldn't quite align, so it's attached by a plastic zip tie until I can figure out something better.

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