Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Rear Seat, Front Seat Repair and Recover,
Installation Part 1
Wow, we are up to blog post #50! I guess we have hit a mile stone. My son Ethan, who is 15 years old, is already talking about getting a license and showing an interest in cars and trucks. You can see his reaction to being able to sit in the driver's seat of this old Ford. When I asked him what feature about the 1955 Ford Fairlane he liked the best he said, "The engine." Way back when I was about his age I remembered the details that drew me to this 50s automobile. The red/white tutone paint job, the beautiful interior that had a nostalgic appearance, and the rumble of the engine were what sold me. The interior is over 25 years old and I thought it best to give it the best deep cleaning it could receive at my hands before we put the upholstery back into the car. Most of the vinyl was still soft and not overly stained, and the velvet itself was in particularly excellent shape as the pictures show, with no tears, stains, etc. I could tell though that the front seat was having problems. Something was broken inside - more on that later. First up was to deep clean with mama's Oreck Carpet Shampooer and the hand attachment for upholstery.
I won't go into the details because this is pretty basic work of taking each section of upholstery and cleaning it with a unit such as this. I will say this about the Oreck brand and the cleaner - it does the job! Check out this waste chamber on the removable liquid well from the machine:
YUCK! Most of the pieces were cleaned 4 times and then rinsed. The first pass always looked like this. The vinyl was cleaned as well but since it was white it showed some small stains or scuffs here or there. To be over 25 years old the upholstery was really pretty good and I just could not justify getting new seat covers, etc when I could just use what I had in the car. I am sure that eventually I will have to recover with new material. Who knows how long this interior will last on a car driven each week?
The pictures below show a custom package tray board I made (held down with the wing nuts from inside the trunk), the backerboard that goes behind the rear seat back, and then the rear seat, seat back, and package tray upholstery installed.
There is a trick to getting these pieces into position because the rear seat is area is extremely tight. Navigating the seat belts and retractors was also a challenge. The main idea is to go slowly, keep the sections as low as possible (remember the width of the car narrows as you increase in height), and get the rear seat back almost into position before placing the seat where it is supposed to rest. There is nothing that bolts these down to the floor or the seat back, only small brackets they rest upon.
The front seat was another story. I decided it was time to disassemble it and see what the problems were. As you may already know, the bench seat on these two door cars had a pivot for each seat back. There are clips that have to removed before the seat backs can be removed from the seat itself.
The seat backs were in great shape. The seat bench was now ready to be inspected. I had never put the seat upside down to take a look so this was the first time for me.
The photos above show a nasty story. Not only was the padding under the driver's side worn out, but the underside of this seat cover was nasty. It looked like the original foam padding had begun to disintegrate into a powder. There was nasty stuff everywhere. I figured the best thing to do was to completely remove it, clean it, and then inspect the padding, springs, and the frame.
Lo and behold what have we here? A broken spring! That's going to need some repair.
When I got the seat cover off I pulled the seat out to the driveway and had mama come take a look since she had been getting more and more involved with how this interior was coming along.
"Daddy, this thing is awful," she said as my wife gave the seat the once over. "Time to get some new foam. Let's throw this old stuff away."
I could not have agreed with her more. She even chipped in to remove all of the remaining hog rings that were still on the frame. I started by completely cleaning the frame and then welding up the broken spring. I reinforced the joint with a strip of metal - hopefully this will hold. Even if it does who knows what other "weak links" we may have in this seat? My son and I spoke of a vision to get some mid-60s Thunderbird bucket seats and rear seat combination to install when these seats wear out. I have seen that done on other 55/56 Fords and I have to say the look is fabulous.
After painting the frame it was time to consider my options for re-padding the seat springs. The work went like this:
1. Weave two sheets of vinyl from one side of the seat to the other, hog ring on both sides.
2. Glue 1" foam to the vinyl, sparingly, and use the upper seat frame as a guide to trim.
3. Glue another 1" foam sheet to the first sheet, but leave a 3 inch overhang.
4. Glue a piece of jute (7/16") to the top foam sheet, and trim so that the edges of this jute can be wrapped around the seat and secured to the springs with hog rings.
By the way, hog rings look like this before they are clamped into position:
Would you believe that the vinyl, foam, and the jute pad were all made right here in the US? How rare is that? There are other countries that have excellent materials, but many times stores will sell manufactured goods from countries in Asia that don't quite have the same standards of quality. Hopefully this "US made" foam is a sign that these materials will hold up well.
More in the next post!