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          It's one of the most important components of your truck -- without it, it's kinda hard to drive! But your seat is also one of the most overlooked pieces of the restoration puzzle. Fear not! Dive right in! As Roy shows us, it's not as hard as you think to perform a good ...

Seat Restoration
By Roy "RoyV" Vaillancourt
1951 Chevy 1/2-Ton
<<< click images for larger view >>> February 2009

Dog Approved!

My wife and I have been looking for an old pick-up truck to restore for some time and we finally found a 1951 Chevy 1/2-ton [ image ] that arrived on July 24, 2008. After getting it off the transport, we placed her in the driveway [ image ] and the three of us (me, my wife and the dog) began the inspection as to the shape of this new beauty.

New love is always blind. So this was one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever seen. Even the dog liked it [ image ].

As we inspected it all over, I took a lot of pictures to document the arrival and also record its “pre-restoration” condition. We were all anxious to get inside and try it out. Well ... almost.

The only one that would go inside was the dog. You see, the interior and the seat were in pretty poor condition [ image ]and we weren’t sure what “critters” lurked under all that vintage dirt, etc. Probably that's what attracted the dog???

So, seeing as I didn’t have any parts ordered for any area of the truck, I started my restoration on the seat just so we could at least sit in it from time to time and imagine what the completed vehicle would be like.

So out came the seat and frame and the restoration was underway.


As you can see from those previous pictures, the seat was in sad shape. It was old, smelly and loosing stuffing all around the edges. After the seat bottom, back, frame and side covers were removed, the seat pan revealed lots of dirt, rust and seat stuffing (picture to the left). It also revealed two stuck and broken seat adjusters. We’ll get to these later.

The next step was to strip the seat and back down to the bare frames ( picture to the left ). There was nothing to save as far as cushion and covering material goes. So all of it went in the trash.

Next was some careful inspection of the frames, springs and supports. These were in need of help as the frames were bent, broken and rusty in many spots ( see this close-up image ). The frames were straightened using a ball-peen hammer and a few different size blocks of wood, and gently reshaping everything back to its original spot. Then the appropriate areas were welded together [ image ] and ground / sanded to blend in all the welds [ image ] . Numerous springs and support rods were also repaired. I did all this welding with an Oxy-Acetylene torch.

After all the repair work, the frames were treated to some paint remover and then pressure washed. Next step was to paint all the frame bases and perimeter supports with POR 15 (pictures on left and right).

Then the entire frame set was top coated with Rust-Oleum semi-gloss black.

The next step was off to the upholstery shop. Here we picked out a material that is used for seats in fire trucks. Just so happens the right shade of grey with the right texture is still available. We chose this material because it is extremely durable and we figured the truck would get a good deal of use. You see, I’m restoring this to be driven daily for all those “around town” chores and the dog would be traveling on board a lot. So while at the upholstery shop, I showed the guys there the stitch pattern -- I wanted to replicate an original seat. "No problem" they said. "Come back in two or three weeks."  Ok, so off I go.

With the seat off at the “seat hospital,” I turned my attention to the seat frame. This was pretty straight forward. Some welds had cracked and broken over the years. These were re-done and ground.

Then all the old paint was stripped and pressure washed. After it all dried, I applied a coat of Rust-Oleum primer (picture on the left),  followed by a few coats of the Rust-Oleum semi-gloss black (picture to the right).

That took care of that.

Now on to those broken and sticky adjusters. These were removed and first treated with a lot of penetrating oil, etc. It took many treatments and a few love taps with the hammer to get these free on their tracks.

Once they were rolling back and forth nicely, I cleaned everything with mineral spirits in preparation for the next few steps. These adjusters are supposed to provide a nice sturdy support for the seat frame. As you can see, only the right front mount [ image ] still had the original bolt pressed into it to hold down the seat assembly. The right rear tower [ image ] and the left front mount were missing the bolt, and the fourth tower [ image ] was missing a place for the bolt altogether. This was the one I started on first.

<<< click images for larger view >>>

In the vise Cut out top Scrap clamped in Then welded in

From the images above ~ With the adjuster held in a vise, I cut out the top of the tower to match a piece of scrap material. I clamped this in place and welded it in place with the torch.

Then I ground this and the other tower and mounts all to a nice flat surface (picture on the left). I removed the one “good” bolt from its seat rail with the help of a ball peen hammer, being carful not to mess this up and paying attention to preserving the mounts shape.

Once this was out, I used that “intact” adjuster to get the dimension from the square hole in the rear tower to the square hole in the front mount. I transferred this dimension to the re-worked adjuster and drilled a 1/4 inch hole in the repaired rear tower. The square was then made by hand using a square file (picture on the right).

Next were the four mounting bolts. As it happens, a standard carriage bolt from your local home center fits here nicely [ image ] . You'll notice from this picture the one problem is that the square shoulder on the new bolt is longer then the original and protrudes up too far. Well, not a problem for long ... off to the lathe [ image ] and a few minutes later [ image ], I had four new bolts [ image ].

These bolts were test fit in the towers and mounts to make sure I had the shoulder height right and all the fits looked good. The original design has these bolts press fit into the towers but after all these years the square holes have gotten a bit out of shape and they no longer did their job. So I silver-soldered the bolts into the towers [ view one / view two ] . I used silver solder vs welding because should I ever have to remove the bolts to replace one, it is a simple matter of just pushing on the bolt while heating and re-flowing the solder until the bolt pops out. Then a new one can be installed the same way.

After all this repair work, the adjusters were treated to a coat of primer [ image ] and left that way. In this picture you can see the “new” adjusters oiled and installed waiting for the seat frame.

While all this seat “stuff” was out, I also attacked the floor and the fuel tank. That’s another story for another time!

The shrouds Flat and pretty Semi-gloss wrinkle paint

In the pictures above was my next move -- the shrouds that are on either end of the seat. These are strictly cosmetic parts and they were in sad shape, too. Once again, the hammer and blocks of wood come to play in trying to straighten out things. Then the paint remover and pressure washer step. Next, I applied some primer and a little body filler to get things nice and flat and pretty. Then these parts were painted with semi-gloss black wrinkle paint. They look great ... if I do say so myself.

When the “seat hospital” called to say the patients were ready for release [ image ], I ran down there and picked them up in the middle of a thunder storm. When the clouds cleared, we installed them for a “trial” fit [ image passenger side ].

What a neat feeling to finally see something finished. Believe it or not, we still haven’t sat on these (not even the dog). You see, there is still a lot of stuff (parts and tools) on the floor.

So the seat has been removed and put in storage while I work on other interior areas. I currently have the shifter all apart and I’ll be doing an article on that, too some time soon.

Stay tuned for another story as I progress through the rusty jungle…

-- Roy


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