The editor’s 912/6 gets a retrim and a hand-painted finishing touch…
Ever since I got my project on the road, Iʼve never really been all that happy with the seats. They looked great – Corbeau buckets trimmed in Cornish tartan and black vinyl – but their design meant that, on longer journeys, Iʼd tend to ʻsubmarineʼ, sliding slowly forward until I ended up in a position where there was little support in the small of my back. After 100 miles or so, Iʼd end up with back ache.
In an ideal world, Iʼd have splashed out on a pair of expensive replica factory sports seats, with reclining backs, but the cost just didnʼt match my meagre budget. So began a period of searching the internet for a suitable alternative. The seats would have to have ʻclassicʼ styling (by that I donʼt mean old, but traditional), have reclining backrests so I could alter the angle of the backrest to suit my driving position, have level mountings underneath (many seats have one runner higher than the other, making fitment in an early Porsche a bit tricky) and be reasonably priced.
An obvious choice was one of the earlier Recaros fitted to Fords and the like, but all the pairs I came across were completely shot: torn, dirty and misshapen. Widening the search along the lines of ʻclassic sports seatsʼ brought up an intriguing alternative, which I would never have thought of: MGF. Yes, the short-lived mid-engined British sports car.
The seats looked good, and a quick search on line showed that they were narrow enough to fit in a 911 or 912. But what about the runners? Again, the internet came to the rescue as a search for a photo of the underside of an MGF seat led me to, of all things, a forum about Mazda MX-5S (Miatas, to our US readers). Sure enough, there was a photo
of an MGF seat, upside down, showing that all Iʼd need to do was trim off two small brackets to end up with a ʻflatʼ base to work with. But what were the seats like in terms of comfort? Iʼd never even sat in one.
As it happened, one day an MGF pulled up opposite my house, so I rushed out and, much to the bemusement of the owner, asked if I could sit in the seat. It felt perfect. The search was on and ebay once again came up trumps.
For the princely sum of £180 (including delivery), I bought a pair of leather and cloth seats from a specialist dismantler. They were in almost perfect condition, with no marks, no sags and no split seams. All I needed to do now was get the patterned centres retrimmed in something to match the car.
I decided against more Cornish tartan and spent quite a bit of time at the local upholstery fabric shop in search of the ideal material, but I couldnʼt find anything that appealed. Then a trip to a European VW show turned up the perfect answer: Westfalia tartan, as used in older VW Campers. I bought a couple of metres (far more than Iʼd need, but the price was right) and came home a happy man.
A local VW enthusiast friend, Lee Lidstone, offered to retrim the seats for me as part of her learning process – sheʼs keen to hone her skills as an upholsterer and I was happy to give her the chance. Dismantling the seats showed how well made they are (and, yes, they were indeed made in England, as a sticker on the underside proudly exclaimed) and Lee set to, unpicking the seat trim so that she could use the original patterned centres as templates for the new material.
The end result is, I believe, pretty darned good and not at all out of place in the car. The only parts that jar at present are the knurled knobs for the reclining mechanism, so I might look into having someone machine some new ones in a more period style, along with some hinge covers.
Mounting the seats was fairly straightforward, using some new brackets bolted across the runners which, in turn, bolted to some slotted brackets Iʼd bought off DDK. It works, but the seats are a little too far forward at present and canʼt be moved back enough to accommodate a taller driver. Theyʼre fine for me, but itʼs something I need to address at a later date.
Finally, as he was in the area painting Leeʼs husbandʼs drag race car, I asked ace pinstriper Neil Melliard if he could add a finishing touch to El Chucho, in the form of a cartoon mongrel dog, and the name. Watching Neil at work is humbling – everything is done freehand, proving that the old methods are the best. No vinyl here, thank you! CP
Above: Weʼve been getting plenty of miles under our belts this summer, and now thoughts are turning to sorting out the little problems which weʼve never got round to addressing…
Below left: Lee used the original seat panels as templates for new material
Below right: We picked up these mounting brackets from an ad on DDK. Theyʼre OK for now but need modifying
Far right: The seats are far more comfortable than the Corbeaus fitted before and the Westfalia plaid inserts match the paintwork well
Below left: Ace pinstriper Neil Melliard at work. It was fascinating watching him…
Below right: OK, I know the purists wonʼt like it, but the hot rodder in me couldnʼt resist. El Chucho lives!