1928 – 31 Model A Ford Hot Rod: Custom Seat Installation
Every hot rod needs a seat unless you are into extreme Rat Rodding and want to use a milk crate for a seat. I’m not into that and there is the element of comfort while driving. There are so many options for seats when building a hot rod. If you have deep pockets with loads of extra cash then a pre-made bench seat frame and the upholstery of your choosing will work fine. Of course there are all sorts of bucket seats available with a wide variety of prices. Initially I thought it would be a good idea to fabricate my own seat frame and attempt my hand at upholstery. This all takes time and now that I want to get the 1929 Ford roadster hot rod on the road, I felt a more logical alternative would be to find a seat from the local auto recyclers. Before heading out to the scrap yard, a quick height and width measurement of the possible seating area inside the 1929 Ford roadster hot rod was recorded. The interior space of the 1928 – 31 Model A Ford is very small and limits the number of seats that can be used.
At the wrecking yard I came across a few possible options but finally settled on the middle seat from a 1999 Plymouth Voyager. The seat coverings were in good shape and with the gray upholstery I felt that the seat would work perfectly in the hot rod. Remember, at this point I just want to get the hot rod build completed and safe enough for the road this summer. The seat was only $40 so it didn’t make any sense for me to build my own seat frame and have it upholstered at this point in time.
With the seat at home and in the shop, the original seat mounting hardware was removed for a trial fit of the seat in the hot rod. Once the seat was in the hot rod a few small blocks of wood were used as shims to create the proper seat angle and seat height. I positioned the seat as far back as possible for the maximum amount of leg room. Of course, like a little kid, I had to try it out and found that the seat itself was comfortable and position was perfect for my 6 foot 4 inch, 235 pound body. This put a smile on my face.
Now it came time to make the brackets to mount the newly acquired seat into the 1929 Ford roadster. At first it seemed like a good idea to modify the original seated mounting brackets. I modified them to the size I determined in the trial fit of the seat with the wooden blocks. The modified brackets worked out almost perfectly. Unfortunately, the position of the driver side mounting bracket is mounted almost a foot from the edge of the seat. This placed the bracket directly over my access hole to the master brake cylinder reservoir on the floor. Who said building a hot rod was easy! Oh well, a good idea but a minor detail totally overlooked. It was back to the drawing board to re-think the seat mounting brackets. Not wanting to rush into anything, and sleeping on the thoughts of a new mounting system for the seat, another idea was conceived. It’s amazing how many problems can be solved with plenty of rest and having dreams how to tackle a problem!!
This time I decided to add an additional feature to the seat. The 1999 Plymouth Voyager has a fold down back feature on the seat. It was quickly realized that just having the seat back fold down it would be difficult to replace the battery in the 1929 Ford roadster. I thought it would be a good idea to have the entire seat hinged so it could flip forward for easier access to the battery, electrical panel, and easy access to the brake fluid reservoir in the hot rod. An additional benefit would be to add extra storage space under the seat that is easily accessible. So using some 2 inch square steel tubing and some old Stanley door hinges, new brackets were starting to take shape. The bracket for the driver’s side of the seat was made larger to incorporate the required offset to clear the access hole for the brake fluid reservoir. The Stanley door hinges were plug welded to the 2 inch steel square tubing creating the front hinge for the seat mounts. Now I needed to create a locking system for the seat to prevent it from flipping forward during braking. So, off I went to the local hardware store to see if I could come up with any ideas. While walking up and down the aisles of the hardware store I noticed a simple gate latch. The latch is self-locking when mounted vertically on a gate post. Would this work in the hot rod? With a price tag of $5 each I would not lose too much if these latches did not work out.
Back at home in the shop I quickly discovered that the latching mechanism would need a spring for a positive locking action. Remember the gate latch was designed to work mounted vertically on a gate post and not horizontally on the floor of a hot rod. A couple ideas came to mind. The first one was to use the electronic solenoids from the 1986 Corvette convertible deck lid. I had saved these from the Corvette I purchased as a donor car for this project. Using these would require cables and more fabrication to create a good mounting system for the convertible deck lid solenoids. Wanting something simpler, I decided to take the locking part of the gate latch apart and insert a small spring. Over the years, I have saved a variety of springs in an old apple juice can. Luck was on my side, I found a couple of springs that would work. The spring would force the gate latch to be in the lock position all of the time. Now the plan was taking shape. After modifying one of the gate latches with the spring, and testing it out, I decided this was what will be used to lock the folding seat in place. The modified gates latches were welded to a larger mounting base and bolted to the floor.
I managed to design the seat mounting brackets for the floor so that at least one bolt in each bracket would be bolted into a main floor cross member in the body. The second bolt would go into the custom fiberglass covered ½ inch plywood floor boards. For the rear of the seat a 3/8 inch carriage bolt was used for the pin to lock into the modified gate latch.
With this seat mounting system, I can have the entire seat out of the hot rod in a matter of minutes. I first fold down the back of the seat, reach down and release both of the modified gate latches at the rear of the seat and fold the entire seat forward. The pins in the front hinges can be quickly removed just as you would remove a door from you house. For safety reasons, a small set screw will be installed in the front hinges to prevent the hinge pin from vibrating out.
Now all I need to do is prime and paint the newly fabricated seat mounts for the 1929 Ford roadster hot rod. This project only cost me $40 for the seat, $10 for two gate latches, and a weekend of my time. Yes it would have been simpler to buy one of the many commercially available hot rod seats, have it upholstered, and just install it. For me, building a hot rod is like putting a puzzle together. It’s a challenge and testing my skills in problem solving and fabrication, something I thrive on not to mention my goal of building a cheap hot rod.
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on Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at 6:04 pm and is filed under 1928 - 31 Model A Ford: Custom Seat Installation.
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John Ansons © 2012