Nothing makes an interior look nastier than stained, saggy, sticky, split, smelly seats. Yucksville.
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to drop a couple of thou for a pair of stylish, Euro-fabulous, Asian-built aftermarket buckets. Matt Highley of Fox Mustang Restoration in Locust, North Carolina, told us it was possible to give any ’79-’93 pony a sexy interior restyle—that’s two front seats and both rear seats—for about $800 in new parts. With a few simple tools, a free weekend, and some patience, any moderately skilled novice can reupholster his own Fox Mustang seats with quality components made in the United States.
We’re covering this job in step-by-step detail so that you can use the story as your own personal instruction manual. Because of the extra detail, we’re going to do it in two installments. Here in Part 1 we’ll strip the seats all the way down to the frame, and refresh the seat frames and mechanism. Few of the seats’ hard parts are being reproduced, so we’ll restore the frames carefully. In Part 2 next issue, we’ll recover and reassemble the seats.
Ready to get to work?
These cloth sport buckets with adjustable knee bolsters and powered lumbar supports looked horrible, and the driver’s backrest was badly twisted.
Fox Mustang Restoration supplied everything needed: N.O.S. lumbar bags (PN 3484003), the grid-like seat springs and helical springs (PN 3479002), hog ring installation kit (PN 3479003), seat latch bezels (N.O.S.), seat latch knobs, and seat back pivot bushings (PN 2479005).
This is what your 25-year-old Mustang seats probably look like. Most steel parts were untreated and rusted. The flat spring system is just thin wires that decay and break, leaving the driver’s posterior without support. Much of this is going in the trash, but a lot of the hardware must be refurbished and reused since replacements aren’t available.
Matt Highley of Fox Mustang Restoration begins by removing the tracks. Disconnect the coil springs from the tracks to remove any stored energy from the mix. Then use a socket to remove the four bolts — two on each track — holding the track to the frame. Move the track arm forward again for access to the rear bolts.
Two small screws hold the seat hinge plastic cover in place. Remove them to expose the seat’s main hinge and lock-release mechanism. This lock-release mechanism is in good shape. Disconnect it from the frame by removing the two main bolts (circled).
Opposite the lock-release is a T-45 Torx-head bolt attaching the upper and lower seat frames. Remove this bolt, and unplug the black air line leading from the seat-mounted pump to the lumbar support bladder. The two halves are now separate. The Torx bolt is held in place by a plastic bushing that disintegrates over time. Our bushing was in much better shape than the rest of the seat, which suggests it had been replaced.
Unzip the zipper at the bottom of the seat back.
Make a long incision in the back of the seat. Then make two more cuts in a “Y” shape. Using a large flathead screwdriver, pop the headrest retaining tab just beneath the upper metal bar of the seat. Now pull the headrest all the way out.
We will replace the plastic seat latch knob and bezel, but take care not to damage the metal arm when removing the knob and bezel.
Just inside the bottom of the seat back is the start of the frame, foam, and upholstery’s support system. This main vertical rod runs most of the length of the seat back, and there are two per seat. A pair of hog rings or a wide metal band locks the base of the vertical rod into place. Lots of rust is typical here. These rods are not available new, so we will clean them with a wire wheel before reusing them.
With the vertical rods removed, locate the two skinny horizontal metal strips that tie them together. The old upholstery will probably put up a fight, but peel it halfway off to reach the first horizontal wire.
Pull the mid-seat horizontal wire out of place. The top horizontal wire and upholstery are held in place by hog rings that must be cut and removed. Set the wire aside once it’s free.
With all hog rings removed, the upholstery can be removed. The black plastic sleeve at the top of the seat back is the track for the headrest support.
With the seat back lying face down, this white plastic clip must be pulled free to release the foam from the frame.
Remove the plastic cover (blue arrow) from above the hinge/spring mechanism. It will be cleaned, repainted, and reinstalled later. Separate the hinge/spring mechanism from the frame with a socket. The old lumbar support bag is removed by carefully bending the four metal tabs — two per side — (red arrow).
Now we turn to the seat bottom. Using pliers or cutters, remove the articulated thigh support by sliding out the small roll pins. Here is the thigh support after separation from the seat (inset).
With a small flathead screwdriver, pop out the power lumbar switch faceplate. Then remove the pair of Phillips-head screws that retain the switch.
From the bottom of the seat, disconnect the power lumbar switch harness connector, using a small flathead screwdriver to separate the two ends of the coupler. It will be necessary to completely separate the lumbar switch from the wiring and vacuum harness to give it a good cleaning.
To remove the side bolster adjustment knob, pull the roll pin (arrow) from the adjustment rod. To keep the left bolster coordinated with the right bolster, Matt recommends turning the knob all the way to the open position before removing it. This takes the guesswork out of realigning them during reinstallation. With the knee support, adjustment knob, and power lumbar switch removed from the seat bottom, it’s time to pull the old upholstery and foam. The upholstery’s white plastic clasps slide right off of the metal frame.
The seat bottom is built much like the seat back. The upholstery wraps around the foam and attaches to the metal frame. Hog rings that hold the upholstery and foam to the frame must be removed by cutting. Take care not to damage or throw away the metal rods.
With the foam gone, the once-supportive flat spring is ready for the trash. The back end of the metal grid contains four coiled springs that can be pulled free with a pair of pliers. Towards the front, gently pry the metal retaining clips up so the grid may be removed.
The lumbar bag pump lies on the other side of these two Phillips-head screws. This pump worked fine when tested, so it will be cleaned and reinstalled.
Prepping the headrest for reupholstering is as easy as unclipping the white plastic clasps at the base and peeling the original material from the foam like removing a stubborn shoe. Pictured is the tall headrest that came with our GT sport seats, but to build our ’60s-style Mach 1 chairs we will use a shorter model that does not use clasps but a pair of nails and a nail board.
The factory thigh supports were nothing more than upholstery over foam attached to a pressed board. The TMI upholstery kit includes a plastic base with new bolts that will last much longer.
With the seat completely disassembled and stripped to the bare frames, Matt takes everything behind the shop and uses a wire brush to scrub every nook and cranny clean of surface rust, old adhesive, and… we’re not sure exactly what some of that stuff was. Matt suggests sandblasting for better results. He spray-painted the parts with fast-drying Krylon Fusion paint that’s formulated to cover and neutralize any remaining rust. Within 15 minutes, the frames and associated parts are ready to bring back inside. Be sure to wear a mask and eye protection during this step.
Here is how nice the restored frame looks before we begin building it into a proper bucket seat with new foam and vinyl upholstery.
NEXT ISSUE: Rebuilding and Reupholstery
FOX MUSTANG RESTORATION
105 Pine Forest Dr.
Locust, NC 28097
1493 Bentley Dr.
Corona, CA 92879