Automotive upholstery seems to frighten people who won’t hesitate to rebuild an engine or perform complicated bodywork. Maybe it’s the idea of sewing and getting seams straight. That’s the case with custom upholstery, but fortunately for most Corvette enthusiasts there is a plethora of top quality stock and custom upholstery kits available.
The wonderful thing about upholstery kits is that all the complicated measuring and sewing is done at the factory. Installation is usually a matter of gathering all the new parts and assembling them with a variety of clips, wires, and hog rings. Getting everything as tight as humanly possible means it’s best to tackle an upholstery kit with a helper.
Before you can install a new upholstery kit you first need to remove the old seat covers. There can be hidden fasteners in a seat, so never force anything. Find the fastener and remove it carefully. Don’t discard anything until the new upholstery is in place. Items such as listing wires frequently need to be reused.
The following photos show how a ’64 Corvette seat was disassembled.
This is an Al Knoch Interiors AOK Retro Seat for ’56-’57 Corvettes.
A wide array of custom C1 seats is available from Al Knoch Interiors. Matching door panels and dash pads are also available.
Mike McComas of Pampa, Texas, is restoring a 1964 Corvette coupe. The seats have seen a lot of use so he’s going to reupholster them, but first the seats need to be disassembled.
The seats in Mike’s Corvette were once red and later dyed black. The outside of the seat bolster has lost its shape because the listing wire came loose.
If you don’t have original seats you may have to resort to swap meet seats. Upholstery kits are plentiful, but you still need a solid base. You need to inspect the underlying metal framework and springs. Turn the seat upside down and inspect the seat tracks.
Separating the upper and lower cushions on sixties Vettes is very straightforward. A big screwdriver will do the trick. Use a screwdriver blade that fits snuggly so as not to strip the screw head.
Once the two halves are separated it’s easy to flip the bottom cushion and remove the seat tracks and slider mechanism. It’s wise to make drawings or take digital photos of how the various wires, clips and brackets go together. You won’t remember when it comes time to reassemble the seat.
Seat covers are secured to the metal framework by different methods. Hog rings are very common, but this ’64 seat used these special clips.
Seat disassembly is a matter of peeling away the various layers.
This is a listing wire that helps give the underlying foam its shape. It’s wrapped in fabric to prevent any oxidation from staining the upholstery.
Wherever there is a recessed shape to upholstery chances are excellent that some hidden fastener is providing that shape. Look in the low areas to find where and how things are secured.
Early Corvettes often use thin hooked rods that go through the foam and the burlap to attach to the springs. Push on the topside and use a needle nose pliers to lift the hook off the spring.
The burlap is secured to the bottom of the foam cushion with a series of little wire clips that look like modified paper clips.
It may be difficult to see, but there is a thin listing wire that goes in a sewn pocket along the edge of the burlap cover. One end of the small clip goes over the listing wire and the other hooks to a spring.
Here is one of the little clips. The burlap is quite worn and will need to be replaced.
The top cushion upholstery is secured to the inner metal framework at the bottom rear edge of the cushion. Large hog rings wrap around the upholstery welting and on to the frame. Diagonal pliers will usually twist off or cut the hog rings.
Once the hog rings are loose the upper upholstery will slide off the cushion. Notice that there is a backing board to give the backside of the seat its shape and rigidity.
Larger, thicker listing wires are found inside the upper cushion. Always save the original listing wires because new ones don’t come with upholstery kits.
When all the upholstery has been removed inspect the springs for problems. These upper cushion springs were in good shape and can be reused.
Carefully inspect the tubing of the seat frame for any signs of cracking or excessive rust. Any problems should obviously be fixed while the seats are apart.
MORE ROOM FOR BIG PEOPLE IN SMALL CORVETTES
C1 Corvettes aren’t the roomiest cars on the road. Al Knoch Interiors got lots of requests to alter C1 seats for greater legroom and more space between middle age spreads and steering wheels. In response to this demand Al Knoch developed their AOK Retro Seats. These seats look like C1 seats, but the seat frames and foam cushions have been totally redesigned to provide several extra inches of interior room. Al Knoch puts the increase at 25%.
The new seats position the driver farther back and lower. The seats can be had with a reclining feature and they can be heated. The seats are available in factory patterns and colors as well as custom upholstery. Matching door panels and dash pads are available with the custom upholstered seats.
AL KNOCH INTERIORS