13 – Upholstery 101

Written By: Globespotter - Sep• 19•12

Today I decided to recover the passenger seat of the Bug. I had considered replacing the cracked windshield, but was a bit hesitant to do it here, for fear that it might break and then I’d be stuck with no windshield. I figured that could wait until we were home and the car was in a garage. The current windshield was fine – just had a crack which needed to be replaced before I could legally license the car in Ontario Canada.

Victor had taken care of his Bug over the years, and almost everything on and in the Bug was in outstanding condition. The only real exception was the front seats. For some reason (and I guess only Victor would know), the passenger front seat had a gaping tear in it and the fabric (which had started life as VW off-white) had an awful brown stain on it. It looked to me to be much more than average wear and tear, so I started speculating that Victor transported boxes of chemicals on the seat, which ate away and stained it. The driver’s seat was stained a bit and torn  a little, but not as bad as the passenger one. The good news was that due to the way it looked, I’m sure it accounted for a good sized discount on price compared to if the seats had been in good shape, and I knew that the covers from Wolfsburg West were made to original factory specs and ‘seemed’ like they would be easy to install.

The hole in the passenger seat was so bad that the springs were poking through and the seller had kindly provided an old towel to sit on. My daughter was pleased that we were going to fix it. The long trip from San Francisco on that seat had taken its toll!

The beauty of staying at a motel rather than a hotel was that we were able to take the seat out of the Bug and bring it up to our second floor room, prop the room door open, put on some tunes and work right there. I’m not sure the Holiday Inn would have approved!

The seat came out easily, in contrast to the difficulty some people have experienced with seats that have not been removed in 40 years.

We viewed the video that Wolfsburg West provided, and then started to work.

There is nothing like taking your time to work in the warm California sunshine. We methodically split the back of the seat from the base, removed the old covers, and managed to save the original cotton fabric that was on the sides of the seat cushion.

We cleaned up the frame and springs as best as we could and removed the old ‘horsehair’ seat cushion, which proceeded to drop little pieces all over the floor.

Once again, being in a small motel helped. The floor was tiled – not carpeted and the office was more than happy to lend us a broom and dustpan.

As I wanted to keep the car as stock as possible in the same way that Victor had done, the covers we bought from Wolfsburg West were the original pattern and color and the seat cushions the original spec ‘horsehair’.

We put the bottom seat cushion on, and re-used the original cotton on the sides. The seat back did not need a new cushion – it was in excellent shape, so we were able to just put the new cover on after removing the old one.

We took the time to work the covers on to make sure they were straight and as tight as possible, then re-attached the seat-back to the base. We forgot to put on the metal cover plate on the bottom part, so had to take it apart and install it.

It looked pretty good, only a little loose in parts. We used the tip to heat the cover with a hair dryer to shrink it so it was tighter.

When we were happy with it, we took the seat down and put it back in the Bug. It looked so much better, especially compared to the grungy old driver’s seat.

It still was not as tight as we wanted, but I figured a few days in the California sun would change that.

The only thing we did not do, was re-install the ‘buttons’ that are attached with wire through the seat-back.

We had carefully removed and kept the original buttons and wire and did not have the tools to re-install here, so decided to keep them and install them at home. The video had said that string could be used to tie the buttons on, but we felt that the original wire was the best way to get the right tension as well as keeping more true to stock and keeping as much original as we could.

We swept up our mess and stuffed the old covers and seat cushions into the motel garbage can, returning the broom and dustpan.

Pleased with our work, we retired to the motel sun deck right across from our room with a cold Rum & Coke – both found at the amazing Surf Liquor store a block away.

The next day we duplicated our work on the driver’s seat – working a little faster and doing a slightly better job as our experience had taught us a few tricks.

The Bug was really looking good. We decided not to recover the rear seat here, as it was not in bad shape. That would wait for home, so the rear seat covers and new windshield took up residence in the back seat for now.




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