M5INT2.JPG (22629 bytes) As you may have noticed in the earlier pages, the truck was pretty much a mess, inside and out, when I got it.  At some point, a heavy red vinyl seat cover had been put over the seat bottom, but the seat back had been left in shreds - and duct tape.  When the seats were pulled out and the covers taken off, the original seat bottom cover was found to be still in place, though full of holes.  I was able to pull the pieces apart at the seams because the cotton threads had rotted over the last 55 years and saved I the pieces to trace for the new covers.  I stripped off the old cotton padding and burlap backing from the coil springs and saved it to copy from, as well.  The frames and coil springs were full of the remains of mouse nests built over the years while the truck had sat.  The last time the truck had been registered was about 1983 and I bought it in 1998.  Many mice had lived in this truck!  The springs got hosed down and scrubbed.  I had to weld a couple of breaks in the frame.   Then it got painted to prevent rusting.

I made a visit to a wholesale upholstery supplier to buy brown vinyl, burlap, two kinds of cotton batting, hog rings, and pliers.   Then I set about making new upholstery and seat covers.  I copied what had been done by Studebaker because I didn't know another way to do it.  I think that using some good quality, dense foam instead of cotton batting as the core would probably work at least as well.  LeBaron Bonney offers good materials for re-doing seats.  With only the two seat cushions and the armrests to do, leather might be affordable, though perhaps harder to sew.

Many years ago I bought an old Singer portable sewing machine for projects like this.   Since I only paid $20 for it, I wasn't too worried about damaging it on the vinyl.   And, since my mother had always depended on me to keep her ancient treadle-operated Singer running, I learned to run a sewing machine as a young boy.  Remember, guys, it's just a machine for a manufacturing operation.  You can run the shop saw, chain saw, grinder, lawn tractor and the rest of the stuff, right?  You can learn to sew, too!    

With the pieces of the original seat covers in hand, I laid the new vinyl material face down on the floor.  I placed the old pieces face down on top of the new material and traced around the old ones.  I made the traced outline about 1/8 to 1/4 inch inch outside of the old pieces to account for shrinkage over the last 50 years.  The vinyl has a little stretch but it can be shrunk quite a bit with some heat.  I then drew another line about 3/16-1/4 inch inside the boundary to show where the stitching should go, with cross marks to show where a line of stitching started and stopped.  After the pieces were cut, I put two pieces together face-to-face and stitched through the back sides, gradually adding the rest of the pieces.  In several places there are burlap or cotton cloth reinforcements that get sewed in.  In addition, a couple of spots on the seat back got an extra thickness of vinyl glued to the underside as reinforcements because the old seat cover had worn through in spots where there were sharp edges or joints in the frame.

Once all the pieces of the cover were together, I turned it right-side out and top-stitched another line about 1/8 inch away from the seam to have the seam lie flat, reinforce the seam, and dress up the appearance.  The original seats were done this way.  I tried to match the number of stitches per inch of the original covers, as well as the thread colors.  Fortunately, modern cotton-covered polyester threads are much stronger and will last longer than old 100% cotton threads.  The edges of the cover get turned under and a hem is formed.  This gives a two-layer zone to put the hog rings through so the cover won't rip.

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Seat back springs.

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Edge of seat bottom cover showing burlap reinforcement and hem.

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Corner of seat bottom cover showing stitch pattern.

First, the seat frames get a layer of burlap to keep the padding from falling through the coils.  This gets attached with a hog ring every few inches. 

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Hog ring and pliers.

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Burlap installed on seat back.

Then a layer of soft cotton batting (or dense foam, if you want to be modern) goes on.   This batting is about an inch or two thick and comes in big rolls about 36-54 inches wide.  It should cover all of the top of the seat and go just over the sides and the front edge.  Don't put the batting all the way down the front or sides.  Then a layer of very dense batting goes on top of the first.  The second layer is 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick and is stronger than the soft layer.  It will keep the soft padding from moving around and getting lumpy. 

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Then the cover gets put on.  The seat back cover has a pocket at the top for a long wire to be put through.  When the hog rings are attached, they go around the wire to spread out the load.  The rings get spaced about 4-6 inches apart, more if it's working OK.  Don't stretch the vinyl to tight or the rings will pull through.

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Wire in sleeve at top of seat back

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Reinforcement glued on underside of cover at joint in frame.

With coil springs in the seats, a fair amount of support has to be placed on top of them so that you don't feel the springs.  The old seat bottom had a layer of burlap put on first.  However, the burlap had steel wires snaked in and out of the burlap.   The wires were spaced about an inch apart.  A loop had been formed in the both ends of each wire and a heavy cord connected all the wires.  I think this was done to prevent the ends from pulling out of the burlap and poking the passengers in the butt.   I wound up cutting the loops of the stiff piano wire since I could pull the old cord out.  Using the old padding as a guide, I cut some burlap large enough to cover the seat bottom and go around the front and back sides.  I folded the burlap back and forth to make pleats about an inch wide, then poked a wire through the middle of the pleat at every inch spacing.  With some needlenose pliers, I made a new loop at each end of the wires and laced a new cord through them.  When the burlap was pulled taut, the wires were in place.  The burlap was then attached to the seat frame with hog rings, the batting was put in place, and the cover put on with more hog rings.

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Wires go through the pleats.

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Burlap straightened with wires in place.

I'm sure that there must be a better, more modern way to do the seat bottom.  I just didn't know one and wanted to get on with the job.

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Here is the bottom of the seat after putting the cover on and clinching all of the hog rings.

The arm rests were almost the most difficult part.  I peeled the old covers off of the arm rest forms, trying hard not to rip up the old rubber foam under them too much.  I was lucky that the old rubber had any cushion left to it at all.   Again, the threads were so rotted that I could separate the seams and use the old pieces to trace out new ones.  The sewing on these was a lot trickier, though the seams did not need top-stitching.  Then I used rubber cement to reattach the new covers to the forms.  It took a lot of tugging and folding to get the covers to fit smoothly. arm_rest.jpg (13904 bytes)

One of the things I did differently than original was to install some more soundproofing.  There are lots of big pieces of metal to flap around and make it sound like you are in an oil drum when you're driving.  I got some heavy, rubberized, sound deadening mat called DynaMat at the auto parts store.  This is the kind of stuff that the guys with the 500 watt amplifiers in their cars use to keep all the doors from rattling when the booming starts.  I put some on the back of the cab, the roof, and under the seat.  It's self-adhesive and then you roll it down with a little wallpaper roller.  Then I added a thick layer of fiber insulation attached with spray adhesive.  The cab should be both quieter and warmer in the winter (and cooler in the summer) than when it was new.  With the headliner and seats in place, you don't see any of this stuff.  Note that you can see the tack strip in these photos.  The windlace, headliner, and other trim attach to the tack strip.

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Here is the finished seat and seat back with the arm rests.  I'll have to use the heat gun a little bit on the seat back to shrink up the vinyl and get the wrinkles out.  The cover for the seat back sat on a shelf all folded up for a couple of years before I put it on, and that set the wrinkles.  A little heat gun, a little sitting in the sun, and all will be fine!  All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, especially because I had never made seat covers before.

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