We’re pretty big fans of the BBC’s awesome show Top Gear around the Toolmonger offices, so when I needed some quick and cheap seating for my game room I passed up the furniture store and headed straight to the junkyard. $75 and an afternoon with the welder netted me a quick facsimile of the chairs the Top Gear hosts sit in during their news segment each week — and left me plenty of cash for beer.
First off, a little advice about pulling seats: I generally look for leather seats because they’re much easier to clean up than fabric. (Unless the fabric seats are spotless, in which case, go for it, though often the guy at the counter will demand extra money for good-looking seats.) When it comes to leather seats, the dirtier they are the better. The dirt and grime tend to create a coating that protects the seat from the really nasty stuff. And like you can with a cow, you can scrub leather seats to your heart’s content to get ’em clean.
The single seat in the photos here came from a late ’90s Diamante. When I pulled it you couldn’t really tell what color it was. Personally, I think it cleaned up nicely.
The next problem you’ll run into is the fact that the bottom of the passenger compartment in most cars isn’t flat. Therefore the seats connect to four points all in different planes in order to fit wherever on the floor they need to connect. Since we wanted to build simple little boxes to hold the seats up, we had to account for that.
The bases of our seats are built from cheap-o 16-gauge 1-inch square tube, mainly because I happened to have about 30′ of it lying around the shop. You can use whatever you have on hand.
To determine the proper height, I measured various couches and loveseats around the house. They ranged from 16″ to about 20″, so I selected 18″ for these. Sitting the seats on the ground, I measured from the ground to the seat top, then constructed the box below to whatever height was required to make up the difference.
You can approach building the bases however you wish, but I started by measuring the width and height of the seats, then building a simple stand to my measured height. Then with the help of a friend, I placed the seats on the boxes and tacked in locator points wherever the seat touched the box. If you plan on taking them apart again, you can drill and tap holes before bolting the seat on, but since I didn’t care, I just welded it on. The bench’s front mounts all fell in different places, but they lined up pretty well to an angled crossbar. So I just welded the crossbar in at an angle and hooked ’em up. I also welded the two portions of the split seat together and shimmed the center back with a few pieces of 1″ x 1/8″ flat bar before final welding.
As you can see, the seat easily holds me and David Juandrew, my partner in crime who helped me build these this weekend. We bounced up and down on them pretty good, and they’re still in one piece.
Of course, the actual Top Gear seats are much fancier and include arm rests. But hey — your version of these seats is limited only by your time and wallet. Mine were short and thin, respectively, so I went the simple route. Do feel free to get creative finding just the right seat, though!