I am a big fan of Top Gear (UK primarily) sometimes US. I've watched nearly all episodes and I have always been fascinated by their car chairs, sofas, and engine block coffee table. I had told myself a while ago, if I ever get the opportunity to, I will definitely try to make my own. I was at the junkyard a couple months ago and I came across a bright yellow 1974 Datsun 240z car. I'm also a big fan of Nissan and most Z cars. Naturally I wanted to rescue those seats and convert them into office chairs. The journey begins.
The first picture is just the transformation, the before and after.
* This project along with other projects are also available on my website at www.diy-create.com
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Step 1: Design and Parts Needed
Looking at several examples in the internet, some are very fancy and expensive but most look too cheesy and unprofessional. I wanted mine to be in decent price range but also look very professional. I was not sure how well it would turn out since I have never done something like this before. Nevertheless, I continued on. Below are the parts I used.
Old Seats (Junkyard -40 bux for both)
Foam (John Hancock Fabrics) (30 bux)
Synthetic Leather Seat Covers (Took a big chunk but the quality was excellent) ($100 for each cover)
Lots and lots of Spray Adhesive (Loctite & 3M) (~10 bux)
Silicone Caulking (Idea didn't work) (10 bux)
Spray Paint, Rust Remover, Associated Hardware (~20 bux)
Step 2: Dis-Assembly
These seats has been untouched and been abused for the last 30 or so years. I noticed this, because upon dismantling the seats there was quite a bit of rust and the foam just didn't hold any weight. Also, they used a lot of coconut liners especially on the top portion of the seat. The screws bolted on the chassis had loctite on them. Getting them out with stripping them was a pain. With a little bit of clever leverage and body weight, I manged to get them out.
Step 3: Recovering Existing Foam
I researched a few websites, some claim the pure silicone caulking on the foam can bring its firmness back. I was a little skeptical, but hey 10 bux is worth a try. I was not surprised when this method did not work. To be honest, the foam did get a little bit firmer, but I think the silicone method works if the foam is not as old as mine which is more than 30 years old. Also, the foam had this really weird smell which the caulking couldn't cloak either. So I decided to ditch it and make my own foam.
Step 4: Top Cushion
Alright so here you can see me removing all the old cocunut liner from the top. To create new foam, I just took a piece of parchment paper and traced it and cut that piece. That wasn't too hard and difficult. Remember foam compresses, so be sure to cut the foam a 1/4" to 1/2" bigger than the trace.
Step 5: Bottom Cushion
The bottom section was tricky, because it had all kind of curvatures and thickness. What I did here was that I cut the exiting foam into four pieces. I traced those on the new foam and cut them with an electric scissors. Then once I had the basic shape, I tried to fine tune the piece but creating the appropriate curvature and thickness.
I later found out that the new foam cutout doesn't have to be an exact replica as long as it's not too far off from the original. This helped speed up the process.
I had a major issue with the bottom cushions. I glued the pieces together and the seal broke apart after a few days. Thinking about and reading people's project, it dawned on me that 3M is probably a better option. Also, I fine tuned the foam so the contact surface will adhere to one another. I also provided a lot of tension during its "gluing" process. Basically, when the glue is super tacky on the surface, generally about 20 seconds after applying, that is the prime time to join two surfaces. In order to keep the tension at its maximum level, I wedged those pieces between a chair and a table. Hence, as the glue dried and it bonded very well. And yes, in my opinion 3M was the better option, it definitely adhered a lot better. I wish I had Gorilla Glue spray adhesive to try but oh well.
Step 6: Test Install
After the glue dried, I did a test install of the bottom cushions. The top cushions were already completed and ready to go. The setup came out beautiful, much better than I had expected. You can see them propped up against the wall just looks fabulous.
Step 7: Office Chair Stands
I needed a stand for the seats. I found two old office chairs I had that were in poor condition; however, the stand was in great condition. You can see the cheap upholstery was tearing off and screws/nuts were missing from the chair.
I measured the appropriate size for a piece of plywood underneath the frame, cut it, and drilled holes for it to attach to the frame of the seat as well as the chair stand (as seen below). I also got these wood inserts that will make the install much easier.
Step 8: Cleaning and Painting
I took the time to clean all attachments, bolts, and nuts. I re-greased all bearings and put machine oil where necessary. This will extend the life of all bearing and make the chair hardware last for a long time.
Also I spray painted both pieces of plywood and retouched the base of both seats. I sanded the layer of rust from the frame and added a protective layer to stop any rust from developing on the frame.
Step 9: Final Assembly
After those pieces dried, its time to reassemble and hope everything fits well. The brackets gave me a little trouble. It was hard to hold it in place and coordinate the top section of the seat as well. However, I eventually got it. Putting all the last pieces back together and viola everything fits and everything works just like I had imagined in my head.