Ultimate Drive-In Theater Seat


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Woodworking/Car Audio Hobbyist, specializing in custom car audio fabrication and installs.

I got my hands on an old bus seat from a friend. I like to think out of the box and make cool things from someones junk, so I decided to make the ultimate drive-in theater seat. I love metalworking so I chose to go that route. In this Instructables, you will see the steps I took to get to an awesome item to have!

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Step 1: Leaning the Seat Back

The seat came out of an old church bus. That being said, the seat back was straight up and not very comfortable. I decided it needed to be leaned back. The first picture is the angle I ended up with. I took a cutoff wheel on a grinder and cut the tubing and bracket where the seat back turned into the base. By leaving just the back point attached, I was able to use that as a hinge and lean the seat back. In the second picture, you can see where I cut through and the gap it left after I leaned it back. To fix the seat in this position, I made a sheet metal clip that covered the cut and welded it into place. This is seen in the third picture.

Step 2: Adding an Armrest Bracket

On this seat, it had one bracket on one side of the bottom of the seat. I decided it would be nice to add armrests, so in order to do this, I decided to just make bolt on rests that attached to the bracket. Since there was only a bracket on one side, I made one for the other side. I used flatbar and drilled holes to match the other side. I then welded this in place. The first picture here shows the bracket that was on originally, and the second picture shows the bracket that I added to the other side.

Step 3: Cutting the Armrests

I wanted to make a vintage looking armrest that would look like an antique cars body lines. To do this, I used CNC plasma table to design a "net". It is hard to describe this step in detail as it was just me coming up with an idea in my head and putting into a design. Basically, I cut the armrests out of one piece, then bent them at predetermined angles so that they would angle away from the seat to give extra room, then return to where they are parallel to the seat. I measured how far up they would need to be and also how far forward to put them. After designing the pieces, I loaded the plasma table and let the machine cut them out. After they were cut, I took them to the press brake, and bent the angles in them.

Step 4: Test Fitting the Armrests

In this step, I drilled holes in the bottom lip of the rests, so they could be bolted into the brackets on the bottom of the chair.

Step 5: Finishing the Armrests

To help brace the armrests, and to keep them from flexing, I cutout another panel that I welded in the middle of the armrests. I also bent a flat piece into a U shape to go directly under the circle cutout, so that it could be used for a cup-holder. What movie is good without a good Cola?

Step 6: Making the Front Panel

To really spruce up this seat for movie time, I designed a front panel that I thought went perfect with the theme. After cutting the piece, I took it to the sheet roller, and rolled it to a radius to give it some depth and more interest. I then welded it to the tubing base.

Step 7: Bracing the Base

The base of the seat was just a bit wobbly for my liking. To remedy this, I took a 3/4" tubing, and rolled it as well to go between the legs. This strengthened the base and kept it from wobbling. Would hate to cause a ruckus during a good movie!

Step 8: Test Fit and Paint

Now that the metal working is done, I was able to make everything fit and lined up like it should. When everything checked out, I washed the metal with paint thinner, and put 3 coats of black paint on it. I find it best to use paint thinner to clean the metal since it helps get the oil and dust off of the bare metal that can cause paint issues.

Step 9: Assembly!

After the paint cured, I began assembling the seat. I kept the bottom cushion off at this point, as it made it easier to bolt on the armrests. It was looking really good at this stage.

Step 10: Adding Some Lighting

I decided to add a few LED lights underneath to add a small glow, and to let the "SHOWTIME" on the front panel show through. I attached the strips on the horizontal bars and left enough wire so it could be powered by a small 12v battery.

Step 11: Pinstriping

A cool vintage seat like this just wouldn't look right without some slick pinstriping to go along with it. I used some white and red stripes to get the look down.

Step 12: We Are Done!!

At this point, grab your favorite beverage, a friend, and sling this awesome seat in the back of your pickup and head to the drive in!! The cup holders give an awesome spot to keep your drink, and the look of this awesome seat keeps peoples attention for sure!!

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