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So you've found the Squarebody Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck that you want to build out. You've got plans, all right...in your head, the engine is a howling beast, the transmission's shifts are crisp and perfect, the wheels and tires match the suspension's stance perfectly, and you've got the color chips ready for when the truck sees the paintbooth. But as you walk up and open the door, you're greeted with the stark reminder that you have a long way to go before your dream truck is done, and step one is taking care of the cracked-up, splitting seat. The vinyl, designed to be tough and durable, has cooked over the decades and is losing the battle against UV rays. The seat foam is visible, and judging from the discoloration has been visible for years. And this is where your backside is supposed to rest while you're out cruising? No, sir, that won't do at all.
Many enthusiasts dread interior work. Name your reason: it's expensive, it's time-consuming, it's something that takes specialty tools and time. More often than not, the average builder would rather buy an entirely new seat than to attempt to repair what is already on-hand. And we've seen the bills from upholstery shops for automotive work. But if you're going to the trouble of an engine swap, paint or any other aspect of your truck, shouldn't you go ahead, bite the bullet, and repair the seat yourself? How hard can it be to learn how to use hog ring pliers?
We stuck our nose into the Vice Grip Garage shop where Derek is busy working on a 1982 Chevrolet C10 project to see how things were going on and wound up giving him a hand in restoring the seat. This Custom Deluxe's basic vinyl seat wasn't too bad...honestly, we've seen much worse in much nicer trucks...but all the same, it's time to retire the cracked vinyl cover for something fresher. From start to finish, the entire project took about two hours, and that includes the quick "restoration" of the seat frames and the drying time for the paint. Follow along to see the progress:
Here is the seat as it was pulled from the C10. For many, this is a pretty solid find, especially for a truck that sat for quite some time outdoors. The wear is concentrated on the driver's side and is mostly just seam splits. For many, a seat cover wound be the ticket. But that doesn't change the fact that the damage is there.
To get started, the seat needs to be disassembled. After removing the bench from the truck, remove the plastic end caps, split the backrest from the bottom bench, and remove the slide tracks. From there, all of the hog rings that secure the front and sides of the bottom bench's vinyl were cut. We recommend a compound diagonal pliers for this task.
The rearmost section of the vinyl seat is held in place using a channel on the vinyl and a "track" on the seat frame. Once all the hog rings are clipped, pull the vinyl off of the seat and the vinyl's channel from the seat track. Our seat foam was surprisingly good, so Derek elected to leave it alone. If you need to replace the foam, now is the time.
Be sure to inspect the seat frame at this time. Any repairs that need to be taken care of will be easier to deal with now. We only found one issue...this single seat foam brace wire had snapped. For the years, mileage and abuse on this C10, we got very lucky with the seat!
After carefully removing the foam from the bottom bench, Derek continued on to the seat back. The hog rings are clipped at the "bottom" of the seat back, so it was simply a matter of removing them, then removing the vinyl cover. Unsurprisingly, the seat foam of the seat back was in fantastic shape...the date codes were still visible!
Even in the best of circumstances, there's a good chance that there will be corrosion on the seat frames. In Derek's case, most of it was surface-level, so some sandpaper and some rust-inhibiting paint was all that was needed.
The new skin for the C10's seat is this deluxe pleat cloth/vinyl upholstery kit from Holley Classic Trucks (p/n 05-322). This design is compatible with 1981-1987 GM C/K trucks and includes the hog rings and hog ring pliers.
Start by fitting the upholstery cover's channel into the seat frame's "track". This will help keep the upholstery cover in place as you position the upholstery cover over the entire bench.
Pull the cover completely over the bench and make sure that it is properly positioned. At this point, Derek used a paint pen to mark out the holes that would need to be cut out for the seatback hinge mount, the plastic end caps, and the forward bolts of the seat slide tracks.
Here's where the hog rings come into play. Position the hog ring into the plier jaws (there are notches in the jaws that will fit the hog ring) and proceed to clamp down the upholstery kit to the seat frame. Work from the center of the seat outward, from front to back on the bottom cushion.
The final item on the list is to lift the vinyl flaps for the seat belt pass-throughs and to cut away just enough of the upholstery material to allow the belts to be pushed up through the seat. Also notice the yellow paint dots that we mentioned earlier that highlight where the seatback hinge and mounting bolts go.
The seatback is as straightforward: slide the upholstery cover the seat frame and foam, verify that it is positioned correctly, then start to hog ring into place, from the center outward. Don't forget to hog ring the piping plastic into place as well.
All that's left at this point is to re-assemble the seat. Don't forget to take the time to lubricate the seat slide tracks before the seat is bolted back into the truck! That's the seat done...now, it's time to get started on everything else on that list!