Re-upholstering the front seats on a 1970 VW Bus: seven observations

It took a while–until the springs were poking through the remains of the
original padding, through the remains of the upholstery, through the seat
cover, and nearly through my backside–but I finally broke down and ordered
the TMI seat covers and foam padding so I could reupholster the driver’s
seat on my 1970 walk-through. Here are some heretofore-undocumented

First and foremost, congratulations, thanks, and good wishes to Caspar de
Lint, whose “seat padding replacement (driver’s seat 68-74)” in the
Type2_dot_com archives was a great help. You suffered, Caspar, so that others
might not suffer.

Second, TMI included a one-sheet instruction set that bore no earthly
resemblance to anything I saw when I removed the seat or examined the new
covers and padding. Its list of needed tools is, in hindsight,
astonishing–I only needed decent needle-nosed pliers and a wire cutter.
My advice is to download Caspar’s advice; throw yourself at TMI’s
documentary mercy at your own risk. But I have no objections at all to the
TMI covers, the padding, or the workmanship.

Third, I took it as a given that I would need hog rings, so I bought a set.
Didn’t need them at all; every little 31-year-old sharp triangular tab, on
which you spike the upholstery fabric to hold it in place, was in good shape
and didn’t break off during removal/ reinstallation. Go figure. But I
couldn’t have known that until I got the upholstery off, so buying the hog
rings anyway was the right thing to do. I only needed a second set of hands
once, when I had to pull the bottom edges of the seat back cover into place
and impale them on the sharp tabs. George Lyle recommended drilling out the
rivets that hold the seat back to the seat itself so you can handle them
separately, and I have to say, if you have a good way to do it, I think that
George’s way would make the process faster, less painful, and more accurate.
But you can do it the hard way and live to tell about it. That’s all I’m

Fourth, I didn’t take it as a given that I would have lots of broken
springs, but in fact I had four: one on each side at the front corner, and
one behind each shoulder, linking the front to the back. The latter springs
had already broken and been fixed sometime in the checkered past of my bus:
broken ends of the s-shaped springs were overlapped and stiff metal braces
were crimped over it to hold it in place. I couldn’t find stiff metal
crimps, but a generous and challenge-loving friend offered to braze them.
Not easy to do on tempered metal, and I imagine some day they’ll give again,
but it’s a start. My friend also brazed the top piece of the frame, which
was the much worse for wear and tear over the years where it joined to the
side upright braces. The metallurgical purists on this list are probably
hyperventillating right now. I’m sorry. Anyway, heads up to anyone
contemplating reupholstering an old seat: you may have broken spring or
frame issues you didn’t see coming until you got the seat apart.

Fifth, you can do this the hard way, but I strongly recommend taking the
time to find the right workspace: There isn’t a single
lay-down-flat-and-smooth surface on the seat; and so a good work surface,
not too high because you have to flip and turn the seat all different
directions as you work on it, will be a big help. You can’t get the covers
on unless you can compress the springs and padding first, and having it well
positioned is a big help there.

Sixth, the original padding inside a seat, left to age and funkify for 30+
years, is a mess. Have a good shop vacuum handy.

Seventh–and oh, aren’t the seasoned vets on the list going to chuckle over
this one–remember that the covers for the driver’s seat and the passenger’s
seat aren’t built the same. TMI sells the front seat covers for a
walk-through as a set, even if you only have one seat to re-cover. [They
sell pads one seat at a time.] The covers are cut differently, passenger’s
side versus driver’s side. I lucked out and grabbed the right one, but I
didn’t check first, and if I hadn’t grabbed lucky, I’d have wasted a lot of
time and trouble–and maybe the covers themselves–before I discovered my

Now my seat looks very snazzy [so nice it makes the others look sort of
grubby, which is now a problem], it’s very comfortable [I lubricated the
tracks and adjustment mechanisms under the seat while I had it out], and my
bus even has that ‘new car smell’–sort of.

Thanks to all.


Beaverton OR, USA

1970 bus