Monday, October 24, 2011

Aircraft "Bomber" Seat in a Hot Rod

The issue of seating has been a topic of a lot of thought.  I had a few ideas, but I kept coming back to my original idea --one seat, right in the middle, and vintage aircraft.

There is no way I would just screw it to a plywood floor.
Patiently waiting for the right opportunity, I was rewarded with a nice match pair for sale on ebay.  The seller was restoring a warbird, but the project fell through.  The naval airplane seats had already been were striped of the grey paint, and were looking pretty nice.

The debate continues whether bomber seats are "traditional".  The answer is: it depends.
Look at plenty of race cars, roadster-racers, track jobs, lakesters from the 40s & 50s, many had aircraft seats.  Now look at street hot rods from the same time, and you might notice none of them had war surplus seating.
So 60 years ago when weight (thus speed) was a issue, war-bird seat - YES.  Comfort and sensibility, fighter plane seat - NO.  The only airplane themed cars in 1955 were lakes only, belly-tank streamliners.

Now that I've had the seats a few months, I finally figured out how to install one... finally.

>>>By the way, two average aircraft seat don't fit into a Model T roadster.  The seats are too wide and the T too small.

OK, to the right is how the stock seat hardware looked on the back.  Aluminum & wood verticals, and aluminum brackets.  The handle on the side was for adjusting seat height.

The brackets have holes for tube to slid in them.  One idea was to use tubes again, but the size was some sort of AN sizing, 15/16" tube? It's not made!

I simply unbolted the brackets and and replaced them with 1" heavy wall square tubing.  This way I can make a seat frame custom to my needs.

My needs were; it has to sit low, it had to leaning back a bit for comfort, and it has to adjust back and forth for diffident height drivers.

The foundation's start was simple, two 1x1.5", 1/8 wall tubes across the frame.

I'll weld these right onto the frame later. And I'll make joists to the longer piece for more support.

Now that the lower base is settled, I made seat slider rails with adjustment holes 3/4" apart.  The rails are 1"square, 1/8" wall tube.

The ends of the tubes are all caped and sanded smooth for looks.

The lower base is just below the level of the interior floor so I can still put a floor panel in and hide all my nice work.

I'll skip the process and show you the results.  This is the seat farme, there is the 1" tube directly replacing the original aluminum & wood, and tube brackets.  The frame is fully welded and quite ridged.  And the seat itself is not flimsy in the least. Now lending it's own strength, it is not going move around in a hard turn.
I purposely didn't go overboard, the focus will be on the chair and not the supports.

This is the seat frame minus the seat.  The seat was it's own jig.  I tacked the parts together while on the seat and finished it off without.

Another look at the adjusting rails.
"bomber belt"

I bet you are asking, how about a seat belt?  Well I have that covered too.
This just in: actual WWII fighter plane harnesses --date coded, canvas and leather, early steel length adjusters.  Another recent ebay find.


Attachment couldn't have been easier.  I used 1.5" wide, 3/16"thick bar steel, welded to the lower rail. 

Aircraft seat in a hot rod complete.  Now I just need a cushion.