Monday, 15 October 2012

911T Project: Seats and Wheel

It surprises me how often manufacturers get their driving positions so horribly wrong. That perfect arrangement of pedals, wheel and seat is surely not too difficult to nail, yet so often you end up compromising your reach to the wheel in order to get decent leg room, or sitting higher than you'd like, or generally just cramped and miserable.

I was determined to get this right in the 911, but to start I needed to sort out the best seats I could find. My list of requirements was straightforward; I was looking for a seat that gave decent support, allowed access to the rear of the car, looked reasonably at home in an older car and had runners (so that other people could use the car). 

Now the seat for a sports purpose 911 from the early 70's was made by Recaro. It is a low-back seat with good side bolsters and separate head rest/restraint, and usually covered with leatherette and a corduroy material. 

As an aside, the Recaro company sprung out of Reutter Carosserie, who built bodies for Porsche in the 50's. Known for their aftermarket sports and racing seats, Recaro still make most of the seats used in Porsches. 

Unfortunately the demand for these original early 70's sports seats has driven the price of good sets through the roof. There are a number of companies that make replicas, both in the US and in Europe, but I'll admit I had my reservations; would they be as comfortable as the real thing or would some slight difference in detail or proportion render the things unusable after a couple of hours? There was still the matter of cost, good replicas in vinyl with fittings cost the best part of £1,000 a side.

I also considered somehow adapting a later Porsche seat; removing the integral restraint and turning it into a low back with separate headrest.  The incredible Singer cars use something similar. The deep bolstered seats used in the early turbos and available as options on cooking cars looked a decent starting point:

Unfortunately at the time it proved difficult to find a specialist to do the work - although I have seen a set converted successfully since.

I started looking at the current Recaro range. While the fixed race-shell seats like the well known Pole Position would restrict access to the rear seats, the Sports seats might do the trick. But the barrier was again cost; a similar price to the better period replicas.

Then one evening I was surfing ebay and saw a set of Sportster CS seats listed in decent condition with a 'Buy It Now' price close to half that of new. I pulled the trigger. And the willing seller even had them delivered to Tuthills. Result.

They're not my first choice of colour(!) but I had some ideas to sort that in time. Because these seats are fitted from the base (unlike the shell seats) Tuthills had suitable runners on their shelves in a choice of heights. After a seat fitting it became clear I needed the lower of the two options.

The choice of steering wheel was much easier. Unless you want to use a rare Porsche Special Purpose wheel, or source an original 70's Momo like a Jackie Stewart, the Prototipo is the obvious answer.  I found one on ebay. 

However, my preference is for a slightly thicker rim, so I asked my trimmer, Joe at Trimdeluxe, to add another layer of black hide. As a little detail I had him use an off-white thread and added an ebay horn push.

 The result was excellent, and I delivered it to Tuthills when I was next visiting.

After a little experimentation with spacers, we finally had the desired result. I sit low in the car, and my leg is almost straight when the clutch is depressed. At the same time I don't have to stretch to the top of the wheel.

Here was the end result. The interior still had a long way to go, but at least I'm sitting comfortably!


Cindy Dy said...

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Shea Kang said...

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