Repair and Maintenance Of Your Imperial's Seats


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Please check our Electrical repair section for power seat mechanism repair and restoration.


Question from Joe:

Does anyone have a real cure for a grandaughter writing with an ink pen on the leather of my wifes 300M? Gray in color. Those of you with Imperials and stain problems could hopefully have a fix.

Replies:

From Dave:

Have you tried Stain Devils. They do lots of different types & work pretty well.

From James:

Try some Fantastik, or a similar cleaner. Try it one a hidden area to see if it affects the particular dye used first, but it shouldn't. Cleaners will remove the oils from leather, so you'll probably want to use some mink oil or whatever (non-silicone) conditioner you are using when you are done.

From Roger:

Go to your nearest Mopar-Chrysler dealer and get their leather interior cleaner. It works great. Used it on my PT Cruiser.

From Chris:

Try "Goo Gone," available at most home improvement stores. It seems pretty kind to the leather itself. I'm assuming she wasn't using an indelible marker like a Sharpie...


Question from Don:

I am continually cleaning up residue on my burgundy carpet that looks like "yellow dandruff." In reality it is urethane foam particles from my seats. The foam is getting hard and brittle from age and I was curious if anyone has found a way to slow or stop this aging process short of a complete seat redu.

Replies:

From Roger:

My '55 Newport had the foam behind the fabric return to powder, while the foam behind the leather remained supple. My solution is to re-do the entire interior since the leather was cracked and torn and the fabric soiled and in shreds before I got the car. I am having Ron Fryer, www.autoupholsterykits.com, remake the seat covers and the door panels for me. I will search the internet for foam vendors.

From Dick:

No, there is no easy way. However, the repair job is not difficult – I’ve done this repair to many of my cars. The seat covering is held on with hog rings, so you’ll need a pair of good diagonal cutters (known to the trade as “Dikes”) to cut off the old rings, and a pair of hog ring pliers (available at an upholstery supply house) to put the new ones on. You’ll also need some replacement foam. There are various qualities, get the best they have, and you can shape it with an electric carving knife. Probably the right thickness will be 3 inches, which you will cover with some white fuzz for a little more comfortable feel. The white fuzz is basically the modern equivalent of horsehair – it is resilient and very durable. It comes in 24 inch wide sheets which they will roll off a larger roll for you, it is very cheap. You’ll be amazed at how much better the seat feels. If the burlap is shredded (it protects the bottom of the foam from the metal springs), you’ll need to replace that too. Just copy the way the seat was originally made, then hog ring the covering back in place and you’re done!

Follow-up question from Roger:

Thanks for the guiding light based on your experiences. I've already completed the "Dikes" step and the old seat covers are at Ron Fryer's. The foam appeared to about 1" thick and was behind the seat cover and in fact was sewn-in onto cardboard backing at the fabric-to-leather stitch areas on both the bottom cushions and the seat backs. The other padding was also about an inch thick with bulk batting around the corners of the front seat back cushion. I've taken pictures as I was disassembling the seats.

Now I ask for a source for good latex foam. On the internet there are several manufacturers, but they seem to concentrate on selling foam mattresses and thin pads. Do you remember the sources available to you when you did that to your autos?

Reply from Dick:

Yes, we have a number of auto upholstery supply houses in the LA area, but the only nationwide chain I have personally used is “Keyston Brothers”. Not knowing where you live, I can’t find the closest one for you, but you can do it on Google, or ask your upholstery guy where he gets his supplies. You’ll need other stuff also, like hog rings etc. Since you have an original seat to pattern after, you can just copy the way the original supplier built the seats – it ain’t rocket science!

From Dave:

Perhaps you could just remove the seats, and spray the foam with some paint (or even "spray glue"). That might at least slow it down some. Of course the real "fix" is new foam, - but you probably already knew that...........

From Arran:

I am guessing that you are having the dandruff problem with your newer Imperial since you mentioned burgandy carpet. The '55 would have latex foam which generally breaks down from exposure to U.V through holes in the cover, not from age. Latex foam also tends to go gummy when it does break down, like anything else made from natural rubber. In answer to your question there is no solution for your '67 other then replacement, that is just the nature of the beast. Meanwhile you might try installing a dust cover underneith the springs until you get around to replacing the padding.

What surprises me is that Imperial would have switched to polyurethane foam at that time, latex foam was still readily available at that time and was a far superior product in that it remained resilient for decades. I know that G.M used it in their Caddy seats at least into the early '60's. The best polyurethane foam sold will go limp after 20 years, the cheaper stuff much quicker then that. The guys with the early cars didn't have foam to worry about, instead they had 50 pounds of cotton felt and sisel in the seats. The only foam used in my car was sewn into the seat covers to give it texture, the rest is cotton felt.


Question from Don:

Is there any good (solvent?) test to verify where leather trim ends and vinyl begins? Some of these vinyls are hard to tell from leather.

Replies:

From Dick:

The surest way is to find a place where you can see the back of the material. Leather will look like suede, vinyl will have a cloth mesh backing.

From Elisabeth:

I have worked with upholstery for many years and all upholstery with leather/vinyl trim that I have worked with have vinyl on the sides and on the back of frontseat. The leather are just there you sit.

From Kate:

If it's leather, is will be much more absorbent than vinyl - try a bit of leather treatment, either a lotion/balm type or simply a bit of soapy (NOT detergent!) water - vinyl is nearly impervious unless it's so dry as to be inflexible. Leather in any condition will continue to absorb and rehydrate until it is flabby with moisture.


Question from Clay:

My newly purchased '60 Custom has a very nice original nylon type material on its seats (complete with neat Imperial crowns!). There are though a couple of areas on the seats and door panels that look to have been stained by water seepage. The stains are a rusty brown sort of color. Does anyone know of any product that might lighten,or remove the stains without harming the fabric on the seats ? I was thinking of applying a paste of baking soda over the stains to see if it would lighten them.

Replies:

From Arran:

Believe it or not one guy to talk to about the stains might be an upholsterer. Do not take the seat apart, you will be making a molehill into a mountain. With these old seats as long as the original foam padding, latex foam on a car this old, was not exposed to sunlight
it should still be good. Latex foam is a lot more resilient then the polyfoam that they use these days. Knowing a Imperial, they likely used large quantities of cotton felt in the seat padding as well. If you can find the correct solution to clean this don't soak to death and don't scrub too hard. The door panel could likely be taken off and taken to a dry cleaner but I wouldn't trust the chemicals he uses with the padding. Try using soap and water first, that's usually safe, and then go from there.

From Jim:

Sorry if this is a 'repeat', but for what it's worth, here's what it says in the "1960 Imperial and Chrysler Service Manual" regarding cleaning the fabric they made...

According to the manual (under "Body & Sheet Metal"/Body Maintainance, pg. 14; item 29), it says:"CLEANING INTERIOR UPHOLSTRY (all models) - "Most common stains can be removed with a dry cleaning solvent, such as (warm) water containing one cup per gallon of a laundry type detergent.... When using a detergent, DO NOT USE ONE CONTAINING A BLEACH as this could discolor the fabric... General Instructions" Use a piece of CLEAN cotton cheesecloth approximately 3"x3". Squeze most of liquid from the fabric [I think they mean the cheesecloth, here], and it is less likely to leave a ring. Wipe the soiled fabric very
lightly with a lifting motion. Always work from the OUTSIDE towards the CENTER of the spot. Turn the cheesecloth over as soon as one side becomes stained to prevent working the stain matter back into the cleaned portion of the fabric. Use a new piece of cheesecloth as soon as both sides become stained."

From Anthony:

Use Oxy Clean. You can get it at Wal Mart. I removed old water stains out of the eagle cloth of a '56 Imperial. Use a new baby diaper, soft, and gently work with it. I impressed the local upholsterers with it.


Question from Mark:

Can anyone tell me if the rear seat from a 2-door Crown coupe fit a convertible or can you alter a 4-door seat to fit a convertible?

Replies:

From Wayne:

The 4-door seats are wider than the coupes and convertibles, so they won't interchange.

I believe that the convertible and coupe seats are the same width, and that the seat backs are identical. The rear seat sits more forward in the convertible, vs. the coupe, so there is a difference in the front edge of the seat bottom, where it meets the carpet. However, I think the coupe seat could be modified to work in the convertible.

From Henry:

Seat bottoms are not the same where the edge touches the carpet. Had that experience, too. the hump going down the center of the passenger compartment is wider on the convertible to accommodate the X frame with enough wiggle room for the dual exhaust pipes to go through--so floor pan is different. The cut out that fits over the hump for a coupe is too narrow. I didn't realize this and so my seat doesn't fit perfectly. However, coupe lower seat is the same width. I remember now since the seat I used for the bottom part is from a coupe, hence the problem with the floor pan differences.


Question from Richard:

What's the best way to remove ink stain from leather seats in light tan?

Reply from Elijah:

I haven't tried this stuff on leather, but it's worked great on ink stains in fabric: "Goop". It comes in a plastic tub and can be found in the automotive section at WalMart or any auto parts store. The "Dollar Store" chain in my area has it for $1, while other places are more expensive. Let me reiterate that I have NOT tried it on leather, so you may want to pick an inconspicuous spot and test it to see if it leaves a spot or anything.


Question from Frederic (1958):

What's the trick to remove the rear seat of a 1958 4-door sedan ? Where are the screws ?

Reply from Kerry:

Get in the floor of the back seat and push IN at the bottom of the lower cushion. There is a clip on each side at the bottom. When you push in that side should go back about an inch then you can lift it up. When you get both sides loose it will pull up and out. You can then see some (2 to 4) bolts that hold the seat back in place. Remove them and slide the seat back straight up. There are come tangs that hold it in place as part of the body. You can see them from the trunk if your cardboard is not in the way.


Question from Patrick (1964):

Does anyone happen to know if seat covers from a '64 LeBaron would fit in a '64 Crown Coupe?

Reply from Rodger:

The understructure of the seats are the same.


Question from Mike (1965):

I'm getting the seats on my '65 convertible's redone, and I will probably buy the correct pearlescent leather from Kileen's, but would like to know how many hides to expect to need to recover the front and rear seats--I was told 15 hides, but that sounded like a lot.  I have 3 questions: (1) How many square feet in a typical "hide"? (2) How many square feet needed for the seats? (Or how many "hides"?)  (3) What surfaces are actually covered in leather?  (i.e., is there any vinyl used for the sides, etc.?)

Replies:

From Chris:

I bought several hides of russet colored leather recently. One is used as throw cover over the seats of my NY wagon. It is so big, I have to fold it in half or there is too much extra hanging over the edges of the large bench seat. Hides are about 40-50 square feet. 15 hides is a preposterous number, unless you are upholstering a 35-seat bus. Perhaps 1.5 hides was the intended number, although I can see the possibility of 3 smallish hides being needed.

Only the seat surfaces are leather. With a couple of exceptions, the remainder of the upholstered surfaces in the car are done in matching vinyl. And unlike other years, the upholstery pattern in 1965 Crowns used relatively small sections of leather stitched together, resulting in maximum yield from each hide used.

I think you need to re-examine that estimate and the person giving it.

P.S. I am told the real trick in this project will be to find the delicate, thin, color-keyed, solid vinyl welting originally used on these seats. Most upholsterers simply make welting from the leather or vinyl being used, and it is always twice as fat as the original stuff. Spotting it is a fast way to tell if an interior from this era has been redone!

From Arran:

I would agree with Chris on the matter of how many hides one is likely to need. In fact it may not even be as much as 1 1/2 hides given that it is only the seat faces, and possibly the arm rests, that would use the leather. The door panels and the outside backs would more then likely be vinyl. Even in the old days before vinyl it was a common practice to use oil cloth or some form of patent leather on things like door panels and such to keep the costs down on a production car. I am sure that with something like one of the limousines or one of the salon era Imperials you could probably have leather everything if you asked for it but they were absolutely top notch. By the way those of you that think that leather is the most expensive interior material should price out mohair. A hide of leather will give you roughly 40 square feet and cost about $300, mohair starts at $200 a yard and that is for the cheap kind. Now you know why they used it in the back seats of old limousines while the chauffeur sat on leather.

From Maurice:

When I did the interior of my 65 convertible in 98, I used 3 hides of pearlescent leather which I had bought from SMS auto fabrics. These hides were huge.  I don't remember the exact square footage but my cost was 2700.00 Canadian dollars (appr.1500.00 US in 98). If the cost of the 15 hides are close to this amount, then it is possible that they are very small hides, but I doubt this.

The only parts covered in leather are: the back seat including the central divider, the two front seats, the front dividing arm rest and the head rest. All the rest, door panels, sun visors, central top boot and top well are of matching vinyl.

The only problem I encountered is that I could not find the thin welting for the seats and they had to be fabricated by the upholsterer resulting in a thicker welting which looks good anyway.


Question from Joe (1965):

Can anyone tell me if the rear seat from a '65 two-door hardtop will fit a '65 convertable?

Replies:

From Dick:

No, the convertible seat will be about 8 inches narrower.

From Arran:

As the actual seat frame is hidden under the upholstery you may be able to find an upholsterer that could modify a regular rear seat for use in a convertible, if you can find out the proper dimensions. I could be wrong but I don't think that ther would be any difference between the rear seat of a two door and the rear seat of a four door so that could broaden your sources for a frame to play with.


Question from Dave (1968):

I need some advise on how to remove the backseat from my Imperial. I have removed the bolts from the bottom of the seatback. The cushion lifts slightly (up and out) before snagging. It gives no indication of wanting to come willingly. What's the trick?

Also, as shown in this photograph, the top boot appears to be bolted to the seatback. Must the boot be removed prior to removing the seatback?

Reply from Dick:

The top boot is retained to the seatback by its front rubber "string", which slides into the retainer in the back of the seatback from either side. The retainer is a piece of aluminum extrusion which is shaped so as to accept the leading edge of the boot, or rather the sewn in rubber strip. Clever, and very neat.

The seat will lift up and out, but you have to disconnect the speaker wires, and you may have to remove the rear cardboard panel which will become obvious when you get the boot off. I don't recall any further fasteners on the seat, but it has been a few years so double check me with a good look before you use brute force.


Question from Andrei (1974):

Can anyone give me some advice on removing the seats in my '74 Imperial. 

Replies:

From Steve:

The rear seat cushion: Push back and down on the lower part of the seat-bottom and lift up. You might have to get on each side of the car to unhook each side of the seat. The metal framework of the seat hooks into a catch on the floor.

* The rear seat-back: My memory is fuzzy on this one. Remove the rear seat-bottom (see above). There might be some sort of nut or bolt...hopefully not the seatbelt hold-down bolt, that holds down the lower part of the seat back. It should be able to be seen with the seat-bottom removed. The seat back can now be lifted up and off the hooks that I think holds the top part of the seat to the rear firewall.

From Brad:

You are quite correct. The seat back is held in place by two "hooks" at the top edge and two bolts at the bottom, behind the rear of the seat bottom. With the appropriate socket extension, I find that locating the bolts that hold the lower portion of the rear seat's back and removing them makes removing the seat's bottom much easier. The two bolts that hold the lower portion of the seat back in place are located about 6 to 8 inches from the outer edge of the seat back. They bolt through a wire "loop" and into the car body. They are not the same bolts that the seatbelts use.

When it comes to taking apart 74-78 C bodies, I have copious experience. Putting them back together again is a different issue again!


Question from Dan (1980's differences):

Are the seats different in the '80's Imperials?

Replies:

From Bob:

The '81 seats from the factory are different than the '83 seats from the factory. Someone may have changed them somewhere along the way, but he '81 had a loose pillow effect on front seats only, '82 and '83 did not have the loose pillow on the seat cushion. '81 is the only year that had a factory sunroof, but I have seen many '82 and '83 models with after market sunroofs installed. They will usually have a chrome trim ring around sunroof if aftermarket.

From Dick:

The seats are different for '82 and '83. There were a couple of other ways the cars were different also, although nothing significant.


This page last updated August 2, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club.