Repair and Maintenance Of Your Imperial's Swivel Seats

Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Interior -> Seats -> Swivel 

Tips from Chris:

Although swivel seats were introduced in 1959, the cable actuation feature came along in 1960. However, the automatic actuation could be overridden simply by the weight of the person occupying the seat.

Having owned a swivel seated Mopar, I think the real reason for the automatic assist feature was to return the seat to the full forward position upon exiting. (Otherwise you couldn't close the door.) Thus you could close the door without having to reach in and manually reposition the seat. Same for entry. The seat automatically swung out to meet you so you didn't have to reach in and fiddle with the release.

Unfortunately, the spring assist mechanism was not very sturdy and most broke in short order. Although I am sure there are some out there, I've never seen one that is still operational.

Unless you had the bolstered bucket of a 300-F or 300-G, regular swivel seats were not very comfortable.

Question from Kurt (1959):

Does anyone know if the Imperial swivel seats were always leather when ordered in a LeBaron? I have only ever seen them in a '60 LeBaron which had leather.


From Larry:

The '60 Lebaron was also available in grey wool broadcloth which I have. Other colours included Blue, Green, and Bronze. The Pearlscent leather bolsters were available as an option in the late production vehicles.

From Steve:

They could be had in any flavor you wished. Mine are the original wool (motheaten) wool broadcloth.

From Chris:

Actually, all-leather was the exception, except in '61. Most 59's and 60's were cloth or cloth & leather.

From Paul:

Typically, the '60 LeBaron Sedans were all broad cloth with non-perforated suede cloth head-liners, Southamptons were either all leather or leather bolsters and broad cloth seating surfaces with a perforated suede cloth head-liners. As we have seen from other IML'ers, though, the original purchaser had the final say, and practically anything could be special ordered.

Question from Arran:

Are the swivel seats physically interchangeable between different Chrysler products? Is there anything special about the seats themselves or just the bases? 

Reply from Henry:

Yes, the mechanism is the same for all 59,60, and 61 Chrysler Corp. cars, 4 door and two door. Of course, the upholstery patterns and shapes of seat backs do vary. So if you find one on a Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial, it'll work on whatever make for which you need the seat. There is a small metal piece that keeps the sedan/4 door hardtop seat backs rigid. Remove that and you have a flip-over seat back for a two door. If the special plastic rollers are missing, just get a block of hard plastic, cut off a small piece and grind away. Keep trying it in the runner slot until it fits. I did this when I couldn't find the plastic bag with those special parts inside. I had put the bag in a special place for safekeeping. Guess what?! Found the bag after grinding away on a couple of pieces, but I did make the self-made ones work. 

Question from Allan:

I was under the impression that the original swivel seats (59 models) where moved by unlatching the seat and physically moving it. The 1960 system became spring loaded. If this is wrong, please let me know. At any rate, by 1961, all of them had some kind of assist.


From Kenyon:

The original design had cables attached to the doors that actuated the seats automatically as the door opened, swiveling the seat out as the door swung open and vice versa (I think).

Somebody figured out that it would be impossible to grip the seat with your butt and stay on the seat if the door opened going around the outside of a corner, and the connections were left dis-connected for the sake of safety very early on. Bet it was a big thing to have working on the show cars, though.

My 1960, #26 has these cables under the carpet, but they are not connected, probably weren't ever. All later 1960's that I have seen had no cables, and perhaps they ran out. 1960 saw the very late model year intro of the alternator (advertised as a 1961 item), and it is pretty well documented that they routinely exhausted the parts bin before going to a new part design. Maybe the early ones were left in so the owner or dealer could re-connect them? Maybe nobody told Moe down on the factory floor to drop them till late in the game?

It is my understanding that this auto mechanism was totally deleted, and the seats were just manual for all post 1959 cars for certain.

To quote a Chrysler ad: "The seats swivel to let you in and out. These are the easiest cars you've ever seen to get in and out of. As you can see in the picture, the seats turn like an office chair, on noiseless nylon bearings. They lock in place while you drive......"

There is a second ad from the same series that shows a young mother with an infant in her arm as she reaches down to release the lock lever. "Why didn't somebody think of this before? Swivel seats make these the easiest cars to get in and out of you ever saw - even with your arms full". Now the photo only shows one arm full and the other hand on the release lever. Does not make sense, but maybe the copy guys hadn't sat in the seats and used them?

From Steve:

For the sake of clarity... In '59 the seats were not connected to the door via cable. The only way to swivel the seat was using the release lever on the side. It is a pretty cool to show people at car shows but otherwise doesn't server much purpose for me.

My understanding is that they were a bigger deal back then for the lady because it made it easier for them to get in and out with the dresses that were tighter around their legs.

From John:

When the cable stopped being used, the door hinge was changed also. There is a space where the cable connects that is not on the later ones without cables.

Question from Jim:

Are there any issues/considerations regarding seatbelts in vehicles with SWIVEL-SEATS? I mean, should they be positioned or anchored differently? Do they need to be longer...? Shorter...? Do you 'skip' the front-center position because it's so slim...? My 'new' 1960 does not currently have seat-belts and I'd like to have them installed for obvious safety reasons. As it happens, all of my previous cars had belts already, so ANY advice about installing seat belts in older cars would be welcome and appreciated - but especially as it concerns cars with swivel-seats.

Reply from Roger:

I would imagine either the FSM might have a section or there would be a contemporary technical service bulletin for seat belt installation on swivel seats. It does seem that some concern should be take to avoid binding the belts.

This page last updated June 18, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club.