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How to install Ford Fiesta MK6/7 Seats in a VW Beetle
Here is a little "How To" guide on installing Ford Fiesta seats in a beetle. I chose Fiesta seats because they are very comfortable, easily obtained and come in many colours including full leather if you can find them. The pair you see here was bought off ebay for £60. This was a bargain as they are usually slightly more expensive, but it shows what you can get. I also got a pair of Recaro seats on ebay for £78 and am now in the process of replacing the ones you see here.
In hindsight these seats are a little wide and consequently I had to mount them high to clear the heater channel. These are OK for me as I am not too tall at 5' 8" and I have a good few inches of headroom, but if you are a 6 footer or like wearing tall hats, look for alternative seats that can sit lower down.
Mistakes to avoid
When buying the seats, make sure they are from a 2 door car not a 4 door car. They look similar, but 4 door seats do not tilt forward. If you fit those you won't have access to the rear of the car. I made this mistake, but I got the seats cheap and do not have a rear seat in my Baja. The seat will slide forward and you can slowly tilt the back using the adjuster, but this is a pain.....Go for the 2 door seats if you can.
Avoid ripped or worn leather seats. As long as there are no rips, a dirty seat is easily cleaned, so don't be too put off by a few marks. Seats cost a lot of money to be recovered (Around £100 + a seat). By the time you have bought a seat and done this you are only a few quid short of buying a new pair.
Take a tape measure to the scrap yard and measure the seat width. Pay particular attention to the seat rails. Its a tight fit between heater channel and centre tunnel. I used Fiesta seats, but others such as Rover25 , Recaro (Porsche 924, Ford Sierra Cosworth etc.) are alternatives. Ask on the forums for ones that have been fitted before.
Get seats with seat runners if you can. You can easily spend £60 + for seat rails alone. Get them when you get your seats.
Remove and work on one seat at a time. This is important as you use the VW seat to position the new seat correctly fore and aft in the car. Having the original seat as a guide helps get the seat in a good position with plenty of adjustment either way. I did the passenger seat first then the drivers seat.
Don't be tempted to chisel the existing seat mounts from the floor. The seat rails are spot welded to the floorpan, when you pull them up, it rips holes in the floor which will need to be rewelded. Just grind the rails off leaving the lower lip attached to the floor. This also gives you a stronger floor to drill later.
Cover the seats at all times with a plastic bin liner or cloth. Constantly rolling a seat around the garage floor whilst working on it can make it dirty or rip the cloth.
Don't be tempted to weld the rails whilst they are attached to the seat, weld spatter will burn your seat cloth. After you have learned how to remove one seat rail it becomes quite easy and can then be done in a couple of minutes.
Under no circumstances use the Ford seat belt anchor and clip which is attached to the seat which may come with your second hand seats. Use the existing VW seat belt anchor which is attached to the centre tunnel. The method shown below fixes the seat to the sheet metal floorpan which is not strong enough to stand safety belt loads in a crash. The seat could be easily ripped from the floor. The Ford body was designed to take this force, the VW floorpan was not. Consider the strength and condition of the floorpan. In any case use large strengthening washers and high tensile bolts fo fix the seat.
Seat Rail Removal
Unclip the plastic side panel from the seat.
With the seat covered for protection, use an angle grinder to remove the end stops from the fromt of the rail. In addition use some pliers to bend the two upright tangs outward to enable the rail to slide past the stops. The two areas for modification are circled in the following image. Remove and modify each rail in turn so as not to mix them up. They are different lengths and can be refitted backwards.
Tap the seat rail with a mallet towards the back of the seat whilst holding the seat bar (indicated by the arrow) up. This stops it engaging in the square holes. The rail will slide most of the way and then the balls will hit the end stops. Keep tapping (a little harder) to skid the balls along the rail until the rail slides off. Be sure to catch all the ball bearings (There are 12 on each rail). Remove the cage and store safely.
Modification of the rail
With the rail removed it is now time to modify it to fit in the beetle. First we need to get rid of the Ford mounts which are too wide to fit. Use an angle grinder to grind the one with the plastic insert flush, centre punch the four rivets circled below and drill them out. Take care not to crush the rail in the vice as you will be unable to reassemble the rail bearings.
I used a 7mm pilotdrill, then a 12mm diameter drill. When you are down to the bracket face, use a punch to hammer the rivets out. The material is quite soft and drills easily. One sharp blow on each rivet pushes it clean through.
Now we need to make eight legs for the seats. I made mine from some box section I bought from B&Q (Very expensive, but handy at the time!) The material is approximately 1" X 1.5" x 1.5mm wall. I cut 8 pieces 80mm long and cut a closing piece for the end. Prior to assembly I welded an M10 nut inside and then used the part to cap off the end of the box. When welding the leg, make sure you have a bolt in the thread as this limits distortion and stops weld spatter entering.
Now tack a seat leg to each end of the rail. The rear leg is positioned on the centre line of the rail, but the front leg is moved inward by about 20mm. This is because the distance between the centre tunnel and the heater channel on a VW beetle reduces as you go to the front of the passenger compartment. Tack weld these in place first and do a trial fit in the car. The clearance is very tight so its best to double check before fully commiting to a finished weld. Also try to do some nicer welds than the ones you see below!
Here is a view of why the front legs need offsetting inward. The rear legs fit between heater channel and centre tunnel, but the front legs do not. About 20mm inset on each rail is sufficient, but its a tight fit and needs to be checked before final welding. You can see here the problem with the rails that prevents fitting the seat lower. Other seats (such as Recaro) taper in at the bottom meaning you can have shorter legs and a lower seat position.
Re assembly of the seat rail.
Reassembly is the reverse of the disassembly process but with a few differences. When sliding the rail back on, only assemble the first 6 balls in the plastic cage. Tap the rail over the balls, whilst holding the seat bar up. Then tap the rail right along as far as it will go until it hits the far end stops.This positions the cage in the centre of the rail travel by skidding the bearings along rather than rolling them. Now slide the rail back as if taking it off untill the remaining six pockets are exposed. Place the remaining six balls in position and tap the rail back over them. Don't tap the end stops you bent out earlier back in position as you need to do a trial fit then remove the rails again to weld them. Don't be tempted to weld the rails on the seat as the seats will look awful with burn holes in them.
Repeat the disassembly and reassembly process until you have a seat with 4 legs attached.
Here is a picture of the re assembled seat complete with the four new seat legs. This is the drivers side seat . The front of the seat is at the bottom of the image. It is important to adjust the rails so that the front two legs are level as the rails are a different length. Also note that the rails are positioned at the mid point of travel. Count the square holes in front and behind the location lugs(circled in red). I think I settled for 8 in front and 7 behind the lugs. When picking up the seat and placing it in the car, don't grab the adjustment bar as the rails will slide out of position, pick it up by the seat cushion and the headrest.
Its now time to trial fit it into the car. First however we must prepare the floorpan for the seat.
Removing the VW seat rails from the floorpan.
Unfortunately where the new seat legs need to fit comes right over the VW seat rails so these need to be ground down. I used an angle grinder with a cutting wheel (I used about 2 disks per side) to remove most of the material, then used a thick grinding disk to remove the upright material flush. I left the spot welded lip as this gives double thickness sheet metal and keeps some of the strength. Dont try to remove this as you tend to pull the spot welds through the floor leaving holes which require welding. Its just unnecessary work that is not required. Make sure you protect the rest of the car by covering it with cloth, particularly the pedal assembly, battery and any speakers you have. Grinding dust gets everywhere and even on the head lining. I placed wood panels around the area but it still went all over the place. It is also important to note that the brake line (see image below) is very near where you are grinding. I placed wood over it to protect it. When doing the passenger side you also may have the fuel line and wiring loom near. Unclip them and push them out of the way before grinding the floorpan.
Installing the seat
Place masking tape on the floorpan over where the seat legs are likely to fit and install the seat. I positioned the inner seat rail parallel to the centre tunnel taking care not to have it on top of the brake line, but just to one side. I took a note of the front of the seat cushion in relation to the VW seat that was still installed and had a sit in to see if I was happy. Remember in the previous steps we had positioned the seat runners in the centre point of the fore and aft adjustment and this is why its important to do so. When happy mark around the seat legs with a felt tip pen and then remove the seat. Find the centre of the seat legs and drill a hole. I used a pilot drill of 7mm and then opened the holes to 12mm. This gave me a little clearance around the 10mm bolts to have a chance of fitting the bolts from underneath the car.
The above picture shows how close the seat legs are to the brake pipe, so it is very important when you bolt the seat in to make sure the legs are not on top of the brake pipe as you may pinch and crush the pipe flat. The brake pipe is quite flexible and can be pushed out of the way.
Clean up the floorpan and remove the tape. Fit the seat and bolt it up from underneath using M10 x 25mm long high tensile bolts and large reinforcing washers. I found that by putting a screwdriver in the holes from underneath the car I could align the legs to the holes and insert the bolts. Do the ones nearest the centre tunnel first and then the ones near the heater channel.
When you are happy remove the seat again dismantle the rails and fully weld up the legs. Refit the seats and you should have something like the above picture. You can now fit the side covers and clean up.