To be honest, I picked just about the worst possible project vehicle I could when starting Project Pile House. It didn't have much going for it, the body was dented and rusty, the drivetrain was seized and trashed, and the interior was equally as dilapidated. My goal is to show what can be done on a budget with some key tools and a little bit of creative thinking.
This part of the project is no different than the rest. The original seat was trashed beyond belief and seemed almost unusable, but I was sure I wanted to do something custom with it. I know the easy way out is to use a modern minivan or car bench seat, but that look isn't for me. I decided to reuse the original seat frame as it had some cool beadwork in the sides and corner braces that actually matched the running boards I had built previously. I started by sketching out some rough designs on some chipboard and cutting the main panels out first.
Once I came up with a design I liked I cut out 18 gauge sheet metal to match the shape of the original seat frame with the Electric Metal Shears. I then lined the panels up, drilled holes, and installed Cleco Panel Clamps around the perimeter of the panels to hold them in place throughout the build. I knew I would be taking the panels on and off quite a bit so using clecos helped make lining the panels back up each time a breeze.
With the rear and bottom panels made up I moved on to making the back support panels and center console for the seat. I measured out two inch flanges and put just under a 45 degree angle on the braces to get them to contact both main panels. I then doubled up the metal thickness in the Versa-Bend Sheet Metal Brake to give a nice rounded bend on the front of the center console. I again used clecos to mount everything in place. Once all of the panels were cut I carefully drew out my design on each panel. Accurate measurements is a must when laying out a pattern for rolling beads as it will become your guide to roll the mandrels over.
With my patterns all laid out on my panels I used the 1/2" mandrels in the Bead Roller to run the beads. I then drilled and punched holes in the support panels and center console and used clecos to put everything back together.
At this point the seat was really starting to take shape and I was ready to start permanently attaching each panel to the seat frame. The air and space industry have been using rivets to hold panels together since the beginning and they are the key to making your "industrial" or "bomber inspired" car or accessory look the part. Some guys are using fake rivets or spot welds to simulate the effect, but we've recently been working on a DIY-priced kit to install solid aircraft rivets. I decided to test the kit and installed the rivets in the braces. The key when installing the rivets is to make sure you are square on the head with the air hammer. Otherwise the hammer can jump or contact the edge of the rivet and leave "smiley faces". These are unacceptable in the air industry and to anyone in the "know" they look unprofessional. I admit the first few rivets I ran I had to drill out and redo, but after I got into the groove of things it went pretty smoothly without too many do-overs.
I then slowly worked around the perimeter of the seat and used the TIG 200 AC/DC to weld the seat pans to the frame. The clecos help keep the panel clamped tight to the frame, but some areas I needed to use Locking C-Clamp Pliers to hold the panel tight against the frame.
With all of the panels riveted and welded in place I moved on to assembling the center console. I decided to butt weld the top and side panels together so I could metal finish the surface to make it all look like one. I've found it's easier blend and work a weld on a flat instead of a corner or curve. For this reason I decided to tip and round the edges of the top of the console down with a Straight T Dolly so that my weld seam was on a flat area. I then clamped and welded everything together using the MIG 175 . I did have to put some relief cuts in the top panel and use the a hammer and dolly to work the panel smooth, but after blending the welds with a flap disc and scuff pad the console blends smoothly into the seat frame.
Now that the fabrication is done on the seat I was able to bolt it back into the truck and I can continue to work on setting up the rest of the interior. My only problem now is that the seat outshines the rest of the interior and I need to step up my game on the interior.. it's a never-ending battle! Check out the video above for action shots of the seat build process and be sure to subscribe to the blog to get notified of updates on Pile House in the future.