The beginning of the week was quiet, but I put almost two full days in over the weekend.
With the glass and other stuff out of the back of the Travelall, it’s much easier to start some of the preventative maintenance I’ve wanted to do to the rear frame and crossmembers. Saturday afternoon I lifted the rear bench seat out and pulled up the plywood floor. Then I put on some ear protection, fired up the compressor and the needle scaler, and got to work. Starting from the back I took as much scale off the unpainted metal as I could find, making my way to an area over the rear axle. Then I brushed on Rust Converter to everything I’d cleared and let it sit. I started around 4 and finished when the sun was setting, so there’s still a lot more to do—and I haven’t even touched the underside yet—but it’s already looking much better under there.
Reorganizing the garage a bit, I stumbled across an extra box of weatherstripping and realized it was doing me no good here. So I put it up on Marketplace and got a pretty immediate response from a guy in Washington, who was also interested in my old brake booster until I did the research and learned it would be something like $80 to ship it out to him in Washington. So the windshield gasket is on its way to him, and the brake booster remains in the Heavy Metal corner of the garage next to the old starters, spare Dana 20, and other stuff.
A brake has been instrumental to the plans I drew up for the doors on the seat base, because I wanted to bend a quarter-inch of metal along the edges on the three sides to add structural stability and make it look better. My Harbor Freight brake is woefully unprepared to bend 18 ga. metal at the measurement I need. On Sunday I met up with Bennett over at our friend Brian’s shop to get a couple of projects done. Bennett was there to clean up the carburetor on his Hudson project as well as tinker with Heavy D, which has been sitting there for several months waiting for a windshield replacement. I was there to use the heavy-duty finger brake Brian inherited with the pole barn shop on his property.
I started messing with the brake and putting a couple of scrap pieces through it to learn how it worked and where the sweet spot was. There was only one finger clamp on it, so the first long section of metal I bent didn’t stay still and bent unevenly. I took a break, had a donut, and Bennett suggested looking around the shop for the other fingers. I found them along the back wall and installed three of the fattest I could find, then put another long test sheet through. When those results looked much better, I marked out some new metal and started bending. We had to do some creative adjustment to the brake, because the bending plate was so close to the lever plate it wouldn’t release the metal when I’d bent the second side. This involved unscrewing the plate from the bottom to release my metal, but it worked. After I got two doors bent and test-fitted, I helped Bennett mess around with Heavy D, got it started for the first time in forever, and installed a choke cable before we both headed for home.
Back at the house, I investigated how I could bend the short edge with the tools on hand. I’ve got a cheap wide vise I bought from Harbor Freight back in the day, and after some testing I realized I could bend the width I needed with that and a pair of vise-grips blocked into place, keeping the entire width of the metal on basically the same plane. After making the initial bend, I had to hammer the center sections flatter with a combination of deadblow hammer, wood blocks, and metal scraps. When I had it flat and straight, I welded the corners up, cleaned them up with the flap disc, and trimmed the length of each to allow for the width of the hinge knuckles.
When those were in place, I tacked the hinges in place and test fit the doors; all my cuts looked good. So I flipped the hinges, cut some tack holes in the doors, and welded those into place. If I had to do it over again, I’d have put the weld on the underside, but I think it looks pretty good either way.
So the doors are in place, and next I need to cut and install a pair of stops opposite the hinge side for the doors to sit on. I’m going to wait until the locks come in next week so that I can design around those. I was originally going to cap off that gap in the middle, but now I’m considering adding a plate underneath to make it a shallow tool well to utilize some dead space.
The other thing I spent a bunch of time looking for last week was a hinge of the proper size for mounting the seat to the box. The hinges on the seat base are beefy; the pin is 3/8″ in diameter and the knuckles are thick. I found a lot of hinges with the right pin size but nothing with a leaf the proper length—the interlocking sections of the hinge I’ve got are 1.5″ wide, and most industrial hinges I’ve found with that pin size are only 1″. While I was at Brian’s, I was looking at his scrap pile and found a beefy hinge with a 3/8″ pin and a 2″x2″ leaf—exactly what I had been looking for. I texted Brian about it and he told me to take it with me.
Monday I had off for Columbus Day, so I got back outside and kept rolling. First I cut two hinges down to the right size, trimmed the knuckle widths, and test fit them on the box. When I liked what I saw, I tacked them in and fit them to the seat. With that confirmation I burned them both into place and cleaned up the welds. The plates will get two bolts through the square tube for extra structural support, but I like where things are sitting (literally) now.
Then I got out the needle scaler and wire wheel and continued working on the chassis while I had the rear floor out. Before finishing up for the day, I brushed on some Rust Encapsulator. I’ll finish coat it with chassis black when it’s all ready, but there’s a lot more to go.
Meanwhile, I’ve tried removing old upholstery adhesive on the vertical surfaces with every chemical I can think of and a rubber eraser wheel with no success. Frustrated, I tried a small patch with the wire wheel and found that with a very light touch I could get most of the old crust off without going through the paint to metal—there are a few places where the paint is very light—but it mostly came off with little damage. I was always going to respray the inside anyway, so I’m not worried about patchy areas. It’s nice to have that stuff cleaned up, for sure. I’m going to see if Hobo Freight sells a plastic bristle wheel for an angle grinder and see if that’s more gentle on the paint.
I put PT Cruiser seats in Peer Pressure seven years ago and I’ve never regretted the upgrade. They are comfortable over long distances, provide ample lumbar support, and are easy to clean—all things I’ve tested extensively. They sit two inches too high off the floor, but that’s something I’ve learned to live with for the moment until I get a pair of Binder Boneyard’s upgraded seat bases. The one thing I don’t like about them, now that I’ve switched almost everything else in the cab over to black, is their color. Chrysler made a bazillion PT Cruisers, and the majority of of them had gray cloth seats like the ones I’ve got. I set up an alert on my pick-a-part app to let me know when new stock rolls in the yards, and a flurry of them came in last week. Lo and behold, a gold 2005 came in and the VIN check said it had the correct upholstery. I got some basic tools together, loaded Hazel up into the Scout, and set out for Mt. Airy on Saturday morning to check it out.
I set her up in the truck with food, water, and a comfy blanket and set out for the yard. As I would have expected, the Chrysler section was all the way at the back of the lot, at the top of a hill, so I knew I’d be humping seats a long way. The car itself was in decent shape, and the seats were dirty but showed no major signs of damage, so I unbolted them both and hauled them up to the front desk in a wheelbarrow. Hazel was curled up on the passenger seat dozing in the sun.
The weather was so beautiful, we took a leisurely drive home through the country, stopping here and there for some photos. Back at the house, it was a pretty easy process to pull the old seats out and swap the new ones in on the bases. There are just two holes to drill at the front and everything bolts up smoothly. I hit them both with upholstery cleaner and some 409 on the plastics, and in about two hours I had them both installed.
They’re not perfectly black, but they look a million times better with the rest of the interior, and they should last a good long time.
Now that I’ve (mostly) got a new black rear seat, I’m looking at the front seats, which are gray, and thinking that I’d like to try and find front seats that match a little better. Doing some research on the interwebs this morning I found original sales brochures for the full run of Chrysler PT Cruisers and looked at the stock fabric offered each year. For almost all of the run there were two main colors inside: gray and beige. Some years they spec’d leather seats (some were even heated) but my unscientific research has shown that was mainly in early years and those seats also had integral airbags. I did find one year with a darker upholstery: in the 2009 model year they offered what they called Dark Slate Gray, which is as close to black as I’m going to get:
I’ve got an alert set up on the LKQ app for PT Cruisers in general but I think I’ll winnow that down to the 2008-2010 model years to ensure I don’t miss an opportunity.
To recap: In early January, I pulled two gray cloth seats from a junkyard 2004 PT Cruiser. All it took was a 13 and 11mm box wrench, and one disconnect for the seatbelt sensor. They aren’t light, but they’re lighter than seats from a 2001 model, which had integrated side airbags.
These have built-in side armrests that fold up out of the way. They interfere with the placement of my Tuffy console, so I’ll be removing them. The female side of the seatbelt is integrated into the side of the seat, so that will need to come off as well.
The slider rails are held together with a plate in the back. They are longer than stock Scout bases, but the width of the rails is perfect. Originally, I thought I was going to have to build extender plates for each of the bases to reach the front mount points because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to get bolts to fit in between the slider rails. When I really looked it over, though, I realized I was going to have to drill a hole for a bolt between the rails anyway. I picked up some grade 8 stock and test fit everything to check the clearances, and it worked perfectly.
Here’s where the plastic comes off. a T50 Torx bit will remove the seatbelt anchor.
On the side, pry the cap off with a flathead screwdriver. A T45 bit will take off the armrest and a standoff that locks the arm into place. The driver’s side is backed with plastic, so the seat doesn’t look bad with the armrest gone. The passenger’s side doesn’t have it.
I’ve been using a spare set of bases to mock things up on, but they are both rusted at the bottoms enough that I wouldn’t put them back in service without welding in some serious support. I took a second look at the bases I had, with tracks welded to the top, and decided to try a little surgery with an angle grinder.
After some careful cutting I got the tracks off and ground the edges off to a smooth surface, then sanded all surface rust and scale off. Then I wiped everything down with acetone to clean off any oil or grease.
To attach the bases to the tracks, I used the stock bolts from the seat in the rear. There are two threaded bolt holes in the back. I used the one closest to the front, then marked the holes for the front bolts and drilled them. Then I used a set of 3/8″ x 1″ Grade 8 bolts threaded in from above to attach the front of the seats to the tracks. The seats slide cleanly.
The project got sidelined for a week while I waited for Eastwood to send me rust converter. I used a brush to put it on, but the next time I’m at Target I’m going to pick up a cheap spray bottle for application–it’s much easier that way. I hit everything I could see and let it sit for 48 hours.
Then all the bare metal got a coat of etching primer and two coats of Rustoleum satin black.
Then I attached the seats back on the bases and put the bases back into my Scout. Compared to 30-year-old Chrysler seats, 10-year-old Chrysler seats feel like they just rolled off the factory floor, even if they don’t exactly match the rest of the truck–but then, nothing matches on this truck.
I pulled the Scout out of the garage this morning, intending to take her on some errands, and while I was jockeying the other cars around the driveway, she sputtered to a stop. Usually once I’ve got her running she stays running, so this was weird. Without thinking about it, I kept using starting fluid to get fuel running to the carb. After about five minutes of trying, I finally got a clue and put a gallon of gas in the tank from a jerry can. One squirt of fluid and she started right up. Which means I parked her on fumes last week. I keep thinking I’m not using as much gas as I actually am, but idling in the driveway to warm up seems to be using more than I think.
The seat project is moving along slowly. I pulled the passenger’s side seat and base out completely and mocked up one of the PT Cruiser seats on a base. They sit about 1″ higher than the GLHS seats but feel better. Lots more lumbar support. I have to pull the side molding and seatbelt stalks off, which will take a Torx 45 bit, which I don’t have.
The PT rails are longer than the Scout base, so the big question I’ve had has been: which side should have the overhang? I thumb-tightened two screws into the back of the base, putting the overhang up front, and tried the seat out. With the rails forward, the seat moves forward enough to leave a good bit of room for passengers entering the rear. If the driver’s side feels good, I’ll mount them both that way and call it done.