How to Lower Your Seats
Let’s Get Down !
By David Helland - Club Member #50
I recently bought a pair of Beard seats for my Manx and was faced
with the task of installing them in my car. The Beard seats are tube
steel frame seats that have excellent support and a softer ride than
the typical fiberglass bucket seats. This discussion deals with
attaching the Beard seats to the original VW seat rails on the mid-70
and earlier VW floor pans. The technique used here should also work
for the fiberglass seats with minor modifications to the supporting
frame to fit the mounts on the fiberglass shell.
The original VW seat rails on the earlier VW floor pans consists
of a pair of triangular shaped pieces of sheet metal that are welded in
the factory to the sheet metal floor pan on each side of the car. The
top edge of the rails have a 1/4 inch wide edge bent over 90 degrees to
form a flat surface. The seats hook on to this flat surface and slide
backwards and forwards over it. This low tech seat attachment
mechanism is actually very sturdy and extremely inexpensive to
fabricate (the “people’s car” needed to be cheap). Even though the
mechanism is simple, the alignment of the sliding seat channels with
respect to the seat rails is very critical. If these rails get bent
even 1/8 of an inch, the seats will refuse to slide on or off the seat
rails. This is the point where you get very mad and break out the
The trick to using the original seat rails involves a little
trickery to keep the original seat track alignment. In order to
proceed you will need a pair of original VW seats that can be
disassembled so that the attached seat tracks can be re-used. The
seats should slide back and forth smoothly on the seat rails (a little
grease on the set rails helps). Remove the seat backs and discard them
as they will not be used. Remove the seat covers and springs from the
seat bottoms so that only the oval shaped seat support tubing is
remaining. This assembly should still be able to slide smoothly on and
off the seat rails. If is doesn’t, the seat assembly can be carefully
bent (the seat rails should not be bent unless they are obviously not
straight) until the seat moves freely over the rails.
Now comes the trick. We really only need the straight seat track
sections on the bottom of the seat assembly for our use on the new
seats. However, if we cut them off now, it will be nearly impossible
to regain the original alignment with the seat rails. So, the trick is
to weld a cross piece between the two bottom seat tracks of the seat
assembly before we cut them off. I used a 2 inch wide piece of 1/8
inch thick steel to make the cross piece. This piece was welded in
place just above the seat adjustment mechanism (see picture).
With this cross piece securely welded, the two straight sections on
the very bottom of the seat assembly can be cut off. We only need the
portion of tubing that has the seat tracks that slide on the seat
rails. We now have a very low profile seat assembly i.e. two pieces
of steel tubing connected by a flat piece of steel.
The next thing to do is make a steel tubing frame that attaches
to the bottom of your seats. I used two pieces of EMT steel tubing
with the ends flattened in my vice. The steel tubes are to extend from
the front mounting tab of the seat to the rear mounting tab of the seat
(not side to side). I drilled the flattened ends so that they can be
bolted to the steel tabs on the bottom of the Beard seats. A steel
tubing cross piece (this could also be 2 inch flat stock) was then
welded between the two tubes about 3 inches forward of the rear
mounting tabs (see picture).
This steel frame would need to be modified to fit fiberglass seats.
We now have two assemblies - one slides on the seat rails (the
seat track frame) and the other bolts to the mounting tabs on the seats
(the seat support frame). They now need to be welded together. Since
the seat rails on the bottom of the floor pan are triangular in shape
(i.e. the front is about 2 inches higher than the rear) the two frames
we just made must have a compensating angle to make the seats level.
The seat support frame must be first welded to the 2 inch flat
piece that separates the two rails of the seat track frame. The seat
support frame should extend about 2 inches past the front of the seat
track frame (see picture).
The seat support frame tubing will need to be flattened just below
the spring loaded seat adjustment mechanism to prevent interference.
The two frames should only be tack welded together at the flat stock to
allow adjustment of the final seat
angle. Now would be a good time to temporarily bolt the seats to the
frame and slide them into the car to check the final angle of the
seats. Measure how far apart the rear of the two seat frames must be
to obtain the correct seat angle.
To attach the rear of the two frames together, two 2 inch square
pieces of the 1/8 inch thick flat stock must be cut. These square
pieces are then welded to the rear of the seat track frame and then to
the seat support frame at the correct height measured earlier (see
Before the finished frame is bolted to the seats, the seat adjustment
handle must be extended so that it will not interfere with the front of
the seat support frame. I did this by cutting off the handle and then
making it 2 inches longer by welding on a piece of 1/4 inch steel rod.
I then welded the handle back in place.
Now bolt the frame to the seats and slide the finished product on
to the seat rails in the car (see picture).
This process puts the seats at the perfect height for a standard Manx
type car. The top of your head should be below the top of the
windshield (this is a great advantage to keep your hat on in the wind).
If you want to lower your windshield for a more low profile look, you
will probably need to remove the original VW seat rails and bolt the
seats directly to the floor pan.