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Reupholstering Pacer Seats

Erin Johnson reupholstered her Pacer seats for a high school senior project. The essay below describes this challenging task. (Article originally written 10 October 1999. Pictures added 26 November 2000.)

Erin's Pacer seats - before Erin's Pacer seats - after
Erin's Pacer's seats before restoration. A job well done!

When it comes to reupholstering a Pacer's seats I recommend shelling out the money and taking the task to a professional. It's a lot of work and some of it's surprisingly complicated, especially if you don't have much experience with a sewing machine. If you can't sew the pieces just right... it's gonna be really hard to get a new seat cover fashioned. When I reupholstered my Pacer's front seats for my high school senior project my mentor had to do just about all the sewing, except for the welts.

Getting original fabric to redo the seats in isn't too hard, but it is costly. The fabric I needed, (the blue basket weave design), was found easy enough at Sure-Fit Auto Upholstery Supplier in Portland, Oregon. I've also heard of a couple suppliers carrying Pacer fabric on the East Coast. Sure-Fit charged somewhere around $60 a yard for the cloth.

Original vinyl isn't as easy to get, though. the vinyl I used does not have the exact same pattern as the original. I'm not sure if identical vinyl for Pacers, ('76 model year anyway), is still available or not. The vinyl I used is extremely similar to the original, and you'd really have to compare a piece of each to note the pattern difference.

After the seats are removed the back and the bottom portions need to be separated, and the headrest removed. Then the cover, padding, and frame all need to be separated. The cover is attached to the frame with what seems like far too many hog rings, (small, thick metal wires twisted around or through the parts). A pair of pliers can be used to twist or cut the rings out. In the headrest staples are used instead of the hog rings.

Once the cover is off, all the pieces need to be cut apart and labeled with what piece they are; as well as if they're from the back or bottom portion of the seat, and from the left or right side. An arrow needs to be drawn on each piece, pointing to which end is the top. Also, if any other pieces meet the piece anywhere other then at the ends, a little mark needs to be made at the point where the other piece touches. The old pieces can then be used as patterns to trace and cut the new pieces of cloth and vinyl. All the labels and markings from the original pieces need to be copied onto the new ones. When reupholstering both front seats the other cover can be left whole, and then it can be used as a guide in helping to get the new covers put together right.

After the new pieces are ready, the sewing can start. A foam backing needs to be sewn to many of the pieces, but first all labels and marks need to be transferred, again, onto the foam. Welts, which will become fresh seam pieces, also need to be sewn. The welts are the one part of the stitching that is really fairly easy. A long thin strip of vinyl is folded over a strip of small plastic pipe or tubing, and then a straight line of stitches is run down alongside the pipe.

The new pieces and welts can then be stitched together into the new covers. The seat padding, if it hasn't been changed before, will need to be either changed or added to. After that is done the new covers can be stretched over the seats, and new hog rings can be put in place. The headrest can be can be wrestled back into place, and the seats reattached.

Additional Pictures from Erin:
Passenger's seat removed from Erin's Pacer "If ya thought the Pacer wasn't roomy enough as is, take out the passenger seat. Makes it seem so much bigger." -Erin
Disassembled headrest "Head rest and cover. Note the green/silver staples in the foreground that held the two together." -Erin
Disassembled seat "One disassembled seat. Covers, padding, and frames." -Erin

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