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Extract from MGB Driver Mar/Apr 1999, the NAMGBR official publication

Sitting Right

by Ann and Jake Snyder
Chicagoland MG Club

The only bad part about driving a few thousand miles in an MGB is getting out of the car and the longer the time between rest stops, the longer it takes to walk upright again. Part of the reason may be that the drivers and passengers are in many cases older than the cars, and have lost some of the resilience that both had in the past. Another reason, certainly contributing more in many instances, is that the seats simply are not fully functional for the driver and passenger. Consider a taller person sitting for several hours on a seat that sags in the rear and provides no support to the upper part of the leg: Stiffness and pain build up under the constant requirement to hold the throttle in position. And a shorter person has an even worse time with a dilapidated driver's seat: The sagging bottom make the shorter driver sit very low, and the steering wheel gets very close to the line of vision. Pulling the seat all the way forward does not help the height-challenged driver, either: In our instance, a thick pillow provided back support that was necessary for normal use of the brake and clutch pedals. The appearance of seats that have reached this state is almost always very pathetic, with upholstery worn through and the foam seat bolsters shedding unsanitary chunks of foam that occasionally adhere to clothing. And getting the seats to move forward and backward requires all your strength. This can be a source of irritation if you must change the seat position nearly every time you use the MGB.

There are simple improvements that help tremendously. These cost only a little, and do not necessarily require new upholstery, especially if you are willing to spend a little time with a large needle and heavy thread to repair worn and torn seatwork. The big improvements are cleaning and greasing the seat slides, fitting new seat diaphragms, building up the sides and front of the seat with inexpensive foam, and moving the mounting holes on the seat rails so both short and tall drivers can reach the pedals without stretching or cramping.

If one of the drivers is shorter than the seat accommodates, push the seat all the way forward and find out why it cannot be moved further. In our case, the front inside corner of the driver's seat hit the gearbox tunnel, and no amount of shoving would move the seat closer to the steering wheel. Try to estimate how much the seat rails must be moved to the outside to get adequate travel on the front-and-back sliding adjustment.

Now unbolt the seats: One of the big tricks to unbolting the seats, one we learned at a technical session, is to push the seat forward to unscrew the rear mounting bolts, remove the square stop block from the outside rail, then push the seat backward all the way to get ready access to the front bolts. Remove the handle for the seat back adjuster, if fitted. Unbolt the back from the seat. Strip the old upholstery and foam from the frames. The headrest will release itself if pulled sharply. Check the upholstery clips and repaint them as necessary. Buy new upholstery clips if they are weakened from rust. Lubricate the moving parts of the seat back.

Fit a new seat diaphragm by clamping the seat bottom frame in a heavy vise. Pulling the hooks into place is very difficult, so wear safety glasses in case a hook slips. And check the area behind you so that you will not fall on the harpoon that was part of your Captain Ahab costume at Halloween in case your Visegrips slip. Replace the seat foam, and build up the sides and front of the seat bottom with inch-thick foam purchased at a fabric shop. This costs about a dollar a square foot, and three square feet will do both seat bottoms. Repair and replace the used upholstery. Alternatively, fit new upholstery, remembering that leather is less expensive than vinyl if you plan to put over a hundred thousand miles on the car. Or invest in the leather upholstery if you need another reason to drive your MGB a lot. Bolt the seat backs to the respective seat bottoms.

Run the seat mounting rails over a wire wheel to get the rust off. Assuming you want to move the seat forward a large amount, drill 17/64 inch holes 3 and 3/8 inches behind the hole at the rear of each seat mounting rail. Locate a 1/4 inch fender washer 3 and 3/8 inches behind the front holes, and weld it by the edge so the front mounting hole moves the mounting slides 5/8 inch toward the outside of the car. Lubricate the seat mounting rails with white lithium grease, and bolt the seats into place. Now the seats will slide farther forward before hitting the gearbox tunnel. If you do not have access to a welder, adequate brackets could be made from hardware store flat steel stock, and bolted into place. While it would be simpler to bore a new set of holes in the floor panel, it is worth remembering that there is a way to change the seat position without assisting the natural rusting process.

The whole process is worth the effort the first time you drive a long distance. Your thighs, if you are a taller person, will not get painful and then numb. Shorter drivers will appreciate being able to completely disengage the clutch without stretching and straining, not to mention being able to look over the steering wheel rather than under it.

North American MGB Register
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