Fitting E24 seats (rear) and e21 fronts (recaros)

bimmerboy73

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Hello all,

Just wanted to start yet another thread on fitting the rear seats from the e24 and the fronts from an e21. I've done a lot of digging around on the topic and finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. Quite a few members have posted their experiences regarding the swap and have contributed knowledge to the subject. My goal, the gods willing, will be to add to that pool of knowledge with a step by step DIY complete with photos.

Two weeks ago i scored a set of pearl beige e24 rear seats on ebay for the staggering price of $19.99. the seats came complete with the arm rest (which i can now confirm will not fit in the e9 rear without some significant reworking of the seats and/or arm rest and underseat support brackets) and are about a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. Thankfully, the seller was in Richmond VA, so i was able to take the 3 hour trip down to pick them up and avoid the shipping charges. No major blemishes at all... just a couple of surface scratches here and there. There was a 'pinky finger' sized hole in the arm rest but since i wont be using it...

The front seats were also nabbed on ebay...Recaro Trophies from an e21. Black Vinyl with grey fabric seat/back insert. Also thrilled to get them for right around $600. They are from what i can tell, a 9 out of 10. - Nine because they are vinyl and cannot yet confrim the quality of the restoration. However, judging from the pictures, they look pretty good..

So the plan (as of right now) is to swap out entirely my tattered stock seats for the new ones. I had been going back and forth between changing the interior color black to match the new front seats or going with the tone of the pearl beige rears, but have decided to (against my better judgement) try to dye the fronts to pearle beige. I know, i know... its almost impossible to dye black seats a lighter color. But I'm stubborn, so i'm going to give it a shot. the way i figure it, if it doesnt work out, i can get the seats completely reclad in original Pearl Beige leather for a reasonable figure and still be well under the $$ it would have cost to re-skin my stock seats ... which was my initial plan. BTW- I'll be using Leatherique products for the seat / interior restoration. As part of the color conversion, i'll also be recoloring the door panels, kick panels, rear interior quarters, and rear arm rests pearl beige. the center, fabric insert on the recaros will be dyed black as will the carpet. The headliner will go to either entirely black, or a combination pearl beige roof with front trim section and visors in black (i've seen this combo on a german e9 and it looked fantastic!... also the same color combo on my euro e28... Snazzy!).

In the beginning...

Still waiting on the front seats to arrive so in the meantime i've begun the process of cleaning up the rear seats and prepping them for restoration. I've also done a test fit of the seats (sans the e24 arm rest) into the coupe. As many of you may know, the shell of the e24 seats has a significantly different shape than the e9 seats. The major difference is the additional molded projections along the back and underside. The projections have to be removed all together to get the seats to sit flush against the rear deck in the e9. Also, the e9 shells were contoured to receive the rear wheel arches. The e24s dont have this concave indentation and so material must be removed. I was able to fairly easily cut away the problem material using a dremel and small cuttoff wheel. The job is a little messy, so you'll probably want to do it outside. The rear shell projections are where i started. There are 3 total. All three took about 5 minutes to remove. The wheel arch sections are a little trial and error. To get a rough idea of how much material to remove, i set the e24 seats upside down next to the e9s and 'eyeballed' the general form, taking a little material out at a time and testing the fit between each cutting. Be careful here not to remove too much material as i'd imagine that at some point, you'll probably begin to compromise the structural integrity of the seat. I'm considering (if necessary) having fiberglass in-laid into newly contoured rear but will wait to see how much ultimately needs to be removed before making that decision.

So... first test, the seats are in and fit relatively well. Only problem i can see right now is that the seats project about 6cm higher above the rear deck than the originals. I had anticipated this after doing a little research. I'm going to see what can be done (short of swapping shells) to get the seats to sit a little lower in the car. my first guess is that i may be able to remove some material from the the underside of the e24 shell. i was initially hesitant to do this for fear of weakening the seat, but will give it a second look this week to see what can be done.

Pictures to come...

To be continued...
 

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bimmerboy73

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so... its been a long time since i posted last and much progress has been made on the interior restoration. I managed to shoe horn the rear seats (e24) into the car as well as the e21 recaros up front. I also decided to dye the seats pearl beige along with the door panels. The fabric centers of the recaros were dyed black along with all of the interior carpeting. All in all, i think it looks pretty good. Still in the process of touching up the dye here and there and i still have to finish the drivers seat, but i'm very happy considering the shape my interior was in to begin with (J Jacobs can back me up here).

Here are a few pics of the rears during a test fit. I'll post more later as well as detailed info on the complete swap, dye, etc...
The 3rd picture gives you a good idea of the color change (the car was saddle tan originally). The picture on the far right is of the condition of the leather on the armrest. i had foolishly hoped that the leatherique repair product would work for sealing the cracks, but the leather was so old and dry that it broke apart after i finished. The 2 pics on the left actually show the armrest repaired and dyed to match the seats. It didnt last for too long though. I've since managed to actually fit the e24 armrest in. Extremely tight fit and not too practical as a functioning armrest given how tightly its wedged in, but aeshetically it works. The first 2 pics also show the first coat of dye on the panels and rear qtr rests. The qtr rests turned out much better than the center armrest as the leather was in considerably better shape. I've also since sourced a set of e24 seabelts that i have yet to install - clean look though considering the receptacles mount into slots inside the center armrest.
 

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bimmerboy73

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here are a couple of quick shots of the rear of an e24 seat. I forgot to snap the pics before i went to town with the dremel so the before pic on the left shows the pieces i removed set back in place. Not rocket science here. Once you see the rear of the e9 seat in comparison, it kind of becomes straightforward as to what material has to be removed. Put simply, you need to take off the protruding 'ribs' from the back of the seat and carve away the plastic shell from the outside rear edge of the seats so that they fit snuggly over the wheel wells. The original e9 seats are contoured to fit the wells, the e24's are not. Still debating as to whether or not to try to remove material from the bottom of the seat back to get them to sit lower in the car. As they are now, they sit about 4 or 5 cm higher than the e9 seats...
 

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bimmerboy73

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couple of shots of the original front seats that were in the car. yeah, not great. i had debated getting them recovered, but honestly am more a fan of the fit and style of the seats in my e28. So.... for half the cost of the original seat resto, i picked up the recaros and dropped them in. No regrets. i know its not to everyone's taste (which i completely respect), but i personally like the upgrade and dont think it tarnishes the classic, sporting feel of the coupe. I have more pics to share of the final install but for now... the 3rd image shows the original seats removed and the cleaned and greased rails from the original seats in place. You can also see the carpet has been dyed black at this point (this came out surprisingly well, but more on that later). back to the seats... essentially, what i did (and i think there's probably more tan one way to do this) was to buy 1/4" x 3" steel bar stock (from Ace Hardware), cut to match the length of the rails and the mounted the bar to the inside - did this to both sides. This allowed me to then drill mounting holes into the steel plates to receive the smaller width base of the recaros. I aligned the outside edge of the recaros with teh outside rail. this means the seat is slightly off center (to the outside) but to me that wasnt a big deal. You could probably get around that by mounting the steel plates to both the outside and the inside rails and then centering teh seat between them. Might sound confusing but its actually pretty straightforward once you get everything apart and see what you are working with. Note - 3/8" aluminum bar is easier to work with than steel. I actually had to use 2 x 1/8" pieces sandwiched together to get the 1/4" dimension i was looking for (Ace didnt have it stocked and i sint feel like waiting...:))
 

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Tundra

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This is a very interesting and informative thread. I'm curious as to your experience/thoughts on Leatherique dye. I intend use their product to dye a spare set of all four seats and panels that are currently white to a tan/saddle color. Did you find the dye process to be complicated and are you satisfied with the result ?
 

bimmerboy73

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I personally think leatherique is a fantastic product. I've used it twice now.. once to restore the black leather interior in my e28 and most recently on this project where i've completely changed the color of the interior (from black to beige on the front seats - and vinyl no less). I was apprehensive to say the least about using it on the panels and on the black vinyl, but its been on for about 5 months now and has held perfectly. The only blemish ive had came when i was placing a large and heavy box into the rear seat. The box scraped the rear of the front passenger seat hard enough that it damaged the surface of the vinyl a bit (very, very small scratch) and with it the dye. Other than that, the dye has held very well... even on the door handles! Granted i typically have a light touch when in my car, but the interior has seen the normal scuffs and nicks here and there fro normal use and its all held together perfectly. Now in 3 years time i may be singing a different tune, but 5months in, no complaints. The key when applying the dye, particularly when changing from a dark to lighter color is building up in VERY thin coats and waiting the appropriate amount of time before applying the second coat. Also very important to clean the surface VERY well - This is most important!. For the vinyl, i spent at least an hour cleaning them and they were newly restored. You have to be sure you remove all oil and dirt. And wear vinyl gloves when working as the natural oils from your hands can sabotage the finish. Light, wet-sanding between coats works well also.

This is a very interesting and informative thread. I'm curious as to your experience/thoughts on Leatherique dye. I intend use their product to dye a spare set of all four seats and panels that are currently white to a tan/saddle color. Did you find the dye process to be complicated and are you satisfied with the result ?
 

bimmerboy73

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Snapped a few more pictures. Still in progress, but here you can see the front seat completely dyed, as well as the door pull and panel. The picture makes the seat fabric look a little faded but its really not. The fabric dye worked very well. There are also 2 pictures showing the steel plates that were bolted to the inner rail so that the smaller recaro base could be bolted down. I hid everything under a piece of carpet that i cut from an old floor mat (still needs piping on one end and a complete dye). Forgive the mess :)
 

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Tundra

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Great job. The interior really came out very nice. How much of that dye did you need to do it all? If I order it I want to make sure I don't get too much.
 

bimmerboy73

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Andre,

It took roughly 16oz to do what you see in the pictures. I still have to do the drivers seat and go back around and touch up, but i'm confident 32oz would be enough to do an interior,

Great job. The interior really came out very nice. How much of that dye did you need to do it all? If I order it I want to make sure I don't get too much.
 

verde2002

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Do I understand correctly that you were able to shoehorn the E24 seats in without any modifications? Also why did you use the E21 front Recaro seats and not the E24 Recaro seats?
 

bimmerboy73

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Do I understand correctly that you were able to shoehorn the E24 seats in without any modifications? Also why did you use the E21 front Recaro seats and not the E24 Recaro seats?
just saw this so i apologize for not responding sooner. You do have to modify the seats to get them in. This involves removing (cutting away) a good bit of the plastic molding that makes up the seat back. The pictures i posted showed my first round of removal. Since then, i removed a bit more of the plastic from the underside of the seat to get them to sit a little lower. Since i also used the e24 arm rest, i ended up replacing the rear deck cover with one that i made using the the original piece as a template. You dont HAVE to do this, but if you want the seats and armrest to fit snug against the deck, i'd recommend it.

As to why i used the e21 recaros as opposed to the e24... it was really just an issue of timing. I wanted to use the e24 seats but at the time (last summer), they were extremely hard to come by. The one set i did find ended up selling for over $1000 and they were vinyl as well. At the time, my thinking was that if i had to pay that much that i'd just go ahead and get my stock seats recovered with WorldUpholstery's material. So, i picked up the e21's for almost half the cost and went to work. I'm pretty happy with them. This summer i plan on replacing the dyed vinyl sections with double stitched leather (black on pearl beige). I may have the inserts replaced as well... not sure yet. The leather kit is a shade under $500 so even when you add in the cost of the seats, i'm still at or slightly under what the vinyl e24's would have cost.

As an update for those considering dying your seats (specifically dying vinyl), the dye is holding up extremely well. Does it look as nice as leather? of course not, but it looks no worse than the original black vinyl did. Door panels look the same as they did when i did them, as do the seats. The seats have really been a surprise since i figured that the process of getting in and out constantly would wear the dye off. So far so good. Pretty easy to clean too. The rear seats are less of a concern since they are leather and the dye tends to soak in and adhere a bit better.

Hope this is helpful...
 
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