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Sport Seat Reupholstering    Author: Jordan Sarette

Sport seats are the most desirable factory seating for the E30 chassis. They provide great lumbar support, hold you in place on those delightful twisties, and just look plain good. They came standard in the M3, 325iS, and 318iS. I believe they were available as a option on other E30's after 1987. The seat stitching on the M3 seats was horizontal, and is seen as more eye pleasing then the 'iS version of the seat, which is otherwise identical aside from the vertical stitching.

First off, what have you got to start with? What condition are your seats in? If the material covering you seats has cracks that don't break the surface, then you can more then likely get away with simple leather conditioner, it will moisten and soften the leather. If you have cracks that break the surface, or you can see foam at all, its time to reupholster. In the interest of good looks, and uniformity, unless all but one section of your seats are in mint condition, I highly recommend you reupholster the entire surface of the seat.

Alright, time to get down to the dirty work. The first matter of business is tearing the seat apart. If you have not already done so, remove the seats from your car. Then are held in by 4 large bolts; 2 at the front of rails, 2 at the rear. The rears should be covered by plastic caps, so pull those up and off. Once the seat is out, find a nice work area. A carpeted area is the best, as kneeling on a hard floor for a long time isn't much fun.

 The first thing you want to remove is the rear panel of the seat, which is fairly easily done, but you can get hung up. Remove any plastic handles sticking out of the side of the seat on either side. The handles themselves pull straight off, and the black plastic covers pry up on one side, then pop out. Once this is done, move to the bottom of the rear panel, where you will find 2 Phillips-head screws on either side - remove these. Now the panel is free to move around. Carefully pry at the panel until it wiggles free, and slide it up until the levels on either side won't allow it to come up any more. Now pry up one side, and slip it over the level, being careful not to break the rear panel, because it is nothing more then pressed particle board, laminated in leather. Once you get that one side free, it should be totally free, do what you need to to remove it from here.

Now you need to gain access to the sides of the seat. Do this by removing the roundish plastic parts that cover the recliner mechanisms. Each are held on by one plastic flathead screw. Inside, you will see a metal wire, with a clip at the end, the clip slides over a peg on the mechanisms. Use your pliers to separate the peg and the clip. Don't be afraid to bend the clip a little, they bent back fine. What you want to try to do is bent the small square tab back on the clip since it will give you all the room you need. Do this on both sides. Now take a look at the center hubs on either side. They have a small metal arm reaching out of them, with a peg on the end of the arm. These arms pull right out - remove them. Now you have access to the retainer clips on the hub, seen on either side. The best way to remove these is with pliers made to do so, but a pair of needle nose pliers with pointy tips worked fine for me. Keep trying at these until you get them, they can be stubborn. Once removed, pull the recliner mechanism up and off the hub on either side. Now look at the back of the seat and follow the frame of the seat to the bottom on either side, where you will find 2 large Phillips-head screws - remove them. Once done, you can pull up on the top half of the seat, and it will come off the other half. Now it is easier to work with.

As this task comes to a close (for the first seat anyways, you get to do all that again muhahaha) you should set up a ironing board and get the iron heating. If you have leather, set it to maximum heat. If you have vinyl, set it to very little heat. If you have cloth then set to middle heat. Now you need to iron every single piece perfectly flat. It's ok to use steam or water to aid you on cloth, but DO NOT use either on leather, it was cause it to grossly distort as it soaks up water quickly. As for vinyl, be very careful not to melt it: move fast. Ironing out the parts can be very time consuming. It all depends on what condition of materials you started with - dry hard leather takes forever to iron flat. As you finish this, you should have quite a stack of pieces piling up. Lay them out on the floor nice and neatly to get a better idea just how much work has to be done.

 You should wind up with something like this. Quite alot of material, eh? Each seat uses about 2.5-3 yards of material or more if you screw up on cutting out parts. Start tracing the outlines of your pieces onto the new material. Be careful and take your time; if things don't line up here, they will look bad on the seat. Sew the new pieces together where they originally were. Take care to create nice and straight, or long and curvy lines because abrupt curves don't look good at all when turned outside out. Make sure you double or triple stitch areas that will need it, as they were before you ripped the threads out. Take your time, and put the seat back together piece by piece. Start with the bottom bolsters, then the top bolsters, then the thigh rest, then bottom cushion, then the back cushion. Pull the new covering over the pig ears and make it tight, then bend the pig ears back down as they were before. Reassemble the seat frame, put all the mechanisms, knobs, and such back on.

After this you should have nothing left to do besides the rear panel, but this one is a bit trickier. It requires either quick setting spray glue, or rubber cement. Test either on your material first to make sure it doesn't bleed through. Personally, I'm avoiding doing this, so I opted to simply dye my rear panels. If you insist on recovering them you need to do a few more things. Peel the material off the old rear panel, so you have a nice clean surface to work with. Cut a piece of material that is enough to cover it, and wrap it around onto the inside. Cover the panel in spray glue or rubber cement, and follow the directions for optimal set time on the package. Place the new material in place, and work it into its general position by hand. You may or may not get satisfactory results this way. If you don't, place the entire thing in a large garbage bag, preferably one you can see into, and place a vacuum cleaner hose into it. Tape the bag to the hose so it's generally airtight. Turn the vacuum on and watch the material get compressed onto the panel. This process is referred to as vacuum bagging.

 From here on out your on your own. I hope you enjoyed this write up.