Our 1985 VW Vanagon currently has non-original seats installed in the front. These are buttery soft, gray leather seats with head rests, arm rests and full recline positioning. They still swivel on the original swivel plate. The seats are from a Volkswagen Routan, second row seating option. It is essentially a Dodge Caravan format, and the seats are the same for most any Dodge or Chrysler mini-van. Actually we had blue, velour, captains seats from the front row of a Dodge Caravan previously. We got those for $20 from a junk yard. But who can resist a set of leather front seats for $50 on Craigslist.
To install the seats we had to first remove the original seats. This accomplished by pulling up the side tabs and sliding the seat off the tracks. Then pull the seat out and turn it upside down. Look over the mounting construction so you will know which parts you need to transfer to the “new” seats.
Now get out the tools, turn on some good music and begin this process. Remove the rails which are bolted to the seat base. You will need these for the base of the “new” seats. These can be installed on nearly any seat, once you build a base to put them on.
To build a base we used two pieces of 2 inch wide, flat steel for each seat. It was cut to the width of the base and then holes drilled to line up with the holes on the Routan seats. Then these were attached to the “new” seats.
Then we measured the distance from centerline to centerline on the Vanagon tracks. That same distance was transferred to the newly created base and holes were drilled in the flat steel base. Then the rails should be attached to the flat steel. These rails should be lined up to slide right into the original tracks.
We also cut down the plastic cosmetic covers on the outside of the seats so they would fit in. I left enough length to hide the mechanics of the seat from view. After these are trimmed off, the unit is ready to slide back in the same way you got it out. (BTW- if there are release straps, car seat extensions and other straps hanging off the seats….. cut them off… they will snag when you try to swivel the seat)
The front drivers seat was too tall on the front edge so I installed spacers on the bolts at the back edge of the seat. This angled the seating and allowed enough room for my thighs to NOT touch the steering wheel while driving. We later changed out the steering wheel for a 1973 SuperBeetle wheel to allow even more thigh room.
The height of the seat base is an important consideration in this modification. Sitting up higher will be a problem for taller drivers and will change the view out the windshield, mirror alignment and reach distance to the radio knobs. It will even change the feel of the shifter. We had already installed this extender. In this picture you can see the steering wheel modification, the shift extender and Mike’s tattoo.
One bonus with this modification is that the seats have the receiver end of a seat belt. The original seat belts clip right in at our hips, instead of leaning nearly to the floor to reach the seat belt receiver. We were able to remove our original seat belt receiver. Now our Engel refrigerator sits between the seats.
If you have additional questions please email us through this website.
As always: Do not try this at home without professional consultation (or at least your mother-in-law) Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. Remember that capes will not allow you to fly. Do not swallow flies, spiders or other things that are not digestible. Do not attempt this installation without consulting an attorney, a palm-reader and your wife. Do not go on red. Do not cross on the flashing hand. Always secure all necessary state, national and local permits. And remember to wear your safety glasses.