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The text following is part of a series of articles written by John S. Henry on the restoration and maintenance of air-cooled Volkswagens. While his experience is exclusively with the Beetle, many of the techniques can be applied to other models.

This text is copyrighted and duplication, re-distribution or publication is prohibited without consent of the author.

Article: Beetle Seat Adapter Plate for Tall People
Last updated: 9/27/00

Beetle Seat Adapter Plate for Tall People

Symptom: You are tall and your legs/back hurts after you drive your Beetle a long way.
In mid summer 2000, my first year of really driving this car a lot, it became clear that the driver's seat didn't quite go back as far as I would have liked it to.  This was not a new problem for me; in 3 other cars I have owned previously, I had modified the seat for greater rearward adjustment.  In my daily driver, watercooled Cabriolet, I welded in an extra 2" of center seat rail for this purpose.  I am no giant, but at a mostly-legs, 6' 3", I find many cars weren't designed to accommodate my kind of drivers very well.  I am prone to having back pain and felt it in the days after a long "show run" in the car, so I decided to do something about it.

I knew that I didn't want to permanently modify the floor pans or the seats, so I came up with this idea of an adapter plate.  The materials I used were:

  • 16.5" x 16.25" plate of 10 gauge steel.  This stuff was mucho heavy, a slightly thinner gauge would probably do just as well.  Got it from a local metal fab shop of $15.
  • Set of floorpan seat rails.  Hacked out of a rusty '65 parts car in Alaska by a kind enthusiast from the newsgroup.  Only the side rails are actually needed, the cross member that goes between them along the front edge isn't used.
  • Set of seat frame bottom tubes.  The tubes with the sliders on them, and the pivoting adjustment/locking mechanism.  Ultimately, these are cut flush along a line that follows the top edge of the lower tube (see diagram below)

  • You'll need a MIG welder (you could use a gasless MIG here, as the steel is all pretty thick) and a can of spray paint if you want to dress it up a bit.  I used Eastwood's "Chassis Black"
Now I believe that the seat rails/frames that I used are all the same up until about 1969.  But check to make sure everything fits before expending any effort to put this thing together.

I did all of the cutting of the tubes and rails with a 3" carbide disc on a pneumatic die grinder (see the "#4 Restoration, page 1" article for pics and descriptions of tools).  I used body hammers, a small anvil and vice to straighten out the rails and of course wire brushed and ground down everything to shiny as I knew I would be welding and painting.  Don't skip this step.

{click on the images below for a full sized version, then use you "back button to return here..}

Unfortunately I didn't have access to a digital camera when I was making this thing and quite frankly, I was such a hurry to get it done, I doubt I would have even taken the time to take pics.   But this is the completed plate, and like any all-black object on a cement garage floor, the picture sucks.  This is the top of the plate, the front edge is to the left.  You can see the seat rails welded to the plate.  The hole is cut in the middle to reduce weight (the whole plate weighed in at 13 lbs!) and allow you to easily reach things that might otherwise be lost in this narrow cavity.

Note that the rails are "cut down" and their normal "slope" is flattened out.  This is because you don't want to effectively "double" the seat slant when you put this plate on the already sloping floor rails.  On the very back end, I had to flatten out some of the flange that is normally bent at a right angle and spot welded to the floor to "make up" the roughly 1" height that I had chosen.  In hindsight, you could make this a bit lower, but too much more and you would lose some of the "adjustment fingers" plate and possibly have interference with the pivoting "fingers" plate in the seat when it is slid on. 

Note that the rails oriented to the very back edge of the plate.  And if I was really being anal about this design, I probably would have welded in little perpendicular gussets along the inside edge to give the rails lateral strength so they aren't inclined to just "fold over".  The cross piece that normally goes across the front of the rails is not used here.

Here is the bottom of the plate, the front edge is to the right.  You can see that the seat frame tubes are cut down along a line that is even with the top edge of the tube.  They are welded all the way to the front of the plate and the pivoting adjustment/locking "fingers" plate is still attached and functional.  The knob rod though is cut short as it interferes with the adjustment rod on the seat when it is slid onto the plate if left as is.

Again, if I did this again and wanted to try to minimize the added height using the plate, I would look into removing just the rail sliders from the tubes and just weld them to the plate bottom.  This would eliminate the added height of the tube diameter.  But I'm not sure if there would be clearance problems then with the pivoting adjusting/locking plate.

If you make up one of these plates, just tack weld the fixtures to the top and bottom of the plate in a couple places and then fit it up.  Make sure everything works and clears.  Make sure it all slides along freely.  I took some rough measurements, tacked it, but it was way too loose and sloppy, I had to cut the tacks with the carbide disc and re-weld.  Don't create re-work!!

This shows how the seat bottom tubes are welded to the bottom of the plate.  Guess I shouldn't quit my day job and take up welding as a career huh?  The tubes were welded like this on both ends, and also tacked up pretty heavily at a point mid way between the ends.
Here is the plate installed, with the seat on it and both slid all the way rearward.  You can see that plate provides a full 4" of additional adjustment.  The back edge of the adapter plate virtually touches the carpet, and its adjustment mechanism can lock it there.  Then the seat can be adjusted on the rails on the adapter plate the same way as it is done with when it is on the floor.

With straight, clean and lightly greased rails (both sets), this plate is slid in and out with ease.  While I haven't done it yet, a small hole near the front edge of the plate will allow for the use of the return spring that is used in the stock setup.

Here you can see the immense leg room created with the seat all the way back.   The backside of the seat is about 3" away from the rear bench.  Wilt Chamberlain could sit comfortably here!  I actually can barely even drive the car with it this far back.    About 2 "notches" forward from here seems about right for me.

Note that the passenger seat is all the way back on its rails.

Here are a couple "comparo" pictures.  In the top photo, the seat sits on the stock rails, slid all the way back.  In the lower photo, the adapter plate is installed and both it and the seat on it are slid all the way back.  You can see that the plate raises the seat up just under 2".


Copyright© 2000; John S. Henry

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