When it comes to restoring your fox-body interior, there is a virtual cornucopia of options. There are aftermarket stock replacements, over-the-counter custom-styled seat covers, and you can’t forget the custom upholstery shops that can do just about anything you want. The trick is narrowing down the options list, and figuring out exactly what you want. It may just be available from a catalog.
One style that is always popular is leather. The drawback of leather is that it is expensive, Recovering a set of front seats at an upholstery shop can easily require 2 hides, which at $300-500 per hide, is quite pricey. There is another option, buying pre-made seat covers and installing them yourself. The premier dealer in these types of leather goods is Katzkin. As a matter of fact, the fox-body Mustang seats were Katzkin’s first pattern that they created many years ago.
The seat covers come in many different flavors, with a wide array of colors and textures. Custom embroidery, seat heaters, coolers, and even massagers can easily transform a mundane, weathered interior into a modern cockpit full of creature comforts.
For our ’89 convertible, we chose Katzkin’s Dove Gray leather with black stitching and piping. Installing these covers requires minimal upholstery experience, but the hog rings will surely frustrate more than one amateur upholsterer. A good set of $30 hog ring-pliers is a good idea when installing any seat cover, your hands will thank you, but if you never plan on recovering another set of seats, you can skip the extra expense.
This Mustang is a special case, as this turbo-charged convertible spends a fair amount of time at the track running well past the 13.49 ET mark. This means that in order to pass tech, there must be a roll bar. Installing a roll bar in the car required the lower rear seat to be modified to clear the bars. In order to make the new seat cover fit and look good, we had Gary Lette, of Redline Auto Sports in Wilson, OK, modify the new cover. The rest of the seat covers installed in just a few hours and the results are impressive.
1. The first step in recovering a seat is stripping the old cover. This process is more involved than you might think. For the rear seats, a set of sharp, heavy-duty side cutters snip the old hog rings. The newer the car, the harder this part will be as late-model cars have thicker hog rings.
2. Underneath the cover, there are several areas that are recessed into the foam and ringed. Be careful not to put too much stress on the nylon bars; break or pull one of these out and the seat will not have the definition it needs.
3. These are the world’s cheapest hog ring pliers, but they work. I seriously suggest buying a better pair. The hog rings (not supplied with the kit surprisingly) fit inside the jaws as shown.
4. To begin the install, one side of the cover is attached to the frame. Only 2 or 3 rings are needed.
5. Then the top sections are ringed in place. There is a trick to this- first hook one side of the ring in the cover, then pop the lower hook under the bar and clamp. Make sure the cover is centered on the foam.
6. The new covers from Katzkins have the flaps sewn into the cover and use a soft nylon cord in place of the factory wire.
7. Using a hook tool, from the backside of the seat, the vinyl flap was captured and pulled through the foam.
8. Then a hog ring was clamped on through the aluminum panel and around the nylon cord. It took a couple of tries to get this part right.
9. Then the rest of the seat was ringed on. Start each section in the middle and work outwards on both sides, stretching and pulling to keep the cover tight.
10. The finished upper rear seat back. The cover looks a little lumpy, but its leather and it will take a few days in the sun to smooth out.
11. The lower rear seat required a little surgery to fit around the roll-cage bars. We marked the original seat cover in the car.
12. Using a sawzall, we sliced through the bar in the seat. This is a really good way to lose a hand, so be careful if you need to repeat this section.
13. The new covers were placed over the old foam and marked with chalk to locate the exact area for the mod.
14. Using scissors and a razor blade, Gary Lette of Redline Auto Sports, trimmed out the leather.
15. With our Mini-Brute portable sewing machine, Gary stitched in a piece of vinyl to close up the hole he just cut.
16. The result is a nice sculpted pocket for the roll bar to fit. The seat cover was ringed in place just like the upper seat.
17. The front buckets are a little different. The top and bottom sections were separated and all the plastic covers were removed.
18. The upper portion has a zipper on the bottom, pretty simple.
19. These rods are a little tricky. Cut the hog rings and pull them out.
20. Snip the upper recess flap like before. Slide off the old cover and slide the new one on.
21. Slide the old rods into the sleeves stitched in the new covers. There is a metal bar that these rods hook under at the top of the seat, make sure that happens. Then hog ring the lower portion like this. These rings need to be tight.
22. Zip up the bottom and the top us done.
23. The seat bottom is similar, and has the same style of rods. The bottom simply snaps in using these sewn-on clips. Super easy.
24. The lumbar support, seat back adjuster, and such require a little cutting to install. Make sure you have the position correctly located and slice the cover with a razor. An X works better than trying to remove the entire section.
25. The switches and knobs reinstall just like normal.
26. The last piece of the puzzle is the headrest. The flap at the bottom pops out with the help of a screwdriver or similar flat blade.
27. Mark the front of the foam so the cover is installed correctly, it is very easy to get this one turned around.
28. The new cover slides over the foam and the plastic flap rotates into the catch.
29. This is the way is should look. If the cover is loose or you can see the clip, you didn’t do it right.
30. All done and ready to go back in the car. As stated earlier, the covers will smooth out after a few days in the sun. If the foam in your seats is worn, you can add a little polyester batting to tighten things up a bit.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).