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Fitting MG ZR seats in an MGB

For quite some time, my old faithful MG ZT had been a source of inspiration for the work on my BGT such that, as you will have noted on a number of pages, I keep toying with the idea of V6 power!  Anyway, staying on topic, I have always felt the seats in my BGT to be a bit under-whelming.  When I bought the car it had recently had recovered seats (in black vinyl/nylon) and new foams fitted so I couldn't grumble about the comfort, just that for my driving style, I wanted something that would hold me a little better, rather like my ZT seats do.  In addition, I had started a black with red piping theme throughout the car -carpets and trim panels, and I wanted to extend this to the seats.  Whilst the cheapest option would have been to purchase black with red piping vinyl seats, I really wanted something a little better in the way of quality.

I had watched all the comments on what seats work well, such as Fiero and Mazda MX5, but I didn't like the style with the integral head rests.  As you know, I like to keep it in the family regarding MG upgrades, so I kept coming back to the seats in my ZT.  Admittedly these were the poverty specification seats being a good quality imitation leather with cloth insets with a matrix pattern in red/green with red stitching.  So I started watching Ebay with interest and having taken some rough measurements off my wife's Rover 214, I figured that I stood a chance of making ZR seats in the same style fit the BGT!  Ho hum!  

As no one was likely to let me rip their ZR seats out to see if they fitted, I figured the best way forward was to buy a set of seats and try!  Well, I wasn't on a losing wicket really, as I could always sell them on to some one with a Rover 200 trying to create an MG ZR if the plan was a non-starter.  It was simply a case of finding the right set!  The trouble is that most of the seats that come up on Ebay are a full set including the rear bench, and in the yellow/blue matrix pattern.  Of course there are also the full leather seats but these generally start around £200.  Eventually I found a set in the colour I wanted from a 3-dr that I won for around £100 - the problem is that the quality of these seats are so good, many breakers advertise them as Recaros and describe them as leather!  I chose 3-dr rather than 5-dr as I thought that I would need the tipping mechanism, but as it turns out, 5-dr seats would have been better. 5-dr seats would also be cheaper as the young blades tend to want 3-dr seats for their modified "Rova"s.

Here are the seats as purchased below, with the head rest removed:

The first job was to remove the passenger seat, a painful job!  On initial fit, it was a definite no go!  So, I started removing the seatbelt (the modern exploding type) and side trim panel.  Still no luck, but getting there!  I then cut the feet down - at last the possibility of a fit!  But, on sitting in the car, the seat was too far back, with limited adjustment and too high - even at my relatively short stature, the thought of driving around with head hitting the sunroof holds little appeal!

By this time, I had gone too far with breaking down the seat so even convincing the wife her Rover would benefit from some ZR seats was out of the question! Oh well, nothing left but to remove the covers and inspect the foams before writing it off as a lesson learned the hard way.  That was when Stephen arrived, and he insisted I strip the BGT seat - and lo, success was staring us in the face - the new foams/covers could be made to fit the BGT seat frames!

Well, much sitting around in the good seat and pondering and then a trip to Egypt on business, and I came home full of ideas!  Of course the first seat is always the trial, but the second seat went together in under two hours including removal and refitting.  In fact, the back rest does not need to be removed from the frame either.  Of course, you might want to repaint the frames which would add a few hours to the job, but suffice to say, with the handy guide below, you could have a couple of sporty looking seats in an afternoon/evening, for less than the price of new vinyl covers and replacement foams!  A bit of welding is required if you want the matching two-post headrests, but nothing complicated.

First of all, you will need to remove the seats from your B, and remove the old covers and foams.  Set aside the clamp rings as these will be re-used on the new covers. You may find it easier to lift the cover on the back rest to expose the mount for the head-rest post as the head-rest may sometimes be difficult to remove.  The mount looks like this in the photo below, and you may need to hit the headrest post with a hammer if it is tight - mine came free easily enough.

 

Then you will need to strip the covers and foams off your ZR seats.  This is a very straightforward job, as the covers have plastic strips that clip to the frame.  The plastic strips will not be used on the BGT seat frames, so you can be ruthless with breaking the plastic to get the covers off.  Remove the head rests, and pop the plastic domes off the support tubes with a flat-blade screwdriver. On the back rest, you will encounter a rod which is fixed with rings to the cover, so here you need to snip the rings - the pink material in the photo below.

Once the covers are off the foams come away with ease.  I was very impressed with the way the covers are pulled into the foams, it uses Velcro strips in the grooves (photo below), so there is no need for adhesive on this job.

This is the seat frame of the ZR seat - very well designed in my opinion.

Now, as you will most likely want to keep the two-post matching head-rest, you will need to make this next modification involving a spot of welding.

Although the standard seat frame has two tubes up the back, these are the wrong distance apart unfortunately, and the new head rest mount as some clever plastic supports with spring clips which need to be fitted.  So as per the design of the ZR seat back, I figured I could cut the section out of the top rail, and weld it to the seat back.  Remove the plastic inserts by squeezing the two halves at the bottom of the tube, and set them aside.

You will need to cut about 10mm off the top of each support tube on the seat back, and then you mount the section you have cut out to sit on top of each tube.  The section you cut out will still have the cross bar for added strength.  Also, note the tubes for the head rest post must be fitted with the recess to the top, other wise the plastic inserts won't fit.  You can see the final fit of the support tubes and my non-professional arc welding!

Insert the plastic supports back into the head-rest tubes.  In fact, you should also make a further modification here which I did not.  The tubes have now turned through 180°, so a matching recess should be cut into the tube on the opposite side so that the plastic inserts are correctly aligned for the head rest posts.  The plastic insert has a spring wire which fits the recesses in the head rest posts, but this modification is not critical, it just means your head rest will not lock into a position, but it won't be a problem.

Now you can drop the seat back foam over the back rest and check the fit.  You will notice that I have not used the card-backing on the seat frame, you could probably re-use that, but I left it out as the back rest of the ZR does not have this hardboard.

Of course, you will need to cut out a circle for the seat back recliner lever.

Slide the cover over the foam, and squeeze the Velcro into place ensuring a good snug fit on the foam.  Once you are satisfied with the fit, pull the lower back material down tight and secure with the circular clips on to the lower bar.  At the front, I simply pushed the material through and tucked it up into the seat back.  Refit the plastic domes on top of the head rest tubes, you will need to check the alignment as these domes have a peg that when you rotate the dome, it moves the spring clip over to allow the post to move.

You will notice that the foam fortuitously leaves sufficient space at the bottom to allow for the seat tipping lever to be used.  I guess it could do with some trim to finish this off better but it is not particularly noticeable when in the car.

One final job on the back rest is to fit the reclining lever.  You will have a problem here as the foam sits out quite far leaving a recess in the foam for the spindle.  the standard lever will not sit in it - you will need to use a lever like I had from the set of drilled alloy door fittings as sold for Minis.  this has a base that will fit into the recess.

To complete the seat, of course the base needs finishing.  The foam needs cutting down for two reasons, one being that the height is too much, and the other that by cutting the foam down allows more material to be pulled down around the frame.  Using a Junior hacksaw, cut the raised lip all the way around the front.

Then, to get a good fit between the seat hinges, you will need to cut some of the foam away.

Once the foam is prepared, place it on the base, and fit the cover over, again ensuring a good fit into the Velcro in the grooves so that the inset is a snug fit.  Pull the material down over the bar at the front and secure with the circular clips. Repeat at the rear of the seat base, and tehn along the sides.  

The seat is now finished!

Refit the seats and you should still have full forward/aft movement, as well as seat tipping.  The seat belt stalks will still fit and the handbrake lever is still accessible.

Old & new...

Finished job...

After a trip to Silverstone, I can safely say this is one of the best value upgrades I have made!

 

MG ZR seats

MG ZR seats

With the easy availability of low cost seats from the MG ZR, it makes sense to look at these as a simple, low cost upgrade to the MGB seating.  However, the seats are a little bigger than the originals but they do make for very supportive and comfortable seating.