Has the upholstery in your Fox Body Mustang seen better days? Follow along in this how-to installation guide to see how you can replace your upholstery in your own garage with the help of Late Model Restoration and tech articles!
My 1986 Fox Body Mustang has been in Texas all its life. It also has Canyon red interior. You can put those together and create a lovely recipe for orange faded seats. Mine had also been worn, tattered and smelled bad, so it was time to pursue new seat upholstery.
Mustang replacement seat foam
I started this install knowing it was going to take a while. You cannot knock this out in a couple hours. It ended up taking me an entire day to complete the task. I also recommend some pain killers, and no, I am not kidding. My hands still hurt from doing this!
I will recommend you start with the back seat to collect yourself. The experience you gather from the back seat will help give you a leg up when you tackle the fronts. I have started this blog based on the exact order. Here is a quick before shot to give you an idea of the ugliness we were dealing with beforehand.
Now before we start, the upholstery I am replacing this with was ordered as a mixup, so you will notice the color is a hair off and it's missing the signature gray piping 85-86 Mustangs came with. The kits we sell will have this all corrected.
Once you remove the seats from the car, start with the back of the rear seat. Here we need to remove the seat latch bezels. This only applies if you have a hatchback.
Next, with the seat sitting face down, start pulling the lip away from the metal frame. It's attached with push pins almost identical to 79-93 Mustang door panel push pins. They will just pull right out. It is like this on all 4 corners. Look, a penny!
After you pull all of the push pins loose, basically turn the cover inside out. You will notice it's still sticking to the foam. This is where the hog ring pliers or some good needle nose pliers come in handy. You will need to begin removing the hog rings. The metal rods with the loops on them need to be saved and re-used for your replacement covers. Make note of where your hog rings were and the orientation of the metal rods.
When you start to install the new seat cover, take a look at the metal rods that are imbedded in the foam. These are what the seat covers looped rods attach to via hog rings. Take some time to sort of clear the foam away to make it easier on attaching the new hog rings.
Here is the looped rod that comes out of the original seat cover. Notice the fabric sleeve these slide into. You will slide them in the same fashion inside your new seat cover. There should be 3 looped rods per seat side on a split hatchback seat.
Here we are sliding them like so into the new covers sleeve.
Once all 3 are inserted into their sleeves, turn the new cover inside out, and place it on the foam.
Now this next step is debatable. You are "supposed" to stick the hog ring pliers in between the cover, and the foam and mate the looped rods with the rods imbedded in the foam. I couldn't get a good photo of this so I got to thinking. I decided on the rear seat backs to attach the hog rings from behind. Yes I did have to make a small hole in the foam to do this, but it didn't hurt the integrity of the foam. Use your logic before doing the same thing I did here. If your foam is worse off than mine looks in the photos, I would do it the harder way. I chose my method for illustration purposes. I started attaching the new hog rings in the same orientation as the old ones were. The seat cover is sitting in my lap with the foam laying on top of it for this photo.
Once that is done, here is what it will look like from the front. Notice the cover is following the lines of the foam nicely and good and tight. Don't be afraid to use several hog rings. The kit we sell provides more than enough and the more hog rings, the tighter it will be. There are some small wrinkles in the material. These all go away after the next step.
Next we need to turn it up on the side and you will now see the new plastic sleeves with holes for the push pins. These need to be turned one time so that the fabric is covering them up. You will need to cut small openings in the material so that the push pins will come through the fabric. I used a sharp razor blade for this. Once all of the pushpins are sticking out and ready to go, you will simply re-install the rear carpeted plate and push all the push pins back into their openings. Once this is done, re-install the bezel for the handle if you have a hatchback. You have now successfully finished one portion of the back of the rear seat. The other side is the exact same scenario.
Once these are done, let's move to the bottom of the rear seat. This is a breeze compared to the backs. All you need to do is turn it upside down, and start pulling the hog rings loose. Again, keep an eye on where these hog rings are, because you need to re-install the new covers hog rings in similar locations. Once again, don't be afraid to use too many hog rings. You won't run out.
Once you remove the bottom, the new will basically install in the exact opposite fashion. There are no metal loop rings to swap over on this one so it's not nearly as difficult. It helps to have a friend on this one though because you have to pull and tug pretty hard on the material to get it over the foam. A good hot day will help the material stretch too. Once this is all done, you are now ready to re-install the seat in the car. Once this is done, you can stand back and admire your work.
Take a break and get ready to dive into the front seats!
After removing the front seat, we need to get that knee bolster off (only applies if you have sport seats). Looking on the bottom side of the seat, you will find the 2 dowel pins that keep the knee bolster from coming out. These will need to be removed. Once they are removed, just pull out the knee bolster and it will slide right out.
Once the knee bolster is in your lap, you need to remove the handle to pull it out with, followed by 2 nuts that hold the metal reinforcement and the tracks. Once this is removed, you will see a series of staples. I used some pliers and pulled them all out and reinstalled the new on in the same fashion. A staple gun makes this part go by in about 5 minutes.
Once your knee bolster is finished, let's move on to the bottom of the seat. Here we need to remove the 4 bolts that hold the seat track in place.
Once the seat track is out of the way, we need to now remove the knob located on the side of the seat. There is a small hole on the side of it. An allen key will be needed to unscrew this. Once it's threaded outward, the knob should just slide right off. Make a general note of where the stub for the knob is located. You will need to make a hole in the new cover later for this.
Next, we need to remove the cover for the hinge mechanism. It is held on with two phillips screws.
Once the cover is out of the way, you will see 2 bolts that must come out.
Once these are out, carefully remove the torx head nut on the other side of the seat. This should allow the seat to separate.
Now that the seat is separated, flip the bottom of it upside down and you will see a plastic sleeve on all four corners. These will simply slide off with an upward twist.
Once these are all slid off, you need to start slowly turning the cover inside out. The metal rods that hold the seat cover on, are attached to each other in a tongue and groove type of fashion. You will need to take your fingers where I am pointing, and pull up until the metal rod comes out from under the horizontal rod that runs the width of the seat.
Here is what it will look like once you pull it free
Once this rod is pulled free, you will start finding hog rings again. Start cutting or twisting these free. Remember, the looped rods these hold in place must be re-used. Here is where one of those pesky hog rings happens to be hiding.
Once you hunt all of the hog rings down and free them, slide the looped rod out of the old cover and put it to the side.
Repeat this process on the second looped rod.
Once the looped rods are out of the way, you can now slide the cover off of the 2 permanent rods you pulled free. Once they are removed, turn the new cover inside out, and start re-installing the looped rods like so.
Once these looped rods are in the sleeves of the new cover, it's time to basically reverse the process of removing the hog rings. First slide the cover over the 2 permanent rods sticking out of the foam. Then you can start installing the new hog rings. Start from the middle and work your way back
Once you have the new hog rings all in place, we need to get the permanent rods you pulled free back under the horizontal rod. I did this by slightly bending it and sliding it under the loop of the horizontal rod. Once I got it in there, I pushed down on it to straighten it back up.
Once you have plenty of hog rings in there, it's time to start pulling the cover over the rest of the foam. Take your time here. Once it's pulled over, you can stand back and admire your work for a second.
See how it looks a bit loose? Now we need to flip it upside down and re-attach the new plastic sleeves. All you have to do is pull and tug until they will slide over the metal frame. Once this is done, it's time to start cutting holes for the accessories.
First, I felt for the holes that the knee bolster attaches through. A sharp razor blade makes quick work of this. Always cut the hole smaller than you need. You can always make the hole larger, but you can't make it smaller.
Remember the nub for the knob I was telling you to remember its general location of? Now it's time to find it. You will find the bulge where it is, and again start cutting a small hole until it pokes through. Once its cut, re-install the knob with the allen screw. Do the same for the handle on the knee bolster and you are now done with the bottom of the front seat.
Now it's time to tackle the back of it!
First thing to knock out on the back portion of the front seat is to unzip it.
Once it's unzipped, you will see a couple hook looking rods with hog rings holding them in place. The hog rings need to go.
Once the hog rings are gone, you will need to pull the rod out. It will be the length of the seat. This is held in up by the headrest in the same fashion as the tongue and groove rods the bottom of the seat has. There is one rod on each side that must come out.
Once these rods are gone, the middle portion of the seat will have a horizontal rod that was held in under the large rods. It will then need to be removed from the original cover and put aside for the replacement.
Next, we must remove the headrests. As you remove the seat cover sort of like a candy wrapper, you will expose a black tab that the headrest slides into. There's a lip or tab that must be pushed open to release the tension on the headrest. Without doing this, the headrest will NOT come out. Trust me, I tried until I figured this part out. I put a flat head screw driver in there to hold it open, and the headrest slid right out.
Once the headrest is pulled out, you can now pull the rest of the cover off like a candy wrapper. Now we get to start installing the new one. Before starting on the seat, turn the new cover inside out to expose where the looped metal rod sleeves are. You will start hog ringing the first rod you approach.
Now here comes a tricky part. I had trouble illustrating this in the photo too but hopefully you will get the idea. The second rod we removed in the middle portion of the seat is not held in with hog rings. Instead, it's held in under those 2 large rods we removed. Without doing this critical step, your covers will not look right at all and will bulge out in the middle. You need to situate the rod with its v-bend point towards the foam so it will cradle or hug the large rod when you stick it back in there. Here is a picture showing how the horizontal rod should be sitting.
Once you have the horizontal rod pointing in the right direction, start re-inserting the large rods. This is sort of tricky. You have to make sure the horizontal rod cradles it correctly and also make sure you get it under the hook that is way up in there by where the headrest is. Yes you will have to stuff your hand in there and work blindly until you find it. It took me a couple minutes but it can be done. You will need to then repeat on the other side. When the rods are pushed completely back up into the seat, make sure they go down into the crack on the foam and also double check again that the middle horizontal rod is being pushed downward by the long rods.
Now that the rods are situated where they should be, it's time to hog ring the hooks on them back to the permanent hooks in the seat frame. I would use several hog rings here as there's quite a bit of pressure holding the rod down.
After you have done this, you can now zip the bottom of the seat together. We're almost there! You now need to cut the hole for the headrest. This is pretty simple. Start feeling for the indention where there is no foam below and make a small cut. The headrest will then slide right down into its base.
Now that is done, you can honestly follow the disassembly instructions to re-connect the base to the back of the seat, install the track, and then put them back into your vehicle. At this point it's time to stand back and enjoy your work. Man what a difference!
Like I said in the beginning, take your time and honestly have some pain killers handy. This does wear your hands out. For a full days worth of work, it's worth it. The seats are like new and the car smells like new. Keep in mind, my covers I installed were mixups so the color is a shade off and they are missing the gray piping. Yours will not be this way. Even though mine were rejects, they still look 100% better than the worn out faded ones. Every time you open the door you will have a grin on your face. Now go out and enjoy your newly refreshed interior!