Beard Seats

Finally, the last piece is gone…

After over 11 years of owning this Jeep, I have finally replaced the last piece of Steel Horse um… "manure" from my CJ.  Even though I learned long ago to avoid anything with the Steel Horse name attached to it, I still had one remaining Steel Horse item lingering on my Jeep: a set of Steel Horse seats.   

Okay, I have to honest, the seats were not that bad… for a while.  But when they did let loose, they went fast.  Unfortunately, the timing of the seat failure matched perfectly with the timing of my engine failure. The cost to rebuild the engine significantly cut into my future seat plans, so I had to endure another year before I got around to buying some new seats for my CJ.

Interior Decorating

If anyone has been following my Jeep projects over the years, they may have noticed that everything I’ve replaced has somehow shifted to a black color.  It has long since been my personal plan to do away with the chrome, followed by the nutmeg colors on my Jeep.  In their place, I have been using black parts as the replacement color.  You can see this in the new wheels, the new soft top, and even with the Herculiner.

Believe it or not, there is a good reason for all of this: most everything will match, regardless of the manufacture.

Put Your Money Where Your ___ Is!

Once upon a time, I got a chance to ride in (and drive) a fancy sand rail. One of the nice features I got to experience when doing this were the seats.  This particular sand rail had front bucket seats that you sat IN and not on.  In the back was a matching "bucket" bench seat.  Using the Internet I was able to find those same seats – and I also discovered that there was an application just for the Jeeps.  (Makes sense.)  So I started saving my money… and saving… and saving…

Beard Seats have been around for many years.  Some of you may have heard of them, and some of you may already have them in your rig.

Beard Seats come in several styles with countless options for material colors and fabric blends.  I spent quite a bit of time sifting through all the color options, and even cut and pasted them together in my MS Paint program to get an idea of what they might look like on the seats.  Then I remembered my current theme: Go Black!  So that made it easy (and somewhat cheaper) for me.

The outside bolster had been separated from getting in and out of the lifted Jeep.  As you can see from this photo the outsides of the front seats (if your Jeep is lifted) tend to get a lot of wear as folks tend to turn and slide off of the seat on their way back to the ground outside.  This causes the seats to break down, and it’s extremely hard on the fabric.  I opted for the Street Seats, as they have a shallower depth to the seat bucket. However, now that I have a full roll cage I do have an overhead grab bar to help me get in and out of the seat without having to slide over the edge. (I actually used this in my financial justification for these seats!)

Direct exposure to the sun (in the summer with no top on) had dried out the seat back on the rear seat.  My rear seat was hardly ever used except by my dog.  However, the sun would shine directly on the back and caused the vinyl fabric to crack over time.  These seats were about five years old.

The Street Seats come with a pair of slots for you lap belt.  Other seats also have the slots for the shoulder harness and five point harnesses, if you so desire.  In my case, I only use the lap belts when I am off road and these slots work perfectly for my Simpson 3" Lap Belts.  Your normal seatbelt (with the shoulder strap) still works over the tops of these seats.

View of rear pocket on the back of the front seats.  I also opted for the taller back on the front seats as I personally have a long torso.  The last option I went for was to add a seat pocket to the back of the seats. I have found in the summer times (when there is no top on the Jeep) that these pockets come in handy for stashing stuff you don’t want to blow out, and can get to from the driver’s seat.

View of the passenger-side front seat bracket, flipped up.  Beard seats require their own mounts.  Fortunately, they make a custom mount for the Jeeps. This mount includes slide adjustments for BOTH front seats, and the passenger side seat flips forward of access into the back.  Having to buy the mount does add to the cost of these seats.  But the good news is that the cost of the PAIR of mounts is little more than the cost of a single new stock mount (Jeep must be real proud of those).  The mounts are made from round tubing, and they are powder coated black.

Installing the New Seats

Note the storage space below the seat.  The rear bench seat is usually little more than a novelty in most Jeeps.  But for those who are unfortunate enough to actually have to sit back there, at least now they can do so in style!  Like the front seats, the rear seat also requires a new mounting pedestal.  The new pedestal sits up fairly high, which allows easy access to the space below for extra storage.  My old rear seat had a nice feature that allowed it to flip forward (no, it wasn’t a fold and tumble rear seat).  It didn’t stay flipped forward, but it did allow you to use the space beneath the bench to keep some items handy (like a tow strap, jumper cables, etc.) but only when accessed from the back side.  With the new seat mounting bracket, the seat is fixed but there is enough room to access this space from either side.  

View of the new back seat with the seatbelts on the new bracket.  The back seat was a breeze to install and it was a direct fit.  The seatbelts attach just like they did before to the floor.  The seats contain slots in them to slip the belts through.  With the bucket sides, the space back there is a little more cramped as a couple inches are lost between the wheel wells.

Installing the front seats required a little more effort.  While the brackets were a direct bolt-in to the existing holes in the tub floor, the seats (mounted to the brackets) were shifted slightly to the left side of the vehicle (in both cases).  Normally nobody would ever notice this.  The exception to this, however, is if you have a center console!

I had to slightly ream out one of the holes on the bottom of the center console.  After I installed the two front seats, I had to remove the center console and "adjust it" slightly (about 3/16ths of an inch) to allow the lid to clear the space between the two seats.  My Tuffy center console is held down by three bolts.  The two in the back are long and can allow for some flexibility.  Unfortunately, the front hole didn't align and needed to be slightly enlarged so I could center the console between the seats.  All and all, this was an easy fix.

After I got the center console even between the front seats, I discovered my next problem: getting the stock seatbelts un-done!  The seats are a little wider than most seats, and space was tight between the seats and the console all stuffed together.  I debated about just using my off-road only lap belts and removing the stock seat belt all together, but I thought that wouldn't be too good of an idea...

View of modified "seatbelt-access" holes in my center console!  After playing with it for 20 minutes, I decided the easiest answer for me would be with a hole saw!  I wasn't real excited about doing this one, but getting the belts undone is a thousand times easier now.  I measured and drilled a "finger hole" on each side of the center console.  Afterwards, I hit the edges with a round file and smoothed off the rough spots.  Now to remove the stock seatbelts, I have to open the center console lid and pop open the belt.  A little annoying, but at least I am legal and safe.  The seats, when installed, totally hide these holes.

View of washers on the seat sliders  The last little issue I wanted to address was the seat adjustment.  As these seats do not have an adjustable back, I felt I should set the back to where it would best fit in my Jeep.  I personally felt the seats were a little "laid back" for my tastes, so I shimmed up the back ends of the seat using washers on the sliders.  It didn't take much, only three washers in my case.  Transposed to the top of the seat back, those three washers moved the backs forward about an inch.

 View of the passenger side front seat tilted forward.  One note of caution, if you are considering these seats AND if you have a full roll cage, depending upon where your overhead stringers are located, you may have problems with the seat tilt option.  My seats just barely cleared the stringer, but rest on the forward hoop.  Unlike the stock tilt-forward feature - which moves the seat up and forward at the same time (with its parallelogram bracket) - these only rock forward on the front edge.  So the resulting space for access to the back is a little more cramped!

 New seats installed.  This is a final view (without the lap belts installed) of the seats installed.  They look pretty good.  My first impressions are that you can really feel the sides of the seat holding you in place!  They may limit some "wider" passengers but I haven't yet experimented with this concept.  I do note that I sit about an inch lower than I did with my old seats.  This actually turns out better for me as I lessen the changes for my head bashing into my overhead radio console or the stringer on my full roll cage!