Rear Seat Conversion

So after a 3000km trip into Mozambique I realised that my boys (13, 15) need to be more comfortable in the back of 'Churchill', my 2006 Defender 110. They needed more legroom and it would be nice if they had higher seats with a head rest. So after doing some research I decided to try and replace my front Defender seats with Disco II seats and move my Defender front seats to the back in place of the bench seat. This is the story of how I went about it.

A few things to take note of:

  1. I love to try and do things myself first (It feels amazing to be able to proudly say 'I did that')
  2. I am not a craftsman I am a software developer.
  3. I will change my plan if necessairy however do feel it necessary to plan properly first.

So here goes.

I started out wanting to replace the rear bench seats with front seats from a smaller car. For a while I looked for seats from any small vehicle but soon found out that the scrapyard dealers pretty much want around the same price for 2 front seats. I looked for Uno seats, Hyandai Accent seats, etc. all for around R2000 for the pair. My wife asked me why I just didn't get Defender front seats so that the car would not look odd with vastly different style seats. I liked the sound of that so phoned British 4x4 and asked about Defender seats. They quoted me around R900+ each but said that the front Defender seats are quite rare and that they may only had 1 available at the time. During the time I was looking for seats I came across a few posts of people making changes replacing the front Defender seats with Disco II seats and putting the Disco II bench (60/40 split) as a replacement for the Defenders bench. Again I contacted British 4x4 and was told that they had a small mountain of Disco II seats to pick from.

A plan started to emerge, I would put the Disco II front seats in front and move my Defender front seats to the rear in place of the bench, and between the seats I would put our Waeco 40l fridge.

A stop off at British 4x4 made me realise that finding seats was not going to be so easy, even though they had about 100 seats there. I wanted manual seats, without armrests, in matching material. I couldnt find a pair so out of despiration I went into the yard and looked through the scrap. Under a pile of bits and pieces and spare parts I found a half leather and half suede set. They were very dirty and there was a little tear on the one side of the drivers seat, but in all they looked like they could do the job. I got one of the guys to help me remove them from the trashed skeleton Disco II body and when the guy behind the counter saw them ... he tutted and said "Ja, they are not in great condition give me R600 each for them". I had had some time to go over them in the yard and they were actually not in such bad nick, they had all the knobs and they both seemed to be in good working condition. I thought the price was fair so loaded them into 'Churchill' and headed back east to start the conversion.

Here is what they looked like when they came home.

I needed to grind off the extra supports under the seats of the Disco II seats which was no problem. The nice thing was that once that was done I could take the passenger seat out of the Defender and put the Disco seat in place to see what it looked like. I was starting to get excited. I needed a frame to hold the seat, something that would allow me to get to the compartments under the seat. I had seen posts of people putting the seats on a hinged frame and decided that I would do the same. Unfortunately the Disco seat runners do not line up with the Defender seats so I made the following, (No comments about the welding please... my grinding is getting loads of practice though :) )

With the extra supports removed.

The 25mm square tubing goes behind the bulkhead lip on the hinges and the supports going forward (the ones under the seat rails) go over the lip. I decided not to cut the car body at this point so the seats are a little higher than the origonal Defender seats. I made 2 positions that I could fasten the seat onto the frame so I could adjust the placement of the seat easily if needed (I was worried that the runners would be too far forward in the first position I setup).

Here the frame is in position in the passenger side. I riveted the hinges to the body.

Fixing the frame to the Disco II seat. This was done with small nuts and bolts.

Testing that it all fits.

Painting (Hammerite hides my pathetic welding and my excessive grinding) and actually they didnt turn out too badly.

Fitted in the vehicle showing just haw much they fold back.

Some things I decided during the process.
1. I would simply bolt the front of the frame down. I always keep a toolbox in 'Churchill' so to lift the seat I simply take the ratchet out and remove two bolts, this way the front seats are more secure, or that is my feeling anyway.
2. I decided to keep the seatbelt points from the defender and remove the ones from the Disco II seats. This was done for safety reasons. I didn't want the pressures during an accident to be put through the tiny hinges under the frame. this did mean I needed to slightly bend the plate holding the seatbelt to the body of the Defender to make a little more space for the seat, but ... safety first.
3. I needed to add a shim under the seat on the drivers side. (I must have stuffed up my measurements)

In the end they turned out to be VERY comfortable if a little higher. My driving position is more comfortable and I don't get a pain in my left knee anymore. My wife was worried that she would be too high and that her legs only just reach the floor so I put a block of wood under her feet under the mat and she is now also very happy with the mod.

So that was all well and good but the project started by me wanting to make my KIDS more comfortable. I needed to make a frame to fix the Defender front seats to in the back.

I started out wanting to chop the wheel arch so the seats would be lower but started getting nervous when I saw just how badly I weld etc. I also started to think that if I ever decided to sell 'Churchill' I may be easier to have him back as standard and not have to explain why I chopped the wheel arches and how it won't effect articulation etc. I also soon realised that the Waeco 40l fridge was about 30mm to big to fit between the seats so decided that I would simply move the seats more towards the center for comfort purposes and possibly put a cubby box between the now back seats.

The start of the frame (Again please hold comments about any welding/grinding ... unless you want to teach me how to do it properly :) )

How it will fit into the rear. The second pic has the seat temporarily in place.

the frame complete for now. I will fix it to rivnuts I put into the top of the flat section that the frame will rest on.

As you can see I kept the seatbelts in place so the frame fits under the steel brackets that hold the original seatbelts.

Getting a coat of Hammerite.


With the new Escape gear seat covers...

The conclusion is that the kids have WAY more legroom. The hight of the seats is not a problem yet, as the tallest in my family so far I am comfortable in the back. My wife had the same complaint that her legs don't comfortably reach the foot well but I have a new project to cater for that.

I want to make a box that I can store some recovery gear in that will go in the footwell to the same level as the base where the frame currently rests on. I will make to folding flaps that I can lift to have easy access to tow ropes etc.

I also want to close the frame under the seats so I can use that as storage also. I am looking to rivet some galvanised sheet metal to the frame and cover it in the same carpet as the base. Nice that the seats come apart and I can have easy access to what will be a compartment hopefully soon.

I am very happy with the outcome and I can say 'I did that'.