The TFATF Racing Seats
First off, here's my thoughts on racing harnesses. If
you're thinking about installing a harness with your seats, be sure to read that as well.
Now... consider what your seats do for you in your car. The first and most obvious is
that they give you somewhere (hopefully) comfortable to be while driving. A good set of
seats will also help position you properly for driving and hold you there while turning.
Finally, we all want our seats to look good.
In many cases, the stock seats don't fit the bill for us. They don't deliver everything
we want in a seat so we want to change them to something better or cooler.
Consider also though, that your seats are designed to protect you in a crash.
Manufacturers spend all sorts of money to ensure that they meet crash standards. This
means they're not going to fold in half when you hit something, snapping your back. The
headrest is going to have adequate support and padding to protect your neck in a crash.
The seat isn't going to come dislodged from the floor in an impact and destroy your or
your passengers hips.
There are all sorts of things taken into consideration that you may not have thought of,
but they are important and can save your life.
Now think about what goes into making an aftermarket seat. There's generally two realms in
the aftermarket seat market. There are those made by reputable manufacturers such as
Sparco or Recaro that meet stringent standards and are certified under various safety
standards. Most of these companies also produce OEM seats for various manufacturers and
seats designed to be installed in proper race cars.
Then there are the rest. The rest are what I'm cautioning you against buying. Whether
it's a cheap no-name seat, a cheap ricer brand seat like APC, or a counterfeit brand
name seat, if the seat is not certified then you have no way of knowing how it will
behave in a crash. Considering that most of these (those who bother) come with disclaimers
saying they're for off-road use only should give you a hint as to how confident they are
that their seats are properly engineered.
Most companies who want to sell you some blingin' seats for your ride don't have the money
to conduct crash tests or can't be bothered to spend it. It's not that they want to make
cheap garbage that's going to kill you. It's simply that they don't have the resources to
produce something that they know will keep you safe. Often times you'll find them made
from fibreglass shells with upholstered padding attached to them. Consider what happens
to fibreglass in a crash and ask yourself whether you think they've designed it to break
up in a safe manner or whether it's going to send splinters and fragments into your back
The bottom line is that this isn't a modification to be taken lightly. It can be the
safety equivilant of removing your airbag because you want a fancy aftermarket steering
wheel. In retrospect, when you've crushed your sternum into the steering column, that
bling won't seem so important. How will you feel when your best friend or girlfriend
is dead because of the blingin' seat you installed?
Finally, even if you're getting a high-end certified seat, pay close attention to the
mounting brackets. Generally speaking, you should be able to put something in that
attaches to the stock bolts but if you can't, at least make sure it's properly braced or
welded. This is what customizing is all about. If you're not sure what you're doing,
you'll need someone who is.
Safety should be the first priority when doing mods. If you're making your car less safe
by doing something, then I don't think it should be done. Mods should improve your ride,
not put you in danger. If you really want to change the seats but can't afford to get
something properly designed, look into getting some quality seat covers or having your
seats reupholstered. Most of the generic seat covers on the market end up looking like,
well, seat covers, but there are some high quality ones out there, custom fit to the
individual car, that can look nearly as good as reupholstering.
As an example of what to look for, here's one of Sparco's seats marketed for street cars.
Sparco Milano 2
It's one of their more reasonably priced models, starting at under a grand, and has
these notes in the description:
Tested and Approved to
ECE 17 (Europe) and
FMVSS 208 (USA)
I found some mention of a certification on Recaro's site but it was tough to navigate
and I couldn't find any further details. The fact that they make OEM seats for all sorts
of cars though should give you an indication that they're building quality products.
I found a note in another forum indicating that Corbeau had their certification rescinded
at some point, and no mention of any on their site. If it gets taken away, one has to
assume there's a reason for this.
Note the FIA and MIA logos on Cobra's site:
I see that APC has changed their ghetto logo. I couldn't find any info on
their site about their seats other than pictures and prices.
If you can't find any info on whether a seat has been built to conform to any standards,
you can safely assume that it has not been. Those who produce quality products
are proud of them and happy to publicize that fact.
As always, I urge you to keep all this in mind before diving into these sorts of
modifications. It's literally your life on the line here.