Remedies for Tall Miata Drivers



Adding Headroom by Removing Seat Cushion Foam

by Bob Stretch

I thought I would share my experience for any of you who might be   considering such a radical move.

Taking the seat out was very easy: four floor bolts on the rails, one  long bolt holding the seat belt slide to the center console and two   electrical quick disconnects underneath (seat belt warning system and  headset speakers).

Once I had the seat out and examined the floor boards and the rail   system, it became obvious that "bolting to the floor" as suggested in   the was not an option. Not only would fitting the seat  between the two raised sections of the floor be difficult, trying to  mark and drill the four holes properly would be extremely  challenging. Further, such a drop would require drilling and tapping  a new seatbelt slide hole. Additionally, the new position of the  seat seemed to be uncomfortable as it tilted the seat forward.

I have never done upholstery (OK, I was addicted to the "Furniture   Guys" on PBS) but I thought I would give it a shot.

With the seat removed from the cockpit, I flipped it upside down on a  table and dissembled it completely. This was not a very difficult  job, three small phillips screws and five bolts. Once I had the seat  bottom separated from everything else I looked over my options.

The bottom has a steel butt plate that forms the basis for the seat.   It has a deep inverted shovel-shaped section directly under the  driver's tush. I thought that if I cut out the foam in this shovel I  would drop far enough and not mess up the styling of the seat (the  shovel section is about two inches deep).

The leather is held on to the plate with about twenty copper rings.   By using two needle-nosed pliers, I was able to open each ring and  pull it out (like taking a hook out of a fish's mouth). I discovered  that there were two hidden rings on the seatbelt side of the seat  about half way down attaching the leather to an internal loop. By  removing all the copper rings I was able to carefully pull the foam  and leather away from the pan. BE CAREFUL: THE ROLLED EDGES OF THE  PAN ARE VERY SHARP...I got sliced three times in as many seconds.

There turns out to be some internal bracing imbedded in the foam that  forms the contours of the seat. Luckily, they don't extend down into  the shovel area. I took an electric carving knife and carefully cut  the shovel area out so that the bottom of the foam was level. Do  this carefully and slowly as there are a few metal pieces in the foam  you must cut around. If you do this right, you will have a chunk of  foam that can be replaced into the shovel pan if you don't like the   end effect (I love reversable surgery!).

At this point all that was left was to reassemble the seat. I   decided to use medium sized plastic electrical "tie-ties" rather than   to try to rebend and curve the copper rings. They worked GREAT. The  seat simply flew together. If you do this, put all the tie-ties on  very loosely first, then tighten the front edge (center to sides) and  then the rear edge (center to sides) and finally the sides (center to  sides).

Once the seat was reassembled it dropped back into the cockpit with   no problems (ensure you match up the rails before you put it in if  you moved them out of position with each other).

There is no visible difference in the seat, but when you sit in there  is an immediate relief! The driver's tush sits much further back in  the seat (easing back pain) and much deeper in bucket. Since no  changes were made on the sides, there is more of a cupping  or "baseball glove" effect that settles you right in to the seat. I  seem to have gained about an inch or so in headroom. I still brush  against the hardtop, but I don't have to drive with my head bent   over -- no neck pain!

The total job, working slowly and taking time to figure out how   everything went together (without benefit of a manual) it only took  about an hour-and-a-half.

If anyone has any specific questions, let me know and I will give you  the benefit of my minimal experience.

Thanks again for all the help!
94 M "Mrs Peel"

Some notes from Marc Fournier...

Few more bolts than in the tip had to be removed ( slide rails, seat back pivot screw, seat belt bracket) but the rest went fine. I even used the same hog rings.

Now to the leg room. The three hog rings mentioned is right, but you can't remove the padding like the tip says. The padding is sewn right to the leather (or fabric) so you can't do like the tip says.

But while your their and the center piece is raised, you see 3 more hog rings remove those and you see the padding, 4" of it. So out came the electric kitchen knife again and cut out 3/4" of foam from it. You could go deeper than this but I chickened out.

Finished and all back together the seat doesn't look modified at all. Now my head clears the rail when the top is up, I sit deeper in the seat

So their is more side support.

Gaining a bit more legroom

Brad Franks

I am 6'4" to 6'6" (depending on the time of day and how much physical labor I have performed in the last week :P) and I read the article you have in the FAQ section on tall drivers and removing some cushioning from the seat bottom. While this would be great for some tall drivers, it wasn't the thing for me. I am what would be considered "leg tall" -vs- "body tall". I found that I needed about and inch more leg room, but my head room was just fine.

I cant take credit for this though. The credit should go to Kelley P. (a Miata mailing lister)

This takes about 5 minutes to do and has two benefits, more legroom (about 1") and kidney bolsters that actually work!

Removing the padding from the seat back

Tools required:

1. Move the seat all the way forward and tilt the seat back as far to the front as you can.

2. Where the seat back and bucket meet you will see a "skirt". Lift the skirt and look at how the upholstery is connected by 5 metal rings (hog rings).

3. Three of these rings hold the fabric on the seat back and two are for the bucket. We are going to remove the three for the fabric on the seatback.

4. Cut the hog rings holding the fabric for the seat back. They should be the center three but be sure before cutting them! You may opt to bend and re-use the rings, but I have found that the zip ties are just as effective and allot easier to use. If you choose to cut the rings, use the needle nose pliers to remove the scraps of hog ring from the padding.

5. Recline the seatback all the way to the rear and lift up on the center fabric in the seatback. Notice the padding attached to this piece of fabric. This is what we are removing.

6. Cut (or bend, your option) the six hog rings holding the padding to the fabric and remove the padding. Be careful not to tear the padding so that it can be used later if you don't like the effect or plan on selling or lease returning the car. If you choose to keep the hog rings, place them back into their holes in the padding of store them in a plastic baggie for future use.

7. Feed the fabric back under the seat back so it can be re-attached and tilt the seat all the way forward.

8. Re-attach the seat back fabric using the zip ties or hog rings in the same places that we removed them from in step 4.

9. Put the seat into the most comfortable configuration for you and enjoy about an inch more legroom!

If you feel that there is not enough lumbar support, you can roll up a small hand towel and tuck it behind the fabric in the seat back. Adjust it as necessary for the best comfort. I have found that folding the hand towel instead of the traditional "roll" provides for more smoothness and better comfort. There is still some padding left in the seat back so the comfort level remains pretty high.

As an added benefit, the kidney bolsters are dramatically accentuated and will actually hold you into the seat during more "spirited" driving!

If you don't like the way this feels, it should be pretty obvious how put the padding back by reversing steps 4, 5 and 6.

Back to the Garage

09 August, 1999