Sport 300 Seats Install
Preparing, Covering and Installation
As we'd always loved sports seats, right from the Recaro's in the Escort RS Turbo's, upto the Sports seats in the Esprit S4s and Sport 350. When we heard about Dermot's seats, we were very interested. Normally leather Sports Seats are very expensive for what they bring to a car and with other things always needing doing and some very nice SE seats already in LEW's Esprit, it's the cost that's the problem.
After talking to Dermot about what he had order and was doing, it sounded like something we could manage, it would also make a great guide. The seat shells were made by SJ Sportscars from a mould of an original Esprit Sport 300 Seat. The seat backs were painted body colour by SJ and Dermot had them sent to Lotus Cars for trimming in leather. Total cost for two seat was around £800. Now that's not cheap, but we'd always looked at seats costing at least £1,200 a pair and some even £1,000 each. We later found that one GT3 owner had purchased new comfort seats to replace his sports seats at a cost of £1,000. Sometimes just buying new car seat covers can make a car seat more comfortable, but this is an Esprit Sport 300. If you can afford to own one, you can probably afford to go full out and replace the seats rather than just installing seat covers.
After talking to SJ about ordering a pair as Dermot had done. The waiting list for fibreglass work was around 4-5 months. We were told the original Sport 300 Seat was available that the mould was taken from. Perfect. we took the original and could get that one in the car and wait for the other. Pay half now and the rest later. We paid £125 for the shell unpainted as I was having some paintwork done on LEW's Esprit and would get Autotech to paint the back bodycolour.
Costs for painting the back bodycolour are a little vague, as we had lots of bits painted, but we will be getting the second shell painted again with Autotech. Shouldn't be much more than £50. The results were great. Beautiful Black finish on the back of the seat. Next stop was Lotus Cars in Norwich to get the seat retrimmed. We called Mel Broome in the Lotus After Sales Department (01953 608153) about the retrim. The service from Mel was second-to-none. we were sent some samples of the leather in two colours to see which was the closest match to the Esprits interior, along with some high wear material that could be used for the sides. We also enquired about a custom logo on the headrest. Emailed Mel LEW's logo and was sent some pieces of leather with the logo stitched onto it.
LEW's Logo couldn't be stitched close enough to match, as it would have split the leather, so in the end we didn't have anything on the headrest. Once the seat was ready, we dropped it off at Lotus, with Mel arranging security to take it as we traveled down after hours. Exactly two weeks later it was ready (as Mel said it would be). Mel arrange payment through the Lotus Service Centre (Darren Sexton) and again arranged for me to pick it up from Security. £220 for a great retrim, as you can see below.
Now we had the fun of installing it into the Esprit. Firstly the mounting supplied by SJ where unfinished, which would have looked terrible. So out came the primer and black paint. This took a while with 3 coats of primer and 3 coats of gloss black. No fixings were supplied with the seat. Luckily as Dermot had already done this. He could tell us what we needed. Better than that, Dermot purchased them for us and an exchange was done at Castle Combe. The bolts that go into the seat are imperial and not particularly easy to get hold of.
You will need the following parts:
You will need the following tools:
First thing is to remove the original seat. These are bolted through the car, with M8 bolts. Luckily ours had been covered in a some sort of rubber, so they weren't rusted on. Once the rubber was removed at 13mm socket soon had the 4 nuts off. You can then just lift the old seat out.
The seat sits on 5mm washers, as you can see in the pictures above.we were a little surprised to find it had been held in so simply. Next job it to take the runners off the old seat. You could bolts it straight in, but you'd need to fill the old holes and drill some more. We think the seat would also then be a little low and of course it couldn't be moved. 4 Allen bolts hold the runner to the bottom of the seat.
With the runner off, it should have been a simple case of bolting the seat to the runners and back in the car. IF ONLY! Firstly the hole supplied in the mounting (three each end) don't match up with the holes in the runner. Then you also have a problem with the holes that go into the seat. Two holes are supplied for each hole in the seat. Only one set of these match up, but the seat is too flat and needs tilting back.
New holes were drilled for both the runner and the seat. Maximum tilt was drilled into the seat, which isn't really enough. A lot of time needs spending making sure you are drilling in the right place, especially when drilling for the runners. As they need to go back in the hole in the bottom of the Esprit.
Once this is done you can attach the mountings to the seat and bolt the runners to the bottom. Now you come across another problem. The bar that allows the runners to slide is raised. This clashes with the leather overhang at the front of the seat. This stops you lining the runners up flat with the mountings. Dermot used around 15mm of washers to raise the angle of the seat at the front to clear the bar.We didn't fancy that, so we removed the bar. This meant we would have a fixed seat, that could only be move by removing it and changing the runner settings. Or we could buy the Sport Seat bar at £50, which has a different profile. In the end we managed to bend the old bar enough to fit. This could be a bit risky, so only do it if you are happy for fork out £50 for a replacement if you snap it!
The seat can now be put back into the car. Our drilling wasn't perfect and we needed a 5mm washer on one side at the front to get the bolts back through the holes in the Esprit. We replaced the 5mm washer with thinner ones, as the seat was sitting a little high. You can now bolt the seat in. We replaced the washers and nuts under the car. The original bolts are fixed into the runners, so they weren't changed. Although you probably could if you wanted to. We sprayed the fixings under the car with thick grease to help stop them rusting.
Finished. 4 hours of head scratching and 2 phone calls to Dermot and we've finally got one Sports seat in. We then decided it would be good to have the seatbelts going through the seat holes. Out comes the seat again! We removed the bolt holding the seat belt in and passed the belt through the holes before reattaching it. You have to have the seat in the car, but not fixed to reattach the seatbelt. This can be got at through a hole in the side. Peel back the carpet and you'll see the handbrake adjustment and the bolt. Takes about 1 hour the first time and 20 minutes the next, once you know what you are doing.
The seat feels fantastic, gives you a real race car feel and really holds you through the corners.We now can't see our old boost gauge and 70% of the Speedo and rev counter (as you can see from the picture above), but we've got the turbo timer for Boost and might get a shift light and digital Speedo to cure that. Better than some platform shoes if we push the seat back!
A difficult one this. The seat's and cost are great, but the installation isn't much fun. SJ normally sell the fully trimmed seat for £595 (2003 pricing). We paid £125 for the shell and mounts. We feel that the mounts are poor quality, don't fit and were unpainted. Not supplying the nuts & bolts isn't very good either. If the mounts were painted and had the holes in the right place, and a small bag of nuts and bolts were supplied, it would make a big difference.
It's all down to cost at the end of the day. Our seat install was a very long process, with delivery from SJ, getting it painted at Autotech, painting the mountings, getting the nuts & bolts off Dermot, sending it off to Lotus and then trying to get it into the car. Our total for this was around £395 and lots of time and effort. We could have paid £200 extra and had the seat supplied finished (hopefully with fixings). So we have saved £400, but have the hassle of doing everything ourself (but paying in bits, which is good).
The seat changes the feel of the Esprit quite a bit. We've made quite a few mods over our time with the Esprit and we're not sure if it's all these together, but our Esprit now feels very street. It feels like something off of the 'Fast & Furious' or a racecar now. It's a long way off the original Esprit we bought over 3 years ago. Now it feels like the blunt knife has been sharpen! Should be very sharpe once the new suspension and brakes are done.
We've now had both seats installed for quite some time. The second seat was a little easier to do, but the same process still had to be done. We found after driving for a while the seats were still too flat and needed more incline. We also found that running the seatbelts through the seat was rubbing the leather and made it just a little bit more difficult to get in to. So they were reverted back to ourside the seat holes.
We eventually took both seats out and adjusted them. We managed to bend both bars, so both seats are adjustable, which was a big improvement. We also ended up adding lots of washers to help tilt the seat. Washers were spread out, with extra on the floor and inbetween the runners and mounting. Only on the front of course to tilt the seat back. These are hidden from view, but don't fill you with joy knowing you're sitting on a load of washers. This made the seats more comfortable, but they still had the wrong angle.
We have now purchased some GT3 Sports seats from ebay, which came with the runners. Looking at the size of the seats, they do seem to be the same mould. The Sport 300 seats do thave the seatbelt holes, but other than that the shell seems the same. The trim on the GT3 seats is a little thinner, especially on the bottom cusion.
We've looked at the difference between the mountings and there's not much difference. What the problem we had was, that we mounted the seat so it was at least level with the runners, i.e. flat. The floor plan of the Esprit where the seats bolt into has a recces to which allows you to mount the seat lower with a bigger tilt. We only realised this when looking at how the GT3 seats where mounted. We've swapped over the mountings anyway to see how they feel. We're pretty confident we can get the old mounts giving us the same as the GT3 versions.
Sitting in the Esprit now, before driving it, the seat does feel lower and there's more headroom that before. We can see more of the dials, but not all of them. The lumber support feels more in the right place as well. We do think they will be more adjusting needed before we get it perfect, but it's much improved.
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