No place sees more wear and tear in any car than the seats and the carpet. Whether they are cloth, vinyl or leather, the seats will see a lot of action and over time simply wear out.
Leather cracks and splits, cloth ravels and frays, vinyl is probably the most resilient with the minimum amount of maintenance, but even vinyl dies. Replacing the seat covers is really the only fix, as repairing seat covers just doesn’t work. The problem is that fourth-generation Firebirds don’t get much love in the upholstery market.
There are just not many options unless you want to spend major coin on custom upholstery. We searched high and low through the typical restoration channels and found nothing. We scoured the forums and finally hit pay dirt with Hawk’s Third Gen parts. For less than $400, we had a set of new seat covers — front and rear — in soft Hampton vinyl that updates the look of the interior and provides a fresh place to rest our laurels. It didn’t come without some work, though.
Installing seat covers is not terribly difficult, but sometimes, they just give you a challenge. This set challenged us. The original seats in our 2000 TA have plastic backs with the lumbar billows and they looked decent, but dated. The driver’s seat was worn out and the others were showing some age as well. These covers fit 1993 to 2002 seats, and there are some subtle differences along the way. The instructions that come with the seats are fairly generic and not specific to the seats we were working on. Since we have some experience with upholstery, that was not a problem for us. If this is your first set of seats, don’t plan on getting it all done in one day, at least not if you want them to look good.
The covers look really nice, the styling is updated, and they feel good, but a few things didn’t quite fit. The seat covers were a touch loose and the headrests were impossibly tight. We had to use a ton of heat to get the headrest covers installed. To tighten up the seat covers, we used an old upholstery trick: cotton batting. Since seat foam breaks down over time, the covers not fitting snug was not necessarily an upholstery issue. The fact that these covers fit a wide range of seat styles makes a difference. The seats with plastic backs don’t have as much side cushion, because it is hidden by the seat backs. This allows some extra material that needs to be addressed.
Another issue we had was the attachment points for the upholstery. Our stock seats used several different attachment methods: hog rings, clips, glue and Velcro®. For stock seats, the Velcro® and glue threw us off a bit, as those methods are unorthodox for factory seats. The new covers had provisions for hog rings and, well, hog rings. The factory obviously changed things along the way, so some of you will have no problems while others will see some of the same challenges we faced. The good news here is that once you tackle these minor issues, the seats look great and you saved a bunch of cash along the way. So get seated and read on. Pun intended.