The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
By Dan Mixon
I've owned my '74 L for a year. The seats may have been comfortable in 1974, but they're not comfortable in 2001. The drivers vinyl was splitting along one seam and there was seat foam rubber dust under the drivers seat. Time for an upgrade. I researched the DeTomaso Mailing List Archives for seats and there was some posts about Corbeau, Flofit and Recaro seats and a lot about Corvette C-4 seats. I contacted the posts on Corbeau Seats but no one had installed them in a Pantera. None of the C-4 posts were by anyone who had installed them in a Pantera.
I went to a local (Houston, Tx) sports car accessory shop that carried Corbeau, Flofit and Recaro seats. I sat in the Corbeau Sport Seat and it was O.K. I then tried the Flofit and it felt a lot better. Firmer cushions, more side support, and my lower back felt more supported. The Flotfit also had an adjustable thigh support (the front of the seat can slide out about 2"). The Flofit construction is a steel shell, the Corbeau is steel tube. According to the dealer the steel shell is better. The Flofit headrest adjusts up and down, in and out. The Corbeau up an down only. The Corbeau has a better recline mechanism, infinitely adjustable by a wheel on the side. The Corbeau also has a better seat back release mechanism. When the Corbeau seat back is put back upright, it goes back to the previous selected recline position. The Flofit recline mechanism is by a lever that feels like it locks a notched mechanism. Not infinitely adjustable, but plenty of positions. When the Flofit seat back is released and the seat back put back upright, it goes to the most upright locked position, not the previously selected recline position. Both the Corbeau and Flofit were a velour type material. The cloth Corbeau was $312 each, in leather they are $465 per seat extra! The cloth Flofit was $349, $699 in leather. The base cloth Recaro was $499. The Recaro had a steel shell, was infinitely adjustable, no thigh extender, but felt more comfortable than the Flofit. I took measurements of the seats for comparison to the Pantera seat. In my opinion, the Flofit was the best seat for the money.
The Pantera seats have a couple unique features. The seat bottom is very thin and is 21 1/2" wide at the front of the seat and 18 1/2" wide in the rear. The rear of the seat cushion is narrow to clear the hand brake mount box on the passenger side. The seat tracks are also partially recessed into the seat frame. This allows the seat to mount very low to the floor.
I took the Pantera to the shop the next weekend with the passenger seat removed. We tried the Corbeau and Flofit seats in the car. They were too wide in back and hit the hand brake mount box. Moving them to the outboard side made them rest on the floor pan slope.There would have to be some trimming / modification of the hand brake mount box or reshaping of the floor pan side to make them fit properly. The seat backs and bottoms are very thick compared to the Pantera seat. I estimate you would lose at least 2" of headroom and legroom with the seats mounted directly to the floor.
A friend asked me to come over and see the Everett-Morrison Cobra kit he had just bought. This kit uses Corvette C-4 suspension and a Chevy engine. He had also bought a 100,000 mile damaged 1990 Corvette for the suspension, engine, trans and seats. I borrowed the passenger seat to try in the Pantera. It had power seat tracks which add about 2 1/2" to the overall height. The bottom of the plastic C-4 seat frame has a large rectangular opening with a downward curved edge which appears to add strength to the seat frame and a bulge in front that secures the bottom cushion. Adds about 2" to the height. I tried the seat with the power tracks installed. No way, too high. It looked like it would be possible to build a mount for the Pantera seat tracks which would raise the seat so the bulge would clear the floor and it would end up being about the same height off the floor as the Pantera seat. The mount would also be necessary to add the rigidity that is lost when the seat track frame is removed.
The C-4 seat is 20" wide front and rear. The Pantera seat back is 28" high with the headrest down. The C-4 is 33" high (fixed headrest). I placed the C-4 seat in the passenger side of the Pantera. The passenger seat would probably have to be mounted 1" offset to outboard due to the hand brake box. No problems on the drivers side. The C-4 seat was about as comfortable as the Flofit. The seat back recline and fold forward mechanism is infinitely adjustable and when the seat back is put back up, it goes to the previously selected recline position. The seat cushions are very easy to remove.
I researched Corvette C-4 seats and found that same plastic frame bottom and seat tracks were used from 1984 thru 1996. The seat upholstery was basically the same design thru 1993. The plastic seat back was the same from 1984 thru 1993. The upholstery and the seat back was a different design from 1994 thru 1996. There were also several "special edition" variations in upholstery style. From 1984 thru 1986, the driver's seats were manual (about 10%), with power optional. The passenger seats were all manual from 1984 - 1986. From 1987 thru 1996 (last year of the C-4) power passenger seats were optional. Again, about 10% were manual. Cloth was standard with leather optional until 1994 when leather became standard. Very few seats were produced in cloth. There was also a "Sport Seat" option which was power seats and had power inflatable bolsters and lumbar support.
I decided to go with the Corvette C-4 seats. The only way the Corvette seats would be economical would be with good cushions and leather and in your preferred color. Leather seat covers cost $700 - $900 a set from the Corvette vendors depending on the seat. New foam seat cushions are $300 a set. Leather covers installed on new cushions range from $1000 - 1300 from the vendors. If you need new leather and cushions you're in the range of new Flofits in leather.
I started watching eBay and C-4 seats needing cushions and covers were selling for up to $300. Vinyl recovered seats for up to $500. This is without seat tracks. Properly working power seat tracks are worth almost as much as the seats so most of them are sold without tracks or with manual tracks. I bought a pair of excellent condition grey leather (the color I wanted) seats on eBay for $495. I feel I got a bargain compared to some of the seats sold on eBay. It was from a Corvette dismantler who had sold quite a few sets on eBay. A very reasonable $40 for shipping the 2 large boxes from Pa. He included a pair of manual seat tracks. If you want black seats, about half the Corvette's made had them.
One of my objectives was to install the seats mounted on tracks. When mounted on the manual tracks, the front of the C-4 seat is 1 1/2' higher than the rear. Same angle as the Pantera seat. I set the passenger seat in the car mounted on the manual tracks. Too high. I "sectioned" the seat tracks and it lowered the seat by 3/4". I felt it was still too high.
Next I made mounting brackets for the passenger seat frame using 2" X 1/8" mild steel. I made them 17" long and notched them to clear the downward curled lip on the seat bottom rectangular opening. I also notched the bracket to match the contour of the seat bottom. Then welded them to the Pantera seat tracks. I offset them 3/4" toward the door to clear the hand brake mount box. The C-4 seat bolts to the brackets using the original holes. The Pantera tracks bolt to the original floor pan mount holes. I removed the L seat spacers that are welded to the floor. Cut out a slot in the carpet and padding so the seat tracks could sit on the floor.
The stock location for the Pantera drivers seat is offset 2 1/4" toward the door in relation to the centerline between the speedometer and tach. Appears to be no logical reason for this except it places the seat in the middle of the floor. Plenty of space on both sides of the seat. I wanted to get the seat as close to center as possible. For the drivers seat mount, I used 3" X 1/8" mild steel for the brackets and notched the seat bottom for the offset. Again 17" long, notched, etc. and welded to the Pantera seat tracks. The seat is now only 3/4" off the center of the instruments. Rest of the installation was the same as the passenger side.
I made reinforced L brackets to relocate the seat belt anchors.
I'm real pleased with the way the installation turned out. The seats are very comfortable and supportive. I lost maybe 1" headroom but it's very easy to get it back by reclining the seats. If the seats were mounted direct to the floor there probably would be no headroom loss. The seat being centered in relation to the instruments is also a comfortable improvement.
Manual C-4 seat tracks.
Manual C-4 seat tracks installed on C-4 seat.
Bottom of C-4 seat. Note mounting holes. The manual tracks have 1" x 1" pads that the seat bolt to. The power tracks are full length 1/8" mild steel.
Manufactured mounting brackets welded to the Pantera seat tracks and installed in car. I made the mounting brackets full length.
Installed passenger seat.
Bottom of drivers seat with manufactured brackets installed. 3" x 1/8 mild steel.
Bottom of drivers seat. Note notch cut in upper right corner. This was necessary to off set the drivers seat toward the console.
Manufactured passenger seat mounting brackets. 2" x 1/8" mild steel.
Manufactured drivers seat mounting bracket welded to Pantera seat track. Middle: "Sectioned" C-4 manual seat track. Bottom: Stock C-4 manual seat track.