As we’ve mentioned before, Killer Kong, our ‘69 Dodge Charger was everything but an R/T, meaning it came equipped with Chrysler’s smallest big block, the 290hp 383 B-Block, a floor-shifted Torqueflite 727 automatic and a 3.23-cogged 8 3/4 rear. In the cabin, the T7 Copper B-Body was optioned with the additional interior light package, center console, A/C, power steering, power brakes and an AM/8-track stereo.
Since bringing the Charger into the Street Legal TV project car corral, we’ve promptly removed or replaced every single one of the above options except for the Torqueflite, which we’ve since rebuilt to handle nearly a 1,000 horsepower. But for our cabin, we wanted to reserve much of the Charger’s original look and appeal while maintain a degree of utility.
We kept the backseat only because we knew this was going to be a driver, and not a committed race car like so many of our projects end up being. We also kept the factory buckets and seat tracks, including the rare Dodge Custom-Comfort seat track, which we picked up for $50 bucks. According to the 1969 brochure, the Custom-Comfort seat could “manually adjust to more than 100 seating positions.” So far, we’ve counted sixteen, most of which don’t work for anyone over 5’6”. Oh well…
To bring our factory buckets and rear bench back to factory Dodge originality, we contacted Legendary Auto Interiors for new seat skins and foam. Legendary has earned its namesake over and over again, by providing the aftermarket possibly the most-factory-correct replacement soft interior products available.
For our Charger, the right seat covers were these Saddle Tan (also known as “Camel”) skins (PT# AA69CX00010-650 and AA69CX00040-650). Unique to the 1969 models, these seats featured a pleated compartmental pattern with Ascot grain-vinyl inserts and Coachman grain-vinyl skirts. Besides replacing the torn and tattered original vinyl with new covers, we reached Legendary for their molded seat foam (PT# MF68ABSET).
We also hit up our friends at Classic Industries, who were happy to supply a pair of replacement seat hinge covers (PT# MD24051) and a mounting pad set (PT# MD2029).
We pulled out Kong’s bucket seats and rear bench and took them over to Tito’s Custom Upholstery in Temecula, California. Benjamin “Tito” Torres has been recovering, restoring and customizing auto interiors since he was 14 years old, and has made quite the name for himself within both the hot rod and lowrider crowds, providing anything from bone stock restored to wildly custom stitchwork.
Disassembling the seats was a quick and painless process. First to go were our original plastic hinge covers, which were cracked, broken and discolored. Next, Tito unbolted the top half of the seat from the bottom. With a pair of side-cut pliers, Tito made short work of the 42-year-old hog rings.
Stripping the seats down to their bare frames took mere minutes. We scrubbed the frames clean of any surface rust and old foam before making a couple passes with a semi-gloss black paint. Our rear bench frame needed a little more help in the way of a ball peen hammer and a body dolly to straighten it out. It too was touched up with the good ol’ rattle can to look a few decades younger.
Rear benches require only a fraction of the labor that buckets do, so Tito went to work stretching the new skin over the wire frame. Not requiring seat foam, the Legendary replacement covers come well-padded and fit the frame snug. Tightening down the seat covers required only a handful of tools including a fresh set of hog rings, a pair of hog ring pliers and a heat gun.
Warming up the vinyl gave us a little more give to stretch it tighter across the springs as we cross-fastened each opposing corner until finally fastening down the seat completely. The same process worked with the bucket seats, but only after a little more prep work. Just like the factory seat covers, Legendary includes a fabric loop that runs the inner length of each cover. This loop – just like the factory skins – holds the tensioner rod (or “spine”) that pulls the seat’s center to the frame, giving the seat its pleated look.
Getting this spine to tie to the frame requires cutting a slit in the replacement seat foam long enough for the whole rod to poke through. Another handful of hog rings sucks the seat down and tight, giving the cushion its springy bounce. The cardboard seatback panels, which unscrew to reveal the back of the bucket seat’s framework, needed to be recovered as well, and our Legendary Auto Interiors’ kit came with these covers as well.
We opted to use an industrial adhesive instead of a series of staples. The glue gave us the same amount of drum-tight tautness without having to tear the factory staples out, making for an easier, less messy installation.
At first blush, our completed seats looked as wrinkled as a Shar Pei puppy. “That’s common with all seat covers,” Tito explained. “You just need to leave ’em out in the sun for a while. The heat will help the material relax over the frame.”
Sure to his word, it took only a couple days for the wrinkles to come out on their own. While the seats sat out in the sunshine, we got to work on our seat tracks.
We disassembled the slide tracks and roller bearings, which we cleaned, degreased and repacked with heavy grease, as well as chased all the threads with a nut and socket wrench. We literally flossed the gears, sprayed them down with WD-40, and reassembled all the pieces. The passenger seat tracks got the same attention to detail. After an hour scrub down with a Scotch-Brite pad, we repainted the tracks in semi-gloss black paint, bringing them back to as-new condition.
Ready to drop in our new seats, we started with the rear bench, which slid into place surprisingly easy even with our six-point cage. Wrestling the bottom half of the bench was a bit of a pill (we hung towels over the outermost edges to protect from snagging on the window regulator gears), but once in place fit perfectly. We next attached the newly restored tracks to the bottoms of the buckets.
Before dropping them in place, we screwed on the new black ABS-injection plastic mounting pads and serrated locking sheetmetal washers. We also cleaned up the chromed plastic seat release knobs just for a final cosmetic touch. The new Classic Industries hinge covers came with white urethane spacers, making the final installation clean and easy.
Folding up the buckets made sliding them over the forward bars of the cage all that much easier. With our factory holes already marked and opened in the carpet, our buckets plopped down in place without a hitch. And since we had our multi-adjustable seat track in our Charger for the first time, we toyed with finding the perfect position for our 6’2″ frame.
Of course, putting our seats in at this point was only for the sense of satisfaction of a job well done, as we’re going to need to pull them later to install our replacement headliner, package tray and our restored front and rear interior door panels. Even though we’re a ways away from getting Killer Kong out on the road, we can still slide in behind the wheel, tilt the seat back and enjoy the view over that long, wide hood. And that’s never a bad thing.
We included a massive 160-plus-image gallery for all you do-it-yourselfers out there who want to see how you can do this at home. Enjoy!