By on January 26, 2012

When I saw the interior of today’s Junkyard Find, I knew: I must have that Corinthian Leather bench seat! Maybe I’ll put it in the back of my ’66 Dodge A100 van, or maybe I’ll just convert it into a comfy, Ricardo Montalban-grade garage couch. Either way, I returned to the junkyard yesterday with a sense of grim determination: that seat will be mine!
It’s very rare that you find a 34-year-old car in a wrecking yard with a front seat in this condition. No rips, no cracking, hardly any staining. I’m guessing that the car’s owner kept it garaged and safe from the upholstery-frying Colorado sun, and perhaps he or she even kept a seat cover over the front bench.
Those of you who know old Chrysler products are familiar with this seat-mounting system: studs going through the car’s floor, held in place by nuts on the underside of the car. Yes, where they’re exposed to salt, dirt, roadkill, and big rocks.
I knew what to expect, so I’d brought some deep sockets and my grungiest coveralls. The weather in Denver had been chilly for a week or so, but yesterday got into the low 60s. Hooray, icy mud under the car!
I threw some old floor mats under the car and crawled beneath. The bench seat in a Cordoba is held in with four nuts and big washers, just like all the Mopars of its era. While I removed the first three nuts, I recalled a prank pulled on me while driving a ’73 Fury in high school: some clever friend removed all four seat nuts in my car, so that when I stepped on the gas the seat (with me in it) flew all the way into the back seat. I must say that got my attention; fortunately, I was able to crawl forward and jam my hand on the brake pedal before the car hit anything expensive.
When I got to the nut holding the front of the driver’s side of the seat in place, my heart sank. Yes, that’s a junkyard jack-stand (i.e., two steel wheels welded together) blocking access to the last seat mounting nut. Damn.
By this time, I was pretty well chilled by the semi-frozen mud beneath the car (having spent most of my life in California, this snow-and-ice-at-the-junkyard business is still a new phenomenon to me) and started considering my options. The most attractive option involved finding a jack, preferably of the old-school bumper-ratchet variety, in the trunk of a nearby car and just lifting the car enough to move the jack-stand. No dice: this yard clears all the jacks out of the cars when they show up. I considered asking the yard employees to use the forklift to reposition the car, but I’ve had bad experiences with this sort of thing; lots of times, resentful junkyard workers will not only refuse to help, they’ll come back later and vandalize the part you wanted to get.
However, there was a third option. If I cut the parking-brake cables and bent the brake line out of the way, I might be able to sneak a wrench over the top of the jack-stand and get it onto the nut. Here goes the brake cable.
At this point, I should apologize for the crappy quality of these cell-phone photos; I was in such a rush to get out the door and grab my Corinthian Leather prize that I forgot to bring a proper camera. But even with a phone camera, you can see that it is just barely possible to get a 1/2″ wrench onto the offending nut. It turned out that it was also possible to get about 1/16th of a turn with the wrench before it fell off and clattered into the mud. Repeat. Endlessly.
After about 45 minutes of profanity-enhanced wrench-dropping fun, I was able to get the nut far enough down the threads to get a quarter-drive socket onto it. Success!
My junkyard toolbox doesn’t have the 7/8″ socket I’d need to remove the seat belts (which couldn’t be pulled out of the seats), the driver’s-side lap belt had been cut already, and so I sliced them with a knife. I hate doing this, but 70s Chrysler seat belts are easy to find.
I’d brought a hand truck, an old sheet, and some rope, and I hoped to get the seat out to my car without getting it too muddy. This thing probably weighs 80 pounds.
I couldn’t resist removing and buying the opera lights on the C pillars. These will look good in the interior of my A100.
I should have tied the seat to the roof of my cargo-hauling Civic, but instead I got lazy and brought the Outback. Hey, got to keep that white Corinthian Leather in good shape!

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47 Comments on “When You See a Clean Corinthian Leather Bench Seat In the Junkyard, You Buy It!...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Woo, congratulations on your junkyard acquisition! I’m astonished; the leather looks to be in better shape than the A8 seats I’ve got spliced into my project.

    A friend refers to the recent wild temperature swings as perfect pneumonia weather, with just enough immune system stress to bring on the maladies instead of staying in one range and letting the body acclimate.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    You’re a sucker, but a virtuous one. It’s the equivalent of taking home that scruffy-looking pound dog that no one wants.

  • avatar
    millmech

    Sneak a wrench in & turn the nut 1/16th of a turn at a time? HAHA!!! It sounds like you’ve never wrenched on “Classic” English stuff; the factories put them together that way- with FINE threads.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Water pump in the 1980 Fiesta too. 3 pulley bolts, plus 2 or 3 bolts holding te pump to the block.

      Had two Fiestas and both pumps waited for 10 below weather to fail in.. Cold bruised fingers and much cursing I can assure you!

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200442198_200442198

      I don’t have those but a similar type which is exceedingly handy on my bike when I don’t feel like pulling the gas tank..

    • 0 avatar

      Ratcheting stubby box-open-ends are a godsend for poorly positioned bolts:
      http://www.searsoutlet.com/8-pc-Stubby-Wrench-Set-SAE/d/product_details.jsp?stxt=stubby&md=srh_md&pn=1&ps=24&pid=14904&mode=buyUsedOnly&cid=2128

      Then the tough part is dealing with having only 1/2 the torque…

  • avatar
    millmech

    Sneak a wrench in & turn the nut 1/16th of a turn at a time? HAHA!!! It sounds like you’ve never wrenched on “Classic” English stuff; the factories put them together that way- with FINE threads.
    Later on, for example, some bell housings were held in with fine, coarse + some metric fasteners.
    I wonder why they went out of business?

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    You are my shiny lunchbox !

  • avatar
    dejal1

    If one didn’t read the captions, one could think you were going to slit your wrists because of the issues getting the nut off the bolt.

    I’m not sure this would have worked,

    http://www.sjdiscounttools.com/kdt715.html

    but maybe it is time to add something like it to your arsenal.

    • 0 avatar
      Crawfish

      Agree that is good to have, but if you see the type of nut that was on it in the picture after it’s removed, it wouldn’t have worked on it. (Although those nut busters are ideal for rusted fasteners on old cars).

      Something like these would have been ideal to undo it with:

      http://community.craftsman.com/Craftsman-8-pc-Standard-Reversible-Ratcheting-Combination-Wrench-Set-reviews?tab=details

      They make these with an articulating elbow too.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yup. Ratcheting box-end wrenches to the rescue! I often bring mine out to the JY – the are the bomb for getting those pre-mashed locking nuts off between the power booster and the firewall (say, if you are trying to score a power brake unit for a 1974 Nova which inexplicably came from the factory with manual brakes).

        I’m very happy to see that the seat got rescued – I was thinking that it should have been the first part yanked out of that car.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    O brave men of Corinth, know that your sacrifice was not in vain! Yea, the memories of your deeds will live on, even unto the tenth generation!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    If nothing else, these look good for use in the man-cave, mounted in front of the 60″ TV . . . just the thing for watching the Super Bowl.

    Amazing condition . . . no wonder you couldn’t resist taking them.

  • avatar

    you went under that car while it was propped up with old tires & rims??!!!

  • avatar
    skor

    Yup, this sure looks like grandma’s car, and I agree, it was probably garage kept and driven very little. Grandma died, the kids/grand kids put it up on Craig’s List and got no takers. Went to the junkyard. Saw something similar recently. Elderly women lived in the neighborhood died and left a very clean, low-miles Ford Tempo. Wouldn’t have taken very much get it back on the road. The kid tried to sell it, and then gave up and left it to rot on the driveway. When the town started complaining, he had the junk man haul it away.

  • avatar

    Why is it junkyard employees seem to hate their customers so much?

    Seriously, every time I talk to them, they scoff and mumble. Also, everything costs like 2x what it says on the board.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      I’m guessing that a lot of junkyard employees are not junkyard employees by choice.

      On the other hand, having visited a lot of junkyards, I can tell you that a large percentage of the clientele are desperate and/or dumb. If behave yourself and don’t cause problems, talk the talk and don’t ask noob questions, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  • avatar

    That is a truely great find! Congrats!

  • avatar
    jwb65

    No backseat?

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    The condition of that interior is amazing. They are usually all torn up. It drives me nuts.

  • avatar
    mzr

    I have a ‘wagon’ with pneumatic tires that I use to get large, heavy items out of junkyard when I’m by myself. I’ve pulled the second and third row from a MPV with it.

    Usually they’ll have gravel in the yards which stop the solid wheels on an dolly from turning. You end up dragging the dolly more than anything else.

    Something like this: http://tinyurl.com/6urzj2e

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Now THAT’s cool. Kudos for preserving Mopar history, as Malaise-ish as it is.

    I can’t wait until I get a pole barn somewhere so I can get one or two of these Malaise rides… for my children :)

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Get the back seat, too – would make a better couch, just build a wood frame and mount for it. In any event, rescue it right away – it needs a home!

  • avatar

    Nice! If I had that thing in my basement, I’d be saying “reeech, Corintheean Lay-thar!” about 10 times a day. At least up until my wife left me.

    Then I would ramp up to about 50.

    Great score, wish it was mine.

  • avatar
    86er

    Nothing malaise-y about Murilee, sprawled in the muck to get this seat.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    lucky you! These will look great in a car, a van, a boat… even in your living room! Surprising how good they look given the condition of the car it is in.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… looks kinda like a tv show I’ve seen. Seems like they talked with funny accents and had a guy in a race suit that didn’t talk…

    I still vote for couch.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    Man, I would LOVE to have that for my mancave…

  • avatar

    Been there…done that…amazing condition for a seat that old.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    I seem to have missed the price for this treasure,

  • avatar
    Hank

    A Top Gear style seat frame, and your good to go.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    That seat would look great in my 57 chev.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Is that white, or that deliciously 1970s Mopar “Parchment”? Enjoy your seat, sir. Also, you bring back memories of messing with Mopar seats in years past.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    how much for this fine piece of Montalbilia?

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    “I couldn’t resist removing and buying the opera lights on the C pillars”…What the hell dude? The law of the junkyard, is if it fits in your pockets or shoes…it’s free.

  • avatar
    Windy

    I thought for sure you would pull the clock for your collection as well

    But I agree with the other posters grab the back seat parts as well it is easy to knock up a frame for them and you will kick yourself later for not doing it… a few of the medallions might also come in handy for your van project as well

    As ever you write the best stick (from the composers stick used by old-fashioned typesetters) of any auto journos that I read. keep up the good work.

    Cheers,
    Windy

    • 0 avatar

      I only pull Detroit car clocks when I bring a source of 12 volts to the junkyard to test them (i.e., when I’m on a clock-hunting expedition). Analog Detroit clocks have about a 97% failure rate, I’ve found, and the early digital ones aren’t much better.

      Analog VDO clocks, on the other hand, often work after 40 years in a car. The Germans, they do clocks well.

  • avatar
    skor

    I live in the Northeast, and I’ve visited a lot of junkyards over the years….snow, ice and mud are the norm. I bring along work boots and coveralls every time I go to the yard. After I get back to my car, I take off the boots and coveralls and place them in plastic bags I brought for that reason. I also always have a roll of paper towels and some water with me as well. Easier to keep my ride clean than to clean it.

  • avatar

    The front seat in my 1960 Chevy Wagon came from a 65ish Buick at Memory Lane in Sun Valley (the antithesis of a self serve yard). A small Latino gentlemen unbolted it for me then told me to wait until he could get another guy to help carry it. When I hoisted it on one shoulder he looked at me like I was Superman and had just lifted an entire car or something.

    Something strange is afoot in the L.A. area self serve junkyards. 2 weeks ago when I went in one I was informed that they were now using a metal detector. On the way out they made me empty my pockets and wanded me to see if I had any nuts and bolt in my pockets. The place seemed oddly neat and clean as well. No parts scattered all over the aisles. I also noticed a lack of tire irons in any of the trunks to use a s pry bar.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Maybe they realized that small stuff was worth money.

      I always manage to get my $1 entry fee out of self-serve junkyards via non automobile items like a large stainless steel cooking ladle spoon, an full new box of home electrical wire nuts, pennies found on the floorboards/in trunks, an unopened package of new dish sponges, etc. I’ve wondered if one could make money just salvaging the non-automobile items left in the cars like clothing and all the other stuff…

  • avatar
    87CE 95PV Type Я

    i want to hear more about this Subaru Outback, sounds like a new acquisition.

    Nice job with the seat and good to know about junkyard workers.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    Sir, you continue to impress me.


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