When You See a Clean Corinthian Leather Bench Seat In the Junkyard, You Buy It!

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
when you see a clean corinthian leather bench seat in the junkyard you buy it

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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  • Dwford What's next, your blender only spins slow unless you spend $5.99/month for the "Puree Package?"
  • Jeff S We have had so many article about gas wars. A lighter subject on gas wars might be the scene from Blazing Saddles where the cowboys were around the campfire and how their gas contributed to global warming or was it just natural gas.
  • Jeff S We all have issues some big and most not so big. Better to be alive and face the issues than to be dead and not have the opportunity to face them.
  • NJRide Now more than ever, the US needs a brand selling cheaper cars. I know the old adage that a "good used car" is the best affordable transportation, but there has to be someone willing to challenge the $45k average gas crossover or $60k electric one that has priced out many working and middle class people from the market. So I think Mitsu actually may be onto something. Call me crazy but I think if they came up with a decent sedan in the Civic space but maybe for $19-20k as opposed to $25 they might get some traction there's still some people who prefer a sedan.However, I just compared a Trailblazer on Edmunds to an Outlander Sport. Virtually same size, the Trailblazer has heated seats, keyless ignition and satellite radio and better fuel economy for almost same price as the Mitsu. Plus a fresher body and a normal dealer network. This has always been the challenge off brands have had. Mitsu probably would have to come in $2-3k less than the Chevy unless they can finance more readily to the subprime crowd.
  • MaintenanceCosts At least on the US West Coast, Waze is perfectly happy to send cut-through drivers down residential streets or to disregard peak-hour turn or travel restrictions. I hope if it's going to be standard equipment the company starts taking a more responsible approach.