Game Of Thrones - Part 1: R32 Seat Restoration Options

Twenty-five years takes its toll on just about anything on a car from the engine to the paint to the warning label on the side mirrors that says “Objects In Mirror Are Losing”. One of the parts of a car that takes the most abuse with time is the seats as people of all shapes, sizes, and cleanliness slide their bums in and out of those important but often neglected components. Needless to say, after a quarter of a century of use the thrones in your R32 will likely have seen better days so what can you do about it?

If you're lucky the previous owners will have been the kind of meticulous individuals that never ate in their car, always made sure no sharp object could snag on their upholstery, and only used the finest grade of Quilted Northern on their posteriors so that nary a stain or tear ever besmirched your car's seats. Chances are more likely however they'll be the type of slob who thinks oil stains and cigarette burns add “character”. Ugh.

My poor seats had seen better days. Well, the whole car had really :(

Since the stock R32 seats are covered in cloth and synthetic suede (apparently some Japanese product called exse-Nu – which sounds more like a pimple cream than upholstery) the odd stain is likely. If the seats are otherwise in good shape, you can do what I did with mine and use a simple but effective method for stain removal – take some kerosene, rub a copious amount into the material with a rag, light a match, and set the godforsaken thing on fire. Voila! No more stain! No more seat too but that's a minor detail.

NOT an actual photo of me cleaning my seats. Image credit: Speedhunters.com

Or you can do what I actually did and use a Bisell Little Green Proheat compact carpet cleaner. These little marvels do a great job of removing stains and sucking up years of accumulated filth from upholstery. You should have seen how dirty the cleaning solution got when I worked on my seats – you'd never sit in an old car again without a biohazard suit. Ugh squared.

It's small and not very cool looking but dang is it useful for cleaning upholstery. Image credit: Bisell

If you don't have a Bisell or similar you can also try your luck with a spray-on upholstery cleaner and a wet vacuum though the results may not be as good.

Some work with the Bisell and my driver's seat looked much better. If it weren't for the small tear on the bolster it might have even looked fresh.

Sadly my driver's seat had a bigger issue than just some stains and that was a small tear in the cover of one of the side bolsters. So what can you do when your seats are ruined by more than just disgusting effluvia?

Option number 1: Reupholster. If you want to keep the look of the OEM seats but dress 'em up all new and fancy-like you can have an upholsterer re-cover the seats in new, unstained, and non-smelly material. There's nothing too fancy about the stock R32 seats so any decent auto upholstery shop should be able to do this. Depending on materials and patterns it'll likely be pretty expensive but you can come up with some truly unique and appealing looks this way.

A sample from the interwebs- it's not cheap but re-upholstering can look REALLY pretty. Image credit: Gtr.co.uk

Another sample, this time from the GTRCanada forums.

Option number 2: Put in new ones. Replacement OEM seats aren't too hard to find on eBay. Random searches I've done in the past usually turned up a couple of pairs of front seats for sale at any given time. Unfortunately being just as old as any other R32 seats they're usually not in great shape either. R33 and R34 front seats fit in an R32 without modification by the way if you happen to be able to get a pair. The R33 seats are the same as the R32 ones just with different color upholstery. The R34 has two harness holes instead of one and are shaped differently.

A more custom option is to swap in new aftermarket pieces from companies like Recaro, Bride, Cobra, American Standard...no, wait, that last one makes the wrong kind of throne I think.

Period-correct Recaros are a sweet option to replace the OEM front seats. Image credit: Gtr.co.uk
I prefer Bride over Recaro myself if only because anything and everything seems to have Recaros now. Image credit: Gtr.co.uk

Since the R32 was designed before the age of electric motors everywhere, ass warmers, and integrated airbags, putting in new front seats is as simple as picking a model you like, buying a set of rails, turning a few wrenches, grabbing a six pack on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and there you go, your car has gained instant awesome. Contrast that with swapping the seats on my R35 where witchcraft and animal sacrifices were needed to get the electronics to play nice. (If you're curious you can read all about the arcane rituals involved in my DIY here: http://www.gtrlife.com/forums/topic/81390-diy-swapping-your-seats-for-fun-and-profit-maybe/page__fromsearch__1 )

Sample R32 seat rails from Austalia. Image credit: JustJap.com

Planted is just one company that makes seat rails for the R32 to mate your preferred brand to your ride:


Replacement front seats are a great way to add “because racecar” points to your R32 but unfortunately the new pieces will probably be upholstered very differently from the innocuous gray cloth on the rear seats. If you're the type of person (like me) who prefers his seats to all look like they're part of the same car you'll need to consider other options, which brings us to the next choice:

Option number 3: Seat Covers. Yeah, I know, seat covers sound like an option for granny's Toyota Avalon so she can have that nice fuzzy sheepskin she craves but there are some really nice sets out there for the R32.

On the cheaper side you have the Superior Auto covers:




Images from RHDJapan

At 500ish bucks with shipping they seem like a pretty cost-effective way to give all your seats a new look and they come in a couple of color options for the R32. I haven't tried them myself but I've seen a few people on the internet that have bought them and thought they were good.

You can also buy just rear seat covers if you need only that part to go with new front seats:


The pricier option is the one I took, the Nismo R32 seat covers:


Sadly, they're pretty pricey with most shops asking over a grand for the set, although I got mine from RHDJapan for about $800. Are they worth the hefty price? Well, yes and no. They certainly fit well and look good once you go through the arduous process of putting them on but they're not real leather and they don't look unique enough really apart from the Nismo logo.

In pictures they look all black but close up you'll notice the cloth inserts actually have small perforations that allow a background piece of red cloth to peek through. I'm not sure what Nismo was thinking though when they made the holes so small that you don't even notice the pattern unless you look really hard.

Overall, I think the Nismo seat covers are only worth it for the die-hard Nismo fan. I got them because my R32 is a Nismo but if it were a regular R32 I'd have probably looked at other options. At twice the price of the similar offering from Superior Auto a good deal they are not. That's not to say they're poor quality, like all Nismo offerings it's well-built stuff but the price is simply hard to swallow for just some seat covers. If you do decide to get a set, come back for part 2 of this article where I'll try to save you some brain cells and a whole lot of frustration by explaining how to install them.

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