Upholstery History

Back at it again, here at VIP Interiors, we’re all about the innards of your ride. Don’t get us wrong, the body of a car is absolutely a thing of art. But without a slick interior, no one will want to ride in it to enjoy the experience. Talking about the history of the convertible earlier this month got us thinking about how the upholstery itself changed over time. So let’s go over it, briefly, shall we?

The early life of automobile seats wasn’t quite the pinnacle of comfort, go figure. The automobile seats of the time were similar to furniture of the time. Seat frames were made of wood, and the support was coiled springs. Padding was made up of cotton, horse hair, or other fibrous materials.

By the mid 20th century automobile seating had grown considerably. The frames had made a move from wood to metal, making them much more durable. Springs were still used but instead of the older coiled variety became the zig-zag type which allowed for good support but slimmer seats. The padding moved on to foam making for more comfortable and stable seating.

In the 70s and 80s, automakers changed the focus of their design to hone in on better fuel economy. What this meant was that the overall weight of cars had to come down. The seat frames became light-weight metal spot welded together. The seat frames were filled with foam entirely to make them comfortable. The foam was different as well, having more air bubbles which made for softer but less supportive seats. This change in manufacturing lead to less quality seating and wear occurred much faster.

The 90s saw another industry shift. Seats became made of light weight but stronger metals, being composed of many different pieces. The zig-zag seat springs made a return and in combination with denser foam made for more stable and comfortable seats. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows however as the manufacturer’s leather is often of a lower standard, meaning wear and tear are much quicker to develop.

Looking at that history and compare it to your own ride. Often thought your Ford Escort seats were uncomfortable? Well if its all stock you know now why. We’ll catch you next month on the blog, til then enjoy the ride!