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PJ's Camper Van: 2nd Row Seats and Leather Front Seats

8141 Views 15 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  pjtezza
Based on our experience with our 26' Tioga RV, IMO, the design of the 2nd row seats should be a higher priority than given in most camper van designs. I spent a lot of time in our RV's (uncomfortable) dinette seats. The 2nd row also comes into play if you want to take more than just 1 friend on your adventures! I bought some sweet 2nd row leather seats off Craigslist and designed a lot of the rest of the van around them.

Because these seats come from a minivan, when anchored properly to the van's frame and supplied with proper seat belts, they should be a lot safer than a typical RV sleeper sofa with lap belts. They are very comfortable - they recline and have dual armrests. My current design allows the seats to be easily changed from being mounted longways to mounted across as I believe that passengers generally prefer to be facing forward.

I really liked the the black leather on the minivan seats. The original cloth front seats were not great and they stained easily. There is a company here that does amazing aftermarket leather seats. I had them recover the front seats to match the 3rd row. There is a before and after pic below.

I bought 4 point racing seatbelts. I discovered that I could get away with using 3 mounting points - 2 on the sides and 1 behind the seat (see pics). For each seatbelt, I used 2 of the biggest bed bolts I could find (see pics) and one of the original seatbelt mounting points for the 3 mounts. My 2 bed bolt mounting points probably wouldn't pass the 4000 pound NHTSA requirement, but I'm confident they are much, much stronger than what was in the rear seats of my Tioga RV. I mounted the row to the floor of the van with 2" structural aluminum angle and more bed bolts and bolts to attach the seats to the aluminum angle (see pics). With 4 x 2,600 pound attachments points each, the seat attachments are probably good for 4,000 pounds.

I have more tips for anybody trying to replicate this - just let me know and I'll write more and/or answer questions. The most important tip regarding the use of bed bolts is to watch the clearance on the gas tank carefully. As supplied, the bed bolts were clear of the tank, but just barely. Eventually, I decided that the bed bolts had to be cut shorter to provide more clearance. My tip is to choose the final length of the bed bolts before you do the final install and replace the gas tank!


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Was wondering why you didn't post this on your previous Thread, after the question about the seats? That way others looking for the answer, would have it without having to search.

Semper Fi
Regarding the timing, I just got the van back from shop an hour or so ago. Regarding the separate thread, I thought a new thread about 2nd row seats would be helpful to people looking for info about 2nd row seats while anybody subscribed to the old thread about windows, including the particular user I quoted that had asked detailed questions about the seats, would see my new post on the windows thread referring to this post about seats. For anybody reading a thread about windows, yet interested in seats that did not subscribe to the window thread, well, hopefully, they will see it under Active Topics, or something?
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The seats look nice, you've gone above and beyond getting the front seats reupholstered to match.

I'm being an armchair engineer here, but you might take another look at your seat mounts. The bolts that the seat clips onto, I think they will bend and allow the clip to slide off the end in an impact. Maybe adding a nut to the free end of the bolt would reduce the chance of that happening. Also if those aren't high-test bolts (i.e., grade 8), they might just shear off.
Your points about the bolts are good ones. I agree - if the force on the seats had an enough of an upwards component, the bolts would eventually bend. What you probably can't tell from the pics is how tight everything is once the seats are locked down. The angles trap the seat mounts between them. There is no room for the seats to slide forward or backward and get leverage on the bolts. Double nuts on the ends couldn't hurt though. This current version uses the bolts I could obtain easily. When I eventually order the final grade 8 bolts, I'll order them long enough to put nuts on the end. To be NHTSA safe, I'm pretty sure the seats have to to be forward mounted and all mounting points need to be tied to the frame (not just to the floor). And, if you do all that, you might as well fabricate some custom U-channel instead of using angles.
Hello PJ I'm a new member and new Transit owner in the process of designing and building my camper van. I bought a set of Sienna seats from Craigslist and thinking about doing something just like yours, mounting the seats side way (when traveling with just me and my wife) and re-arrange to forward facing when traveling with our 2 adult children. I'm very interested in the detail of your build. Do you have more photos? Particularly interested in how you mount the angle to the seat's bottom structure, how you mount the base angle to the floor, and how you convert to forward facing. I'm mechanically inclined, just bought a welding machine from Harbor Freight, but never weld before. Thank you.
Hi! I think I explained about using the bed bolts, angles and bolts in the angles to secure the seats onto the angles in my post above. Can you see those photos? You will have to lower the gas tank to secure the bed bolts. That is also helpful when figuring out where to drill the holes for the bed bolts. You will probably want to take the gas tank out completely if you are going to add bed bolts for the forward mounting position. I cut quite a bit off the bed bolts to make them shorter to keep them away from the gas tank. I installed the bed bolts between the ribs. To bring the top of the bed bolts flush with the ribs, I used large, thick washers. I cut an arc out of two sides of the large washers so they fit perfectly between the ribs.
Never mind I think I got it now. Didn't know what a bed bolt was - I thought it's just an "eye" bolt. It makes sense now. So the seats just latch onto those long bolts that you mount side way along the angle? What size bolt is that? I imagine it needs to be strong enough for the force. Thanks.
There is a pic of the original bed bolt package in the earlier post. I didn't use the actual eye bolts (know anybody that wants to buy a bunch of them?). Yes, the seats latch onto the bolts. Yes, everything needs to be strong enough. To get to full FVMSS ratings, you need to tie the bed bolts into the vehicle frame, use welded U channels rather than bolts sticking out of angles, etc..
Where did you get the front seats reupholstered and how much was it? I live in Los Angeles.
We use and recommend Katzkin. The factory is in LA. They install through a network of dealers. If you want to come to Oxnard, we can get them installed for you.
I am familiar with them and have inquired before. Is that who you used for the driver and passenger seats in the photos you provided?
Are those the black OEM cheaper option or did you do the more expensive customization?
I don't understand your question.
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