SUCCESS! Headrests in a 15-pass Chevy Express!

Keeanh

Well-known member
Yeah baby!





The headrests are from a '97 Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Voyager.

I'll take the time to write out some how-to details later. For now, I just wanted to say it CAN be done!


Update: Better instructions at the top of page 2 (post 16)
 
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Maggie

New member
I'm anxious to hear how. We have an 8 passenger Express with no headrests and a dd who is quickly becoming too tall for her Monterey.
 

Keeanh

Well-known member
UPDATE: See post 16 (after you look at the diagrams below)

Okay... first the "prototype".

I chose the 3rd Generation Caravan because it's common, has nice thick foam headrests, and because of the way the headrest is welded on. This was important for the prototype, but won't matter for future benches. For the prototype, the body shop guy wanted to cut the sleeves off the Caravan bench and put them on the Express bench. He wasn't comfortable doing a "build from scratch" job first time around. I've since talked him into it so I don't have to buy any more Caravan benches ;). So, I had to pick a bench that would be easy to cut the sleeves off & easy to recreate the setup on the Express bench. Most minivan benches have the sleeves recessed a bit into the top bar of the seat frame. The Caravan ones are just stuck on the front.

The actual process is really simple: Body shop guy cut the metal sleeves off the Caravan bench and welded them on to the Express bench.

I wish he had stopped there because he kinda messed up my upholstery by cutting big holes to put the plastic guides in. I need to go out there with a needle & thread and try to gather in & hem up the loose ends.

He also discovered that the foam is a lot thicker on the Caravan bench so he ended up with too much metal sleeve at the top of the seat and had to cut it down. Next time, he'll know to have more sleeve under the bar, less up top.

At some point I'll get some fabric that kinda matches & make some covers. Someday, LOL.

So... that's the story of the prototype. I'll do another post about how we plan to do future ones (which is how I would have done this one but couldn't talk the guy into it and didn't want to push my luck, LOL).
 
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Keeanh

Well-known member
Some illustrations of how the headrests are attached, since I don't want to yank the upholstery off the real seat, at least until I can fix where it's unraveling.



Where it says "top bar", that means the top bar of the seatback frame.

Here's a closeup of the metal sleeve + plastic guide setup. It's really very simple, and is just welded on to the front of the seat frame.

 

Keeanh

Well-known member
As promised, here's the best I can provide so far in the way of instructions for people wanting to do this:

1. Get new or used headrests & the corresponding plastic guides from a parts dealer, a dealership, a scrap yard, or online. They don't have to be from a Caravan. The guides & headrests just have to match (obviously).

2. Get steel pipe with an appropriate interior diameter. The guide has to be able to slide through with the ends pinched in, yet still lock into place. The guy who did mine said the original wasn’t heavy duty pipe, just standard steel pipe, like he already had in his shop.

ETA: After talking to scrapyard & body shop guys, we decided it was cheaper & easier to continue cutting up old bench seats. I've discovered it's the most economical way to get the parts, at least around here. And guy who's doing the welding said it was easy to cut off the existing pieces and then he knows they're the right size.

3. Cut the little bump off the guide. It's supposed to go into a notch in the metal sleeve, but it's totally unnecessary. It's just to make the locking guide face the right way. So just make sure you put the guide in the right way without the notch to help you :p. ETA: This step isn't necessary if you use the existing tube from an old bench

4. Measure the length of the narrow part of the guide as indicated in the pic. That’s how long the steel sleeves need to be. After cutting, test with the guide to make sure they’re the right size & length.

5. Measure the top part of the guide (#2 in the pic). Add about ⅛” for foam compression. This is how far the top of the metal sleeve needs to be below the top of the seatback foam.

6. Weld the sleeves in place. I can ask the guy who did mine for details on how he got the location & angle. But knowing him, I would guess he just did it by eye, LOL. Test out the guides & headrests before putting the seat back together.

7. Put all the foam back in place & cut or drill out the path for the headrest guide.

8. Come up with a way to keep the upholstery from unraveling where you cut through. I’m thinking of either ironing on some iron-on interfacing. Or else putting the cover on, marking where the holes go, and then taking it off & stitching some backing on with the sewing machine. Maybe zig-zag around where I’ll cut through, like making a button hole.

9. Put the upholstery on, poke holes through it, push the plastic guides into place, and put the headrests on.


 
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mommyfrog

Active member
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope this will work in my van. My brother is a welder, so I think he could do this for me if I asked him real nice. And maybe bake him a chocolate cake or something!!
 

AutoShopMama

New member
Are you willing to share how much your guy charged you?

And this is "ok" as far as safety things go? It would be acceptable to use with a backless or no booster and that sort of installed headrest and consider it as safe as something from the factory? (ok, seriously. It's probably *safer* but I have to ask)

I'm loving this idea. We own an auto service shop, so we have good working relationships with the salvage yard, dealers and body shops. I'm thinking that Friday's project will be to start searching and pricing! :D
 

pippi2077

Senior Community Member
Very interesting. Dh thinks we will end up with a big van someday. This is a major concern of mine. My bro does autobody and my dad can weld and much more.
 

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