We cut up a 7,000$ Genuine BMW seat.

We cut up a 7,000$ Genuine BMW seat.

"In this Special Series about the Custom BMW Performance style CS seats, I document the process to match my Genuine BMW Performance driver seat with a replica passenger seat in collaboration with David at Recovered Workshop. 

In this entry, David and Louis pull the covers off the original BMW PERFORMANCE driver seat and cut it to pieces. 

I stood by documenting the precise steps, trusting the process and understanding why this was needed.
- Matt

Trusting the process, and the people. 

In my years of dealing in technical fields and in crafts, I've found a repeating dynamic in the relationships that were created.

The gap between the craftsman's experiences, knowledge and expertise - and my limited knowledge is to be filled by trust, and curiosity. 

The gap eventually closes, but it will never fully. Trust is always required. 

Trusting RCVR. 

It wasn't our first rodeo.

We had already tore into the E46 and reupholstered brand new Pole Position ABEs along with rewiring the seats. 

The process for the Pole Position was a challenge, but a much simple one. Everything is just simpler with a bucket seat. 

Unlike Pole Positions, we had one shot. A single cut gone wrong, a single stitching line mis-marked, and the original, discontinued BMW cover was useless

You can easily source new Recaro Pole Position covers, and M-Texture fabric can be found with the right contacts. 

It wasn't David's first rodeo.

David has been doing upholstery work for the last decade under his own brand Recovered Workshop.

There's no trade school for automotive upholstery, most of the schools are oriented towards furniture upholstery work which don't translate well to automotive. 

It takes hands-on experience, experiments and countless trials and errors to acquire the knowledge and confidence to perform quality upholstery work. 

These are seats he's redone for his own car: a 190E. 

He has fully redone interiors multiple times, including this ISF.

Unsurprisingly, his favorite seat brand is Recaro but for different reasons we expect. He raves about their quality of upholstery work and the little things I had never noticed until I met him. 

He started making a name for himself in the VAG scene over a decade ago. 

Quality work in the upholstery world quickly brings you a premium clientèle. Recovered mostly works on exotics, high end boats and custom RVs. 

The process.

I've opted to write this Journal Entry in the way I experienced it: the stakes and the process.

I set out to understand why cutting up the original BMW PERFORMANCE seat was required to achieve the level of quality I demanded.

Unbolting the seat and accessories. 

The first step in the process is dismounting the backrest from the lower section of the seat, and remove the rails & side mounts. 

You're reminded this is a critical safety component as you muscle up the strength to remove the bolts holding the seat together.   

The backrest and lower section of the seat have specific pathways for the airbag and heating pad wiring. 

The lower section of the seat is where the most of street friendliness is found. It's wide, and the seat bolt buckle is easily accessible. 

The manual sliders are much lighter than the electrical sliders from the E46. It compensates for the heavier Sportster CS frame. 

The racing seat belt covers are held by bolts threading through the shell. The outside shoulder cover has the reclining handle. 

We weren't sure at first if this was ABS plastic that were pre-tinted before mold injection, or painted. We found out later in the process.

Removing the OE cover. 

As the main hardware was removed, we moved on to the next step: removing the OE cover from the shell. 

This is where it started getting nerve wracking. My window of opportunity to reverse the work starts dwindling fast - not that it was on my mind :)

David pointed out how Recaro aligns the cover to the seat. The cut out small triangles on the outside edge of the covers.

The triangles are aligned with pins holding the cover at matching locations on the shell.

There are many of these across the cover.

The lower section was the same process, albeit more straight forwarder due to the simpler cover and shell design. 

As David removed all the clips, he started slowly pulling on the cover at the edges.

Revealing the signature ribs of the BMW PERFORMANCE cover had some "wow" factor. 

The ribs are separated by velcro. It's sufficient to hold the cover in place.

Knowing this will help us source the right velcro and its required dimensions. 

The lower section is put together in similar fashion. 

The inner stitching also incorporates these rubber, alignment gaskets.

Knowing on which side of the stitching they are upholstering was needed to perfectly align with the red clips. 

Removing the covers reveals the heating pad. There's only 1x, and it's on the backrest. This was an interesting discovery, it isn't like an OEM seat with its dual pad. 

Careful attention was put on removing the cover without breaking the clips. These can be sourced at Recaro if it ever goes sideways. 

The underside.of the backrest cover reveals how it was held together.

A lot of velcro! Clips are used in section where there's more body mass. 

The underside of the lower section shows a simpler design, but more clips intensive.

It makes sense when considering where body mass is located when seated - our legs and hips!

With the covers off, we removed the foam from the shell to reveal its construction.

The foam was visibly made from liquid injection. It's a polyurethane based foam. Finding the right foam to match the feel of the OEM seat will be critical. 

The shell is ABS plastic made from injection molding. The pinned squares at the top of the shell are indicated of its date of production. Mine was a 2013. 

This picture also shows the reclining seat wire mechanism, and it confirmed the covers were indeed painted. There was slight overspray in certain sections. We will get these color matched. 

Recreating the sequence. 

With the seat fully dismounted and the covers off, it was now time to begin analyzing, understanding and recreating how Recaro put together this cover for BMW. 

From this point on, there was no way back. You cannot reliably use a cover that gets its stitching removed. The stitches will be weak and tear off with little use. 

We started with numbering each section according to the order in which they would be upholstered together. 

Furthermore, we needed to understand where and how each velcro section were installed on the covers.

David and Louis needed to understand the puzzle Recaro created for BMW. Which sections will get stitched together first is key to accurately recreating the cover.   

There's a rule in upholstery: you can't stop a stitch when it gets going, until it's done making its way through the fabric. 

[...] and creating new reference points. 

David and Louis created their own alignment markings. This will make or break the final alignment of each sections of the cover. 

As you start seeing the amount of markings across the OEM cover, you start appreciating the complexity of this work - and the experience required to accurately recreated a cover.  

The amount and position of the markings is entirely based on the guy's experiences recreating the covers. 

I couldn't quite understand the pattern - but curvatures, and distance between markings seem to have some correlation.  


Chop chop!

At this point, all markings had been done, the sections numbered and the information quadruple checked. I had been documenting the process, asking questions and felt I understood the necessity of destroying this OEM cover. 

The anxiety was gone and it turned in hilarity. Seeing a rare, expensive, genuine seat get its covers cut out is a unique and fun experience. 

Then came the scissors, and the razor blades. They cut out each section from one another. 

The surplus fabric left by Recaro also needed to be cut to create accurate outlines on the templates. 

No matter the fabric used, Recaro left a surplus. 

The surplus fabric will be discarded. It services no purpose to recreating the covers.  

4 hours into it, we were nearly all the way through this part of the process, the guys had jokes.

The lower section sits here fully cut, with its gasket on the side. We plan to re-use it.

They can also be sourced with Recaro if we want to start from a new component. 

Understanding why. 

In order to recreate the original BMW PERFORMANCE covers at scale, we needed to fully understand the process Recaro used to stitch and fit each section together.

Recaro, nor anyone other shop that offers this service, would share templates to achieve this.

It's all a secret for obvious reasons: who's mad enough to cut up a 7,000$ seat?


Up next: we re-assemble the puzzle, create templates and more.  


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