Tech: TMI Sport XR S197 Seat Upgrade

TMI S197 Seat Upgrade

First-Class Seats

TMI Products revamps Project Vapor Trail’s interior with its airbag-compliant Sport XR seat conversion

By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of TMI Products

If this shot doesn’t sell you on upgrading your seats, then you must not want new seats! Seriously, the stock passenger seat with the adjustable headrest (left) pales in comparison to the beautiful, robustly bolstered Sport XR driver seat (right). Don’t fret if you don’t have an ’05-and-newer Mustang, TMI Products offers a complete lineup of seating upgrades for earlier Mustangs as well.
If this shot doesn’t sell you on upgrading your seats, then you must not want new seats! Seriously, the stock passenger seat with the adjustable headrest (left) pales in comparison to the beautiful, robustly bolstered Sport XR driver seat (right). Don’t fret if you don’t have an ’05-and-newer Mustang, TMI Products offers a complete lineup of seating upgrades for earlier Mustangs as well.

If you aren’t familiar with Project Vapor Trail from its beginnings in magazine land, it is a Vapor Silver 2008 Shelby GT500 that is extensively modified to push its performance to the reasonable brink of streetable performance. The first time I drove a modern Shelby GT500, I just knew I had to own one. However, knowing I would have to mod it, I committed to myself that I wouldn’t take it ‘too far’ down the performance path.

 

This project began by removing the stock seats. This is really pretty easy work. There are two clips at the front of the rear seat. Once those are pulled out, you can slide the bottom of the rear seat out. The seat backs are bolted in the bottom, and latched at the top. Simply pull the fold-down releases and unbolt the mounting brackets, then the seat backs will easily come out.
This project began by removing the stock seats. This is really pretty easy work. There are two clips at the front of the rear seat. Once those are pulled out, you can slide the bottom of the rear seat out. The seat backs are bolted in the bottom, and latched at the top. Simply pull the fold-down releases and unbolt the mounting brackets, then the seat backs will easily come out.

Many of us have been there. You start with a stock Mustang, and then you go crazy with the modifications. That is half the fun, but often these street cars get pushed so close to racing power levels they give up a lot of driveability in the process. Everyone has his or her own idea of streetability, but I wanted impressive power in a package that I could jump in and drive without a worry.

The front seats are easily removed. Only four bolts hold them in. You will need to remove the covers to reach the bolts at the rear of the seat. Once it is unbolted you can tip the seat rearward slightly and unplug the wiring harnesses for the air bags and power seat track (on the driver side). Then you can pull the seats out, but be careful, they are heavy and the seat tracks can scratch your paint.
The front seats are easily removed. Only four bolts hold them in. You will need to remove the covers to reach the bolts at the rear of the seat. Once it is unbolted you can tip the seat rearward slightly and unplug the wiring harnesses for the air bags and power seat track (on the driver side). Then you can pull the seats out, but be careful, they are heavy and the seat tracks can scratch your paint.

To get to that level, I started out with a Ford Racing TVS supercharger that was later upgraded to VMP Tuning specs with that company’s vaunted inlet, pulley, throttle body, and tuning. It breathes through a carbon-fiber JLT Big Air cold-air intake, and it belts out noise through the stock manifolds and a Bassani 3-inch exhaust. On a good-weather day or with the aid of good gas it will surpass 700 horsepower at the rear wheels. With a full Steeda adjustable suspension, including a Watt’s link, it can put that performance to work in corners as well.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to install this upholstery yourself or take it to a local shop to have the work done. We opted to have professionals do the work, so we could show you how to properly install the TMI gear. Here, the installer gets the job started by removing the headrests. Keep them nearby, as you’ll be reusing the headrest guts in the Sport XR transformation.
Keep in mind, you’ll need to install this upholstery yourself or take it to a local shop to have the work done. We opted to have professionals do the work, so we could show you how to properly install the TMI gear. Here, the installer gets the job started by removing the headrests. Keep them nearby, as you’ll be reusing the headrest guts in the Sport XR transformation.

In short, it is a really fun car. Besides its performance mods, PVT is graced with numerous appearance upgrades inside, outside, and under the hood. Just as I did with the performance mods, I tried to modify tastefully, and not push it to the point of being obnoxious. You have to know when to stop.

With the headrests removed, the installer carefully removes the trim from the reclining mechanism on the back of the seat.
With the headrests removed, the installer carefully removes the trim from the reclining mechanism on the back of the seat.

For quite a while I have considered the car as ‘complete’ as a project car ever can be. You can never really be finished with one until you sell it. That said, there was one area of the car that was left behind. It had stock seats. Sure I had added TMI Products’ sweet, adjustable headrests, but when a car is heavily modded, items like stock wheels or stock seats can really stand out.

Next he removed the recline handle from the side of the seat, as well as all the plastic seat trim. With all the seat accessories removed, you can unbolt the seat tracks and start disassembling the upholstery.
Next he removed the recline handle from the side of the seat, as well as all the plastic seat trim. With all the seat accessories removed, you can unbolt the seat tracks and start disassembling the upholstery.

I was never willing to give up the factory air bags, and I couldn’t swing a set of those spendy factory Recaros from the newer Mustangs, so I soldiered on with the factory seats and dealt with sliding around in the corners. However, I always wished for an upgrade that was both affordable and would retain the factory airbags and power driver seat.

After separating the seat back from the base, he unclipped the upholstery and peeled it back to gain access to the hog rings retaining it to the foam. These rings must be pulled apart to detach the covers and foam from the seat frame.
After separating the seat back from the base, he unclipped the upholstery and peeled it back to gain access to the hog rings retaining it to the foam. These rings must be pulled apart to detach the covers and foam from the seat frame.

That upgrade was announced at last year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, when TMI Products announced its R500 and Sport XR Seats for ’05-’14 Mustangs. The company had to add the proper equipment and materials to its repertoire in order to gain the certification for airbag-compliant upholstery. Now they are setup for this operation, and I have to say the TMI S197 upholstery upgrade is well worth the wait.

As you can see in the background, the seats can be taken down to the frames. After the upholstery is removed, the foam also comes off. Then the new foam can be installed on the stock seat frames. The installer starts by installing the Sport XR foam on the seat base and swapping the main rod from the stock upholstery over to the rod sleeve in the new Sport XR cover.
As you can see in the background, the seats can be taken down to the frames. After the upholstery is removed, the foam also comes off. Then the new foam can be installed on the stock seat frames. The installer starts by installing the Sport XR foam on the seat base and swapping the main rod from the stock upholstery over to the rod sleeve in the new Sport XR cover.

So, when our friends at TMI offered to convert PVT’s seats to Sport XR specs, I couldn’t remove the stock couches fast enough. The only real question was what version of upholstery to go with—the striped R500s or the grommet-equipped Sport XRs. Ultimately the car’s stripe-delete exterior guided me to the Sport XRs, which turned out great.

The rods provide a skeleton to maintain the form of the upholstery. They also provide a secure mount to attach the upholstery to the seat frame with hog rings. Here he clamps the rings in place with hog-ring pliers.
The rods provide a skeleton to maintain the form of the upholstery. They also provide a secure mount to attach the upholstery to the seat frame with hog rings. Here he clamps the rings in place with hog-ring pliers.

If you’d like to upgrade the seats in your ’05-’14 Mustang, check out the following photos to see how the TMI Products upholstery is installed. I think you’ll agree that the upgrade really takes PVT’s interior to a new level.

Next he installs the two rods into the side rod sleeves and attaches the upholstery with more hog rings. With the upholstery secure, it is then time to stretch the upholstery over the foam and secure it to the seat frame with the clips along the perimeter of the vinyl. It can be helpful to cover the foam with a thin plastic bag to allow the upholstery to stretch without getting hung up on the foam.
Next he installs the two rods into the side rod sleeves and attaches the upholstery with more hog rings. With the upholstery secure, it is then time to stretch the upholstery over the foam and secure it to the seat frame with the clips along the perimeter of the vinyl. It can be helpful to cover the foam with a thin plastic bag to allow the upholstery to stretch without getting hung up on the foam.
With the seat base complete, it’s time to move on to the seat back. Here the new foam is fitted to the frame. The foam shouldn’t tear here. This is just a damaged piece used to demonstrate how the frame of the factory headrest is stripped of it cover and foam. It is then used to create the backbone for the taller Sport XR foam and cover.
With the seat base complete, it’s time to move on to the seat back. Here the new foam is fitted to the frame. The foam shouldn’t tear here. This is just a damaged piece used to demonstrate how the frame of the factory headrest is stripped of it cover and foam. It is then used to create the backbone for the taller Sport XR foam and cover.
After putting on the new foam the installer swaps the L rods over and secures the upholstery and foam with more hog rings. Once the rods are secure, the cover can be stretched, clipped, and zipped into place. As with any upholstery, you may need to massage it and possibly use a steamer or heat gun to work out any small wrinkles.
After putting on the new foam the installer swaps the L rods over and secures the upholstery and foam with more hog rings. Once the rods are secure, the cover can be stretched, clipped, and zipped into place. As with any upholstery, you may need to massage it and possibly use a steamer or heat gun to work out any small wrinkles.
Here is the completed driver seat posing in front of some classics in the TMI Products facility in Corona, California. As you can see, PVT’s seats have some custom touches, including carbon-fiber-style inserts, suede accents, and a PVT logo embroidered in the headrest.
Here is the completed driver seat posing in front of some classics in the TMI Products facility in Corona, California. As you can see, PVT’s seats have some custom touches, including carbon-fiber-style inserts, suede accents, and a PVT logo embroidered in the headrest.
Our friends at National Parts Depot were kind enough to facilitate the shipping and receiving of PVT’s seats. When they returned back to the NPD facility in Ocala, Florida, from the upholstery shop I excitedly made the drive over and brought them back in Project Silver Lining, my ’13 Focus ST daily driver. Suffice it to say it was love at first sight with the new TMI seats!
Our friends at National Parts Depot were kind enough to facilitate the shipping and receiving of PVT’s seats. When they returned back to the NPD facility in Ocala, Florida, from the upholstery shop I excitedly made the drive over and brought them back in Project Silver Lining, my ’13 Focus ST daily driver. Suffice it to say it was love at first sight with the new TMI seats!
It was easiest to remove and reinstall this center mount, which serves as the pivot for the rear seatbacks. For the reinstallation, I loosely bolted in the outside brackets, then reinstalled the center bracket and bolted it in place.
It was easiest to remove and reinstall this center mount, which serves as the pivot for the rear seatbacks. For the reinstallation, I loosely bolted in the outside brackets, then reinstalled the center bracket and bolted it in place.
Here are the rear seatbacks installed. This is the point in the project when I started to get excited. It was easy to see what a big difference the TMI seats would make. I couldn’t wait to finish the installation.
Here are the rear seatbacks installed. This is the point in the project when I started to get excited. It was easy to see what a big difference the TMI seats would make. I couldn’t wait to finish the installation.
Next it was time to slide in the bottom of the rear seat. Those plastic tabs at the top of the frame slide in behind the seat back.
Next it was time to slide in the bottom of the rear seat. Those plastic tabs at the top of the frame slide in behind the seat back.
Getting the rear seats back in is relatively easy, but there is one tricky part. You have to get the seat belt started in the holes in lower seat before you push it down and secure the tabs at the front of the seat into the retaining mounts in the chassis. It’s really not difficult; it just helps to aim the seatbelts before you push the seat down.
Getting the rear seats back in is relatively easy, but there is one tricky part. You have to get the seat belt started in the holes in lower seat before you push it down and secure the tabs at the front of the seat into the retaining mounts in the chassis. It’s really not difficult; it just helps to aim the seatbelts before you push the seat down.
Oh yeah! This is progress. With just the rear seats completed, it was clear PVT’s interior won’t be lagging behind the rest of the car any longer. The silver stitching and grommets provide just enough contrast to liven up the dark interior.
Oh yeah! This is progress. With just the rear seats completed, it was clear PVT’s interior won’t be lagging behind the rest of the car any longer. The silver stitching and grommets provide just enough contrast to liven up the dark interior.
Like removing the front seats, take great care when reinstalling them. The seats are heavy, so lift them over the threshold and set the rear seat brackets down over the factory studs. Then you can lean the seat back like this and reconnect the factory wiring harnesses.
Like removing the front seats, take great care when reinstalling them. The seats are heavy, so lift them over the threshold and set the rear seat brackets down over the factory studs. Then you can lean the seat back like this and reconnect the factory wiring harnesses.
This is a custom embroidered logo to make the TMI Sport XR seats right at home in Project Vapor Trail. Since the project’s moniker shares the same last two letters as the engineering team that developed the GT500, the PVT logo looks pretty similar to the SVT logo.
This is a custom embroidered logo to make the TMI Sport XR seats right at home in Project Vapor Trail. Since the project’s moniker shares the same last two letters as the engineering team that developed the GT500, the PVT logo looks pretty similar to the SVT logo.
It’s been a long time coming, but it is really exciting that TMI Products is now offering an airbag-compliant upholstery and foam option for the later S197 Mustangs. The company has offered its Sport R and Sport R500 seats for the ’05-’07 cars for some time now, but these forthcoming airbag-compliant versions will provide a much-needed seating upgrade option for owners of the later, airbag-equipped seats. It’s so nice to plug the seats back in and have all the factory functionality.
It’s been a long time coming, but it is really exciting that TMI Products is now offering an airbag-compliant upholstery and foam option for the later S197 Mustangs. The company has offered its Sport R and Sport R500 seats for the ’05-’07 cars for some time now, but these forthcoming airbag-compliant versions will provide a much-needed seating upgrade option for owners of the later, airbag-equipped seats. It’s so nice to plug the seats back in and have all the factory functionality.
With the front seats on the rear studs and the harnesses plugged back in, line up the front mounting holes and reinstall the bolts. Besides the airbag compliance, it really is great to have seats that are totally stock hidden inside aftermarket performance seat clothing. They bolt right up like they belong there!
With the front seats on the rear studs and the harnesses plugged back in, line up the front mounting holes and reinstall the bolts. Besides the airbag compliance, it really is great to have seats that are totally stock hidden inside aftermarket performance seat clothing. They bolt right up like they belong there!
With the seats bolted back in place, the last step is to slide home the beauty covers that hide the rear fasteners. Just line up the tabs and push the covers forward into place.
With the seats bolted back in place, the last step is to slide home the beauty covers that hide the rear fasteners. Just line up the tabs and push the covers forward into place.
Now PVT’s interior finally holds its own. The TMI Products Sport XR seats look fantastic, yet they look right at home. That is a win all the way around. Moreover the seats are quite comfortable. More importantly, they provide far more support than the flat factory seats. If you want to see these seats in person, we plan to have PVT on display at Mustang Week in July. See you there!
Now PVT’s interior finally holds its own. The TMI Products Sport XR seats look fantastic, yet they look right at home. That is a win all the way around. Moreover the seats are quite comfortable. More importantly, they provide far more support than the flat factory seats. If you want to see these seats in person, we plan to have PVT on display at Mustang Week in July. See you there!
The grommet-adorned Sport XR’s we chose might not be for everyone, especially if your ’Stang has stripes. As such, it’s worth mentioning that TMI also has its beautiful striped R500 upholstery available. They are currently available in black or gray vinyl with red, blue, black, gray, or white stripes.
The grommet-adorned Sport XR’s we chose might not be for everyone, especially if your ’Stang has stripes. As such, it’s worth mentioning that TMI also has its beautiful striped R500 upholstery available. They are currently available in black or gray vinyl with red, blue, black, gray, or white stripes.
This great X-ray shot from TMI shows how the company’s foam and upholstery kits transform the stock seat frame into a legitimate sport seat. Even more exciting news is that TMI is working on expanding the thread and stripe colors by adding Grabber Blue and Gotta Have It Green to the lineup!
This great X-ray shot from TMI shows how the company’s foam and upholstery kits transform the stock seat frame into a legitimate sport seat. Even more exciting news is that TMI is working on expanding the thread and stripe colors by adding Grabber Blue and Gotta Have It Green to the lineup!

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7 thoughts on “Tech: TMI Sport XR S197 Seat Upgrade”

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    http://www.svtperformance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/TMI-S197-Seat.jpg
    
    
    TMI Products revamps Project Vapor Trail’s interior with its airbag-compliant Sport XR seat conversion
    
    By Steve Turner
    Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of TMI Products
    
    If you aren’t familiar with Project Vapor Trail from its beginnings in magazine land, it is a Vapor Silver 2008 Shelby GT500 that is extensively modified to push its performance to the reasonable brink of streetable performance. The first time I drove a modern Shelby GT500, I just knew I had to own one. However, knowing I would have to mod it, I committed to myself that I wouldn’t take it ‘too far’ down the performance path.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    CONTINUE READING HERE ----->
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Quick FYI, that link doesn't work, at least not within chrome. This URL is what I see after I click on it:
    
    http://%22http//www.svtperformance.com/?p=274
    I can still get to the page after removing the "%22http//" portion.

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