If you’ve read the blog, so our previous posts, you should know already that the seating position in the 3-Wheeler is quite different from the one in a standard vehicle. And for many reasons. Not only because the seats and the steering wheel aren’t adjustable, but because you are seated really low, on the floor of the vehicle. In a standard car, the pedals are in a clearly lower plane. The 3-Wheeler looks much more like a super sports car, with the base of the pedals in the same plane than the seat and therefore than the driver’s hips.
You have just a quite simple cushion, consisting of a wooden plank base, a foam padding, and the whole elegantly upholstered with leather. No springs, no memory foam, no technology but, in our case, an electric heating pad below the leather, as we ticked the box saying “heated seats” in the options list. This is fitted between an L-shaped profile of the floor at the front, and the plate that serves as the base for the backrest at the rear.
This seat is just 8 cm high in the back and 12 cm in the front. As it lays flat on the floor of the car, its slope by this difference in height gives you the slight sensation of being fitted in a sportier way. But the reality for a tall driver is that the seat is still too flat. When I sit down, and despite having the pedals positioned as far away as possible from the seat, I have all my weight resting on my hips, on the back of the seat next to the backrest, and my knees are always bent. Therefore, my thighs do not rest on the seat, since the front, despite being 12 cm high, is still too low for me.
In my case, this causes a slight overuse pain in my right knee. This leg is the one that moves the least while driving since the right foot must be permanently on the accelerator or brake. Probably because when I change the pedal I do it with my ankle fixed on the ground, or just moving it a few centimetres, and therefore the rotation of the foot also affects the knee. The discomfort only appears after driving for a couple of hours, but it is just as uncomfortable, without being unbearable. If my thighs were laying on the seat, the knee would suffer much less with so much less weight when rotating the ankle.
I’m clearly not the only one feeling that the seat is too low at its front. Many of our friends in the Talk Morgan forum have solved this in the simplest and most efficient way: adding a wood slat below the front of the seat. The size of this wood slat, so how much it rises the front of the seat, will depend on your height and your personal preferences regarding the driving position. But having your thighs supported by the seat is clearly a much better and comfortable position.
The discussions in the forum clearly stated that this wood slat below the front of the seat improves the driving position. So, I bought one of 44 x 56 mm.
But until now, I did not have the time to work on this support, meaning that we went for our first Long Range Campaign in France without it.
During this trip with the Back Adder Team, we enjoyed a fantastic first day driving the 3-Wheelers through amazing French roads. And my pain in the knee obviously reappeared. Then, the second day, during a short stop at the Gorges de Saint-May, I saw that Chas was using the famous wood slats under his seats. I told him I was thinking to build a couple of them for our Morgan and asked him if they really make a difference. As his were not screwed nor fixed in any way to the bottom his 3-Wheeler, he simply took the one under his co-pilot seat and he lent it to me to test if I noticed a difference. I can’t be more grateful to Chas for it! Only when I sat down did I realize the enormous difference. And as soon as we started up again and were driving several kilometres, the pain in my knee disappeared as if by magic, and I felt much more comfortable behind the wheel. As Chas was driving solo, he lent me the wooden slat for the whole trip. Thank you again my dear friend! This helped me so much!
Knowing now that this solution works so well, I started the brainstorming thinking about the best way to build our wooden slats.
The first thoughts were about how to solve its few inconveniences. I found three.
The first thing I noticed when I put the wooden slat under the front of my seat is that, as the seat was not fitted anymore over the thin edge of the L-shaped steel profile at the front, it slipped forward when I moved my hips. It also slipped forward during the driving even when I wasn’t moving, probably caused by the vibrations, the braking, and the road bumps. With the seat resting over the edge of the L-shaped steel profile, it still happens, but not so notoriously. So, I need to find a way to avoid the seat moving forward.
The second thing is that the wooden slat could also move. The one I was using was not perfectly shaped to my 3-Wheeler and had no way to be fixed to the floor. Being loose, it moved sometimes with the seat. Not as much as this one, but still moved. I will see how to fix mine to avoid any movement.
The third thing is about the shape of the wooden slat: if its profile is square or rectangular, the seat rests over a thin edge of the slat.
I will have to work on mine, to make it follow the same angle than the seat with the floor, so this last one rests over a flat large surface on the slat and not a thin edge of it.
With these premises in mind, I get down to work and, after making a very simple paper template, I cut the wooden slat to get two pieces and shape them so they fit perfectly in front of each seat.
I wish I had a table saw to make the slope on the top of the wood slat. But I still don’t have that fancy tool and instead I use my jig saw and the orbital sander. The result is not bad at all, despite the basic tools I used.
Being of 44 x 56 mm section, I decide to cut them so they’re taller. This means that the front of our seats will be raised by 56 mm.
When I made the paper template, I marked the exact location of the three bolts that help to fix the floor with the L-shaped steel profile in front of the seats. With the position of these screws marked, I drill holes deep enough to allow the screws’ heads to get into the wood, so my wood slat lies totally flat over the steel profile.
I finally give the wood few varnish layers to protect it against moisture and any possible water ingress.
I was thinking about other ways these wood slats may help to improve the 3-Wheeler beyond their main purpose of lifting the front of the seats.
By simply been there and lifting the front of the seat, I see their first inherent advantage: the cable and connector for the heating seats will not be crushed anymore between the seat and the floor. Good news!
Also, under the co-pilot seat we carry the vehicle’s papers inside the black leather Morgan pocket, together with a classic yellow high visibility safety vest. With the seat lifted at its front, the room below will be high enough, so these won’t be squashed anymore under the co-pilot’s weight. Same for the yellow high visibility safety vest below the pilot’s seat. More good news.
Then I though it would be nice to put some snap buttons to this leather pocket, and then have it fixed at the bottom of the seat, so it doesn’t move around while driving, and when you lift the seat you can get the papers more comfortably. When needed, as it’s fixed by very simple snap buttons, you can easily take it with you. Plus, it’s way more elegant than just letting this pocket lie on the floor of the car.
Still thinking about the possible advantages, I remembered about the wind jackets. During our trip in France, both Ana Maria and I carried a nice wind jacket. Useful in the cold early mornings, or when the temperature drops, or when it rains.
When we were not wearing them, we rolled them and kept them under our knees, just in front of the seat. There, the jackets didn’t bother us too much while driving, but with time they started unrolling. And as being on the floor, they permanently caught dirt and dust. To solve these inconveniences, back in Madrid we ordered a couple of nylon bags 30x10x10 cm in size, perfect to keep the jackets protected from the dirt inside!
These bags are really practical, but they could still move around below our knees. But now I have a nice wood slat just there! Turning to the snap buttons again, I put three on each bag, and on the wood slat. Now the bags with our wind jackets inside will stay clean and nicely fixed in front of the seats. And again, as they’re fixed with snap buttons, we can take the bags with us anytime!
Now it’s time to deal with the problem of the seat sliding forward over the wood slat. To avoid this to happen, the solution is obvious: to put some kind of stop under the seat, so that it touches the wooden slat and does not allow it to slide forward. But considering that there will be people on the seats, so quite an amount of weight, this stop needs to be quite serious. I search inside my boxes looking for a metallic profile that would do the job, I find two fantastic steel plates with a 90º tongue. They will do a fantastic job! But before using them, I use the table swivel vise to bend them, so the angle is closer than 90º, so the tongue makes a flat contact with the wood slat. Remember the seat is not flat but has a certain slope with the wood slat at the front! Therefore, the tongue of these metallic profiles needs to be bended to reduce these 90º to the proper angle for a flat contact.
While screwing them to the base of the seats, one of the seats showed a little obstacle: the leather upholstery gets too much below the seat, so the metallic plate won’t sit flat on the base. Easy to solve. I remove some staples to access the leather layer and cut a piece of it with a cutter. Then put all back with new staples and screw the metal piece, now totally flat on the base.
I come down to the garage to double check measures and that everything goes as it should. I see that the wood slats will lay over the L-shaped profile properly, but just for half of their size. The profile is 20 mm “deep” while the wood slats are 44 mm. So, 24 mm will hang out. The L-shaped profile lies over the floor of the 3-Wheeler and has some black sealant mastic between them. In total it’s 3 mm step.
As the wood slat will be screwed to the front vertical side of the L-shaped steel profile, this may not be a real issue, but I prefer to add a 2 mm thick aluminium plate down there. Considering I will very soon line the inside with Dynamat Extreme sheets, and being these 1,7 mm thick, but these being not totally rigid, the 2 mm aluminium plate plus the 1,7 mm of the Dynamat sheet should be good enough to fill this gap.
With this last detail finished, I can go down to the garage and screw the wood slats to the L-shaped steel profiles in front of the seats. And the job would be finished. However, there still another detail that bothers me… The stop I screwed below the seats to avoid the sliding forward, are made of solid metal. And every time we’ll lift and put down the seats, and also every time the seats are going to push on the slat trying to slide forward, the metal will be hitting and rubbing over soft wood. Not a good combination for a long-term solution! The metal will scratch and finally tear apart wood from the slat.
After thinking about the best possible solution, I decide to avoid the easy way, and do a nice artisan job. I cut a piece of aluminium plate and bend it properly, so it has the right angle to sit on the wood slat.
Then with the Dremel and a lot of patience and delicacy, I carve the wood slat the shape of the aluminium plate.
After a long time with millimetric cuts with the Dremel, the aluminium pieces finally fit into the wood. I love the result! It’s very elegant and will do a fantastic job protecting the soft wood from the metal seat stops!
Now I’m finished for good. Let’s see how they fit in the 3-Wheeler! First thing to do when I’m in the garage is to drill three times – one per screw – the vertical parts of the L-shaped steel profile on the floor. I will use 4 mm diameter and 40 mm long wood screws to fix the wood slats to this profile.
With the drills done, and the wood slats in place, I use a marker to see where the screws will get in. And then I pre-drill the wood with a 3 mm bit. I do this to avoid the soft wood to crack while inserting the screws, because the screws will enter very close to the bottom side, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this pine wood cracking. After so much work and dedication to make them look beautiful, I don’t want to risk seeing them cracking because of the last screws!
Finally, I fix the wood slats. They look really nice!
The co-pilot seat with the Morgan leather pocket fixed with the snap buttons looks gorgeous!
When I put down the seats, as I supposed the metal plate screwed at the bottom of the seat lies on the aluminium bended plate inserted in the wood slat. I need to push backwards the seats, with few light punches to see them sliding to the correct position, and perfectly fitted between the frontal wood slat and back below the backrest. Excellent fitting!
Then we try to fix the nylon bag with a wind jacket inside, in the snap buttons screwed in the front face of the wood slat. Success again! They fit and get fixed perfectly. Now we can travel with the jackets protected inside the bags, fixed to the front of the seats, away from dust and dirt, and so practical you can take the bag with you!
Work done! We take the 3-Wheeler for a short drive to feel the new seats position. Both Ana Maria and I are extremely satisfied. It’s a huge comfort difference! And aesthetically we’re very satisfied with the result! I hope you like it too!