When you own a bus, or well, any home actually – there’s always a to-do list a mile long of potential future projects. Our lovely Zephyr is no exception.
We bought her almost 3 years ago for a song, but knowing full well that it would unending upgrade projects. So when we have access to resources, we try to make the best of it and accomplish what we can.
Since we were coming to the RV capitol of the world, we knew this would be a fantastic place to seek out new front captains seats, a long overdue project.
Several RV manufacturers are in Elkhart, and thus there are surplus stores abound that sell various parts. There’s also several renovation shops in the area who specialize in helping folks like us out.
Our difficulty in any project like this is that we hate planning in advance. We route by serendipity, which means our choices are limited to what we can get done NOW. While we could have ordered seats in any color & material & style we wanted to exactly match our interior, that would have been a 6-8 week special order.
We also had the complication that the driver’s seat is an air ride seat – which we knew our options would be slim to replace, and because of the shifter, the area is rather small to fit something new into.
Before heading in Elkhart, we put out some feelers to companies in the area and also picked the brain of our RVing rockstar friend Nick Russell. He outfitted his previous bus conversion mostly by surplus stores in the Elkhart area.
We started our search first by visiting a couple of the surplus stores in the area. We found a pair of seats that would do the trick for $650/pair – but we would be on our own to do the installation ourselves. Given the complication of switching out an air ride seat, we weren’t completely comfortable with this.
We also visited some independent interior renovation shops who had ‘take outs’ from coaches they were working on. This yielded an option of a fancy used 6-way power seats out of a Monaco for $1000/pair. But they were way too wide for our narrow body vintage bus, so we passed on those.
Our next stop was to Bradd & Hall. When we attended the FMCA Perry, GA Rally earlier this year we visited their booth and connected with Charles. He showed enthusiasm for vintage buses, and has kept in touch sense reassuring us that they can help us out with a solution at any budget level.
We were quite impressed with their show room – featuring both brand new Flexsteel products, and a close-out room with some great deals. Charles greeted us, and very patiently let us try out all of the options that we’d be able to have installed that very day.
At first, we were quite intrigued with a set of take-out Lexington seats for just $495/pair – even cheaper than the surplus store we had checked out earlier. Charles got them setup to try out on a temporary mount, but they didn’t feel right to us – a bit too stiff in the lumbar and the arm rests too high.
It is important for your ‘butt glove’ ‘to be comfortable, especially for the driver. And our passenger seat also swivels to become part of our living room when parked.
We tried out another set of close-out Flexsteel seats for $895/pair which were better.
And of course we were also trying out all of the options on the main showroom floor – as Charles said any of them could also be installed. We kept coming back to one set that just felt great to both of our behinds.
And in the end – that’s what we went with. Brand new, haloleather (faux leather) Flexsteel 517 for $620/each. A bit more than going with take-outs or surplus options, but not nearly as expensive as some of the other showroom models, which can go as high as $1200/each.
Charles got us pulled into the shop garage, and got them installed for us. There was some extra adjusting that needed to be done to convert the air ride seat over, so we’re very glad we had the expertise of a professional to do it right. Charles was able to use all of our existing pedestal mounts and hardware with a little refurbishing.
November 2019 Update – Cracked & Peeled Flexsteel:
We loved these seats for a couple years, they were fantastic in our full time use. In 2017 however we purchased a boat and started splitting our time between our RV and boat – with the RV mostly in storage from this point forward.
We put the bus into long term indoor storage in Texas in March 2018 – and at that time, the seats were showing some wear – signs of cracking. It was relatively minor.
When we picked up the bus in November 2019, they had gotten much worse. And with just light use in the first week out of storage – they quickly deteriorating with lots of peeling and flaking.
Here’s what they looked like:
We’ve heard from several folks who had coaches built in 2014/2015 who had similar issues – so this seems it might not have been an isolated case.
We’ll follow-up with what we decide to do from here. Covers? Re-covered? Replaced?