Late in the 2007 season I was involved in a wreck. It was a typical Saturday night B-Main. I was running third as we were coming out of Turn 4 to take the green just after a restart. The car ahead of me had mechanical difficulties, whether it was his rearend locking up (the rumor I heard later) or something else didn't matter. He slowed, drastically, and I, along with the rest of the field, darted to the right to avoid him. The guy behind me hooked my right rear and drove me into the front wall. I hit hard, left front first, and then I slapped the wall on the driver side.
Everybody said I was knocked out, but I was unconscious so I really didn't know. All kidding aside, when I hit the wall my head hit the rollcage. Thankfully it was padded. Even so, when I hit it everything went bright. My seat had the traditional right side head support but nothing on the left side, which is why my head ended up smacking the rollbar.
The next morning when I woke up my left-side ribs were really sore, which is amazing that I noticed my ribs at all considering how bad my head hurt. I knew I hit hard, but it wasn't until later in the day when I was looking at the car that I realized how hard I hit. The left rib support on the seat was bent. Actually, it wasn't just bent, it was completely straightened out.
Look at the bent left side rib support. It should look like the one on the right side with
There was no way to fix this damage so it was time for a new seat. I was adamant after that hit that I wanted a seat that would give me more protection, especially in the areas of rib support and the left side of the head. I'm a big guy which narrows my seat choices somewhat. So after scouring catalogues and Web sites, I settled upon Ultra Shield's Lightweight Long Bottom Halo seat. Ultra Shield is one of the few companies that has an off the shelf seat that is 18 inches wide (a necessity considering my big frame), plus the reduced weight will allow us more freedom of weight placement when it comes time to do the setup.
The seat is constructed out of lightweight 5052 aluminum and comes with a full 20-inch deep bottom which will provide extra support in the 100-lap races that we are going to run this season. This seat has both a right side and left side "halo." Now, I have never run a full containment or halo style seat because of the difficulty of getting in and out of the tight fitting cockpit of a Dirt Late Model. But the left side halo on this seat is 2 inches shorter than the right side halo. That simple fact will make it easier for me to get in and out of the car. Plus, the added benefit of a left side halo means that in a left side hit my head won't slap the rollcage. If I had this seat last October, my head would not have hurt so much.
The left side halo on this seat is 2 inches shorter than other regular "halo" seats which
This seat has rib supports that go all the way around and behind the seat which Ultra Shield calls their C-channel stiffener. The seat also has additional support in the shoulders and bottom. This was just the kind of extra support I could have used last October.
We pulled the old seat out and got to work. When we originally mounted my old seat in this car, we purposely welded a 1/8-inch steel plate to the frame underneath the cockpit so that we had a solid structure on which to bolt the seat. I have had some people tell me that the seatbelts are what hold you in the car and that you only need to secure the seat down to prevent it from moving when you get in and out of the car. They said pop rivets would hold the seat fine. I, obviously, never took that advice and neither should you. Any hard impact will tear pop rivets right out. The seat and the belts need to work as a complete, secure system.
We're going to reuse the same mounting plate for the new seat install after checking it out, but truth be known if that plate was bent I probably wouldn't be writing this.
Here is an up-close look at the Ultra Shield's C-channel rib support. The special design i
Note how the C-channel rib support continues all the way around the seat.
We welded a 1/8-inch steel plate to the frame underneath the cockpit so that we had a soli
Angling the seat slightly will help reduce fatigue in the longer races because the g-force
We chose to install the seat further to the right than the old one for added safety but at a slight angle to the centerline of the car. Angling the seat slightly will help reduce fatigue in the longer races because the g-forces will be distributed over a wider part of the body than just on the side of my ribs.
Mounting the seat is a relatively straight forward process. With the seat in the car, I climbed in and mimiced my driving position, being sure to angle the seat like planned we also set the steering wheel in place. This is an important step because the new seat is completely different than the old one and it could alter how I grip the steering wheel, but the fit turned out to be perfect.
We used a Sharpie to mark where to drill the holes in the new seat so they line up with the original mounting points. Speaking of the mounting points, we welded steel brackets to the rollcage for the original seatback and will reuse these same brackets for the new one (top photo).
We're using grade-8 bolts with large diameter washers exclusively for safety purposes. These hardened bolts are stronger than conventional bolts and since we believe that you should actually mount your seat as opposed to just placing it in the car, we're using them.
With the seat in place we mark where to drill the 3/8-inch hole using the tabs as a guide.
Now you'll notice in the pictures that there is a good sized gap between the back of the seat and the back wall of the cockpit. In order to fill that gap we fabricated a pair of aluminum brackets out of the same 1/8-inch 5052 aluminum as the seat. One side of the bracket is welded to the seat and the other side has a 3/8-inch hole drilled for the bolt. These brackets are nice and big to help dissipate energy in the event of a crash. And since they're welded, they become part of the actual seat. A hurricane isn't moving this seat.
Before drilling, we measured and test fit everything twice just to be sure we had the correct placement. Recommended mounting procedures use two bolts in the bottom; two bolts on the right side; and two bolts in the back, along with large diameter washers on each. That accomplished, our new Ultra Shield seat is in place. The seat is extremely comfortable, and while the new left side halo will take a little getting used to for me personally, I barely even notice it, and getting in an out of the car is a snap. I can't wait to get on the track with it.
These mounting tabs for the seat are welded to the roll cage providing a solid and safe po
When mounting a new seat in an old car you can run into this problem-note that there is a
Our solution is to fabricate a brand new set of mounts. They're made out of the same 1/8-i