Ok, so here it is. I've seen it asked a bunch, I've heard of a few folks that have done it, but here it is. How to convert a standard Duster over to a fold down seat. Most of these pictures are mine, some of them are not. I should have taken more pictures of my conversion parts before I started.
So, here's what I started with. Your basic standard non-folding seat Duster with cross bracing.
To do this, you probably need a parts car. It's the only way to do it and get it to look original, that's for sure. For those that don't know, the fold-down seat cars are not just standard cars with the cross brace removed. The package tray is completely different and has additional bracing added, as does the floor, to make up for the lack of the cross brace.
Here's your basic fold down car...
And the extra bracing...
And all the parts that you'd need for a full conversion...
But you see those black arrows in the first picture? That's all you REALLY need. The upper part of the seat, the filler neck, the pass-through floor support, and the latches and hardware for the security panel and upper part of the seat. Sure, you'd have to fab the seat brackets and floor braces, but that stuff is really just sheet metal. Anyway, I was fortunate enough to get everything but the package tray from the local wrecking yard. And that's where my conversion is going to differ, because I'm not a fan of the fold down package shelf or the gaping hole it leaves behind the seat on a stock fold down car.
So, here we go.
Since I'm not worried about looking stock, and because the stock package tray has your VIN number stamped on it, I'm keeping my package tray and my speakers, thank you very much.
But in order to do that, I need to reinforce the package tray to make up for the cross bracing I'm about to remove. So before I pulled the cross brace, I installed a 1" x.083" wall tube, replicating the reinforced section on the factory fold down cars. The tubing has landing plates on the stock uprights that locate the package tray and go back into the roof structure and quarters.
With the OE floor braces and 1" tube installed, I spot welded the edge of the package tray to the 1" tube. Then I pulled the cross brace. Literally, the entire cross brace is held in by 18 spot welds. That's it. Once removed, it becomes apparent how little "bracing" it really adds.
With the cross brace out, I made clearance for the fold down pass through. Clearance is the only reason I can think of for Ma Mopar adding the curved and raised section of the fold down seat. It looks like heck, what with the big open space behind the seat. But, it would allow for a taller item in the pass through. Anyway, I cut the sheet metal back to the 1" cross brace and folded the corners of the package tray bracing over and spotted them together to add stiffness in the corners.
While I was at it, I located the seat and tacked in the brackets. The lower brackets line up with a pair of "dents" in the wheel tubs, and the uppers are pretty easy if you've got the seat, just bolt it into the bottom brackets and decide where the upper tabs need to go. Because my package tray comes further forward, I had to trim the corners of the upper tabs before I welded them in. With that done, I added the sheet metal that makes the pass through flat. But, lest you think that's just for looks, keep in mind it bolts to the floor in about 12 different places, and effectively adds a second layer of sheet metal to the floor. So it also adds support.
The "security panel", otherwise known as the piece of plywood with a hinge on it, was totally shot in my donor car. But, it was good enough to provide a pattern, which I then added to. I also took the brackets, hinge, and latches from it when I made my MUCH improved latching security panel. I also added the catches to the bottom of the package tray for the security panel latches.
Now we're talking! The panel is 3/16" aluminum diamond plate. Much sturdier than the stock 1/4" plywood, and a heck of a lot sexier.
So now to finish things up. With the brackets installed, the security panel made, and room made for the pass through, it's back to reinstalling everything. My donor car had the same EXACT tan interior that my Duster had, but that's no good. So, I did a complete vinyl dye on EVERYTHING. Yes, even the seats. It works ok, but eventually I'll need new seat covers.
And, fun fact, the fold down seat bottom is EXACTLY the same as a non fold down seat bottom. So, you only need the top part of the seat for a conversion. I know this because the seat bottom in my car now is the same one that was in it before, because it was in better shape than the donor car's.
Anyway, while I was at it, I added FatMat's Rattletrap sound deadening material to everything. I also cut a slit into the stock fold down interior panels, because as you've already seen I didn't cut my package tray back far enough to use the stock panels in uncut form. But all that was required was cutting a nice "J" shape into the panels, about a 1/8" wide, so the panel would slide over the package tray bracing. The picture doesn't show it, but I also added FatMat to the back of the seat and the security panel as well to keep those trunk rattles in the trunk when everything is buttoned up.
And because I like making extra work for myself, I covered the package tray liner with a carbon fiber look vinyl, and added a section with a piece of fiber board to flap down and cover the areas that won't be covered by the seat or interior panels.
Which pretty much brings us to the end of this conversion. I reinstalled the package tray, and bought a few yards of cut pile carpet to match the carpet in the rest of the car and used upholstery adhesive to glue it all down. No, it doesn't have the nice sewn edge, but hey, that's life.
And here we go, the final product! Obviously, a short overview of all of this. I'm sure I forgot some things, but believe it or not I have MORE pictures, so if anyone has any questions I'm sure I could come up with an answer and probably a picture. :thumbup: