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'55 400 Front Seat Backs
#1
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Scott
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In my recently acquired '55 400 the front seat backs apparently have no latch mechanism. They are free to fall forward with heavy braking or by a rear seat passenger. Is that normal on these cars? It's not at all safe.

My intention is to install period-style lap belts but the seat backs remain a safety issue.

Posted on: 3/17 20:40
1942 Clipper Club Sedan
1948 Custom Touring Sedan (22nd Series)
1955 Patrician Sedan
1955 400 Sedan
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Re:
#2
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HH56
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I don't believe Packard used a latch on seatbacks nor did many others at that time best I can remember. I say this because of a 58 Mercury in my fathers stable that also had the problem with the seat falling forward at a quick stop.

Apparently 56 Caribbean seatbacks were worse to the point of getting complaints. Packard did make an effort to provide a latch for those. The 56 Caribbean has a different type seat frame so doubt the approach or same type latch would work on a regular hardtop seat but if mine is any indication the type latch Packard used was not all that successful anyway. The former owner tried to add a different type latch but his implementation also didn't work very well. https://packardinfo.com/xoops/html/downloads/SC/SC-VOL30NO5.pdf

I don't remember exactly how far the outer hinge is from the seat edge or how much space is available but is there any chance of making a plate that could fit under the decorative covering on the side that would mount some kind of spring loaded plunger affair with a knob extending thru the cover? Something like that might be able to slip into a hole in the outer hinge piece to lock it down? McMaster has several different types and sizes of captive plunger locks.

Again, depending on space available another possibility that would not lock the seat solid but maybe keep it better controlled and probably be entirely hidden under the decorative cover would be a heavy torsion spring. It would probably need a longer hinge pin fabricated to support the spring but maybe doable. McMaster also has a good selection of torsion springs.

Attach file:



jpg  lock.jpg (27.18 KB)
209_6052c0d2ac3a5.jpg 784X394 px

Posted on: 3/17 21:41
Howard
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#3
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Leeedy
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Quote:

Scott wrote:
In my recently acquired '55 400 the front seat backs apparently have no latch mechanism. They are free to fall forward with heavy braking or by a rear seat passenger. Is that normal on these cars? It's not at all safe.

My intention is to install period-style lap belts but the seat backs remain a safety issue.


Nobody had seatback latches in the 1950s. This did not happen in the USA until 1967. If you brake hard enough, just about any seatback in 1950s 2-door cars may fall forward.

And on the 1956 Caribbean there was not a latch at all. But the factory did retrofit small spring catches on Caribbean seats due to the seatbacks being top-heavy and yes, having a tendency to fall forward on hard stops. Of course the spring catches presented their own problems... like catching clothing, scraping ankles and more. Yes, these spring catches could be used on a Four Hundred seatback with some adaptation and manuevering. But not the best approach.

If you feel a need to install a mechanism to prevent or inhibit seat backs in your Four Hundred from falling forward in a hard stop, you might more easily invest in a set of cabinet door magnets. Easy to install, effective and no deep engineering required. And they won't affect the look of your seats overtly.

If there was a serious safety concern over all these years, somebody would have done something engineering-wise or mandate-wise long ago... certainly by 1967. But obviously it hasn't been that big of an issue.

Seatbelts ought to enhance the safety issue– including rear-seat passengers moving forward (that's a lonnng way if they're properly belted). Packard had seat belts as accessories. However, if you're looking for 1950s seats to do 2021 safety things, that's not gonna happen. Having no head restraint is a far, far bigger and much more dangerous safety issue.

Posted on: 3/17 23:27
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#4
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ewrecks
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Leeedy is absolutely correct. Cars of the 50’s and early 60’s did not have seat latches or much of anything else to promote passenger safety. Few offered seatbelts. They came with a single master cylinder brake system that offered no brakes if you popped a brake line or wheel cylinder...and then Packard threw in the BYV that can leave you without brakes with no notice.
The steering columns did not collapse and my 55 Eldorado has a spike in the center of the steering wheel to pierce your chest.
These are not safe cars by today’s standards even if carefully maintained. The engineering is awful .....but they sure are fun.

Posted on: 3/18 0:08
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#5
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Scott
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Well, seat belts were not required to be standard equipment in the US until 1968, and the first state to actually require their use was New York the end of 1984, so the lack of a law doesn't necessarily mean it was safe, but I agree it does imply a lack of concern.

However, the 1968 seat belt mandate included a mandate for seat back locks in two doors. A 1987 crash safety study (ref. DOT HS 807 067) was published comparing two door to equivalent four door models, specifically focusing on the seat back latch as a factor in injury/fatality statistics.

The findings were that in even moderate head-on collisions ~26mph with unrestrained adult rear seat passengers, the seat back latches in two doors were inadequate and in most cases would tear loose from the seat frame, so did not provide the perceived safety. Unrestrained adult rear seat passengers often ended up in the front at even lower speed impacts.
There appeared to be a benefit when the rear seat passengers were children who with their reduced mass were more likely to be contained within the rear compartment and not hurled into the windshield, or with adults in low speed frontal impacts ~10mph.

A totally separate question but still related to seat backs, how does one remove the seat back cushions? Does one remove the bottom to reveal fasteners below the back cushions? This car still has the plastic seat covers on just the front backs and they are a bit ratty with the corners and some seams split out, so was wondering what it took to remove those covers.

Posted on: 3/18 0:29
1942 Clipper Club Sedan
1948 Custom Touring Sedan (22nd Series)
1955 Patrician Sedan
1955 400 Sedan
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#6
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R H
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Wonder how Velcro would work.

I have never had the seat go forward.. Even when morons pull out in front of you and you have to hit the brakes.

Posted on: 3/18 3:21
Riki
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#7
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bkazmer
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The study you cite is for unbelted passengers. Installing and using rear belts is the most bang for the buck.

Now the annoyance of the seats flopping forward is another thing.

Posted on: 3/18 6:56
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Re:
#8
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Leeedy
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Quote:

Scott wrote:
Well, seat belts were not required to be standard equipment in the US until 1968, and the first state to actually require their use was New York the end of 1984, so the lack of a law doesn't necessarily mean it was safe, but I agree it does imply a lack of concern.

However, the 1968 seat belt mandate included a mandate for seat back locks in two doors. A 1987 crash safety study (ref. DOT HS 807 067) was published comparing two door to equivalent four door models, specifically focusing on the seat back latch as a factor in injury/fatality statistics.

The findings were that in even moderate head-on collisions ~26mph with unrestrained adult rear seat passengers, the seat back latches in two doors were inadequate and in most cases would tear loose from the seat frame, so did not provide the perceived safety. Unrestrained adult rear seat passengers often ended up in the front at even lower speed impacts.
There appeared to be a benefit when the rear seat passengers were children who with their reduced mass were more likely to be contained within the rear compartment and not hurled into the windshield, or with adults in low speed frontal impacts ~10mph.

A totally separate question but still related to seat backs, how does one remove the seat back cushions? Does one remove the bottom to reveal fasteners below the back cushions? This car still has the plastic seat covers on just the front backs and they are a bit ratty with the corners and some seams split out, so was wondering what it took to remove those covers.


Not sure why and how we migrated to 1968 DOT quotes and went from seat backrests falling forward and seat backrest latches to seatbelt standards and 1968. Backrest latches–as I said before– came out in 1967. And yes, the DOT study quoted related to UN-belted rear seat passengers and falls under what we in the car biz termed "secondary projectiles." Not really pertinent here for the matter at hand–especially if rear seat passengers are belted– as they should be.

Anyway...both Packard and Ford were offering seatbelts in 1955-56.

Seatbelts came industry-wide in 1965. But I had them optional in my 1963 Galaxie XL convertible (factory/dealer options) AND in my 1964 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible (which also included retractors–an industry first). I had factory seatbelts in at least one of my 1956 Packards.

By 1966 seatbelts were required in REAR seats. They were already mandatory in front as of 1965. I know.... I was working for Ford in 1966 and we installed thousands and thousands and thousands in the rear seats of Ford products... including the Mustang–of which I was involved. My 1966 Cadillac Eldorado also came with front AND rear seatbelts. So did my Mustang.

By 1969 head restraints were standard on front seats (they were optional at least by 1966 on GM cars–again, my Eldorado had them).

And shoulder belts were beginning to appear at least by 1969.

Again... if the seat backrest on your 1955 Packard Four Hundred is falling forward in hard stops... get some magnetized cabinet door latches (the kind with the extra-strong magnets) and install one or two pairs. Done.

Posted on: 3/18 20:36
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#9
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point
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i feel if u want the new car features ,buy a new car, there dummy proof, it takes a little common sense drive old cars, maybe they should put airbags in the old cars too?,

Posted on: 3/18 21:51
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Re: '55 400 Front Seat Backs
#10
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longjohn
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To remove the back seat backs, you take out the seat bottom first. Pull up hard on the front of the seat bottom and it should pop up and out. Look below the back cushion and you will see where it is attached with screws-two places as I recall. Once the screws are removed, lift the rear cushion straight up. There are two "hooks" that the cushion mounts on.

Posted on: 3/19 17:51
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