I don’t think the 18 way adjustable contour sports seats from the E38 have been bettered by BMW in the almost twenty years since they stopped producing them.
They look great and they are probably the most comfortable car seat you’ll have sat on.
Even today, they are sought after – particularly for E39 conversions where they bolt straight in with a bit of wiring – and it is far from unusual to buy a car with them fitted just for the seats. Well, I think it’s far from unusual.
You can see why:-
If there are seats that are more desireable than the contours, it’d probably be the comfort seats with rear picnic tables and vanity headrests. These are usually found on highly specced iLs and our Cosmos Black car is fitted with these seats. Currently.
I don’t know if the tables and headrests were ever fitted to contour seats, but I’ve never seen a set from the factory. I’m not saying they weren’t, but I’ve not seen them.
The Cosmos Black iL has standard beige leather and despite the tables and headrests, the seats aren’t very good, having been badly overpainted at some point – and not using Liquid Leather products.
We were recently offered a potential breaker in the form of a 1998 740i with very little going for it at all, apart from a sweet running engine, a not unreasonable spec and standard beige leather interior. Oh…. and these:-
A plan was therefore formed.
The comfort seats are out the iL and the tables removed. It’s not difficult to do and if you need to know how to remove the tables, the best way to learn is probably to watch this YouTube video.
Always tilt the top half of the backrest as far forward as it will go BEFORE you take the seats out the car. You’ll not get the tables out without the top backrest in this position. I’m sure you can guess what makes me so certain of this?
Another top tip is that if you’re buying a pair of seats for the tables make sure the top half of the backrest moves because stripping out motors and mechanisms to get the tables out certainly adds some time and swear words to the process.
With the seats out and the tables and backs removed, you also need to get the other parts from the comfort seats that are required to retrofit the tables and headrests to the contour seats.
Our experience is that you need to remove:-
The headrest motor and as much of the wiring that connects to the pin locating socket (which powers the headrest light) as you can get. This loom will not be in the contour seat loom. You need these if you want the lights on the vanity headrests to work. Some may prefer to fit screens or DVD players as the vanity headrests aren’t particularly useful, and in that case, you don’t need the headrest motor. They’re only needed to power the headrest illumination
The two brackets at the top of the backrest that you can see here. Grind off the welds and remove the brackets, carefully noting and measuring their position.
The cross spar that goes across the middle of the seat back where two lower screws bolt in. Just cut as much of this off as you can. It’s easy to trim to fit.
And you’re left with a pile of bits and a scrap seat that looks like this:-
Now fit these bits to the contour seat.
Ideally you need to put a couple of M5 rivnuts into predrilled holes in the frame, but I’m sure you could manage with spring clips or nuts and bolts, but I put rivnuts in. That’s what the factory used and I struggled to get in to tighten a nut on the left side.
Now you’re ready to test fit the tables.
If you’ve got it right all the holes will line up and you can finish off the welding.
To wire the headrest illumination, I just ran the cable directly back to the main power and earth sources at the connector block and soldered splices in using bits of loom chopped out of other E38s to keep colours consistent.
That provides power for the illumiated vanity mirrors in the headrests.
You need to trim the leather to fit back in the tangs around where the new brackets have been fitted.
And that’s you. Fit the seat backs and you’ve built a pair of probably *the* most sought after seats you can have in your E38.
Next. Cleaning, restoring and reconnolising the seats and fitting these pre facelift seats in a facelift car.