Couch Cushions

Elise seats and Shocktec foam

Elise seats and Shocktec foam

I must be getting old. The Elise seats that used to feel so good on my ass? So supportive and awesome? Now they feel kinda like torture devices. Similar to sitting on a wooden crate. Not good.

Maybe the seats are getting old?

Anyway, it was time for action. I really like the Elise seats. They fit me well. They USED to feel pretty good. I’m not sure what happened…

I can make them feel good again.

Squishy and amazing.

Squishy and amazing.

This is a roll and a half of Kemmler’s SHOCKtec Air2Gel foam – a half roll of the 3/8″ HD and a full roll of the 1/8″ HD. There are threads about it on the Lotustalk forum, but they mostly deal with the more-common 2005 non-Probax seats.

Hit the Kemmler website to read about the foam in depth. Basically, it protects you from ever hitting the object on the other side of the padding. It absorbs and then bounces back. And it’s also impressively firm. Most of the Lotustalk comments are about how firm the padding is.

You know what’s firm? A fiberglass seat. This padding HAS to be an improvement.

Starting at the base...

Starting at the base…

Peeling up with my fingers.

Peeling up with my fingers.

Peel peel peel...

Peel peel peel…

And just like that, the cushion is off.

And just like that, the cushion is off.

I might be one of the first to tear apart a Probax seat. Or at least one of the first to post about it. I couldn’t find much information about what’s actually inside these seats and no photos. I know others have gotten into them to install crotch strap passages and reupholster, but I couldn’t find much actual info.

The Probax are pretty much considered the pinnacle of Lotus seats for whatever reason. They sell for more than the 2005 (non-Probax) seats, had articles written about how miraculous the padding is/was, and have pages upon pages of posts proclaiming how awesome and comfortable they are. And yet, no one seems to have torn into one.

Getting the seat to come apart is extremely simple. The Probax cushion (the center piece I’m pulling out) is just glued on, and not very well. I didn’t use any special tools. I just carefully peeled with my hands.

And here’s the big reveal.

The infamous Probax padding.

The infamous Probax padding.

Open cell foam – and not much of it. At the butt, where your ass hits the seat, there’s about 1/2″ of foam. At the front where your knees rest, there’s like 4″ of foam. Just a huge amount for the knees. For the butt? Nothin.

No lumbar padding.

Not much back padding. Nothing.

There’s another name for this type of foam – couch cushion foam.

I’ve been punishing my tailbone with a fiberglass seat and a half inch of couch foam for six years.

Kemmler Air2Gel foam all cut and laid out.

Kemmler Air2Gel foam all cut and laid out.

To restate what I bought – a half roll of 3/8″ HD foam and a full roll of 1/8″ HD foam.

If you have a solid plan and know what you’re doing, you could do four full seats with this much. I did not have a solid plan, so I had some waste and cut a few different configurations. I cut, sat, and tested. I snipped, I fitted, I tested.

The seats are totally transformed with this foam.

My final configuration.

My final configuration.

You can't even tell.

You can’t even tell.

I could type several paragraphs about the various permutations and iterations of padding I sat on. Instead, I’ll not bore you with it and just say this – sitting on the seat in the garage is quite different than sitting on it while taking corners at speed. What felt really nice in the garage felt rather overstuffed and plush in the car.

I drove a lot. I adjusted a lot.

I ended up with 1/2″ of foam on the butt (a nice 3/8″ section all the way up past the tailbone with 1/8″ on top) and a sort of stepped 1/2″ back pad made out of 4 sheets of the 1/8″ foam. I also have a 3/8″ lumbar support (marked L) that I spent a week adjusting to get it in the perfect spot.

Seriously, the result is incredible. Sharka is SO much more enjoyable to drive. The seats actually absorb impact instead of transmitting it straight to my spine. The Air2Gel foam combined with the XIDA shocks have really transformed the car.

Anyone reading along with Elise seats should consider adding some of this foam and spending a week getting it just perfect. I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier.

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  • Brad says:

    Another thing, is that if the seats are ever exposed to much rain for whatever reason, they tend to get hard. Pretty sure this is why the seats in our 02, and my 89 Supra, are rather hard, while the seats in my 99 are nice and cushy still.

    That said, I still don’t see how the Elise seats manage to hold you in, they look like they offer hardly any lateral support. Although, perhaps the upholstery grips your clothes and holds you that way?

    About the best compromise of weight and comfort I’ve ever seen in a stock seat, is the buckets in the FR-S, although I’ve yet to spend a road trip’s worth of time in one…

    Anyhow, glad your spine is happy. =)

    • GT-Alex says:

      About the Elise seats lateral support : the sides look a bit more pronounced in person, and that’s always that more than your average car seat. Of course, that’s nowhere near as high as full bucket seats, but they offer a good compromise. Also, you have to keep in mind that they’re originally designed for a pretty tight cockpit. I can see them working well in a NA cockpit, since there’s a real transmission tunnel here compared to a thin plastic to cover the gear linkage on the Elise. They might even work better in the Miata actually : you can pretty easily rest both knees on the central tunnel and the door card already, while you have nothing to rest on the center of an Elise cockpit.

      About good compromise stock seats, the CRX seats are pretty awesome (although I believe you don’t have the same seats as we have in Europe). I also currently have a RX8 seat sitting in my bedroom waiting to become a playseat : the design looks supportive, but it would be too wide for me to use in a real car.

      • revlimiter says:

        CRX seats eh? Hmmmm. THAT is one to keep in mind. I’m always on the look out for something new.

        The Elise seats are quite a bit more narrow than the NB2 seats. Lots more room to route harnesses and stuff.

        • GT-Alex says:

          I loved the seats in my ED9. Here, we also have full leather versions on VTES EE8, but the OEM leather is delicate and most are pretty badly worn out, while cloth ones don’t have much issues in that regard.

    • revlimiter says:

      The side bolsters are actually quite decent. A lot better than a flat OEM seat. They’re not quite real race seat holding powers of being one with the car, but they work quite well.

      • Brad says:

        GT-Alex made a good point, getting in/out of an Elise is difficult enough for most people, so I’m sure side bolsters are a necessary compromise in that regard. Buddy had a mid-90’s Mustang with some heavily bolstered fixed buckets in it. Great once you got in them, but man it was a chore getting to that point haha!

        If you can find a set cheap enough, and assuming they fit, non-powered Supra seats are both quite comfortable, and offer a fantastic amount of lateral holding. Trouble is, most of them were powered, and they weigh too much (something like 70, 80 lbs, if I recall) to really match a Miata.

  • Ying Bot says:

    +1 for liberal use of the word “butt” in this post.

  • GT-Alex says:

    Adam, the man with no fear. Although how things are made seem to be really simple once your torn it apart, I would have been super reluctant to do this to a probax myself without any back info. Funny how I’m still impress by your DIY skills, you make things look too simple.

    By the way, how expensive is that foam ? Might be more interesting to find non-probax seats and retrim them if that’s not too much.

    • HarryB says:

      Kemmels’ website lists prices, and it is not near as expensive as I imagined it would be! A bit of a challenge to find it in Europe though… Arghhhh!

      • GT-Alex says:

        Yep, definitely more interesting to buy a non-Probax and get to work. Maybe we could find something similar from another brand in Europe, but even if there aren’t any alternatives, ordering something like that from the US shouldn’t be much trouble. Now I’m torn apart between finding reasonably priced non-probax Elise seats or still saving up for Car Make Corn’s leather ones…

      • revlimiter says:

        Not sure if my nested replies are even gonna be readable at this point.

        If you want some foam, Harry, I can always ship it to you. Might be a bit expensive, but I’d not mind helping out.

        • HarryB says:

          Thanks Adam, much appreciated! I contacted them today via e-mail, they got back almost instantly and quoted me a shipping price of 60$, which is OK given the size of the package. I reckon that buying the seats, re-do the padding and reupholster those will end up in the mid 700s, which I am unsure they worth it or not…

    • revlimiter says:

      I don’t think I have $150 in padding. It was more like $110 delivered if I remember right. Amazingly affordable for such high quality stuff.

  • HarryB says:

    Funny thing, I was looking into purchasing some Elise S1 seats today, but was reluctant since they have the inflatable lumbar support (non-Probax ones). The main reason that holds me back is the comfort, as people say that Probax are night and day compared to non-Probax ones. Since these require a full reupholster, your advice will definitely come handy! Do you care to share exact padding dimensions in a future post? Also any info on whether the foam would be OK with an added heating pad? I love my heated NB2 seats and would like to retain the feature!


    • revlimiter says:

      I’d love to publish dimensions of the padding. I intended to. I wrote it down and everything. The paper that I drew the padding map on and wrote measurements on? Gone. No idea where it went off to.

      If I find it, I’ll publish.

  • zealious says:

    how Ironic that you revisit the seats during which is the exact time IM looking for a set myself.

    My q is what is the most one should pay for a pair of non probax vs pro bax

    and judging from the teardown probax is overrated?

    Nice write up rev. You are a miata god.

    • revlimiter says:

      No idea what the going price for these is. I’ve not shopped for Elise seats since I bought mine years ago. I do know they’re more expensive than they were in 2010 when I bought mine.

      If a nice set of non-Probax came up for sale, I’d not hesitate to buy them.

      And also thanks. lol!

  • Greg Woo says:

    Hi Adam, I also have a Probax seat on the driver’s side of my NA Miata. I’ve had this seat in 2 different Miatas over the years, and as both the seat and I have gotten older, we’ve become less tolerant of each other. I need to do the same foam transplant that you documented here in your blog. Could you possibly draw me a side view of how/where you placed the new foam and what thickness was used for each section? I want to use a side view drawing to explain what I want my upholstery guy to do. Thanks in advance!

  • […] says they aren't that comfortable; obviously a solution like Revlimiter's solves the latter: "Anything worth doing is it worth doing right" but in regards to somethings there are […]

  • […] use an air pump). Best thing to do is replace the foam with some really high quality stuff. Couch Cushions ? Seat Rebuild with Kemmler Air2Gel Foam – Page 4 – LotusTalk – The Lotus Cars Community […]

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