With the Miracle Cross Bar installed, as shown in Part 1 of the S15’s interior makeover, I had what I’d always intended to be the interior’s centerpiece in place and I was already extremely happy. That doesn’t mean I was finished, however.
That’s because the bars – as is often the case when they’re fitted – were sitting in a stripped back half, and that’s not what I wanted for the S15. That then, meant it was time to break out the cardboard and Sharpies and start working on some templates for a seat delete of sorts.
(Please excuse the messy box of detailing supplies in the trunk, but note the positioning of the fire extinguisher; that was moved as part of this project)
When I built Mustard’s seat delete a few years back, the intention was to help sell the semi-stripped sedan as a factory effort as there was no way Ford would have delivered it with a completely bare back half (look at the GT350R and/or GT500 Track Pack for reference – they have custom delete panels from new). For the S15 though, while the delete wasn’t meant to pass as some kind of factory effort it was still meant to have the interior look a little more – for lack of a better word – refined. There’s no attempt being made here to disguise the fact that the car is of course modified, but a completely gutted rear interior wasn’t the right fit for the build. As you’ll see I didn’t try to conceal all of the exposed metal, but found what I felt was a happy medium between stripped out street toy and refined sports car. Or at least for now – perhaps I’ll revisit it some day and make up a V2.
Anyway, the first step was to refit the factory side panels as the delete would have to fit around them, and that meant notching them to clear the new X brace. In this photo the passenger side panel (right side of the photo) features the finished notch with the driver’s side panel still being untouched. The passenger panel was very gradually trimmed until I had a tight (and even) opening around the bar and then used as a template for the driver’s side.
You can see here how the bar has to run though the same space that would otherwise be occupied by the panel, necessitating the notch. The notch provides extra room around the sides of the bar than it does the top as that allows for the wrenches to fit for the bar’s hardware. There’s a very specific order of operations when it comes to assembling/disassembling the back half of the S15’s interior, and the side panels have to be in first before the X brace can go in which requires this room to be left to bolt it down.
With the first notch figured out I then had to determine the actual measurements for it and transfer them to the other panel as mentioned. In case anyone is curious (or is also fitting a Miracle Bar to an S15 and wanting to retain these panels), here’s what you need to cut out. There could still be slight car-to-car differences but this will at least get you very close and you can tweak it from there.
I won’t lie, but cutting into these panels did hurt just a little bit. Fortunately the cut areas should be fully concealed if the stock rear seats ever go back in (which is extremely unlikely), and these panels weren’t absolutely pristine examples anyway. Incidentally, yes I am keeping my eyes on the auction sites for a second set of (hopefully immaculate) uncut panels to have as spares.
Note though that I did make sure to round the inside corners to try and disguise the notches as factory, despite the fact that no one will see them except for in these progress photos. Haha
With the side panels now sufficiently modified and put back in place it was time to move on to the delete panel itself. After spending some time sitting in the car, making notes of what it had to fit around and pondering the best way to tackle the construction, I started on the template for the top piece. My measurements got it fairly close and from there I refined it bit by bit to not only fit as snugly around the OEM side panels as possible, but also around the lower legs of the main X brace.
For the actual piece I turned to some 1/2″ MDF and cut out two identical halves to then join together. With Mustard’s panels I’d used a very thin sheet of wood over a “grid” framework which resulted in two extremely light pieces; the S15’s single delete panel is probably heavier than both of Mustard’s pieces combined due to the solid MDF construction but making it as light as possible was not a design goal. I actually had this MDF left over from some prior projects around the house and with pricing of many building supplies having gone through the roof this summer I was more than happy to use what I already had (clearing up some space in the process) to avoid paying the insane asking prices at the time.
With the two halves cut out they were joined together via a couple of supports underneath, the first of which was fitted here as you can tell from the row of hardware across the back. This rear support also served to elevate the back of the panel to the correct height incidentally, as the panel actually sits on (and secures to) the airbag control module shield on the hump in the floor.
On that, the shield itself received some thin padding to avoid any unwelcome noises once the panel went into place, and I can report that the finished product has not experienced a single rattle, squeak, clank, or anything else even once. And in case you were wondering what I used for the padding: it’s fingerboard grip. Cheap, just the right size, and adhesive-backed. Perfect for what I needed!
(Side note: all of that old messy tape on the floor pan – and its glue residue – were removed)
With the top of the panel trimmed to size and ready to go, it was time to bring out some more cardboard and turn my attention to what would be the front face of it. I also upgraded to more colourful duct tape.
This piece would not only serve as the front face to hide the edge of the carpeting, but allow the panel to be bolted down using the two factory mounting points for the front of the rear seat base.
As with the top of the delete panel the front face was ultimately constructed from two main panels, shown here with the holes for the mounting hardware already drilled.
They were then secured to the top of the panel, with another support brace taking up the space in between and providing more strength for the whole assembly. With the pieces coming and going from the car very regularly, ample green masking tape was used to protect the X brace and panels from scratches or other damage. I wouldn’t have bothered with the old center console, but by this time the car had already received its brand new OEM replacement and I definitely didn’t want to mark it; I had multiple installs happening simultaneously in order to get the car ready in time for Driven but for the sake of these posts I’m sorting the photos and write-ups into three distinct parts.
And there it is – the finished shell of the delete! Note the small notch in the lower left corner of the front face – the S15’s floor pan apparently isn’t perfectly symmetrical at this point as there was a small extra protrusion on the floor which the delete had to be trimmed for.
And to properly show the supports, a shot from underneath. This piece ended up being extremely sturdy with no flex, not that it’ll ever see any weight or stress anyway.
Back in place, you can see how it fits around the bars as well as the central hump in the floor. With how everything has to fit together – requiring the delete to go in last – I didn’t bother to engineer pieces to fit in behind the Miracle Bar and instead left the corners fully open, so that the delete can easily slide into position.
The final essential step then, was to upholster it. With Driven being quite close at this point I didn’t have time to order in fabric but fortunately a local Walmart had a piece big enough in the appropriate colour so I ran over and picked it up. Pulled into position and stapled from underneath, the excess was then trimmed off and the panel could be set into position for the final time! The two aforementioned bolts that run through the front face do more than enough to hold it securely in place, but the back edge of it fastens to the car via Velcro for a bit more holding power, while also keeping it extremely easy to remove and not requiring any more visible hardware.
With the delete now crossed off of the to-do list, I then turned my attention to my fire extinguisher. I had always planned to move it to the delete (from the ledge just behind) not only so that it reaching it was easier and faster, but to have it serve as an extra detail of the interior’s build on top of being a safety item. And in case you were wondering if I’d thought about going crazy and measuring the center points of the extinguisher and delete to ensure it was precisely in the middle…yes; I did exactly that. I also made sure the two mounts for the extinguisher were spaced out evenly from the centerline, and that the extinguisher itself was perfectly in line with the Miracle Bar. I also then flipped the extinguisher around so the text could be properly read when looking back at the Miracle Bar. Are you really surprised?
And with that, the back half of the interior was complete; save for replacing a few final trim clips, of course. As mentioned at the start I never intended for this to cover all of the exposed metal, and am quite okay with the little bit shown here. I’d probably feel differently if there was a noticeable colour difference between the exterior and interior metal, but with the factory not fully painting the interior of the shell it’s not obvious that it doesn’t match the exterior. It would be easy to believe you were looking at a misted coat of Chalk and not white.
And with this covered now, that leaves the third and final post of the S15’s interior makeover which will come after some more event coverage and other updates! While the Miracle Bar (with its accompanying delete) is the focal point of the interior, that doesn’t mean there weren’t going to be other updates elsewhere; part 3 will take a look at a few small details that served to finish off the whole package, on top of some final “repairs” of prior owners’ handywork. Stay tuned!