I just did some in-depth research (8 google searches) and couldn't find an answer, so I'll ask here: does anyone know what the legal restrictions are on what seats I can put in a car that I'm sitting in with a seatbelt while driving? I've got my Rialta and the captain's chairs are bulky and barely fit in the space well. I can't really lean back much in them when I turn them around to face into the cabin area. They're awkward and cramped.
What I would love is to just mount Aerons on those two and use those.
I mean, Aerons are heavy-duty seats that can take a beating. I wouldn't worry about them breaking in a crash any more than these junky old things already mounted there, especially if I mounted them very solidly (i.e. got custom-welded attachments.) Plus they're very comfortable for long-term sitting because people routinely sit in them for hours every day. They'd be much better for lumbar support and whatnot on road trips than the existing seats.
Plus they aren't that bulky, nowhere near the existing seats, and I could spin 'em around and then have two sweet Aerons to recline in when watching movies or eating or whatever.
But when I mentioned the idea to a car-savvy friend he looked at me like I had just suggested filling the gas tank up with Kool-Aid to save money. He insisted it was certainly illegal. But now I'm wondering, because it would be awesome if I could find a way to get away with it.
Also... I have an idea for making a couch in that area. Have a static base and then use arms to position thebackrest at either the back (for driving) or front (for hanging out). The closest thing I could find was this: http://www.homechunk.com/1600/2012/07/17/reversible-todo-modo-sofa-by-jean-michel-wilmotte-for-tecno/, but I would make my own.
I think that there's probably a wide gap between what's actually legal and what's enforced. If you can't find the answer, cops won't know.
When we had the school bus and got pulled over (which was often), I would make up laws that explained why it was legal for us to drive (it had bus plates at first), and the cops would just agree with me. If you just said, "Oh, I researched it and because the seatbelts aren't integrated with the seats, they can be replaced", they would 99% just go with it.
AFAIK, there aren't restrictions on the seats (though I think that's changed for "new cars"). I would check out Summit Racing - even the seats that look like uncomfortable polycarbonate turn out to be quite nice (don't mess with the aluminum jobbies).
Howerver, the powers-that-be do insist on 3 point seatbelts only, because they think 4, 5 & 6 points are too complicated. I'm still putting 5 pointers in my hot rod (mainly because I don't trust the seat not to twist out of shape with only a 3 point harness -- connecting to the body for the shoulder belt would result in the belt being too low and a good possibility of spinal compression on impact).
All that being said, I think it's probably quite firmly in the don't-ask-don't tell category. I also think that an office chair (even an Aeron!) probably would do exceedingly poorly in a crash situation (many moving parts, held in with single -- probably grade 5 -- bolts, combined with a mesh back that will let your spine mash against the steel frame when compressed at 10.5G's), so YMMV.
On my Goose, I'm using seats from a Geo Tracker. It turns out that the original Model A's are quite narrow in the interior, and the Geo Tracker seats fit nicely.
On a somewhat related note, I've been considering trading the desk chair (still have the stock one) with the front passenger chair. Then I'll have a nice reclining seat for the desk. Aside from measuring it out to make sure if it will even fit, I should probably research whether or not it's legal to have a low back seat in front.
Based on even less-extensive research, I suspect that a lot of the design/functionality of car seats has to do with how they support your back in a crash. This is not necessarily a good thing. Seats in all new compact Hondas and Mazdas (and possibly other brands) are designed to be ALWAYS UNCOMFORTABLE because their neck-forward headrest performs better in crash tests.
A quick background - I love Mercedes cars. As a kid my dad had one for a few years (incidentally, he hated it) and I always liked riding it. When we went to the dealership I would be drawn in by the pro-Mercedes anti-BMW propaganda.
When I bought my first car with my own money, it was a 1985 Mercedes 380SE. It was ten years old at the time, was the first car I'd even test driven, but I really loved the car. Even though it was so old it had good features and was fun to drive. Two months later, it broke.
Several years later I bought my second Mercedes, a 1994 E320 Coupe. I've always been a huge fan of the Mercedes Coupes. For one they have really cool four place seating, so instead of three squished seats in the back you have two full ones with a console in the middle. Their lines are beautiful, and they're fairly rare. I actually still have that car, although my brother, Devon, drives it right now.
Sue and I took a tour of the Tesla Model S factory in Fremont, CA today. This is the old NUMMI plant. If you haven't heard the NUMMI story between GM & Toyota, and you're a car buff, there's a This American Life episode about it that's just mind blowing. The net of it is that GM tried to learn Just In Time assembly practices from Toyota, they built a factory together for Toyota to transfer this know-how to GM, and GM completely blew it. The factory shut down and was sitting idle after that fiasco.
When Elon Musk was looking for a place to build his new Model S sedan, he approached Toyota with a $50MM bid for it, which Toyota accepted. Why would Toyota sell a car production plant arguably worth $1 billion or more for $50MM? For the answer to that, you really have to understand the relationship between Musk and Toyota, which is well portrayed in this 2010 WIRED magazine article.
As a reservation holder for the Model S, I'm proud to support one of the most amazing entrepreneurs of our generation. What makes Elon even more amazing is that he's not only revolutionizing the automobile industry, but the space industry as well, with SpaceX... at the same time. Elon, my hat is off to you.
Below are a number of pictures and vidoes of the factory and the event, which was very well done.