Kristian Grimsland
Associate Editor, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
December 3, 2013

Everyone else sees the outside of your car, but you spend all your time behind the wheel. Ninety-five percent of the interaction with your ride happens in the cockpit. The seats are sat in, the center console holds your Big Gulp, your E-brake is pulled, and your carpet takes a beating.

Let's face it—late-model Mustangs are getting older and yours may not be in the best of shape. This was the case for our '98 Cobra, so we forged a plan to breathe life back into the interior and give it a modern, slightly custom look. At 16 years old, the seats were cracked, plastic clips had broken, the carpet was stained, and the interior had seen its fair share of wear and tear.

Wanting this to be a DIY project, we decided to recover the seats, plus install a new rug and headliner. We contacted TMI Products for a set of its '03-'04 Cobra upholstery and new seat foam. Along with the upholstery, we also picked up a new headliner and sunvisors to match.

TMI has been in business for over 30 years, specializing in high-quality interior components. Having first started its Ford lineup with classic Mustang upholstery, it has recently branched into the late-model market. With that, success has followed and TMI has now introduced its reproduction Cobra seat upholstery.

"It was an obvious route for TMI to take after offering the stock GT seats, as I can easily say the '03-'04 Terminator Cobra seat is one of the most sought-after seats that was ever available in a Mustang," said Waylon Krumrie, sales manager for TMI Products. "We then found out that all Mustangs from '99-'04 share the same seat frames. Any V-6 or GT seat can be stripped down and built into a premium Cobra, Bullitt, or Mach 1 seat using only new foams and upholstery."

TMI offers several options when it comes to your Mustang's upholstery. Whether you're looking to restore your interior back to spec or do something custom, TMI has what you need. For the Cobra sport seat lineup, pricing starts at $579 for a full set; new seat foam can be had for $202.99 (PN 43-7653). Limitations are almost non-existent, as TMI offers complete customization for anyone wanting something unique using Alcantara suede, unisuede, vinyl, or premium leather.

Due to interior color differences between '94-'98 and '99-'04 Mustangs, we had TMI match the vinyl and leather upholstery we would be using to the true black of our '98 Cobra rather than the later dark charcoal. We also used dark graphite Alcantara suede inserts.

Due to the design, '99-'04 Mustang seat frames are needed for this install, which meant we had to find a set. While we were waiting for our new upholstery to be made, we contacted MPS Auto Salvage and LatemodelRestoration.com for several key components. MPS sent us a used '03 Cobra center console, and '99 and newer Mustang seats, seatsbelts, and radio bezel. Latemodel Restoration supplied a new carpet, door pulls, and black dye. To reduce noise, Design Engineering Incorporated (DEI) sent us its Boom Mat sound-deadening material.

Once everything arrived at our home base in Tampa, Florida, we got to work. Follow along as we dress our Cobra in new skin.

1 To begin our interior overhaul, we removed the front and rear seats, followed by the center console, carpet, and rear quarter trim panels. The 16-year-old seats and carpet weren’t in horrible shape, but we choose to replace them with new pieces.
2 Design Engineering Incorporated sent us over its Boom Mat sound-deadening material (PN 050214, $361.87), along with its Under Carpet Lite (PN 050113, $129.23), Speaker Baffles (PN 050310, $9.06), and Moldable Noise Barrier (PN 050104, $130.51.)
3 Using the supplied roller and straight-edge razor supplied in the kit, we trimmed the sound-deadening material to fit.
Using the supplied roller and straight-edge razor supplied in the kit, we trimmed the sound-deadening material to fit.
4 Latemodel Restoration offers reproduction carpeting for ’79-’09 Mustangs. It sent us over its black carpet and floormat kit (PN LRS-9404CPK-BLK, $179.98) for our ’98 Cobra.
5 Our original center console wasn’t in the greatest shape, so we decided to upgrade. MPS Autosalvage sent us a used ’03 Cobra console. Latemodel Restoration supplied us with the necessary black dye (PN MET-FL51, $14.99) to get it to match our black interior, rather than the dark charcoal of ’99-’04 interiors.
Our original center console wasn’t in the greatest shape, so we decided to upgrade. MPS Autosalvage sent us a used ’03 Cobra console. Latemodel Restoration supplied us with the necessary black dye (PN MET-FL51, $14.99) to get it to match our black interior, rather than the dark charcoal of ’99-’04 interiors.
6 TMI Products offers ’03-’04 Cobra reproduction upholstery. Any ’99-’04 Mustang seat frame can be used, along with TMI’s new seat foam and upholstery to upgrade the looks of your seats. Since we are overhauling a ’98, we had MPS Autosalvage supply us with a full set of ’99 or newer seats.
7 To begin, first unhook the J-clamp on the bottom of each seat. Once detached, pull the upholstery back. Since these are donor seats, it’s ok to take a razor to the leather to cut away the upholstery. We simply needed the newer frames.
8 In order to attach our new upholstery, we had Latemodel send us one of its hog-ring kits (PN LRS-1001, $15.99.) It also helps to have a selection of different style hog ring pliers to reach into certain areas of the bolsters.
9 When trimming away the leather from our donor seats, there is a listing wire attached by three hog rings on both the upper and bottom foam. Cut these away in order to remove the upholstery.
10 With the upholstery removed, you can now access the spring clip in order to remove the headrest. Insert a flathead screwdriver into the clip as shown, twist, and pull the headrest out.
11 TMI’s new sport seat foams feature a larger bolster when compared with our originals. Each piece of new foam comes with the according slots for the listing wire and the appropriate Velcro strips to hold in place.
12 With the donor seat down to the bare frame, we installed our new seat foam.
13 Insert the original listing wire into the according slot. Our new foam adds two additional locations for listing wire for the front seats. We used spare listing wire from the donor seats, but a steel coat hanger will suffice. Trim and fit accordingly. Using the hog rings, attach them to the internal rod inside the foam with hog ring pliers.
14 When sliding the new upholstery onto the foam, it helps to use plastic sheets for less resistance. Once fitted, cut away the necessary spots for the electronics. Then attach the bottom J-clamps for final fitment.
When sliding the new upholstery onto the foam, it helps to use plastic sheets for less resistance. Once fitted, cut away the necessary spots for the electronics. Then attach the bottom J-clamps for final fitment.
15 Since we were going for the ’03-’04 Cobra look, we had MPS Auto Salvage send us a pair of Cobra-styled headrests. These headrests can be found on ’01 Bullitts, Mach 1s, 40th anniversary Mustangs, and ’01 and 03-’04 Cobras. Stock GT headrest upholstery is also available from TMI. To disassemble, simply unbolt the J-clamp and replace the upholstery.
16 Here’s a comparison shot of the new Cobra seat to the old. The new seats offer better bolstering and superior looks.
17 For the rear seats, follow the same instructions as the fronts. Detach the three hog rings from the original listing wire and upholstery, and install them into the new skin. Make sure to start from the center of the new upholstery and work outward, alternating from side to side.
For the rear seats, follow the same instructions as the fronts. Detach the three hog rings from the original listing wire and upholstery, and install them into the new skin. Make sure to start from the center of the new upholstery and work outward, alternating from side to side.
18 Since we are giving our interior a heavy makeover, we decided to replace the factory headliner. Remove the sunvisors and center domelight from the factory piece.
19 TMI also offers new headliners and sunvisors for ’94-’98 Mustangs. To match our new snaked-out seats, we had the new headliner and visors covered in dark graphite unisuede.
20 Here’s the new headliner and visors installed. We love the look.
21 Here’s the final product installed in our Cobra. Fitment was excellent, and the install was not difficult. If you’re mechanically inclined, it can be done in a weekend.
Here’s the final product installed in our Cobra. Fitment was excellent, and the install was not difficult. If you’re mechanically inclined, it can be done in a weekend.