Panning for Cobras

One of the problems to be dealt with on my 1968 Suzuki T500 was the seat pan. As is usually the case, mine was rotted out around the perimeter and while it was repairable I also was interested in seeing whether there were other options available. Later seat pans are a different shape and profile – the one used on the Cobra was another ‘one year only’ item so using a later pan was not a perfect option. Repairing what I had was doable – but to get it done well (ie: by someone other than myself) was going to cost a few beer tokens. So it came down to, which option was the most cost effective – repair or replace.

There were some discussions with other owners around the globe about getting Cobra seats reproduced, but after well over a year I got tired of waiting and so I contacted a place in Vietnam that was selling rough and ready pans and covered café racer seats just to see if they were even interested in doing a low volume pan for me. After a few backs and forths via email  and a phone call, I sent my old pan to them and then somewhat nervously sat back to see what would happen. If it all went into the ditch, then not only would I not have a new pan, but I wouldn’t have the old one either and so be completely scuppered as these things are as rare as hen’s teeth.

After even more emails, the pans finally arrived back here in Calgary today, and I admit that I was pleasantly surprised ! The new one is a pretty faithful copy of the old one and fits not too badly at all.  In the photo at the top, the old original is in the upper half and the reproduction is below it. As you can see the new pan has been hand formed – basically a sheet of thin gauge steel has been pounded into the right shape using a hammer and dolly. As a result, it is not a 100% faithful copy – the edges of the pattern are not crisp for example – but it is a good likeness. The second photo to the upper right shows the two pans  – original on top, new one below it – and as can be seen, the profile is very close to being the same. The one thing I’d ask for next time is for a stiffener to be spot welded around the inside edge as I’m not as svelte as I used to be, and I think some added rigidity would be wise (note that the original one did have this) . Of course, the pan is covered, and then bolted to the frame (this model does not have a hinged seat) and so you can’t even see the underside of the pan once it is installed – certainly not the top either – so really, so long as the profile is good and the shape is correct then frankly I’m OK with it.

The original padding was not foam, but rather a sort of composite rubber that was deep in the centre of the pan area and then tapered out to the front and the back so as to look flat when covered. the third photo immediately above shows the original pan with the original rubber foam on it, and the third photo shows the new pan with the original rubber foam.

My plan then was to have it re-covered with a thin layer of new high density seat foam material on top of the original, just to soften it a bit and restore some of its shape. I had a replacement seat cover that closely resembles the original look – again, this was  a one year only special suede look leatherette which is hard (read expensive !) to find.  I think the final result looks pretty good !

If you need a 1968 Suzuki T500 Cobra seat pan for your own use, send Truong an email at this email, and tell him you want the same as what he did for me.  He also has a web site at this link if you want to see what else he has to offer.

Now on to the next problem !

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