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What Happened To Front Bench Seats In Cars


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I miss the days of being in high school or college and having a girl slide across the seat and get close....bench seats are cool!

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The most logical thing about bench seats is being able to slide over and use the other door if a person ever needed to do that.  Climbing over a console that's even flush with the seats can be challenging.

Bucket seats definitely make me feel more connected to the driving experience.  Not only that, there is so much artistry that can go into designing a console and how it meshes with the dashboard.  Pontiac always worked its magic in this department.  (Think of the dash and console on mid-70s Grand Prix and the various Le Mans iterations.)

I don't like the bench seats where they went on the cheap and the front seat was one big continuous cushion with no defining features whatsoever.  That would be the entry level bench seats.  I remember as a kid that they got nicer in the up-level trims of various cars, with an armrest up front ... and even an armrest in the back.  (Think how Caprice interiors and Impala interiors were finished and differentiated from the beginning.)

But it started pulling away from bench seats in other ways, namely with 60-40 seats and other configurations.  It's also hard to knock the large bucket seats (Cutlass Salon and Regal S/R) that were a lot more substantial than the typical slimmer bucket seats.

 

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Never had a car w/ a bench seat.. my Dad's Lincolns had them, though...were pretty cushy and comfortable.   And his '79 Dodge Power Wagon pickup that I learned to drive in had one. (a regular cab 4x4 shortbed, a neat configuration that seems to no longer exist). 

Climbing over a center console w/ shifter (or in the case of my old WJ GC--a big shifter and a transfer case lever) can be a challenge.   About the only time I've had to enter from the passenger side and climb over was when some moron parked too close....

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Station wagons rocked with bench seats, loved our 1976 Olds 98 Station wagon as well as our 1968 Mercury Station Wagon all with bench seats. My 1994 GMC Suburban I still own has the middle and back seats are bench but the front are buckets. I feel that is one of the best balances.

Middle and rear is like this that I like.

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Front is like this.

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I will say that the split front bench seat was a cool option, but was not in any of the Suburban's on the lot when I bought my 94. 

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I will say that I do like the 3rd party replacement seats that give you individual seating in a bench seat.

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You'd think, given the types of cars I favor that I would have had more front bench seats in my life, but out of all of my cars, I only had two.

The first was my first car, the 1985 Toronado which had a 60/40 front bench, the second was my second car, the 1983 Caprice which had a full bench.

My third car, my 1985 Continental had a strange split bucket system that included a console connected to the seat rather than the floor. 

1987_lincoln_continental_givenchy-pic-9141617088833991012.jpeg

My Cutlass Supreme, CTS, '03 Avalanche, CR-V, '81 Toronado, Encore, Cruze, '13 Avalanche, and '17 300C all have buckets.

Though, I would ask @balthazar if my '81 Toronado seats are true buckets or something else.  They're wide and flat like a bench, but there is an "8 wide space in between them that precludes someone from sitting there. Naturally, being a Toronado, there is no console.

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Interesting question. To me; 'buckets' are seats that allow for only 2 people in that row. My '40 has that, because of the doghouse... but there's nothing remotely 'bucket-esque' or concave to them. Still; I'd categorize them as buckets, even if '1-person bench' would be more accurate.

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It's a 'bench' if you can seat a 3rd person, which would encompass any percentage of splits. My 2500HD can seat a 3rd person, has a wide fold-down armrest (which is ALWAYS down), but it's split and has some minor concavity to the seats. It also has seat belts for e middle passenger. Had a passenger there a handful of times. That's a split bench, no question.

Edited by balthazar
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5 hours ago, balthazar said:

With an average model year of 1966, I've owned way more bench seat cars than buckets. There's appeal in both, IMO - depends on the 'flavor' of the car.

I need another vintage car or truck....

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Of course the '73 Catalina had a true bench with no center armrest.  *heart strings*

I've had a few bench seat vehicles since.  70/30 set-up in my '89 Silverado was interesting.  I liked how the (soft touch, pleasant) upholstery was bonded to the foam.  I miss plush velour cloth like that.

I think my favorite seat was in my 1994 S-10.  Split bench with center armrest, again with plush but long wearing upholstery.

I would order a 2021 vehicle with firm cushions, plush, thick monotone velour upholstery in a split bench design with center armrest... and a stick shift sprouting from the tunnel.  Just like my 1994 S-10.

 

A lot of vehicle seats today are too narrow, imo.  Even if the seat itself is wide, the bolstering is intrusive.  And so much of the cloth upholstery is scratchy/not soft.  Blah.

I do like the denim-look upholstery that is available in a lot of brands right now.  Ram, Hyundai, Chevy and Ford are some of the brands I've seen with this softer, brushed-denim look seat cloth.

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On 12/10/2020 at 5:49 AM, ocnblu said:

 

I do like the denim-look upholstery that is available in a lot of brands right now.  Ram, Hyundai, Chevy and Ford are some of the brands I've seen with this softer, brushed-denim look seat cloth.

I agree. 

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