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How to Make a Hidden Seatbelt Retractor System

Body Shop Tips Index
This system can be retrofitted for many vehicles providing there is ample room in the roof pillar for the retractor to sit flush. It has not been crash tested but it is built with stronger material than used by manufacturers.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 1 1. We start by drilling out the welds to remove the section of the interior roof panel that supports the headliner bows.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 2 2. This is where we will put the retractor assembly for the shoulder belt.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 3 3. We used the original roof panel as a template to make a cardboard pattern and then use that to cut out a new metal plate to hold the new retractor.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 4 4. On the wide end of the plate, we cut the metal slightly wider than the seatbelt and turned it up so the belt will slide smoothly. Then we formed a piece of 1/4 inch stainless steel wire to fit the opening to assure the belt does not catch or chafe.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 5 5. And here you can see that we have welded the wire into place.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 6 6. Then we made three small u-shaped guides out of 1/4 inch stainless rod. We will polish them on the inside to assure smooth action.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 7 7. Here is the seatbelt retractor box we made for the roof pillar. The retractor assembly will be bolted to the long nut.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 8 8. Here is another view of the seatbelt retractor box. Once everything is ready we will weld this to the roof.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 9 9. And here we have added the u-shaped guides to the new roof panel piece in a slight arch to assure the belt will move easily.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 10 10. Here is another view of the u-shaped guides.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 11 11. We made this seat buckle bezel out of 16 gauge stainless steel. It will eventually be black chromed to blend with the headliner. We will use a flathead bolt to mount it through the large countersunk hole. The small hole is for a locator pin to keep it from turning.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 12 12. This is the end view of the same piece. We used 1/4 inch stainless rod to line the hole and curved the top slightly so it will fit nicely against the headliner.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 13 13. And here is a top view of the bezel.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 13 14. We made this ring out of 1/8 rod. It will be welded around the outside of the bezel to hold the headliner in place.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 15 15. Here is the support bracket we made for the bezel. It will be welded to the roof pillar.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 16 16. Here is the new guide plate welded and primed on the back side and ready to install.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 17 17. On the front side of the guide plate you can see that we had to add a recessed cup to hold a headliner bow. You will see why this was necessary when we put it all together.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 18 18. Here you can see how we bent the guide piece to match the bezel and headliner.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 19 19. This is a picture of the retractor box with the belt assembly attached via the long nut we welded on.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 20 20. This picture shows how we had to shave off the top of the retractor bolt to allow for clearance between the retractor box and roof pillar panel.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 21 21. We put part of the original roof panel with the headliner holes back in the factory location.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 22 22. And here you can see that the original panel lines up with the recessed section on the guide plate. You can also see why we had to make a cup for the headliner bow.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 23 23. The belt moves freely out of the guide. Notice the ring we made for the headliner.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 24 24. Here is a closeup of the bezel plate. Notice that when the belt is retracted only the end piece is exposed.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 25 25. And here you can see how easy it is to reach up and pull out the seatbelt.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 26 26. This close up shows the 1/8 inch clearance around the bezel. The headliner will be wrapped and glued around the wire ring.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 27 27. And here is a cardboard mockup to show how the seatbelt will look when we have finished the project. Our headliner will be black and the bezel ring will be black chromed to match.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 28 28. Now we have to make two floor retractor boxes but fortunately the task will be far easier. We start by making the outside box out of stainless steel plate, which will be set into the floorboard next to the step plate.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 29 29. Then we make a bezel to fit around the hole we will cut in the floorboard.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 30 30. And here are the four pieces we made, ready to be installed.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 31 31. We used standard bolts to make sure everything fit correctly. We will use countersunk bolts for the final assembly.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 32 32. In this close up you can see that we welded washers in the box for added strength around the retractor bolt.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 33 33. And here is the assembly with the belt installed. We will make a trim piece to cover up the mechanism and chrome plate it black to match the carpet.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 34 34. For the inside retractor, we made a cup that will be welded in the floor next to the center console.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 35 35. And here it is in place and ready for the retractor assembly.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 36 36. this belt ends with the retractor belt coupler so here we made a special cradle for the coupler.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 37 37. The bottom view of the cradle shows that we cut out a section to allow the belt to adjust to the diameter of the user.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 38 38. And here it is in place with the belt and coupler installed.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 39 39. The final test before sending everything out for plating is to see how it fits a live body.
How to make hidden seatbelt retractors for an antique, vintage, old, used or classic car or truck - step 40 40. Simply twist the coupler and the three belts retract simultaneously.

Jeff Lilly Restorations
11125 F.M.1560 N
San Antonio, Texas
210-695-5151 - www.jefflilly.com