As we prepare to endow our '68 Chevelle project car with a potent big-block powerplant in the coming months, it's painfully obvious that the safety provisions-primarily the seatbelts-are way below par. We initially mulled over the idea of a rollbar and five-point harnesses, but this would have rendered the rear seats completely unsafe, if not unusable. It's also come to pass that the NHRA has relaxed its general regulations to allow full-roof cars to run as fast as 11.50 without a rollbar and five-point harness. This threshold was previously 12 flat. Given the ultimate goal of a family-oriented mid-11-second street car, we came to the conclusion that a modern set of three-point seatbelts from Morris Classic Concepts was the best way to go.
Morris offers front three-point harness sets for most GM musclecars, including A-bodies (like our '68 Chevelle), Novas, and F-bodies (Camaro/Firebird). They feature modern safety retractors, and come in a variety of colors. Simple lapbelts are also available, and we ordered three sets of them for the rear seat of our Chevelle. You can buy direct from Morris like we did ($265 for the front set, and $20 each for lapbelts), or you can get them from Classic Industries, National Parts Depot, Original Parts Group, The Paddock, or Summit.
Installation was simple, and it only took an afternoon. In fact, my 11-year-old daughter, Tambre, did much of the wrenching while I shot photos. During the install, we found out just how rotten the original belts were. Two of the rear lapbelts were completely torn from their moorings, and only felt tight because they were caught on the seat cushion. Needless to say, we replaced them not a moment too soon.
Application Guide:*'66-'73 GM A-body
*'67-'73 Camaro and Firebird
Available colors: black, tan, blue, burgundy, gray, charcoal
Special order colors: orange, red, military green
Cost: $265 ($270 for Nova)
Rear lapbelts: $20 per seat
Morris Classic Concepts
Tools You'll Need *13/16-inch...
Tools You'll Need*13/16-inch box wrench
*3/4-inch box wrench
*8mm Allen wrench
*3/16-inch Allen wrench
*High-speed drill and 1/4-inch drill bit
*Fisher Body service manual
*Time: an afternoon
*Recommended: $20 bribe so your kid will help you
Don't hit the street with...
Don't hit the street with your classic musclecar until you've got safe seatbelts. These three-point harnesses from Morris Classic Concepts are inexpensive at $265 a pair (front), and feature modern retractor reels for a comfortable fit. We also got three sets of lapbelts for the rear of our project Chevelle at $20 each. All hardware is included (not shown).
Before you start, you'll need...
Before you start, you'll need to locate the roof mounting points for the roof-pillar bracket. Our '68 Chevelle didn't have shoulder harnesses from the factory; but as we discovered, the mounting points are still under the headliner. Back then, shoulder harnesses were an option, yet Fisher Body manufactured all bodies with the attachment points.
You can feel the mounting...
You can feel the mounting holes through the fabric by pushing your fingertips into the headliner. Once you're familiar with their location, slice tentatively with a knife, then cut circles using the mounting holes as your guide. If you have a convertible, just order lapbelts and skip this step.
Attach the roof-pillar bracket...
Attach the roof-pillar bracket to the roof mounting points with the button head bolts (included). Use a 3/16-inch Allen wrench, and don't forget the washers. Note that Morris Classic Concepts labels the left- and right-side harnesses as such. Don't mix them up.
Even though Morris' left-...
Even though Morris' left- and right-side roof-pillar bracket holes were identical, we found the roof mounting points on the car (Fisher Body) to be slightly different from side to side. The passenger-side holes were closer by about 1/16 inch, so we needed to elongate one hole with a drill and a file. Our '68 must be a "Friday" car.
To remove the factory lapbelt...
To remove the factory lapbelt retractor, use a flathead screwdriver to release the retractor cover, thus exposing the attachment bolt.
Remove the factory retractor-mounting...
Remove the factory retractor-mounting bolt with a 13/16-inch box wrench. We strongly recommend you don't reuse the OEM fasteners.
The Morris retractor attaches...
The Morris retractor attaches to the body with a button head bolt using an 8mm Allen wrench. The bolt is a tight fit-you'll need to pry off the retractor cover with a screwdriver to gain tool access. Make sure the belt isn't twisted before you commit, and don't forget the big washer.
On the tunnel, remove the...
On the tunnel, remove the factory buckle with a 13/16-inch box wrench. We have a bench seat, and ordered a webbed buckle that easily threads through the slit in the seat bottom. Morris has hard plastic buckle extensions for bucket seats, so make sure you specify your model and seat configuration when ordering. Attach the Morris buckle with a 3/4-inch box wrench, using the new bolt they provide.
To replace the rear belts,...
To replace the rear belts, pull out the seat bottom. No tools are required, just a lot of sweat. Now is also a good time to look for that factory broadcast sheet, usually stuck in the seat cushion springs. We only found tantalizing shreds.
Imagine my surprise when I...
Imagine my surprise when I took my kid out for a spin, and she totally yanked out the stock seatbelt while trying to buckle up. Now imagine getting into an accident and having your kid and her friend go flying out the front window. These belts are 40 years old, and should be discarded ASAP; it's just not worth the risk, and a new lapbelt from Morris is only $20. Save the factory one for your mother-in-law.
My daughter Tambre earned...
My daughter Tambre earned her keep installing all three Morris lapbelts. Her tiny fingers made it easy, especially for me. If you do all three belts, remember that the center belt shares mounting points with the left- and right-side belts. A diagram can be found in the Fisher Body manual, but it's easy to figure out without one.
After removing the stock bolts...
After removing the stock bolts with a 13/16-inch wrench (if they're still there), install the new belts with the supplied button head fasteners and an 8mm Allen wrench. Install the seat bottom, and you're ready to cruise safely.
The Morris Classic Concepts...
The Morris Classic Concepts safety harnesses look factory-fresh, and appear to work as well as a modern harness. (Until we wreck it, we won't know for sure.) We found them to be comfortable, too. In the past, we've had shoulder harnesses that are too high and cut across the neck area, but no such problem with these. Morris offers harnesses in a variety of colors, and with the exception of burgundy, all of the buckles, sashes, and retractor covers match the color of the webbing (burgundy belts have black trim).