Apr 192015

Static safety belts had originally been fitted to my car. However I’ve never really got on with static belts the few times I’ve driven cars fitted with them. The main issue is at junctions, when it’s often helpful to be able to lean forward slightly. Something that would be even more desirable with such a long bonnet.

Inertia belts were an optional extra
(Image courtesy of E-Type forum)

I had therefore decided to ‘upgrade’ to more modern inertia belts for practicality reasons. Having made the decision, the next dilemma is how to mount them. They can be fitted to brackets mounted on the rear bulkhead (as Jaguar did as an optional extra).

The other alternative is to mount them to the rear bulkhead inside the boot space. The downside with the boot mounted belts is slots for the belts would have to be cut into the bulkhead.

I think mounting large inertia reels behind the seats spoils the look of the interior. So a boot mounted kit was ordered from Quickfit Safety Belt Services. I had toyed with either blue or red webbing. In the end, deciding to keep them inline with interior colour scheme. Although their range of reds is rather limited: a burgundy or vibrant red. The burgundy looked too dark so I opted for the red …. and sunglasses!

Quickfit’s seat belt kit

Quickfit were very helpful, guiding you through the various options. They also warned me that they make their belts for classic cars in batches, once sufficient orders have been received, so the order may take between two weeks to two months to fulfil. Supplier delays for some of chrome fittings pushed this out to three months before they finally turned up!

The inertia mechanism is designed for the belt to be pulled out from the reel at a specific angle (or range of angles). For the boot mounted installation, this is at 90 degrees to the reel’s mounting plate which must also be mounted vertically. At any other angle the locking mechanism stops the belt, so the same reel could not be used for mounting inside the cabin.

The seat was fitted in order to get the correct mounting position, with a length of webbing held horizontally against the shoulder back to the bulkhead. Ideally the belt should approach the wearer’s shoulder horizontally or slightly downwards. The problem is the rear bulkhead on the OTS E-Types isn’t particularly high, so the placement of the reels is compromised to a certain extent.

They were mounted as high as possible so, for me, the driver’s belt is horizontal in my normal driving position, with the seat back partially reclined. If the reels were fitted low down at the base of the bulkhead, the forward force due to an impact would be redirected downwards through the wearer’s shoulder. Not ideal!

Locating the best mounting position Marking out the areas to drill/cut

I’d made a card template so the mounting points and slot for the belt could be accurately marked out on the rear bulkhead. It’s something that really ought to have been provided in the kit and the instructions were rather vague at best. It didn’t even mention the measurements for the slot for the belt!

By chance, the central bolt securing the reel mechanism aligned with the deepest part of one of the bulkhead anti-drumming/strengthening indentations. This enabled the bolt head to sit completely within the indentation and would therefore not be visible once the interior bulkhead Hardura trim was fitted.

The height of the slot needed to allow the buckle and webbing to pass through was not inconsiderable. I really didn’t want to cut such a large hole in the bodywork so I investigated the end attached to the reel.

The belt is jammed after passing through reel Using the reel end would need a smaller slot

The reel end was found to be finished by folding the webbing back on itself and stitched to form an open pocket at the end. This passes through a slot in the centre of the reel and then a retaining plastic pin is inserted into the pocket, which stops it from being pulled back through the slot.

The belt can be withdrawn once
the retaining pin is removed
The reel needs to be jammed
while the belt is removed

The retaining pin was pushed out of its pocket in the belt without any difficulty, allowing the belt to be detached from the reel. At the same time the reel mechanism was jammed to stop it from rewinding while the belt was removed. Initially a screwdriver was used but this was replaced by a short length of 3/16″ brake pipe as there’s not much room once the reel is mounted in the boot.

More importantly whatever was used to jam the reel would have to be removable downwards. Once the reel is fitted there’s minimal space above it.

The pipes were subsequently replaced with cable ties as a pipe was almost knocked out by accident while fitting a reel. Quick fit SBS recommended using the cables ties and they remained in-situ until the belts were refitted, which was only be possible once the interior trimming has caught up. The bulkhead had to be trimmed first as the belts must pass through similar slots cut into the Hardura, which in turn needs all the rear wheel arch Ambla to be in place.

I decided to mount the reels over the Hardura in the boot rather than make suitable cut-outs. What I hadn’t realised at the time was the Hardura provided in the kit is marginally narrower than the rear face of the boot. The side cardboard panels would normally cover the shortfall. However, as I’d mounted the reels as far outboard as possible, they pushed the side cardboard panels hard against the sides of the boot revealing a gap between the Hardura and side panels.

On top of that, for some reason even lost on myself, I’d cut holes in the Hardura for the wiring looms rather than hiding them underneath. It looked at real mess so I ordered some more Biscuit Hardura to have another go. The second attempt was much better.

The first attempt was a bit of a mess! Take 2 – a vast improvement

A finishing chrome escutcheon is mounted to the rear bulkhead which also acts as a guide for the belt. The slot in the bulkhead was made marginally larger than the one in the escutcheon to avoid the belt chaffing on the metal edges.

Overall I’m pleased with the modification although the belts are quite red! Burgundy webbing might have been easier on the eyes.

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