Cobra Seats is a family-run company that has been making seats for over 40 years and exclusively manufacturing them in Great Britain. They build seats are used throughout motorsports around the world. And now, they’ve got the perfect seats to improve your driving enjoyment of your Aston Martin.
I had a number of requirements for a set of lightweight seats. These weren’t just for seats to sell, they’re also for the seats I’m putting in my own car. As with just about everything I sell, I only offer the things I use, test, and believe in, and only from companies that are worth supporting. Let’s go over some of the factors that went into the development of the Cobra seat offerings now available from Redpants!
The main usability issue with the Recaro SPG is that the bolsters at the hips are really tall. There are slots there for harness straps to pass through but the seat wasn't designed for street use so it was difficult to use the factory three-point seat belt. One of my major goals for the seat project was making it absolutely useful for a normally-driven street car. Yes, any racing seat can be useful on a track. But a seat that can also seamlessly handle street duty is a different story. The Cobra Nogaro has low bolstering at the hips, allowing the use of the factory seat belt while also being more comfortable and allowing much, much easier ingress and egress than the Recaro SPG.
Recaro makes a great product and even make the factory seats that came in our cars - Recaro is indeed the OEM (original equipment manufacturer). However, they don't make the leather covers that go over the seats. That job is handled in-house by Aston Martin's own specialists. I looked into having seat covers made for the SPG but it wasn't an ideal situation and wouldn't have been very practical from a supply chain point of view.
Well, it turns out Cobra is based in England and they make their seats there. This makes Cobra's seats more British than the German Recaro seats. Cobra's leather covers are made by hand, same as Aston's originals. Between the extra Britishness and the same craftsmanship, the seats from Cobra are, dare I say, more Aston than Aston's.
COST AND AVAILABILITY
While cost and availability were not factors in switching from Recaro to Cobra, it's worth mentioning them as they relate to the factory lightweight seat option. Aston Martin did offer carbon fiber lightweight seats in some places. The option was offered at the time of build but the seats could also be retrofitted after the fact. The US wasn't one of those places where the lightweight seat option was available, nor can we get the seats even now.
Even if we could get the factory lightweight seats in the US, they're obscenely expensive. I heard one quote for a retrofit from a guy in Europe that was well over $30,000. No, that isn't a typo. The Cobra Nogaro seats provide the same benefits as the factory option, but at a greatly reduced cost and we can actually get them here in North America.
Walero is a company that makes base layers for motorsports using heat regulating fabrics developed from NASA technology. Cobra uses Walero's fabrics to create a lining that helps control heat, reducing temperture buildup. Not only that, but the fabric is flame retardent with FIA testing and approval to prove it.
Fun note, as if Cobra's seats weren't appropriate enough for an Aston, Walero is a British company and a 2019 title sponsor for an Aston Martin race team.
The Pros and Cons of Lightweight Bucket Seats
Lightweight bucket seats provide a few key benefits with the main ones being weight reduction, improved body support, and better “connection” between driver and car. Other benefits include improving safety with the use of harnesses and, given the outer bolsters of the original seats are a common area for excessive wear, replacing the seats with ones with brand new leather will make the entire interior look much newer. The downsides are that they have less adjustability than normal car seats, may have less functionality, and they can be more difficult to get in and out of (ingress and egress).
How I see it
To me, the trade-offs are well worth it. Pros are always a good thing so there’s no need to reinforce those. Instead, I’ll go over my thoughts addressing the cons.
Less adjustability: I very rarely move my seat. Once it’s in place I almost never move it and, when I do, it’s only front-to-rear for access to the area behind the seat. The seating position stays the same. While electronic controls are great and offer a near-limitless combination of options within the mechanism’s limits, mechanical adjustments are always quicker. The Cobra seats include mechanical sliders. When I need to move the seats forward, I pop the latch and slide the seats then move them back when I’m done. It’s quicker than the electronic controls that I rarely use, so the only downside here as far as I’m concerned is that mechanical adjustments don’t have memory settings like the electronic ones.
Reduced functionality: This ties in with having less adjustability, but further on that point are the loss of memory settings. You also lose the side airbag. The factory seats have an airbag in the side bolster that inflates to keep you from hitting the window in case of an accident. Racing seats don’t need these as they have much bigger bolsters and expect the use of harnesses to keep you within the confines of those bolsters.
Difficult ingress/egress: This isn’t much of an issue with the Cobra Nogaro. The bolsters are low enough that the seats can be used with ease daily. Most lightweight bucket seats have high bolsters that require a bit of climbing when getting in and out of the car. Some are easier than others - I daily drove a 2005 Subaru WRX STi for quite a while with a Recaro Pole Position and didn’t have a problem at all… but everyone’s results will vary. The Cobra Nogaro is far easier to manage than that Recaro (the Pole Position is easier than the SPG in my opinion, if anyone wants a little more comparison). In general, the Nogaro is an easy seat to live with and won’t be an issue for most people.