When we built the Grizzly, we had the option of adding some special RV style driver and passenger seats. We opted to stay with the standard Freightliner Cascadia seats because, they came with the truck and we actually liked them better. The standard seats are “Air Ride,” which means that they supported by air bags to smooth out the ride. The seats also has various support chambers that are air driven as well. These seats also swivel and the larger cutout we have on the Grizzly permits these seats to add additional seating for visitors. The problem was that the standard seats are very utilitarian and a bit uncomfortable.
Our original plans were to find some sort of seat covers that would upgrade the appearance as well as the comfort. As we searched and searched, we could not find anyone that made covers for this latest Freightliner nor could we find anyone to make them. Around October of 2009 we were in central California and got a lead that the hot bed of Sheepskin seat covers was near Napa California. We made some inquiries and found an interesting person. We talked to him, sent him drawings and now the Grizz is decked out in a set of customer seat covers that are out of this world.
First about the covers. We know a number of our friends and Chill Travelers have been looking for a place to get high quality sheepskin seat covers that are custom fit to their rigs. So, we thought we would write about and show the finished product.
What we needed was to find some very high end seat covers that would provide us with the support, warmth in the winter, coolness in the summer and would tolerate the in and out of the cab at fuels stops and last for a very long time. Sounded like some big specifications, but we found them in the form of a company run by an Austrian near Napa California. Carlamb is the company of artist and master, Janis Birins. The company is available for view at www.carlamb.com. All of Janis’s contact information is there.
The process took a bit of time because we were the first to have seat covers made for the Freightliner Cascadia. The first step for us was getting an idea of what we needed and then provide Janis with a drawing of the seat. This was the best option as we were headed away from northern California toward New Mexico. Bob photographed the seat and using some Photoshop magic created an outline view of the panels that made up the seat. He then dimensioned the panels. Janis then made the trek to Sacramento to the Freightliner dealer to take more specific dimensions. Then the challenge became finding high quality pelts somewhere in the world and having them dyed to match the Grizzly’s interior. Janis found the pelts in New Zealand…of course… and ordered them in. It took about a month for them to clear customs. Then he began to cut and stitch.
A few days after New Years, we received the box from Janis and quickly began to install the sheepskin seat covers. We first put the bottom cushion on over the seat. Then the back slipped on like a surgical glove. Janis suggested and we agreed that because of the way we have to go in and out of the cab doors that the seat back could not be stretchy synthetic and it must go further down on the seat because, unlike the truck version, our coach seats are visible from the interior. The back of the seat has industrial Velcro installed on the bottom half of the seat back to close it off and give the appearance of being sewn. It fit just perfectly. Then the armrests went on skin tight.
There is a funny side to the story. When Bob was installing the covers, excitement overcame engineering thinking. When we first put the bottom cover on, we placed it over the bottom cushion. Stretching the necessary elastic around the seat bottom from front to back and side to side, the seat covers obscured the controls for the air ride seats. Bob kept saying to Wendy, there has to be something wrong because everything else was perfectly fitting and designed. Bob kept looking and decided to pull the bottom seat covers off and take a look at the seat bottom of the Freightliner seat. The first thing he noticed was that there was a gap on either side of the seat and commented to Wendy, if we can just feed the seat straps through the sides, we can access the controls. Then he noticed the same gap on the front.
We Say, Sometimes a project just needs a big jerk to accomplish the solution!
The following is a common occurrence for Bob and Wendy when doing anything mechanical. Bob said, I think this seat comes apart. He went to grab the sides of the seat and Wendy said, Wait! What are you doing? Bob said, I am going to rip the bottom of the seat off and assemble the cover over it and reinstall it. With a gulp in her voice, Wendy said, Are you sure? This dialog happens in every mechanical project.
Bob grabbed the seat at the front and it did not budge. He noticed though that the back of the seat started to move, so he grabbed the back and jerked. It came up and away from the back of the seat and opened on hinges the way a BMW hood opens. Then they installed the seat cover from underneath and reassembled it to create a perfect fit on the seat bottom. Beautiful and the controls are fully accessible.
No w the funny part. Being part of the freightliner truck forum, one of the only complaints about these seats were that most people find them short in the upper legs and not providing support out to the knee. When Bob reassemble the seat, he found that there was a cam action that let that part of the seat be extended to offer increase support. We guess it pays to read the seat manual that comes with the truck. Not feeling too bad, because so many truckers complain, we posted the solution on the Freightliner forum. Lots of red faces.
Well the seat covers are perfect and Janis is a real artist. We recommend these sheepskins highly and after many hours of looking, we discovered Janis and his craftsmanship. Again, call or write us for more information. Carlamb is at www.carlamb.com and here is the balance of the contact information:
FACTORY RETAIL SHOWROOM LOCATED AT
8860 SONOMA HWY.
KENWOOD, CALIFORNIA 95452
On Hwy 12 “Wine Country Scenic Route”
(Between Sonoma and Santa Rosa, 1 hour drive north of San Francisco)
1-800-860-3418 – FAX 707-833-2411
With us the story always has to end with people. In what seems to be an ever increasing desensitized world, SeeLevel travelers seek out and always find interesting and outstanding people. So is true of this experience.
There are so many things to talk about that we went through this process. Not so ironically, when we started this quest to find superior seat covers made from world class sheepskin, Bob recounted to Wendy how he remembered the sheepskin covers on the American Airlines MD80’s and MD-11’s. he recalled how well they were made. When Bob discovered Janis and his website, no surprise that Janis had made those seat covers and features airplane seat as one of his specialties.
Also, in the process of designing and building these covers, we discovered the integrity, genuineness and artistry of Janis. Along with the covers came a nice card with a cute Santa image on the cover working in an oil field. A quick look at the back. The artist Jania Birins and his company Americards. www.americards.com So, we ended up with a great Christmas present, a new friend and a new ride.
This is the way of the Chill Traveler. People are everything and when you find people who care, hold onto them. They can be a artist like Janis, someone you meet in your travels or anyone that you seem to want to stay in touch. Chill Travelers go first when it comes to meeting new like minded people. They are the first to reach out. When you do, it is amazing what you discover about them and yourself.
More pictures of our new skins
As a note, the seats are a beautiful plush grey color. We had to shoot the pictures in available light which alters the colors. They are very rich and comfortable. We are very happy and worth every penny.
Also, as a note, when we last talked to Janis, he really wants to focus a lot on RV’s and custom work. He is in the process of a private plane now and I suspect a few of the Chill Travelers with boats will consider these as well.