Seat Belts in Vintage Trucks

Should I install seat belts in my old truck?

After watching some '50's safety films on crashes in period vehicles with solid steering columns, I started feeling very uneasy about using just lap belts in my '51 GMC. Seeing those dummies getting impaled, and their heads whacking that big wheel, gave me a very queasy feeling. And the passengers flying into the metal dash - well you get the idea.

I looked at several possible donor vehicles. The late Jeeps seem to be the best potentials, as the belts are kind of a bolt-on arrangement, which attach to the roll bar. Most other trucks I looked at, had the anchor points in various kinds of plastic moldings, going in to the headliner or some other interior point. All looked to present problems of one sort or another, or the color was wrong, or they had bloodstains (!). So I used a set from Juliano's Interior Products. They are $89.50 per side.

The Juliano's kit comes with all of the anchor plates, which have captive nuts (7/16 UNF) welded in. The upper anchors absolutely *must* be welded in, and not just to sheet metal - they have to attach to the pillar post - which means cutting away some sheet metal. Also plan on removing the upper cab windlace rubber and if a 5-window, the corner cab glass and gasket. A good fabricator with a plasma cutter should be able to handle this in a couple of hours, max. The exact position of the upper anchor needs to be about at the midpoint of your neck (at least on an AD truck). This could vary a bit depending on your seating position. Too high and it will catch you in the neck; too low and it will slip off your shoulder.

The retractor box mounts to an L-bracket, which bolts through the floor sheet metal. The anchor plates that come with the kit are 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" and again, have a captive 7/16" UNF nut installed. In an AD truck, they fit nicely into the lower cab corners. The L-bracket bolts go through the cab floor on the raised area that the gas tank sits on (note: be real careful drilling up through the floor. If you hit the gas tank, the whole project may be a moot point). The instructions are a little vague on how to mount the other end of the belt - I ended up attaching it to the same bolt that holds the retractor box to the L-bracket.

The center buckles come on plastic "Stiff Arms" that bolt to another set of L-brackets, which also get bolted through the floor to anchor plates. I use bucket seats from a Pacer, and the buckles work fine for this seating, but would probably not be suitable for a bench seat. Maybe Juliano has a longer soft mount buckle that would work with bench seats.

One other additional note: all the bracketry is mild steel and will rust unless painted before installation.

That's about it - I was impressed with the quality of the Juliano kit. All of the pieces you need are included, and the belts are available in various colors. Juliano's has a web site (see their entry on the Vendors page of this website). They have a brochure available called "Three Points for Safety" which has photos of the installation and all the components. This actually appeared in "Street Rodder" a while back.

A special thanks to Jack Halton for this article.

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