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Subaru Legacy or Outback 3rd third row folding seat

39538 Views 17 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  scooterspira
Here is a way to add a 3rd row seat to the 95-99 legacy or outback. I’m sure 00-04 is similar. I do not claim this to be safe, as the cargo area is not designed to hold people.

You do not need to drill any holes in the car to install this, but drilling will make things cheaper and faster. The cargo area volume is unchanged, as the factory floor is already raised two inches, you are simply replacing the existing styrofoam with the seat thickness. You can buy a seat from, but they are at least $500 and don’t fold. Weigh increase for thisaddition is very small. Less than 5 extra pounds.

Materials needed:
Volvo 850 92-97 or v70 97-00 seat bottom, seat back, and seat bottom hinges. Two seat belts from not drilling) or two Subaru 95-99 center rear lap belts. Some 0.1” thick steel plate(if not drilling) available at lowes or home depot.

To install, removal all the factory floor, and find the attachment points for the cargo tie down, and cross bar. These are the points used to attach the steel plate. The steel plate needs to be cut around the spare tire area. The steel is used as a place to mount the seat back and hinge for the seat bottom. Alternatively, you could skip the steel plate and bolt directly to the floor. The seat bottom, does not require any mods, but the seat back floor is 39” wide, and the space between the shock towers is 37”. Use a circular saw, jig saw, etc to cut the plywood back 1” on either side. Pull back the carpet to do this. The seat itself is not touched. Attach the aftermarket seat belts to the mounting points for the 2nd row seatbelts and run them to the 3rd row seat under the floor. I drilled into the floor and used factory lap belts. They are too short to make it to the 2nd row seatbelt anchor point. As of this writing, I only had one belt. I’ll have to go back to the parts yard to get another. You will need to cut the side carpet pieces to fill the extra space. Also the Subaru cargo area is a little longer than the Volvo, so you need to make a carpet piece between the back of the second row seat and 3rd row floor. If you look close at pictures you will see what I mean.

If you remove the factory cargo tray and spare tire you have a lot of leg room for an adult up to about 5’10”(on legacy, outback has higher ceiling). Any taller, and your head rubs the ceiling. For kids, you can easily leave the tray and tire in place. Head rests are adjustable and need to be pushed all the way down to fold seat. This is a really nice feature. You can see that the passenger side has good leg room, but the driver’s side requires angling legs, because the spare tire bin is not centered. Two colors available from Volvo that I saw; tan and grey. My price for seats, hinges, and one seat belt(I couldn’t find two yet) was about $50 from a pick-it-yourself style parts yard. Obviously, I'm not listing every single detail here, but you can see this isn't particularly hard with a few tools that most people have.

There are other 3rd row seats in the junk yard, 00-05 volvo v70, 00-04 toyota camry wagon, Volvo 240 and 740, but none of them will work this nicely. I measured and looked at all of them.


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Cool mod. Did you do anything to create an interior latch handle for the lift gate?
Crush zone goes to the rear axle which means your 3rd row is not legal and any 3rd row occupants will be crushed into the back of the back seat if you get hit from behind. Just FYI. Good idea but the passenger safety cage doesn't cover your 3rd row.
No interior handle. The seat only comes in handy about once every two months, so not going to put anymore effort into it. Easiest thing would be to just remove the interior tailgate cover, which would allow access to the rod that connects to the locking plungers. But, that would increase interior noise, and be rather unattractive. I wanted something that looked like it came from the factory.

As already mentioned in sentence #3 of first post, I do not claim this to be "safe". Everyone needs to pick their own level of risk and how frequently they expose themselves to "high" risk. Lots of ways to be hurt or be sued.
That is neat. I wouldn't want to be the one riding on the driver side, though. No foot room, unless you are 8.

As for an inside release handle, I have an idea. Since you spend time at the wrecker anyway, find a newer model sedan and take the interior trunk release from it and retrofit it to the wagon. Viola. Panel in place, no noise, and the passengers can escape without you knowing too quickly.

You know I always thought that whoever decided that the interior emergency trunk release should be in sedans must have been thrown in the trunk a few times. I also wonder how many times someone locked themselves in and had to use it. I've seen weird shite at parties in my time.

Crush zone goes to the rear axle which means your 3rd row is not legal
wait, legal for what? sale as a new car? That's already covered since it isn't new anymore.

I'm with the OP, personal responsibility & self-selecting risk. I've driven in areas where this would be a huge improvement over current safety levels, and I've driven in other places where I'd have second thoughts about letting anyone ride anywhere other than a factory-built seat.
Heck, in several states it's either completely legal or legal above a certain age to ride in a pickup bed. The results of an accident there could be much much worse.
^ On that, Texas is one of the states.

A few months ago, a group was in the bed when it ran off the road and rolled over in S Texas. Deaths and major injury. I always thought it stupid to ride in the back of a truck while its running 70 mph down the highway. Its dangerous enough being in the passenger compartment.

And how can you enforce a seat belt ordinance for passengers then allow passengers in the bed where there is no seating or belts? Do they think this through when they write these revenue bills? Write 'em a $200 ticket for not using a belt in the back seat, but let 'em alone in the bed.

Still like the seat though.

Do you know of any online instructions for a 2005 for this third row seat mod?
Oh good, you've found it.

The dimensions of the rear cargo area didn't change much for the 3rd gen cars. Same recipe should work fine.
This is pretty neat. Obviously it isn't a solution for a 4th kid, but it's good for that once every 6-months needed extra seat while driving to a trail head, kayak put-in, etc. Especially since it doesn't change anything at all when not in use.
Just an update. I've had this mod for over two years now and no issues what so ever. Really handy sometimes. I've taken two adults in the 3rd row for short trips. With the spare tire out leg room isn't bad. Must be under 5'9" or you have to tilt head. You can't be shy, because the cars behind you are looking right at you.
Here's my version that I just installed this last week in my 2000 OB Wagon. Third row is from a Mercury Sable Station wagon. Two center seatbelts from 90's model subarus. Tricky part was finding spots to drill that I could access from underneath to bolt in. Used all grade 8, 1/2" hardware: bolts, nuts, washers, lock washers. If the leg room is needed, I can remove the spare tire. The seat's only rated for 160 lbs combined weight. The back and bottom can both fold up or down. Would probably take just a couple minutes to remove, and 15 to put back in. I think it turned out looking pretty decent, the grey matches.


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A few weeks ago I found a 96 Outback at the local boneyard that had seatbelts bolted to the trunk floor, where you guys are installing these seats.
There was no seat but the boltings and the trunk floor panels certainly looked factory...was this ever an option?
Never an option. There are some places to use existing bolts for seatbelts which might make it look factory. There seems to be a small market for these after market 3rd row seats, so maybe someone already grabbed the seats, or maybe the owner took them out to sell.

If I ever sell the car, I will probably return to original configuration, or have buyer sign something I write up. The thousand dollars a 99 subaru is worth, isn't worth the liability risk of the 3rd row.

Having said that I really like the setup. Not too many manual transmission, 7 passenger vehicles around. Only the old 240/740 volvos had such a setup. Now that there is no longer a legacy wagon and the outback doesn't come with a manual transmission, it lookms like the end of an era.
Just saying, I think it's awesome that you guys did this. Having sat in the back of a Volvo 760, I can attest that it is probably exactly as "safe" as our "custom" one. Sitting in the back of it your feet are pressed right up against the hatch. You'd be toast in an accident. I suppose this doesn't make the mod any more safe, but still...
Do you know of any online instructions for a 2005 for this third row seat mod?
have you had any major problems with your 05' xt
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