The BugShop: Project '57, pg 13

This page last modified- 11/3/01

A couple of years ago, I would have never guessed that I would dedicate a whole page of pictures to just the headliner install. I always knew that I would do it myself, but never thought it would be so tough. I did a headliner on my '67 many years ago, but I recall hurrying through it and ending up with less than perfect results.

After my first two attempts at installing this headliner, I posted a message at the aircooled newsgroup entitled "Headliner Hell". I ended up ripping the rear section and having to order a new one.   You get the idea.

I ordered a headliner kit, the correct color for my car, from Wolfsburg West. It cost around $90 actually includes six pieces.

In my car, I used the original B-pillar covers which were olive green vinyl like the seats instead of the headliner material.

The pictures below show you mostly how the rear section was done. This is by far the hardest part to install. The other sections all take time and patience too, but the rear section is really tough. And unfortunately, on the Saturday I did this (all 10 hours of it) I had left the cable for the digital camera at work, 40 miles away. I really wanted to take lots of pictures of this job. I took pictures freely and only discovered that I didn't have the cable after I filled up the camera's memory the first time. This prohibited me from taking more pictures of the work. But the pictures below detail the tools, materials and techniques for the rear section, the hardest part. And of course the end result.

First of all, the tools and materials. (L to R) Masking tape, both wide and narrow. Make sure it is "fresh". Painters know that fresh masking tape sticks well, but also pulls off easily without tearing.

Then binder clips, lots of them. I would never attempt this job without these. These "small" kind exert a tremendous force (clip one on your finger- yowch!!). I used about 40 of them. A dozen to a box in the office supply room at work (ooops! did I say that? I meant at "Staples").

Good sharp scissors. Yeah, these are my wife's "good sewing ones". Either make sure you clean any glue off of them before you return them or buy your own pair for around $12. Very useful for cutting that heavy carpet padding too.

3M 08090 "Super Trim Adhesive". This is amazing stuff, many at the newsgroup recommended it to me. It is what the pros use. I had to visit a few autoparts stores before I found it. When I did, they kept it "in back", had to ask for it. Call around. You will not likely find this stuff at a department or craft store. It is super strong, sets up tacky in about a minute, dry in 20. It will not discolor the fabric, although it will "wet through" when wet. You can pull something glued apart and re-do it too. I paid $12.50 for the can, but it is a hefty size. One can is enough for a full headliner, but if you will be doing the full padding and carpet thing too, get 2 cans.

A "lesser quality" spray adhesive. You can buy this stuff at Home Depot or a good department store. I used this to stick up padding and "pre-set" (see below) the headliner. About $5 a can. 

Although it is not a very good picture, this shows the detail of the nozzle on the 3M can. The little deflector is rotatable and forms a very narrow concentrated "|" type pattern. About 2" a foot away from the surface. Thus, this stuff is very easy to "aim", it is not a broad "spray paint" kind of pattern (that other can is). Also, you can spray it into a cup or cap and brush it on. 

Home Depot now sells this glue.  It is in a black can and is sold also as "3M Super 90", I usually find it near the paint isle.

Here are some other key tools. I used clothes pins just as wedges, not to actually pinch anything together. The copper tool you see is was actually made up for another purpose. It is a piece of 3/4 copper pipe hammered flat on one end and pressed over a 3/4" dowel on the other. Originally it was used a heatsink tool to be used while butt welding panels with the MIG welder (hold it on the backside of the weld, MIG steel won't stick to copper) but with a little modification, it worked as a "tuck tool" to put the center section in. I bent the curve in it and ground and wire bushed the end edges and corners a bit to insure it was a blunt and burr-free as possible.

I used ordinary putty knives often too, to press the fabric into crevices. Make sure they are dull. 

You will get glue on your fingertips and you will need solvent to clean them off. If you don't all sorts of crud will stick to your fingers and you will get the headliner dirty. Clean is key! 

Now before we go on to the steps, let me give you the general approach:

Ok, here's what we started with, a truly "gutted" interior. On the right side in the picture, you can see some padding that I started to glue on. There are actually a couple layers of gray jute carpet padding under the white batting on the right side to "build up" the space between the upper quarter panel and the roof side member (on the left you can see the first piece I glued starting on that side). Over that is the "batting" padding that I used everywhere else. I got this stuff in a fabric remnant store for .50 a yard, 6ft wide. It is only about 1/4" thick. It is stuck up there by misting a light spray of that "lesser grade" adhesive (not the 3M stuff). That thin strip that you see was made by spraying a 6" wide strip of batting with adhesive and then rolling it up. This allowed it to fill the "crevice" that was left. 

In hindsight, I don't really think that all this padding is necessary. Yeah, you could bang your head up against that quarter real hard and it would feel like a wrestling mat, but just layers of batting would have worked just as well. I'm hopeful that all this padding will make for a nice quite cabin though. 

Here is some detail of the back right corner (when facing the back). Notice the big gap between the top of the firewall (the ribbed panel at the bottom) and the rear window section. The firewall panel actually rolls over and back behind the upper section. It is in this gap that the back headliner panel is first glued.

Also, on the right in this picture, notice the "toothed" metal tabs extending backward between the rear window section and the rear quarter panel. The tabs have been bent outward here. When hammered in, they grab the both the sides of the rear section of headliner as well as the back edge of the side pieces. The side pieces come out of the back of the tabs, then fold over and are pulled forward so that the tabs are not seen. Make sense?? 

In this picture you see the gap that the rear window body panel (window) section makes with the roof section. There is about a 1/2" gap here. The rear headliner piece is glued on the top of this gap, and the main center section of the headliner is also "tucked" back over it. There are about 5 tabs welded to the top of the rear window section that point backward to give the center section bands (sewn to it) something to "catch" on. With a pinky finger you can feel them. 

Ok, lets get started. Here you see the batting glued on to the back body section. This is real easy. Just cut a generous piece of the batting, spray your "lesser quality" adhesive all over the panel and place the batting all over the area, pressing it into the contours. This type of batting is very lightweight. Then with scissors, go around and cut at the borders. Leave a little space of bare metal at the top and bottom, and around the window opening, so the fabric won't lump up there.

Now get the rear section. My piece was about 41x27", plenty. Spray a little "low grade" glue along the upper 2" or so of the firewall. Fold over about 2" of one of the long sides of the headliner piece, face against face, and stick it up on the firewall as shown. This is just to position the piece for the initial glue spray. Put a piece of wide masking tape across the back side of the fabric as show, exposing only the uppermost 1/2" or so of the fabric. It is this area that will be pushed back into the gap and glued to the rear window body section. The tape is to insure that no glue gets on the backside of the fabric in a place where it will be seen from the front. 

Now place some more tape over the batting at its bottom edge to keep glue from getting on that and making it bunch up and get all gooey. You are now ready to "shoot glue", so grab the can of "the good stuff". You want to orient the nozzle deflector, so with the can upright, it will shoot a "--" horizontal pattern, not a "|" one. Practice on a piece of paper.

You want to shoot glue into the bottom (back) of the gap, as well as wet the exposed strip of the backside of the headliner fabric. Not too much glue! It comes out fast, just sweep the can across... 

Now you have to work a little fast here. Flip the fabric up being careful not to pull it loose from where you glued it with the light adhesive. Grab a couple binder clips and clip it up as shown to the window opening to hold it out of the way. Now with a smooth, blunt object, slide along the gap, pushing the fabric back into the gap where the wet glue is. A capped BIC pen or a popsicle stick might work well for this. You might need to loosen the light adhesive part a bit as you go so the fabric can get pulled back into the gap, you want the wet back of the fabric to meet up with the glue on the back of the gap. If some glue bleeds through and things get just a bit gunky, don't worry, you won't see it when it is dry.

Now put the glue away for a while, and grab the binder clips. But before you clip the top up, spray a little of your "lightweight" glue along the top edge then clip up the top and sides as shown. That glue will help you when you go to glue the top with the good stuff later. Put it up just tight enough so it doesn't sag inward, but not like "trampoline" tight. It should be fairly smooth. This fabric is pretty heavy stuff by the way. 

Here you can see how it is clipped into the sides and top. Don't worry about the corners for now.

This is what it looks like from outside the car. Notice how much space is between the fabric and the lower edge of the window opening compared to the top and sides. This means that you will really have to stretch the fabric at the bottom. 

This is probably the most critical part; cutting the window opening. I used a very sharp razor knife to make a tear in the fabric in the center of the window opening, then used scissors to cut the opening (the fact that my car had no engine or deck lid cover was very convenient; I could stand in the engine bay and have good access to the window opening). The correct opening in the fabric is not the same size as the opening in body!! Do not go cutting around staying just an inch or so away from the metal. I almost botched this one with what you see here. The cut you need will make a very "short" opening in the fabric (top to bottom). A "squished" oval, if you will

Start slow and small. As you go, start pulling the fabric back toward you trying to stretch it to meet the opening in the body. It may seem impossible at first, but this stuff does stretch. The trick is getting it to stretch without wrinkling. I pulled really hard a couple times and some clips flew off inside. Once you get it close it is time to start cutting perpendicular slits in the opening but be careful. It is very easy to get it real close and it seems like just another little 1/4" snip will free it up enough to get it the the metal, but when you do you realize that you snipped it too far and you are doomed. Take your time!!!. You might also need to loosen the clips inside and let a little more fabric free, but I really didn't have to. I only loosened the sides just a bit when I was trying to get rid of wrinkles.

If you survive this, you should end up with something that looks like this. Note I still have some "waves" on the sides, but these were easily dealt with by tightening up the clips in the sides inside. As you go around from the outside, snipping and clipping, keep poking your head inside and make sure that you are not creating wrinkles.

Ok, this picture is big, but it shows some important detail. First of all, notice how "pillowy" the upper and lower sections look. Not to bash on the later model owners, but I have never seen a "leatherette" headliner look so, uhh, "cozy". You will also notice only one clip at the bottom of the side binding. At this point, I had taken a putty knife and just "tucked" the fabric way back into the metal tabs, but not hammered them down at all yet. So this panel was this smooth with really no support at the sides at all. A little more tucking an cinching along the sides, and it really got nice and smooth (and "cozy")

From the outside, you can see the perpendicular snips that create the little flaps. They must be closer together where the curve is the tightest, about 3/4" apart on the side curves. How far in you snip them is oh-so-critical. Use lots of clips. In this picture, I had already begun gluing in the lower right and was "migrating" clips to other areas.

As for gluing up, make sure that the whole piece is to your satisfaction before you start gluing. You can spray the 3M glue from the can into a cup or cap and brush it on. Remove 1-2 clips at a time, peel back the flap, paint on some glue (try to get some on the inside of the window flange too) and re-clip.

I ran out of memory in the camera and don't have pictures of finishing up the back. Here's the final steps:
Now that the back panel is done, it is time to start on the sides. Here, I have used clips and some plastic to cover the finished back section as I don't want glue overspray on it. The batting for the side panel has been glued up, extending over the side member all the way to the front.

You can also see that I have glued some of the carpet padding inside the rear lower quarter, behind where the interior panel goes. VW had glued a few strips of asphalt fiber in there; this stuff will do a better job of dampening sound and vibration, and no one will see it.

Here you can see the first steps in fitting up the side pieces. The first thing is to fit the nylon band into the metal tabs in the back. 

I had to cut about 3/4" of the top end of the nylon band off each of the side pieces (sorry, no pics). Mine were a bit too long. A guy I talked to at Wolfsburg West about this job told me he had to do the same. To do this you have to to cut some stitching loose under the piece you cut off. Brush a little 3M glue on the top and bottom of the band after you cut it off to hold the loose stitching keep it from unraveling later.

You can pretty much slip the nylon band behind the tabs and hammer them all down before starting any thing else. The sides of you rear window section will be bunched into the space with the nylon band, use a putty knife and tap it all down in there all the way, then hammer the tabs down. When you pull the side fabric around tabs, it should all be smooth like you can see in the lower left in the picture.

I used clothespins as wedges to hold the upper edge of this fabric for fitting. Pinch the clothespin, put it on the end of your finger, and push the back end of the pin in the gap between the roof and the metal side member. Pull the piece from the front a bit as you go.  You know the drill, start with clips, carefully snip perpendicular cuts to allow it to "bend" in the curves. Glue only after top edge of this piece is glued in). Along the door opening there are more tabs that allow you to tuck it under. Don't hammer the headliner fabric or you may mar or tear it, use a smooth wooden block and hammer on that.

As for gluing along the top of this piece, same technique as you used at the top of the rear section. Pull it out of the gap at the top (remove clothespins), trim all but 1" extra. Tape off the backside of any fabric that will "show" from the front, shoot the 3M glue. On the backside of the fabric that will go up into the gap, and as best you can, on the top edge of that side member. Do this before you clip and glue the lower edges (window opening and upper door opening). Pull from the front a bit to keep things nice and tight.

At the very front, the fabric ends and the painted metal of the windshield frame takes over. Once it is trimmed to proper length, you want to fold over the end by about 1/2" and glue it to itself on the backside. You also want to "taper off" the padding as best you can, so it "transitions" to metal well. I ended the padding about 2" short of the end of the fabric.

Lastly, you will glue the lower portion of the rear quarter section to the top of the inner wheel housing, and to the back of the area where the quarter panel goes. Think about what parts the quarter panel, carpet and seat back normally cover and don't spray glue on the back of any part you can see from the front. This is a pretty large area but I found it very easy to make it nice and smooth.

I also glued a piece of jute padding (about 3/8") on the whole underside of the roof, before putting the cross bows and headliner piece in. My car had a fiber sound dampening pad up there when I tore it all down, but it did not cover the whole roof section and wasn't as thick. I cut a piece 36" x 55" and glued it up there. I glued it by rolling it up, spraying the 3M on the underside of the roof and un rolling it, upside down, while spraying more glue. Sounds easy, but this had the potential to be a real disaster and "use up" the rest of my patience late in the day. But that 3M glue is incredible. To be able to spray, wait less than a minute and then stick that heavy padding up there and have it stay was amazing. In spite, it still took my hands, arms, head, shoulders, neck, etc. You get the picture.

Ta-da!!! Quite frankly, I was stunned at how nice this came out. This picture doesn't do it justice. It looks like a fine piece of furniture. I glued the carpet insulation in the rear luggage area, but ran out of glue before I could do the fenderwell covers.

This was yet another major victory. Of course I had seen these perfect interiors at the shows and really wondered if I could pull it off. But I am really happy with this, on more "uncertain" task DONE!!

I am having the olive green vinyl B-pillar covers sewn up at a local leather repair shop, they will go in next.