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Old 12-26-2004, 11:26 PM
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How to do a headliner

Guy's I've searched the archives and even bought and read both books recommended by this site and still can't figure out how to do my headliner. Here's the question. In the book Custom Auto Upholstery, they talk about using hardboard and gluing then shaping it to the top inside of the car to make the base for gluing on a leather liner. Can this technique be used with vinyl or something other than actual leather?

My other question is; would I be better off just buying an original replacement and installing it. Is this hard to do? BTW it's a 37 Cadillac Coupe.

Thanks Rick

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Old 12-27-2004, 01:16 PM
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Any material can be glued to the hardboard they are talking about. You have several options. Do you want the traditional cloth-and-bow wires type sewn sectional headliner or a modern one-piece look?

Here is how I used the top of the roof on my '53 Chevy pickup to make a fiberglass headliner insert. Similar to the cardboard one that they talk about in the book you mentioned but has the advantage of being removable and can be covered on a table top instead of over your head in a cramped car interior.

Go a few pages farther forward in my journal to see how I upholstered the insert.

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Old 12-27-2004, 01:20 PM
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headliner

Your origional headliner was probably held in with steel or wooden bows, and not glued to a backboard.

With bows, you have to sew tubes of fabric across the width of the head liner and feed the steel bows through the loops, then insert the bows into their corresponding holes in the sides of the roof panel.
With the wooden bows, you affix them to their assigned location in the roof panel, then staple the fabric to them. Doing this doesnt require sewing tubes to the headliner, but where you sew your seams across the width of the headliner, you need to leave about half an inch of fabric between the edge of the fabric and the seam you sew. Using this "flap", either staple or using upholstery tacks, affix the headliner to the wooden bows. Start at the front of the vehicle and work your way to the back.

This is the method of attatchment regarless of whether its vinyl or fabric. Be advised that very few cars, especially back then had a real leather headliner, but were fabrics. Its your choice of vinyl or fabric, as they both work the same in that application.
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Old 12-27-2004, 09:31 PM
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Thanks guy's. I still have the steel bows in place but I think I would like to have the one piece look. How hard is it to stretch and compress vinyl to form the curves on the top.

BTW Willys, great info on your project journal. After seeing it I think I may be able to do the one piece headliner. One question though. The welting you put around the doors, does it go all the way around the door and is it there to get pinched between the door and jam to block out wind. Kind of like windlace.

Last edited by RickB1B; 12-27-2004 at 10:05 PM.
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Old 12-28-2004, 08:41 AM
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Yep, the ends are buried under the carpet. Proper etiquette is to make the welting in one continuous piece without splices in the cloth so cut the 4" strips off the long edge of the upholstery you get. 3yds should go around any door out there.

Vinyl is actually pretty easy to stretch into a compound curved recess. Just be sure to get one of the premium, soft faux leather ones and it will work fine. Start attaching it in the middle and work in concentric circles toward the edges of the panel. place it lightly so the contact cement doesn't permanently bond so you can fit and replace as you go. When wrinkles inevitably begin to form, pull the cloth in the direction of the wrinkle and smooth it out. Takes a little patience but can be done. A lot easier to do on an insert on a table than overhead inside a car.

The example they show in the custom upholstery book mentioned in this thread is a one-piece leather headliner in a '42 Willys coupe. That is virtually a hemisphere so if they can do it there, it can be done anywhere!
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Old 12-28-2004, 09:37 AM
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headliner

For the welt, the best vinyl to use is the type with a non-directional backing. Vinly with a woven backing is also very flexible but not quite as much as the non-directional type. I would recommend using a marine grade vinyl, as being near the doors, it will be more subject to light and weather.
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