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Cardboard headliner

15647 Views 18 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Luvstruck
Looking for some suggestions.. In my '52 Suburban, there is a series of 1/8" thick cardboard panels that make up the headliner. They are about 18" and run the width of the interior with a metal bow across the width holding adjacent panels in. There's also a full-length channel above the side windows for the sides of each panel to slip into so each panel is held in a groove on all four sides.

The cardboard is in decent enough shape that I can trace them onto some ABS panels. I planned to heat the ABS panels a bit to get the curve, glue some foam and material on top, repaint the bows and assemble it that way.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? This is my first interior, by the way.
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sounds like it could work. that or 1/8 inch plywood.
Thanks for the tip, Bullheimer.. I was thinking about that, but there appears to be a couple of real subtle compound curves in the cardboard.
The ABS plastic sheeting would be your best answer and also the easiest. you could also use aluminum flashing, but the ABS would hold up better and also be easier to work with and less noise. Balsa wood could also be used but is a smidgen harder to form with hot water. Considering you need a curved peice you don't have many options so I'd stick with the ABS if you can get it.

Thanks HK. That's what I was looking for. How thin can I usually find that sheeting? I figure with the foam and material on top of it, I might have trouble sliding it into a groove designed for that cardboard.

So nobody would reccommend converting this to a one-piece headliner?
I know 'zactly what you talkin' about. In my 57 Panel, I have the same set up. I went with abs plastic, because you can heat it to bend and it won't rust. I like the bows in mine, but I saw one in Charlotte that was done one piece. They made it from a 70's station wagon piece and trimmed it down. I used Liquid nails for adhesive. Just be careful, that stuff can be unforgiving. Think twice, glue once!
Madd - good to hear that someone else has done it the way I was thinking. You say you used liquid nails on it - for attaching the material to the ABS, or to keep the ABS in place? I ask, because I think my panels could be held in place with the channels that run the length of the vehicle. Maybe I should be glueing them in as well?

I'm gonna give it a light sanding, paint with zero rust and then a layer of sound deadening before the new headliner goes up. Can't think of anything else that needs to be done up there.
You can usually find that stuff as thin as 1/16" but I'd go with 1/8" and if you want to hold it up with some adhesive just a few dabs will do ya just in case you might want to redo the interior withing the next 20yrs.

The original headlining you describe is a good enough method - you have to be accurate at cutting if you want to copy it. I've been glueing unbacked autocarpet (usually black) direct to roof for people who want a low cost job that looks good. It depends on the shape of the rails round the roof edge. Most vehicles look fine carpeted despite the factory bumps and hollows normally hidden behind the liner. The carpet needs to be fitted by cutting a bigger piece than required (it comes 2meters wide in NZ) spraying contact adhesive (find heat resistant type) across the carpet piece and roof. Your paint gun will be fine if you get spray adhesive. Car trimmers or upholsterers will have large drum and sell you 1 litre cheaper than you can buy it at the hardware. Take a clean tin with you. Mark with chalk on edge of piece centres, front and rear, and starting in the centre of the roof lay it in by brushing your hand forward and then back. You may need a friend's help for a large panel van roof. Then brush from centre to each side. Corners are last. Hold corner of carpet near roof with one hand and keep enough tension on it to pull out sag from both directions, then brush in an arc across the corner beginning at the centre of roof and working towards the corner. Repeat this in each corner. (Contact glue works when you press it together so you're OK if you touch the two surfaces together by mistake. Just tug it back off)
Unbacked autocarpet is very forgiving because it will stretch and will take to the curves so long as you keep enough tension on it and do it in the order I said. After this you need to glue the carpet on the rail round the edges. Hopefully it will hide under the windlace on the door edges and the screen rubber in front. If not you need to be careful with a craft knife (box cutter)cutting round the edges It looks OK cut raw so long as it is well stuck. So don't be too light with spraying the glue on the carpet. Your second lot of glueing on the rails round the edges will pobably have to be brushed on the body to prevent overspray on the main roof carpet. If you get any on the finished carpet it comes off with white spirits - (Clear Gas) Its better if you can avoid using white spirits on finished carpet because it may soak through and weaken glue underneath. I have never had one fall out tho using this method. Tip - dont buy aerosol spray glue I have found it can't take heat of sun on roof. Have fun and ask if you want more info.
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Great tips, thanks again guys! :)
Sorry I was not clear. I glue the carpet to the panels, Not the panels to the truck

Can you here me now?
Ahh, that's what I figured you meant, Madd. I went into Home Depot yesterday looking for sheets of ABS plastic, they don't carry it. Any tips on where to look? Is it sold under a different name? I'll check a few more places this week.
Another option - 3/32" ThermoPly. Foil on one side (outside) and easy to cut. Cheap - about $7 per 4X8 sheet. It makes nice door panels too.
Where do you get Thermoply? We have a problem with our 1941 Willys headliner, and we are also looking to something very bendable in the back bowl shaped corners.
Sorry, go to Home Depot/Lowes/ whatever building supply place you have. It is used to side houses. Very thin, made nice door & sail panels. I haven't tried wetting/bending to mold it yet, but it would probably work. Also at Lowes is the foil-backed bubble wrap insulation. Comes 2' X 25' roll for $25. Better than the swap meet prices for a 4 X 8' piece.

49 T&C
Have you tried LMC Truck they have factory or near factory parts. I bought a headliner for a '54 truck. Or are you just wanting something more custom?

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I found a similar question a minute ago so I feel like I am posting the same answer twice... :D But just check out this page and go to page 5 and 6 as well. I am Rick and I did the fiberglass headliner for this 39 Chevy in our shop. This can be done on a painted car but it is risky. Better left to be done while in fabrication stage.
Foil backed Bubble Wrap

What is the foil backed bubble wrap used for?
You were talking about 3/32 sheathing which you said makes good door panels. Have worked with the 3/32 before, so I know it has the stiffness needed for headliners and door panels, but don't know how well it will conform to the almost 90 degree curves at the roof and sides above the windows.
Haven't worked with it, but it seems like the bubble wrap would be more flexable.
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