headliner is coming!

Having fun!

Reno and Kristin having fun!

After over 50 years, the headliner in the Stude was ready for a replacement. Though this would be no pop-in job here folks – a pre-fab headliner wouldn’t do for me. Being a girl, I’m a sucker for shiny things. So when it came to choosing interior car fabrics my heart was set on glitter vinyl…yep, that stuff your grandmother’s kitchen chairs were upholstered with. Knowing vinyl wouldn’t be so comfortable if it were on the seats (I remember our old family station wagon,) my eyes turned upward to spectacular possibilities with the headliner.

In the Los Angeles library system, I could find only one book that supposedly had headliner information in it (at least for cars of my era). The book was at a library too far away, so I didn’t bother. Turning instead to the internet for how-to articles – I still only found information on popping in a pre-fab. So last Saturday, my new friend Reno and I embarked on new and unknown territory!

We began by pulling the seats out to have a clear and open working space (and to keep them clean of all the crap falling from the roof). Next we removed the existing headliner –

Before taking out the original headliner

Before taking out the original headliner

which is constructed with 4 seams spanning side to side. On the hidden part of these seams are encasings which hold rods. These rods attach to each side of the car, holding the headliner in place. In addition to the rods, the headliner is tucked into the rubber moulding that holds the windshield and back window as well as into metal strips along the side. It seemed instructions perhaps suggested to remove the windshield and back window in order to replace a headliner…but I wasn’t about to go through those shinanigans…the interior trim around the windshield and back window will have to suffice to hold the new headliner in place.

As Reno and I pulled the existing headliner out, we were careful not to damage it – as we’d be using this as a pattern to make the new one. After pulling it out, we found that most of it was one continuous piece of fabric – only the widest bit past the back rod was a separate piece. The old headliner, after being stretched in place for over 50 years, was not of the same dimensions as when it was originally cut out. So as we laid it out over the new fabric we had to do a little guessing. When making a headliner, it’s very important to be precise. Too much fabric will result in a saggy or wrinkled headliner and too little obviously won’t work either. After some deliberation I just had to grit my teeth and cut.

Sewing the seams into the new fabric piece

Sewing the seams into the new fabric piece

Once the cutting was done, we moved over to the sewing machine. First making cotton rod encasings (the yellow fabric in the pictures) which would be sewn into the seams. Then we folded the fabric at the lines where the original seams lay and ran those through the sewing machine. After they were sewn, we went through again and sewed in the cotton encasings. When all was done, we had one handy dandy piece to pop into the roof of the Stude.

“Popping” it in is a slight simplification. Pushing the rods through the encasings first, we began by attaching each rod back into place. (Now if you’re gonna try this at home folks, be sure to label the rods as you take them out. Each rod is bent uniquely and needs to stay in a certain order). Now…this is where it gets a little complicated. The new piece has to be stretched perfectly in order to look good.

Reno seeing if its gonna fit...eek!

Reno seeing if its gonna fit…eek!

I have no idea what order of steps headliners are supposed to be attached. Without any information, after the rods were in place I moved to the front and back window. At present this is where I’ve stopped. It still needs to be secured along the sides of the car, where it’s attached by a metal strip with teeth along the front windows and by the seal along the small back windows.

Today I’m headed out to stop by an upholstery shop to get some pointers. Hopefully this next week I’ll complete the job and post up a full step-by-step slideshow of the entire process. Until then…I’m excited about the progress and hopeful it will turn out to be as perfect as expected…like Bob the painter said, “It’s like you’ve got the starry sky inside your car!” Indeed I do.

2 Responses

  1. SUSAN

    Well, I got the privilege of seeing this headliner when she zoomed into LV for Viva LV, and was she a “BUTE”! One any girl should be proud of, so you, Kristin, and friend Reno, should be PROUD of your heartfelt labor as well! The results were awesome!

  2. Reno

    Now that I look back on this, my greasy friend, I think about how nervous I was to undertake something like this. While I’m a crafty person by nature, I have to admit that I was extremely daunted. But we worked together and got (almost all of) it done. Moral of this story: DON’T BE AFRAID! Have faith in yourself and you can do anything, even something society says we shouldn’t be doing. GET GREASY, GIRLS!!!


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