Custom Fiberglass Headliner

If you follow this web site at all you are already familiar with the fiberglass headliner I made by molding it from the outside of the coupe's roof. Making a glass headliner is one thing but finishing it can be a totally different ball game.

To begin with molding a headliner from the roof gives the rear of the headliner some curves that will be a challenge for any upholstery guy, no matter how good he is. After discussing this with a couple professionals, I decided to take a different tact rather than cover the headliner with a conventional upholstery material. More on that later, but to bring the reader up to speed here are a couple pics of the headliner construction up to this point.


Raw part ready for cutting and trimming.

Finished part after being cut down the middle, narrowed by two inches, glassed back together and trimmed to size.

OK. This is where this installment starts. First and foremost... DO NOT USE WAXED PAPER AS A MOLD RELEASE AGENT !!! This was a mistake I made that cost me several hours of bodywork on the inside of the headliner. The wax paper will not allow the glass to lay down perfectly smooth and you will wind up wasting time fixing all the little imperfections. Trust me, you don't want to do that if you don't have to.

After consulting with my upholstery friends I decided to take a page out of Project 33's playbook and "Texture Paint" the headliner rather than upholster it. Project 33 did not texture paint his headliner (his was upholstered) but this method was used to do several interior trim pieces as well as the trunk lid liner. The fact that this could be done by me in my shop and the material cost was extremely low tipped the scales and convinced me to try it, and I'm very pleased with the results.

For this technique you need Duplicolor Truck Bed Coating (the stuff in a spray can), and Duplicolor Vinyl Color (in a spray can). The reason you use Duplicolor is their truck bed coating is compatible with the vinyl color, so once the texture is put down it can be colored to suit your needs. Other brands can't be painted. In my case I used Duplicolor Vinyl (Flat Black) spray to dull the sheen of the truck bed coating just enough to match the black vinyl my upholsterer is using on the seat. The total cost of materials for this technique was just under $25. I used two cans of the truck bed coating and one and a half cans of the vinyl color spray. Here's what you need.

Before any of the texture work can be done the headliner needs to be properly fitted to the interior and all the mountings have to be ironed out. In my case I needed to mount the windshield wiper motor and check out its electrics and fit the front valance. I also needed to make a metal box to cover the wiper motor so everything would have a finished look.

Now, since I had to spend several hours smoothing the inside of this headliner I decided to add some custom touches in the form of some embossed flames just to break things up and make it more aesthetically pleasing. Below you can see the headliner mounted, valance and wiper motor cover fitted along with the flames.

The flames were cut from 1/8" Luann plywood and glued in place using high strength contact cement. Once all the fitting was done the headliner was removed and to add more strength to the flame mounting fillets were added using JB Weld. These were finished with body filler and sanded smooth. Finally the Luann was given a coat of resin as a sealer and everything was finish sanded with 100 grit leaving enough roughness for the truck bed coating to properly adhere to the surface.

In order to obtain the right "texture" the truck bed coating needs to be sprayed at about double the recommended distance given on the can. In this case the recommended distance was 8" so I used a 16" spray distance and the texture came out perfect. This is the texture you're looking for.

Once the texturing was done I toned down the sheen a little with the flat black vinyl spray and allowed everything to dry overnight. Before final installation of the headliner insulation was installed. This is not the "high end" stuff you'll find in most street rods but it has the heat shielding properties needed to keep things relatively cool on the inside.. given the fact that this car does NOT have A/C.

The valance is not finished and will be painted body color but here is the completed headliner mounted and ready to go.

Next I'll be making and finishing the kick panels installing carpet and the custom upholstered seat.

Check back often for more updates...

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