'49 Packard Headliner

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Tinman_70
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'49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:43 am

I’m going to try to make and install a scratch-built metal bowed headliner for my ‘49 Club Sedan. This is going to be a project in itself. Metal bowed headliners are used in many cars beginning in the mid-30s when cars started being built with solid metal roofs and were used up until the 60s.

I have done 2 bowed headliners in the past, one 35 years ago and one about 3 years ago. So I’m far from an expert just a do-it-yourselfer. From the first one I learned that it was not as hard as I thought it would be and from the more recent one, don’t trust people that sell pre-sewn headliners. If you are going to buy something pre-sewn, get references on the manufacturer from people that have installed their product in a car similar to yours.

There is quite a difference from the ones I’ve done in the past and the one in the Packard. First, this one will be done in fabric while the others were vinyl. The others had fixed bows, that are solidly attached with screws to the roof frame. The Packard bows are “floating”, they are set in rubber grommets and can move back and forth. This may make the installation easier or maybe not.

Preparation:

When I bought the car, the headliner looked like it just needed some wrinkles stretched out.
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Once I got a good look, it was clear that it would need to be replaced. It was not the original and had been replaced with headliner material that was intended for newer cars with one-piece headliner inserts where this type material is glued directly to the insert.

Before the headliner was removed, the width of each panel was measured. The old fabric was very thin and had a foam backing. You can see in the picture what happened to the foam from the heat. With the headliner out, only thin fabric remained. The fabric was so stretched out that it was useless to use as a pattern.
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The old headliner was laid out on the floor and the 6 bows marked in their position from front to back, 1 to 6, with a tape marker on the drivers side. It’s important to keep them in the proper order because they are all different. Packard apparently used color coding to distinguish the bows but the colors had faded.
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The bows were removed from the old headliner and using a straight edge and square the center of each bow was marked with a Sharpie.
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The only thing holding the factory roof insulation up were the headliner bows. All the material on the roof had to be removed. It was scraped off and the roof wire brushed clean. Before the final installation of the headliner, the roof will be sprayed with a water-based ceramic insulation called Lizardskin.
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The next post will deal with making new patterns.
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genehouse
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by genehouse » Sat Jan 25, 2014 6:47 am

Good, I've been waiting for you to get to the headliner. This is an area I have never done before but expect to have to do in the future. Thanks again for your expertise and sharing with us. Gene
1949 Super 8 Limousine
1939 Buick Special
1926 Star 6
1926 Star Landau (still in AZ waiting for me to pick it up!)

If you are going to skate on thin ice, you might as well dance!

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Tinman_70
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:47 am

Making Headliner Patterns:

New rubber grommets (Steele Rubber) were installed in the holes to mount the headliner bows. The bows are installed and because they float, the are held in the correct position with magnets. Each bow is marked with “match marks” starting at the center and spaced out from the center in each direction about 6" apart. These marks are used to match the material when the panels are sewn together.
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To make a good paper pattern, the paper has to spaced from the roof down to the bottom of the bow. The round magnets I have were too thick to use for this. I went to Staples and found a box of magnets that are used to make magnetic business cards. They were $20 for 100. They are very thin but when a number of them are placed together, it could be used to space down to the level of the bow. This allows the paper to be attached even with the bottom of the bow.
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Brown paper is used to make the patterns. They have it in a roll at Home Depot. The paper is cut oversize and placed over two adjacent bows and held in place with magnets at the points where the other magnets are attached to the roof. Once the paper is flat against the bow, the bow is marked on the paper using flat end of a large “lumber” crayon. This transfers the complete image of the bow to the paper rather than trying to mark it with a thin Sharpie. The match marks on the bow are also transferred to the paper. Once the marks are transferred, the paper is removed and cut along the lines marked on the bow. This is repeated for all 7 panels. Here are pictures of #1, #3 and #6.
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Shows mach marks on bow
The most difficult piece to pattern is the last panel around the rear window, #7. As the roof line turns down, the headliner material has to be stretched to the curve. Brown paper, however, does not stretch. Here’s the final completed set of patterns for all the panels. Time to cut the material. (In the picture above, the rear window is blocked off from the outside to keep the sun out, not part of a pattern).

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Tinman_70
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:34 am

Cutting the Headliner Material:


Here is what is needed to make the headliner. The material I am using is grey suede which matches the door panels and is a close match to the seats. The material is 60 wide but the headliner panels are wider so the panels will have to be cut down the length of the material rather than across the width. Should take 4 to 4 ½ yards. Also needed is a roll of listing tape. This is a 1 1/4" wide linen loop that is sewn in the seams to hold the bow. Also there is a length of ½" foam windlace core. This will be sewn with matching material and has to be installed before the headliner.
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Before cutting anything, I took a scrap of material and a piece of listing tape and sewed it together to check the seam allowance. The patterns are the exact size so material needs to be added to the pattern to allow for sewing the seam. This is particularly critical on the Packard because the bow has a 90 degree bend on each end where it fits into the mounting grommet. If too much allowance is taken on the listing tape, the bow will not fit in the headliner. I tried using 1/4 allowance and bow just fit through the listing.
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I laid out the material and rough cut the 7 panels oversize. It took just over 4 yards.
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The oversized material is laid on a steel top table and the paper pattern is laid on top and held in place with magnets. The pattern is the exact size so the material needs to be cut larger. The seam allowance is going to be 1/4 but to allow for some material stretch, the material will be cut 3/16 larger on all sides. The sewn panel will be 1/8 narrower than the pattern. The match marks are also transferred from the pattern to the material.
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After the material is marked, the magnets and pattern are removed and a sheet of tempered hardboard is placed between table and the material before cutting. A roller cutter (borrowed from my wife) is used to cut along the marks. This is repeated for all 7 panels. The headliner is now ready to sew.
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Dave Czirr
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Dave Czirr » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:50 am

Wow, I'm in awe of your talents!

genehouse
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by genehouse » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:47 pm

Dave, I'm glad you have added your awe to mine. I am just excited to see this car coming together so well. It gives me hope that I can go ahead and try to accomplish the same thing at some future date. I have enjoyed this Thread and Blog very much. Gene
1949 Super 8 Limousine
1939 Buick Special
1926 Star 6
1926 Star Landau (still in AZ waiting for me to pick it up!)

If you are going to skate on thin ice, you might as well dance!

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Tinman_70
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:05 am

Sewing the Headliner

Here’s a picture of my sewing machine. It’s a German-built Pfaff that I bought in 1977 when I decided to try some DIY auto upholstery on my 1940 Ford coupe rather than pay what the shop wanted. It had been in storage for over 30 years until I got it out about 3 years ago after I retired. It’s heavy duty but the headliner material could have been sewn on any good sewing machine.
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The panels are sewn together with the listing tape starting from the front - #1 to #2, #2 to #3, etc. First, the material of the two adjacent panels are laid out on the table, finished side to finished side. The match marks on each piece are aligned and listing tape is added between each end. Once everything is lined up, I pinned the 3 pieces together along where the seam will be sewn. An expert can hold the pieces together while sewing, I’m not that good.

Once all the panels are sewn together, the headliner is laid out and the seams inspected from the top and bottom to anything that needs to be corrected. Looking for missed stiches or bunching along the seam. These would show if not corrected. Everything looked OK. It took about two and a half hours to sew.
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It’s ready to install the bows and try a test fit in the car.
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:01 am

Test Fitting:


The headliner was laid out on the table and all 6 bows were installed. With the 90 degree end on the bow, they were a bit difficult to install, particularly the ones with the most bend. The rear bow, #6, is held in place with a tab on the dome light bracket. #6 needs to be installed first and the headliner centered on the bow. The listing tape needs to be cut away to allow the tab to be secured to the bow to hold it firmly in place. This holds the headliner while it is stretched to the front and also when the rear panel is fitted around the rear window and package tray.
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The interior is covered to keep the headliner clean during the fitting.
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Starting from the back, half of the bows installed. Because the bows are not screwed to the body, it was very easy to install.
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The headliner was cut to be oversize on the sides. This will be trimmed when finally fit.
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Panels fit without any stretching. Looks like it is going to be a good final fit with stretching and trimming.
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The headliner is coming out and will be put aside until after all painting is completed.
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Dave Czirr » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:23 pm

I've read in a few places that headliners were "steamed" after installing to make them taut and wrinkle-free - any knowledge of that?

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Tinman_70
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Re: '49 Packard Headliner

Post by Tinman_70 » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:00 am

The two other headliners I built were vinyl. I was able to stretch them taut without steaming. The fabric has much less stretch so steaming may be required for the correct tight fit.

Another point I meant to mention is to make sure the headliner tacking strips around the rear package tray and the front "A" pillar are in good shape and will hold a staple. Mine were deteriorated and will have to be replaced. New tacking strips are available in various sizes but I could not find a replacement for the wide strip under the rear window. I have a friend that manufactures a replacement tacking strip for '57 Chevy convertibles. He suggested using a double layer of waterproof panel board cut to size. I'm going to give that a try. The correct size tacking strips for the windlace around the doors are available. I bought mine from Bob Drake Reproductions.

I'll do a detailed blog on the installation to show how it comes out.
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