1987 Iroc TPI 350 - broken headliner board repair
Turbocharged 1987 Iroc TPI 5.7

October 22, 2009 - Like most third gen's these days, my original headliner was sagging, ripped and dirty looking. Since mine is a T-Top car with the lighted overhead console, there were areas with very little material and it did not survive the remove process in one piece! This page explains how I repaired the underlying headliner board material with fiberglass.  I also waterproofed the top side using resin on the entire back surface of the board.

This is how it looked once I removed the headliner fabric. There is a foam backing to the headliner material that rots over time, causing it to separate from the headliner board. All of the remaining foam should be brushed off before applying new headliner fabric!  You can see in this photo that one of the clips that holds the headliner up also broke off.

Using 5 minute epoxy, I first glued together the two smaller pieces.  I used some pieces of wood to support the ends to keep the proper curve of the board. I mixed the epoxy and applied it to both pieces evenly inside the tear. I then pushed the pieces together and held them until the epoxy began to set in about three minutes. After ten minutes the piece was ready to be handled. Next we will apply fiberglass to this piece before epoxying it to the larger piece.

I used easy to find Bondo brand resin and #488 fiberglass mat.  You can find this at just about any auto parts store. I first pre-cut pieces of the mat to fit across the tear.  I decided to wrap it all the way around the bottom side too, but this turned out to be overkill. I positioned the retainer clip that had pulled out back in place and cut a square hole into the fiberglass mat to fit over the metal part but still allow the plastic clip to move freely.  For extra security I also did this to the other clip even though it had not been pulled out. Once all of the mat was cut to fit, I mixed up 2 ounces of resin and added the hardener. I used a regular paint brush to apply it to the area I would be installing the mat over. Once everything was wet with resin,  I placed each section of mat and used more resin to stick it down. It's easy to work with but messy and you have only about 10 minutes to work with before it starts to tack up. Buy a bunch of cheap paint brushes - you won't be able to reuse them.  I found I needed more resin and mixed up another 2 ounces.  The same brush worked for the second batch of resin but that was it. I recommend looking at Youtube for instructional videos on working with fiberglass before you undertake this project if you have no prior experience with it. Ok, now it's time to let this mess dry. It stinks so time to let it sit alone for a couple of hours!

You will return to find a very sturdy piece of headliner board. We can now flip it over to line up with the remaining half.  Once again, 5 minute epoxy is used to join the two parts. This time I had two tears to glue so it was trickier to work with.  There is also a lot more weight on both sides of the repair this time, so once the epoxy dries you have to be careful flipping it over for fiberglassing. Be sure to shim the headliner board where needed to keep the original curves where they need to be.

More fiberglass mat is cut to fit across the repairs and other weak areas. I ran it onto the first repair section all the way back to each side of the oval cutouts.  I also ran a piece across between the large cutout and the ovals, connecting the two side pieces of mat to each other. All pieces are then removed, resin is applied the the headliner board, the pieces placed back where they belong and they are worked into place using the paint brush and more resin. I also extended the resin further than the mat as you can see around the ovals.

Fiberglass mat was also applied on each end of the seatbelt cutout. - all the way to the outer edge. This area gets a lot of stress during installation and removal. It really stiffens it up nicely!

Resin was applied to the entire inside surface of the headliner board to give it some waterproofing and added strength. It only took about 4 or 5 additional ounces of resin to do this.

Ooops!  I forgot to mention that I applied one layer of mat over the sunvisor mounts.  Unlike the other repairs, this one was done on the bottom side of the headliner board. I cut the piece long enough to reach from the front edge to the back edge.  Using the paint brush,  I worked the cloth down into the recess that had been created by the sunvisor mounting base.  Once the resin dried I drilled the original holes back through.  A holesaw would have been better but I couldn't find the correct size until after I did it this way.   Use a smaller bit of course for the three screw holes.

This is the completed headliner board just before installation of the headliner fabric.  It is a photo of how NOT to install headliner fabric!  I made the mistake of applying glue to the entire board at once, as well as cutting the material before sticking it on.  This isn't the first one of these I've done, but it's been many years and I forgot about the proper method when working with a T-Top headliner. I ended up ripping this stuff off (and it was a good thing I had applied that extra resin to the board!). Tail between my legs,  I got some new (and happily a much better matching grey) headliner fabric and did it the right way. The proper way is to lay the material on the board and center it.  Then fold it back on itself 1/2 way.  Apply the spray adhesive (be sure to use something from 3M or Permatex only!) to the board in small sections and spray the fabric in the area that will contact that section only. After letting the adhesive tack up, start in the middle and work the material carefully towards the inside corners.  Remember, it will compress much better than it will stretch!  If you screw this up, you're more or less stuck with what you get. It does not peek back off without tearing up the underlying board!   I  started at the oval holes and sprayed glue from there to the two front corners. After sticking the fabric down in that area, I sprayed the two front 'arms' all the way out to the ends and stuck the fabric down. Next I sprayed and stuck down the two back corners.  I then sprayed one of the back 'arms' all the way to the ends and stuck it down, finishing up with the remaining side.

Once the fabric is glued on the bottom side, trim off the excess material but leave enough to fold around to the back side. The thickness of the board will use up more fabric than you think and you'll end up with not very much of a wrap.  I underestimated by about 1/2 inch but it works fine. For corners you may have to put in some cuts to get it to wrap.  You want to avoid this as much as possible though, as some of this could be visible with the tops out.

And finally, the finished product. Since it was a near disaster with my first fabric gluing attempt,  I'm very pleased that it came out looking good. Before I install it,  I'm going to re-seal the bolts that hold on the glass hatch. I'm pretty sure those are the source of the leaks I've had. Total cost for this project was about $75 and that includes enough material to redo the rear speaker covers, make a set of T-Top inserts and re-cover the sunvisors (this will be done at a local upholstery shop for about $30 each).  I also have about half of the fiberglass resin and most of the cloth left, along with plenty of spray adhesive. What would I change if I did another one of these?  I would coat the bottom side of the headliner board in resin too!
Installation is pretty straight-forward, but I was really glad I took the trouble to add the additional fiberglass around the seatbelt cutout.  Here is how I did the install: I laid both front seats as far back as the would go.  I got the headliner inside the car through the passenger door with the window down and laid it on the seats.  Then I fed each seatbelt through the slits on each side.  Next I brought the headliner forward under the mirror but above the dash.  Next I pulled the passenger side speaker panel downward and got that corner of the headliner in place and released the speaker panel to hold that side up.  Making sure to support the middle of the headliner I then did the same for the driver side. I had to bend the mirror down to get the front to clear and it went right up into place.  I got the two front clips aligned and they snapped in place. Sunvisor installation went pretty easy - I drilled the holes in just the right place!  The overhead console gave me the most trouble and then went right in place after some choice words. Unfortunately I broke two of the plastic hooks off on the driver side sidebelt trim piece, so I'll have to come up with a fix for that.  It goes in place but will fall back down sometimes.  You can see in this photo that my rear speaker covers look blue compared to the headliner and seats.  These were done with the first batch of fabric and I'm going to redo them with the new stuff next.

Good luck on your own headliner project!

Return to main Iroc Page | Contact me