Bob's Studebaker Resource Website

Installing a headliner in a C-Body Studebaker


(wdills) SDC Forum - January 2016

I started to just write this in my notebook for future reference, but I thought that it might be useful to someone else, so I will post it here instead.

Start the installation by reading the Ray-Lin Restoration headliner installation instructions. It has a lot of good info and pictures. I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post but I wasn't planning to do this thread when I started my installation.


I used 3M 08063 Ultrapro Trim & Emblem Adhesive . This is a gel type adhesive that has a brush built into the lid. I didn't want to risk getting glue overspray on any of my freshly painted parts. You also want to have a can of General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner around. You will also want some binder clips to help hold the headliner to the glass mounting lip while the glue dries. I ended up with 4 or 5 boxes (12 per box) of these things.


I couldn't find any stampings on my bows that identified them so be sure to label your bows when you pull them out of the old headliner.


The headliner should have a center line marked on the backside. I highlighted this with a piece of 1/4" green masking tape so it was very easy to see. I then applied a piece of 1/4" green tape to windshield and back glass frame so I had a good reference point. The screw holes for the rear view mirror mounting trim were a good reference for locating the center of the body on the windshield frame. I just measured between the two headliner retainer clips to locate the center of the body in the back glass frame. Not sure how precise those retainer clips were installed at the factory but it looked centered when I eye-balled it from behind the car.


Test fit the bows in the car before you put them in the headliner. I had to clean some paint build up out of the holes before mine would fit properly. I chose to use the lower set of mounting holes because I had glued a layer of 1/4" insulation to the roof prior to headliner installation.


Slide the bows into the listings on the back of the headliner and hang the headliner in the car. Make sure the center line of the headliner and center line of the body matches front and rear. I got my headliner hanging in the car on a Saturday afternoon. I attempted to begin stretching it into place, but the wrinkles just would not come out. I put two 1500W space heater in the car and let them run overnight to get the headliner nice and warm. Installation went much easier the next morning.


I connected the rear bow to the 2 rear clips first. I then connected the front bow to the clip in the front. (I don't know if all C-bodies have the front clip or not). Once the bows are in the clips I was able to tighten the headliner up nicely by wrapping the clips farther around the bows to put more tension (front to back) on the bow. I did this by gripping the clip with a pair of pliers and then rotating the pliers down such that the metal of the clip wrapped farther around the bow.


At this point I had a lot of wrinkles running front to back between bows. I started smoothing these out by pulling the headliner listings toward the sides of the car. Keep an eye on your centerlines when doing this. You need to pull each side equal amounts so the center stays centered. When I ran into a wrinkle that wouldn't come out, I would reach up above the headliner and grab the listing near where the wrinkle was and pull it out and then smooth the listing toward the side of the car as I pulled my arm back out.


Once the center of the headliner was looking good I started in the front, gluing the headliner to the windshield frame. I only brushed glue onto the inside surface of the lip that the windshield mounts on. Once you brush the glue on you need to let it set until it gets nice and tacky. If it is too wet it won't hold. I started in the center pulling the headliner straight forward and stuck the headliner to the glued lip. As I moved out toward the side of the car I started pulling the headliner forward and toward the side of the car. The closer I got to the side the more angle in my pull. This prevented the front to back wrinkles from appearing between the front bow and the windshield lip. As I transitioned from the windshield to the side of the car I had to make some relief cuts in the vinyl in order for it to lay right. I started with short cuts and gradually made them deeper until the vinyl would pull around that corner without wrinkles. As I finished with a section I would wrap the excess vinyl over the lip and apply a binder clip to help hold everything in place until the glue dried. I worked my way all the way across the windshield before I started tucking the sides.


I started working the sides at the windshield and worked between bow sections. I would do both sides between one section before I moved to the next. When working down the sides I did all of my pulling at the seams where the bows are. If I pulled between the bows it started to look like the inside of a tent and I didn't like that. Once I got the seams pulled tight enough to take any remaining wrinkles out, I would tuck the seam up between the windlace and retainer strip. Once the seam was tucked I would tuck just enough between the bows to pull it taught but not enough to get the "tent effect" going on. I had a very tight fit between the windlace and headliner retainer (toothed metal piece) so tucking those seams took quite a bit of force. I used a metal putty knife for this but I ground the edge off of it and rounded both corners to be sure I didn't poke a hole in the vinyl headliner. I didn't try to tuck all of the vinyl between the windlace and retainer strip, I just tucked enough to get the headliner taught and laying right.


Around the quarter windows I glued the headliner to the inside surface of the window frame. Be careful to keep from gluing the headliner to the surface that the quarter window rubber seals to when those windows get installed later on. I only worked the front side and across the top of the quarter window. I came back to the back side of the quarter window when I worked down the sail panel. There is no place to use clips when working around the quarter window so make sure your glue is nice and tacky before you start. Working around the quarter window required a lot of relief cuts and I could not get it to lay very good at all until I got those cuts deep enough.


Once I got across both quarter windows I skipped to the back glass. I did this the same as the windshield. Start in the center then work out toward each side. Once I got across the top of the back glass I started the dreaded sail panel. I guess I got lucky because I didn't have any trouble with them at all. I first pulled down and slightly forward from the bottom of the vinyl. I tried a few different angles until I found the one that made the vinyl lay the best. I then glued the bottom of the vinyl to the interior quarter panel metal. I then worked down the side of the back glass in the same manner I worked across the top of the windshield. This took a little more trial and error to find the best angle. Also needed a lot of relief cuts around the back glass.


Finally I worked down the back side of the quarter window. Again gluing the headliner to the inside of the window frame. The rear seam of the headliner ended up wrapping into the quarter window and being glued to the inside frame. That seam looked huge where it wrapped into the quarter window opening and I was afraid that it would interfere with the fit of the quarter window but it was not a problem and the window fit just fine.


Once everything was done I almost had a continuous string of binder clips on the windshield and back glass frame. I just let everything sit overnight to let the glue set-up. The next day I took the binder clips off and applied glue to the outside surface of the lip that the glass mounts on. Once tacky I glued the vinyl down to that surface as well and reapplied the clips. I let this glue setup overnight and the next day I trimmed the excess vinyl off around the windows. I also trimmed the excess above the doors and tucked the edges in behind the windlace.


To cut in the dome light, I was able to feel the bracket and bulb through the headliner. I started with a small cut where the bulb was. I gradually made the hole larger until the entire bulb pocket and switch were exposed. I then tried to install the cover / lens and found that it would not stay in. There was too much tension in the vinyl and it kept popping the cover back off. I was able to reach up through the hole I had cut in the headliner and get a good grip on the dome light bracket and bend it down closer to the headliner. The bracket was stronger than I thought it would be so it took quite a bit of force to bend it down. I bent it down a little and test fit the cover and then bent it a little more. I think it took three attempts to get it down far enough where the cover would stay on and it wasn't pulling the vinyl back up disturbing the curve of the headliner.


I apologize for this being so long winded but since I didn't have photos, I wanted to be detailed enough to be useful. I hope someone finds this useful.