car project

Most of y'all remember my 1991 Nissan Sentra XE, right? Well, here it is, in front of our house, still kickin'. This is a great little car, always starts, good gas mileage. My mechanic here referred to it as "stealth" — meaning it runs great, but no one's going to look at it twice.

There are many many dings and scrapes, the lovely blue Rustoleum paint job is staring to fade and peel. And the headliner has been sagging for years.

I tried to tack it up with some spray glue (those yellow spots) when it first started to go, back in 2004 or so. But the problem is that the headliner itself is not just the fabric that you see. It's actually a foam/fabric sandwich glued to the solid backing, and when the foam gets old, it starts disintegrating. And the only way to really fix it is to take out the whole headliner, scrape off all the fabric and groadilated foam crud, and glue a new piece of headliner fabric/foam on. But I didn't want a plain headliner and figured, if I was going through all that trouble, I might as well get a fabric I liked.

This forum had a really good post that I used as my guide. Here's the ceiling after I got the liner out. There were industrial felt insulating panels above it that came out too. The dangly bits are the old glue that held the felt on.

Here's the headliner on newspaper, on a blanket, in the driveway, one strip of fabric removed. It really is just a big piece of cardboard. The crumbly foam dust underneath was just gross. I used a little plastic putty knife to scrape most of it off, then worked it over with a stiff-bristle scrub brush.

Here's the oilcloth almost finished, just the sun visor recesses left to do. I used the scrub brush to smooth the oilcloth down, kind of like putting up wallpaper.

Note to anyone else trying this: there's a reason headliner fabric is knit — it has enough give to go over all the curves and recesses easily. Oilcloth is NOT flexible in that way, although working on it in the sun did heat it up and make it a little stretchy. There were a few wrinkles and folds in the end.

All done, trimmed, ready to go back in.

The finished liner! There's another reason headliner is foamy on the back: it hides all the surface bumps. The shiny surface of the oilcloth and the fact that it's pretty thin, mean that you can see every little ding and crumb on the cardboard.

Bram decided that to celebrate, I should drive us to Sonic for shakes and tots.


andy said...

Some rims and a sound system with some neon and you will be fully aclimated. Plus a bitching ride.

Raphael Della Ratta said...


monica said...

Andy: I'm tryin'a keep it stealth, yo! Tho some new hubcaps probably be in my future.

Raph: Blindly, er, blithely attempting tasks I have no experience with might just be my mutant power

liz said...

I was going to say amazing...then I saw Raph's comment. His word is much better. You have Abilities, not mutant powers. Nice work.

Raphael Della Ratta said...

And I should add, for the record: You win. My 1992 Jeep only lasted me for 14 years, 8 months, and 10 days (6/1/92 - 2/11/09). You beat me by at least two years.

gary said...

Hmmmm...you realize of course, by performing this non-authorized, out-of-spec modification, that you've disqualified this amazing car from being an official "antique" or "classic"

but, hey...it IS way cool!

SantaFeKate said...

Quite amazing!

monica said...

Liz + Kate: thanks!

Raph: She was a good Jeep.

Dad: you mean the parked-in-the-street-rolled-on-Rustoleum-patio-furniture-ghetto-paint-job didn't disqualify it??

Melanie said...

As I've always known - you rock MAJOR ASS! As does your new headliner...the truck is on 113,000miles and counting - and will be 15 on December 14, 2009...and the headliner is holding up...but we speak not of the bed, the bumper, the seats and the carpet...and the stinking South Florida humidity and salt air which is totally f-ing up the tiny little paint chips...BUT, that said, in SoFL, driving a 14 year old pickup makes you VERY stealth...and, in certain areas, likely gets you followed by police.

Paul said...

I can see this becoming very popular on the NASCAR circuit...