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S Type Headliner replacement

By Dave Symington
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 12:18:01 -0600

This replacement of a headliner was done during the restoration of my 1966 S Type over the winter of 1999 - 2000. It was my first attempt to do this task and it probably wont be my last. The job was fairly straightforward although it required care and attention to detail. You know. . . measure three times and cut once!

I expect that others who have done this task will find room to criticize my methods. . . so be it. There is always room for a person to do things better. If you will have the patience to study what I've done here, I'm sure that most folks can improve on it. . . and that's what it's all about.

Have fun doing this. After all, that's why you got an old Jaguar, wasn't it?


You don't need any special tools. You will need a sympathetic helper or two at some stages of the operation. Good lighting inside the car helps a lot as you remove screws and fasteners, tape them together with masking tape and mark them with the name of the part that you have removed. Mark all parts you take off with their location. Store in separate jars or ziplock type bags.

Take lots of notes or/and photos of how the parts come off if you think you may forget. A few dollars spent on photo finishing is less costly than the time lost trying to figure out what came off before what!

Once you've stripped out the interior the car will look terrible! Relax!

From this point on, the car gets to look better each day and will visually reward you for your efforts. Once you've finished, you can look at your project with pleasure and recall all the rotten jobs you did and realize . . . . It was worth it!

Total time to do this job will depend on how much other stuff you have to do and of course, how adept you are. Just to do the headliner and other fabric covered pieces probable took me about twice as long as I want to admit, but I took my time. I suggest you do the same.

With a little planning, some handy assistants, some basic skills and not too much in the way of tools I think that most owners could change their headliner. If you can enlist the help of someone who has done this before, all the better.


The headliner is a foam backed wool material that is glued to a fibreglass substrate material that is in turn glued to the ceiling of the car. There are four trim pieces that are screw attached to Cant rails that are the roof stiffeners at the front, rear and sides of the roof. The trim pieces are covered with non foam backed headliner material and have additional foam filled half-round embellishing at the point where the trim pieces meet the headliner. The wood cappings around the doors form the final connection between the trim pieces and the door frames and windshield.

This operation is covered by the service manual. Remove the three interior lights and put fasteners inside each lens for safekeeping. Most of the capping retaining screws are visible except the ones that hold on the cappings over the doors. These each have three screws located underneath the door weatherstripping accessible from the outside of the car.

Remove the sun visors and rearview mirror. Pull the headliner material back from where it is fitted at the windshield. Remove the four short screws holding the trim piece in place. Push the trim piece forward and down being careful not to bend the metal in the middle. It's easy to bend!

Lift up the covering material away from the windows towards the roof. At first glance, each side trim piece seems held by only five screws (three long ones and two short ones, one at each end). . . There are an additional two at the rear of each trim piece. One holds the rear trim piece to the side trim piece and the other holds the chrome ring that abuts the two foam strips AND holds the side trim piece in place. Take out all these seven screws noting the overlapping of materials from the rear trim piece to the side trim piece. In this case, I took out the side trim piece in one part.

It is a two part component and can be removed piece by piece if you like.

Remove the rear seat. Remove the two leather covered panels located rearward of the rear doors, just below the rear no draft windows. There are two screws inside the car and one or two underneath the weatherstripping at the rear doors.

Remove the rear parcel shelf. Two screws at the front and two clips underneath at the rear then the parcel shelf will slide forward.

Remove the clips holding the fabric covered metal strip at the back of the parcel shelf and put to one side for recovering.

Remove the two 1" foam strips on either side of the interior lamp. They are only held by clips and can be pried off.

Lift up the material from the bottom of the rear trim piece near the door and you'll find two long retaining screws with washers on each side of the rear trim piece. Remove them.

There are two metal frames that support the rear half-round foam strips and also are used as mounts for the rear trim piece. They are held by three screws each and are easy to remove. Mark the holes and tape the screws together.

The old headliner can now be removed. Grab a bit of the wool material and pull. It should peel off quite easily leaving you with the underlaying foam stuck to the roof. If the foam backing is hard and brittle, it can be scraped off quite easily with a flexible paint scraper.

Be careful you don't inadvertently scrape too hard and remove some of the underlaying substrate material.

I found that I had to wear a respirator when scraping as the dust was very bad. It got all over the car and the garage too. A good Shop-Vac is needed here!

The substrate material needs to be tested to assure that it is firmly stuck to the roof. Go back and read this again! I thought mine was OK and fixed a few small holes. Then I sent the car for painting. When I got it back about a month later, more substrate material had come loose and sagged down. You can imagine how I would have felt if I had already glued the new headliner to this!

I ended up removing all the substrate material. More work with a hand scraper with a respirator again. Then use an orbital sander and 80 grit paper to sand the roof totally clean. There was some rust on my car roof which probably aided in loosening up the substrate material. This sanding takes about 3 hours and causes lots of dust and noise. This time, wear a respirator and ear muffs for hearing protection. It's like being inside a tin can filled with marbles while someone on the outside is beating on the can with a metal bar! It's a sweaty, dirty dusty job that I would gladly have paid someone to do for me!

If you are SURE the substrate material is sound and well glued to the roof you could fix small gouges and holes with body filler and sand till its smooth.

Lay out the material you'll have got with your Trim Kit. You will have the foam backed wool material for the headliner and wool material without foam on it for all the rest. Make sure that you have all the bits that you ordered and that they are in good condition.

Avoid removing the fabric from the metal trim parts till you need to replace it. That way, you'll see how much material Jaguar originally used and how much was left hanging out to be tucked into other parts.

Plan how you'll cut the material to fit the trim pieces. In the Kit there is sufficient material to do the job but not if you do sloppy lay-out work.

Also, if you goof up a piece, you'll have enough material to make a new piece. . . . but only once!

The part that requires the most material is the trim piece that goes at the rear window, so lay this one out first.

Plan your cuts so that the same side of the cloth is facing OUT for each part. That way if there is a difference in the material from side to side it will not be noticeable once the material is in the car.

Use a steam iron to press the fabric after it is cut and before gluing to the metal. This removes any creases put in the fabric from shipping.

Remove the material from each piece one at a time and use as a template for cutting the new fabric. Be careful with those scissors. Remember the adage about measuring twice and cutting once here! Allow for extra material where required.

Generally all the rubber half round material can be reused.

Repair all trim pieces as required. Clean all the metal parts with a good cleaner. Use lacquer thinner as it will clean up the old contact cement quite nicely. Ventilate your working area adequately and carefully unless your family likes the smell of thinners all through the house. A respirator is again essential when using lacquer thinners to wash down the roof inside your car. It's also a good idea to be aware of where the pilot light is located for your furnace or hot water tank. They should NOT be in the area you're using lacquer thinners in!

When installing the fabric to the metal trim pieces, use a spray trim adhesive that will withstand high temperatures and high humidity and get enough to do the complete job at one time. I used six, 16 ounce cans of glue to do the headliner, all the trim and the carpets. I did not have much left. You will need 2 for just the headliner alone. The remaining trim around the headliner and Furflex would require another 2 cans. The remaining two cans for the carpets and underlay. There are various brands that you can use. Assure yourself that the one you are using is suitable for headliners! Again, it must be suitable for high humidity and temperature. The metal must be clean and free of all dirt before gluing.

Keep a can of lacquer thinner handy for cleaning your hands too. Remember again about fire hazzards.

Using the spray glue is much faster than using brush-in-bottle type of glues. The spray type also will allow you a little bit of movement of the fabric after it has been positioned. Something that cant be done with contact cement.

Normal use will require you to spray both surfaces to be glued, wait about 3 -5 minutes, then press the material to the surface to be covered. If you need more time to move the material around, then shorten the waiting time after the glue is sprayed.

A good idea would be to practice gluing techniques on a few scraps of cardboard before trying it on the work for your car. Try varying the time between spraying the material and applying the parts together. This is important when you glue in the headliner.

The original padding material will probably have to be replaced with foam.

Here you can use 1/8" thick foam in one or two layers depending on your needs. Glue the foam on using a light application of spray adhesive. If you can, leave the trim piece with the foam glued to it till the glue completely dries (one to two hours). The reason for this is that if you handle the piece with the glue still tacky and press against the foam with your fingers, it will dent, or dimple inward and the outer surface of the foam will permanently attach to the trim piece. The dents will be forever visible. Ask me how I know this!

The fabric is glued to the edge of the trim piece that will be next to the rear window glass only. The other edges of the fabric are tucked under the parcel shelf, the leather covered cheek plate near the doors, the side metal trim pieces and the rubber half round trim pieces next to the rear interior light.

Install the fabric to the other trim pieces much in the same way you did the rear piece. Replace the original padding with foam where required.

Generally, the fabric is only glued on one edge and the loose edge is tensioned once the trim piece is put in place on the car. If you examine how the fabric was cut to fit the trim piece as you take it off, you can easily use that as a template to cut out the new fabric. Allow yourself a little extra if you like. It can be trimmed off after installation before the wood capping parts are put on.

The rear parcel shelf trim piece is a case in point. Here I used two layers of 1/8 inch foam, glued the fabric to the backside of the top edge and eventually tensioned the fabric at the bottom edge when reinstalling it on the parcel shelf by lightly pulling on the fabric and slipping on the retaining clips. If you prefer, you could glue the fabric to both edges and so make it easier to install the clips without having to worry about fabric tension, just the location of the clips.

If you kept the scruffy bit of material you stripped from the roof you'll have a sort of template you can use to give you an idea of how much material you'll need. But don't cut it to that size! You'll usually need a little more than that as the old material may have changed in size once you stripped it off its foam backing.

I had the front and rear windshields removed from the car for painting so that made the headliner job easier.

A. If you haven't yet done it, wash the ceiling of the car with lacquer thinner.

B. Mark a fore and aft centerline on the ceiling of the car.

C. Mark a side to side centerline half way from front to back. Use chalk or some other kind of marker that will be easily visible.

D. Mark a corresponding set of centerlines on the foam side of your new headliner.

E. Find a pole or other piece of wood that will support the full length of the headliner draped over it. Enlist the help of two willing assistants for the next while. Drape the headliner over the pole and practice getting it in position inside the car so that it is directly below the centerlines marked on the roof of the car. This is easy to do with both front and rear windscreens removed and one person at each end of the pole. If the windshields are still in place you could try supporting the headliner on two broom handles stuck through the windows of the car while the doors are open.

Another way could be using the help of four people, one at each corner of the headliner reaching in through the open doors. Anyway whatever method you use, plan it out and practice it! . . . Practiced enough?

F. Before you start gluing make sure that the temperature or humidity in the workshop wont change too much during the glue-up. Don't start at 70 degree temperatures than open the doors because of the fumes to find that the outside temperature is minus 30 degrees. The glue may not adhere properly under those conditions.

G. Spray the trim adhesive on the roof in a strip about eight inches on either side of the lateral centerline, from front to rear.

H. Immediately spray a similar matching strip on the headliner. Note the time.

I. Allow sufficient time for the glue to get tacky. With my temperature and humidity it took about four minutes, then lift the headliner into position in the car with your volunteers.

J. Get into the car and lift the headliner up to contact the roof with the intersecting centerline marks on both the headliner and the chalk marks on the car ceiling matching. It doesn't have to be perfect. . . within an inch or two is OK.

K. From this initial point of contact, press the headliner against the ceiling using a sweeping motion with your hand, moving from the center to the front and rear of the car till all the previously glued material is in contact. Take care so as not to get any kinks or folds in the material.

During this while, your assistants will keep the support pole aligned with the for and aft centerline. Once the material is pressed up to the ceiling over the first glued up section, the pole can be removed.

L. Doing one side of the centerline at a time, spray adhesive on another section of both roof and headliner. Focus on laying down the adhesive smoothly with no great gobs of glue or empty spaces. I'm told by the glue manufacturer that failure of headliner adhesion is mainly due to not putting on enough glue, so don't be cheap here. Put lots on but put it on smooth.

If the spray can nozzle plugs up, clean it with a rag soaked in lacquer thinner. Your assistants can help support the headliner and one can hold a troublelight during this process. Lots of light is good, but don't burn anything!

M. Wait the required amount of time and press the glued material up to the ceiling using smooth sweeping motions with the heel of your hand. Keep your hands very clean with lacquer thinner. If you inadvertently get glue on the interior wool surface of the headliner, don't worry about it now. It can easily be cleaned off with thinners later.

N. Repeat till the headliner is glued completely to the ceiling. The final pass will make the material flush with, or slightly behind the Cant rails.

This is OK as the edge will not be visible once the covering pieces at side, front and rear are installed. Your assistants can support the headliner during each successive pass at gluing helping you to avoid wrinkles. You will need about two more passes on each side of the centerline after the initial center strip is glued. The whole process from start to finish will take about 30 minutes.

O. Trim off the material not needed and tuck the remaining portion of the headliner behind the Cant rails. You're done!

P. You may have enough material left over from trimming off around the edge for you to redo the sun visors, or for making mouse pads for your computer otherwise there's not much left over.

Make sure that the wiring for the rear interior light is in its correct place first!

Fit the two metal supports for the rear trim piece to the rear cant rail.

Lift the rear trim piece into place and secure with the two screws and washers on each side of the rear window. The fabric will hang down and get in your way, but persevere. Next, install the rear parcel shelf and tuck the lower part of the fabric underneath the shelf before screwing it down.

Install the upper side trim pieces next and tuck fabric from the top of the rear trim piece behind the back of the side piece before screwing it down.

Then before installing the two rear half round foam strips, apply glue to

the fabric and to the place where the half round strips clip on, wait 5 minutes then glue in place. You'll have to hold the fabric in place to get the fabric tension you want but it's not too bad a job. Snap the two half round pieces into place. (Check that you've left sufficient room for mounting the rear interior light) Similarly, glue the remaining fabric to the car body underneath where the two leather covered cheek plates are positioned. You're done! This took me about three hours to get right.

The upper side pieces with the half round rubber bits are put on first.

Tuck the fabric from the rear trim piece behind the rear of the side piece and screw to Cant rails. There are about 5 screws on each side.

Lift the front trim piece into position and secure with four short screws.

The fabric is glued underneath the rear facing side of the piece and hangs down when lifted into place. The loose fabric is pulled down and forward and is glued to the surface that will be covered by the front wood capping strips. Excess material here can be tucked up into the small space between the windshield mounting rubber and the roof of the car. At the sides, pull rearward on the fabric and retain under the front of the upper side pieces.
The rearview mirror and the sun visor mounts will further hold the fabric in place.

If you have not already done so, finish installing the Furflex around the doors before you start this section.
Fit the lower trim pieces making sure that any loose fabric from the front and rear trim pieces are covered. Screw in place with about 5 screws on each side. The fabric is pulled down to tension it and glued in place. The side wood capping strips would be screwed on over the top of this glue join.

Attach the wood capping strips with screws in from the outside underneath the weatherstripping at the doors.

Any adhesive that you accidentally got on any fabric covered piece can be removed by rubbing with a cloth with a bit of lacquer thinner on it. Be VERY careful of the car's paintwork here!

If you accidently got some adhesive overspray on the paintwork of the car (I did) it can be easily removed by using a product called TremShield 605 Citra-thane cleaner. Its made by BF Goodrich and could possibly be found in Glass replacement shops. It is used as a solvent for the Butyl rubber used to install windshields. It smells like oranges and lemons. Best of all it will not harm even newly painted surfaces and it works like a charm! It's great for removing road tar from paintwork too.

You may have some wrinkles in the fabric (not the headliner) that are bugging you. If you take a hand spray bottle with some clean water in it and lightly spray the affected area, you'll find that when the water dries it will slightly shrink the fabric and remove small wrinkles. Big wrinkles should be taken out at time of assembly while you were gluing up . . . sorry!

Take a photo too and compare with the ones you had from before.

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Last Updated 24 May 2000


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