UNLIKE MOST cars of its era that retained traditional cut and-stitched headliners, my 1982 Mitsubishi GJ Sigma had a hard-shelled headliner. A moulded shell (probably a mix of paper mache and synthetic glue) had vinyl bonded to it; more than likely the whole shebang had been offered into the car through a windscreen aperture and fixed in place before the glass was installed on the Adelaide assembly line.
Great idea – and one that most manufacturers were using by the 1990s – but the problem with my shed-find Sigma was the fact that despite good care, the fine foam backing on the vinyl had perished with age, allowing the large sheet of vinyl to drop into the cabin… right onto my head.
To get the Sigma road-legal after I’d bought it interstate, I’d removed the droopy vinyl, leaving just the cardboard-coloured hardbacked shell in place.
But of course, with the rest of the car looking so splendid (isn’t that such a lovely, beige-y, Sigma-y word?) I was very keen to replace the headliner before someone at a Cars & Coffee event noticed this disgraceful state of affairs.
With time-warp cars such as this, I do like things to be close to original but as explained by my trimmer Dani, re-installing an era-correct headlining might be challenging as the foam-backed vinyl used by Mitsubishi didn’t appear in any of her trimmers’ supply catalogues. The next-best-thing was to use
automotive-grade foambacked velour of a similar colour – arguably a better choice in a car cabin as it is lighter and absorbs sound.
Mitsubishi’s body design holds the headliner shell around its edges: alloy trim pieces run the length of the car above the doors to hold the sides and – as I discovered - a few judiciously placed hidden clips held the front and rear edges adjacent to the screens. After removing hardware such as the grabhandles, sun-visors and interior light (and layingback the front seats for extra working space) I carefully unclipped these trims – they’re designed to be installed, not uninstalled! –
allowing the headliner shell to be lowered into the cabin.
But how do I get the headliner shell out of the car, without removing a windscreen? The tape measure showed the shell was j-u-u-st narrow enough to fit through a door - diagonally from the top of the B pillar to the base of the A-pillar - so by turning the headlining left and down, it could be gently massaged out the passenger front door.
What a mission!
After I delivered it, trimmer Dani did her thing on the headliner shell, adhering a soft, foambacked, beige velour to it before I squeezed it back in through the left-front door and re-installed all the tricky clips and trims.
The finished job is, of course, hardly noticeable… Unlike when I bought the car and the headlining was hanging almost in my face!