Tools Needed:

  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Awl (or other pointed tool)
  • Dremel tool with cutoff disk
  • Razor blade knife
  • Alcohol or other cleaner

Parts Used:

  • 82-92 Thirdgen F-body t-top headliner kit from IRace Motorsports. Includes headliner, sail panels and sun visors.
  • (Optional) 1 yard bulk headliner material from IRace Motorsports.
  • (Optional) T-top shades from IRace Motorsports.
  • Velcro strips with the adhesive back, available at Wal Mart or any craft store.
  • Spray adhesive

Note:

This set of instructions assumes that you have basic mechanical skills. Overall this procedure is pretty straight-forward, but can test your patience at times.

It’s important that when you do your cutting and/or modifications that you do them conservatively. The old cliche’ “Measure Twice, Cut Once” couldn’t be more true. If you cut too much out of the headliner, you’re out of luck. Make all cuts conservatively and pre-fit. If you need additional clearance, take it a little at a time until you get the desired fit.

This procedure shows the installation process for the popular ABS headliner kit that’s available from a number of places. Keep in mind that this is an aftermarket product and not OEM. The fit isn’t as good as the original, and this will become fairly obvious when you get it installed. A gap here, a sag there, it’s a fact of life with aftermarket parts. If this is a show car, you may want to talk to an upholstery shop about recovering the stock piece. Keep in mind that covering a t-top headliner is significantly more difficult than a hardtop headliner because of the radius around the t-top openings. However, for most applications, these aftermarket headliners are a significant improvement over your worn out, sagging, torn or stained stock piece and can transform the look of your worn out interior. This, combined with seats/seat covers, and carpet can completely change the appearance of your interior.

When removing your headliner, you may want to use care not to damage the original piece. Incase you do ever intend to reinstall the original headliner, you will want to preserve the backing material. Even if you don’t intend to reinstall it, there may be somebody in your area who is interested in buying it to have it professionally recovered, so it is wise to keep it as solid as possible.

This installation shows the procedure in a t-top car, but there are virtually no differences when installing a headliner in a hardtop car.

Figure 1

In Figure 1 you can see the current headliner in the Camaro that has already been recovered once. As mentioned above, the inner radius of the t-top opening area is difficult to cover, and as a result this headliner never looked as good as it should. In addition, the new headliner is darker than the original, since the interior is slowly being changed from the standard gray to a darker Graphite.

Procedure:

  1. Open the headliner packaging and lay out the contents on a clean, dry surface. It’s important that you open the package and let the headliner flatten out as soon as you get it. The headliner shown in this article sat wrapped in the box for almost 6 months, which is largely to blame for the less than stellar fitment. The ABS headliner comes folded like a taco and will take some time to flatten back out.
  2. Remove the rear sail panels (speaker covers) by unscrewing the coat hook with your phillips screwdriver.
  3. Remove the roof panel that covers the back of the headliner by unscrewing the 4 phillips screws. While you’re back here, remove the upper screw in the B-pillar cover that’s right below the roof panel that you just removed. You’ll need to have this screw out later on in order to bend the plastic for the headliner removal.
  4. The next step is to remove your dome light or your overhead console. First, pull the light cover off and remove the bulb. This bulb can be hot, so to prevent burning yourself, remove with pliers with a little bit of tape wrapped around the tips to prevent breaking the bulb.
  5. Once the dome light is removed, you can remove the assembly. In cars with just a dome light, the assembly is held into place with some metal clips mounted to a stud. These need to be carefully removed with a screwdriver or pliers. If you break it, you can buy replacements at an auto parts store. Be careful that you don’t break the stud. On cars with the overhead console, there are two screws in the dome light area (Figure 6). Remove those, then slide the entire console forward while applying a small amount of upward pressure. The front and middle of the console is held in place by tabs that slide over special screws.
  6. Once the overhead console is down, you need to unplug the wiring. Unplug carefully so that you don’t break the plug. On these cars, the plastic can become very brittle over the years.
  7. Remove the trim pieces that are at the back of the window opening. There is a phillips screw at the top and another at the bottom. In the middle is a push-in clip that needs to be carefully pried out. On many cars, this piece may be missing, having been broken in the past. I generally reinstall this piece without the clip if it’s still there in order to aid future removal.
  8. The windshield trim pieces are the next items to be removed. This piece is held on with a screw at the top and two clips on the t-top models. On hardtop cars, it’s held on by a number of clips. On the t-top car, remove the screw. The two clips are approximately 1/3 and 2/3 of the way down the pillar, but due to their design, you don’t need to pry the piece out. The clips are loaded into a slot on the trim piece, so pulling the piece up parallel to the windshield post will remove it. I generally reinstall this piece without using these clips to aid in future removal. For hardtop cars, carefully pry the piece over the roof to release those clips, then pull the piece in the same manner as instructed for the t-top cars.
  9. You can see in figure 10 the location of the two clips. The lower one is still installed in its hole 1/3 of the way up from the bottom. The 2nd is 1/3 of the way down from the top, but has been removed in this picture.
  10. The next step is to remove the sun visors. There are three phillips screws holding it to the roof.
  11. Next you want to remove the trim pieces surrounding the shoulder belt where it passes through the headliner. These are old and brittle, and if you break the clips, it’ll never stay up where it belongs. In Figures 12 and 13, you can see that there are two tabs in the center on the front side of the piece, and two near the outer portion in the rear. Using a slotted screwdriver, carefully pry these areas while applying slight pressure with your other hand. You want to release a couple of these clips without breaking them, otherwise it will never stay put when you reinstall it. If you break these clips, you’ll need to either glue it into place, or take your entire seatbelt assembly apart to replace it. Don’t break these clips!
  12. Getting back to the front of the headliner, there are three tabs across the top of the headliner right near the windshield that hold it into place. Carefully remove these tabs with a screwdriver or pliers. These tabs are not firmly attached to the headliner, so if you’re not careful they’ll pull out of the headliner backing. This is not important if you intend to throw away the stock headliner, but if you have any intention of perhaps recovering and/or reinstalling the OEM headliner in the future, you’ll want to preserve it as best you can.
  13. Once these clips are removed from the vehicle, allow the front of the headliner to rest on the rearview mirror.
  14. Now that the front of the headliner is free, you need to free up the back of the headliner. The first step to this process is to re-route the seatbelt above the headliner instead of through the opening. Extend the seatbelt to give you some additional slack, and pull it around the headliner through the slot. This will require pulling the plastic B-pillar cover forward a bit.
  15. Now it’s time to get the rear of the headliner free from behind the B-pillar cover. Back in step 3 I had you remove the screw at the top of the B-pillar cover. Removal of this screw gives the plastic enough flexibility to allow you to bend it inward slightly so that you can remove the headliner from behind it. I found that it’s easiest to bend the plastic forward slightly and slide the headliner back toward the hatch area until it’s free. On a hardtop car this may be difficult and you may need to bend the headliner slightly to get it out without sliding it back. Don’t bend the headliner too much or you’ll break it. That may not be an issue if you don’t intend to reuse the headliner. Once the headliner is free from the plastic, you can set it down. Once down, just pop your hatch and remove the headliner through the hatch opening.
  16. Now you need to transfer the sun visor mount to the new sun visors. Remove the screw in the sun visor, and pull the shaft out. Notice the the shaft is installed parallel to the top of the visor. On the new visor, poke a hole in the fabric with your awl or a razor blade, then slide the awl or a phillips screwdriver into the position where the mount installs to familiarize yourself with this position. You need to do this because the stock visor mount fits VERY tighly into the new visor, so you want to become familiar with exactly where it goes before you attempt to gorilla-fist it into place. it will take a good bit of force to slide the mount in, so using a screwdriver that’s just a tad smaller than the visor mount will help open the hole a bit. Don’t force it. If it’s too snug, try to find a screwdriver slightly thicker than the last one you used, and use it to spread the hole slightly. Once you get the original visor mount installed, take it back out. Don’t wait until after you reinstall the shaft into the car to install the visor, because it takes a lot of force to overcome the snug fit, and this is a procedure best done on your workbench where you can fool around with it.
  17. The next step is to prep the new headliner for installation. If you have any items such as the overhead console that require cutting the new headliner, place your old headliner on top of the new one and trace all of the holes to the new one. When you do this, make sure that the old headliner is perfectly positioned over the new one, and isn’t shifted to the side or front/back or you’ll transfer the markings to the wrong spot on the new headliner. Cut these out with your dremel cut-off tool. Make sure that you cut them a little small incase you didn’t position the old headliner properly. You can always cut more if you find that you didn’t cut enough the first time, but there’s no way to put parts back once you cut them! Once you cut the spot out, remove the plastic piece and cut the headliner fabric with the razor blade knife. You may find that simply slicing the fabric down the center is best, because if you did cut your hole too big, having the fabric there will hide your mistake.
  18. Don’t forget to cut the headliner material around the seat belt opening, making sure to cut along the cut in the ABS where you’ll need to slip the seatbelt through.
  19. Reinstalling the headliner is basically the reverse of the removal. Get the headliner into the car through the hatch area, and carefully get it behind the plastic B-pillar panels. This headliner is more flexible than the OEM headliner, so it should be easier to get it behind the b-pillars. Once it’s positioned properly, check to see if your cutouts were big enough for the overhead console mounting screws to fit through. If not, use your dremel tool to carefully trim a little extra. You can see in Figure 20 that in my case, it was necessary to cut a bit more.
  20. The next step is to install the sun visors. If you followed these directions properly, your sun visor mount should not be installed into the visor. If it is, remove it. This is the most frustrating part of the installation process, and it’s 10x harder if you try to install the whole visor at once.
  21. You may need to tug on the headliner a bit to get the cutout to line up with the three screw holes in the pillar. I found it necessary to use the Awl to align the right-most hole, and while holding it aligned, use another one (or a small screwdriver) to align a second hole. Once the second hole is aligned, carefully remove the 2nd awl and insert the screw while not allowing anything to move. Leave the screw loose and attempt to install a 2nd screw into the remaining open hole. Once that’s started, without allowing anything to move, remove the awl from the first hole and thread the last screw in. Once all three are started, tighten them evenly until snug. Once tight, you can reinstall the sun visor.
  22. Reinstall all of your plastic trim parts, overhead console and all other parts that you removed except for the sail panels.
  23. For those who don’t want to recover their stock pieces, jump to step 18. This step is for those of you who decide to use the new sail panel covers. Clean the area slightly below the speaker opening with the alcohol or other cleaner. Don’t use any silicone-based cleaner because your adhesive won’t stick to it. Once it’s dry, attach a couple pieces of the velcro strip to the clean area. The suggested areas for velcro are shown in green in Figure 23. Leave the adhesive cover on the other piece for now.
  24. Install the new sail panel cover by re-installing the coat hook. If you can’t find the proper hole for the screw, try finding it with your awl or the screw with the sail panel cover removed, and pay attention to the angle, then try again with the sail panel in position. This can be frustrating until you find the proper angle. Once the piece is installed, reach behind the sail panel cover, remove the cover over the adhesive strips, and push the sail panel into place. This velcro will hold the bottom of the sail panel.
  25. If you look at Figure 24, you can see the differences between the stock sail panel on the right and the replacement on the left. While the replacement is a major improvement over your worn out stock piece, I chose to recover my stock piece. In the pic you can see that the corner of the angled part on the replacement piece is too sharp, plus you can see the indentation of the perforated area that allows the sound to pass from the speaker.
  26. To recover your stock sail panel, start by turning it over and carefully peeling the current material away from the wood backing. Notice that this material isn’t foam-backed like normal headliner material. When you pull it apart, pull it away from the white foam material, and leave the white foam material in place.
  27. Once the stock material is fully removed from the stock sail panel, use the stock material as a template to cut out new material. I prefer to cut the new stuff with an extra inch all around. Once it’s cut out, spray the sail panel and the back side of the new material with your spray adhesive. Once it tacks up, attach them, starting at the center and working your way to the edges. Once that’s finished, turn the part over and re-spray the edges, and after that tacks up, work your way around, pulling it around and attaching at the back. I prefer to start at the corners, then slowly work my way down the straight edges, slowly taking in the extra bulk that results from doing the corners first. The result should provide a clean wrap with no visible overlap or wrinkles from the front. Trim the excess material off the back to make sure that the factory hooks and the factory hole isn’t obscured. Poke a new screw hole in the right place with your awl or carefully with the tip of your razor blade. 24. After you’re finished covering the stock sail panels, you can reinstall them into the car. If you have trouble getting the screw properly aligned in the hole, remove the panel and try installing the screw or the awl tool into the hole and take note of the position and angle, so that you can repeat that same position and angle with the sail panel in position.
  28. To install your t-top shades. Set your t-top into place with the handle open. Make sure the handle goes under the t-top shade so that the shade is sandwiched between the glass and the handle. Get into the car with the t-top resting in position and carefully position the shade so that it’s centered, and that there is no glass showing around it. If it’s positioned properly, the little metal tab on the shade will be snugly tucked between the glass top and the plastic top trim. Latch the t-top, then get out of the car, squeeze the two pieces together, and unlatch the t-top. If the pieces shift, start over. Get the t-top out, and carefully peel the adhesive backing off of one of the velcro pieces on the shade. Squeeze the shade and the t-top together again. Re-install to verify that it still fits. If so, peel the adhesive backing off of the other piece of velcro and attach. You may also want to stick a piece of black electrical tape over the metal clip so that it won’t scratch your t-top glass.
  29. Once everything is installed, you may be a bit unhappy with the overall fit. Part of how well everything fits depends on how much time you take aligning it during the installation process, but part of the blame also lies with the flexible ABS material that the headliner is constructed from. You may find that certain spots sag, especially the spot right near the windshield on cars without the overhead console. After all, the stock headliner not only was much more rigid, but benefited from those clips to hold it into place.

Another potential area for sagging is right behind the t-top opening. To help eliminate any of these sagging positions, use more of your adhesive-backed velcro strips. Place them in the areas that are sagging.

Here are completed pics of the new headliner

This information is provided as a guide. It is not my responsibility if you damage your car or yourself by following these directions. If you do not feel that you are capable of performing this modification, leave it to a professional. If for nothing else, reading this will help you to appreciate why the installation is going to cost so much!