project interior headliner begins

Time for a change of headliner finish

This is a job I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. Trouble is, I had kind of grown fond of the silver space-age insulation acting as the interior headliner for the bus. It’s a pretty funky finish! Apart from keeping us warm, it also helped keep the interior light by reflecting the maximum amount of available light. When something ’works’ as is, it can be hard to motivate yourself to change things!

sorted – the roof is now fully insulated with the Triso Super 10 plus insulation
sorted – the roof is now fully insulated with the Triso Super 10 plus insulation

Material Changes

Initially, I was going to go for a more traditional perforated vinyl finish for my interior headliner. Realistically though, my interior was not that ‘traditional’. I have funky typographic interior panels that used traditional Letterpress posters by renowned graphic designer Anthony Burrill. These are not exactly factory standard finishes! Add to this the different building quality inspired insulation used for the roof, then an alternative material was going to be needed.

British made off white vinyl perforated headliner for 1964 - 1967 VW Splitscreen vans,
British made off white vinyl perforated headliner for 1964 – 1967 VW Splitscreen vans

I had been inspired by seeing a wooden headliner as part of the interior of an online friend’s camper. Although he had an older bus, I was hoping it was something I could adapt to work with mine.

Big delivery, big change

I had basic overall dimensions to work with in terms of knowing how much material I had to order. First things first though, I needed something to make the templates from. I wanted something that was both reasonably rigid but also had some flex to it. I opted for a 2.400 x 1.200 x 2mm sheet of Proplex Black Surface Protection material. I had used this when I made my overhead locker and it’s perfect for templates like this. I was going to be using some large sheets of thin, flexible (1.5mm and 3mm) Birch plywood. Any adjustments and refinements are best made with the initial trial templates, not the final finish material!

plan, measure twice, cut once – headliner dimensions
plan, measure twice, cut once – headliner dimensions

Measure twice cut once

The headliner for the bus effectively breaks down into three main sections; front, middle and rear. Two pieces that go over the front cab area. One large piece for the central cargo area headliner and another single piece for the rear section of the bus. The two smaller pieces that are used for the cab area headliner are going to be the hardest to do because of the double curvature of the roof. I thought I would try to tackle this area first!

carefully cutting out the headliner template
carefully cutting out the headliner template

The front cab area pieces of headliner will be made of the thinner, more flexible 1.5mm Birch plywood because of the double curvature of the roof. I really needed to get this template refined and as accurate as possible. I did not have enough 1.5mm plywood to make a second attempt. No pressure there then!

cutting out the first Proplex templates for the headliner
cutting out the first Proplex templates for the headliner

The whole measuring, cutting, refining process of template making can be quite therapeutic!

Headliner refinement

OK, a first draft set of Proplex headliner templates are ready for testing and adjustment, Really glad I went for this first step. Turns out the initial dimensions I had been given, were not quite as accurate as I had hoped for.

a mobile design studio with a view
a mobile design studio with a view

So glad I did not just cut them straight out of plywood! With my Architecture and design background, this was not too much of an issue. It gave me an opportunity to add to my growing collection of measured drawings for the bus!

double-checking all dimensions in the van to ensure a good accurate headliner fit
double-checking all dimensions in the van to ensure a good accurate headliner fit

Accurate headliner template v2

So whilst testing different aspects of fit and shape of the templates, I made sure to get a full set of accurate dimensions of the bus roof area and all possible areas needed for adjustment.

central roof vent clearance check
central roof vent clearance check

CAD drawings – design, test, refine

From my revised and accurate set of dimensions, I will create my own new digital CAD drawing to produce the next set of templates. These should get me much closer to a nice hand in glove type of fit for my new headliner.

adjustments for the double curvature of the cab roof
adjustments for the double curvature of the cab roof

Getting accurate drawings and dimensions together, you begin to more understand the design and manufacturing process of the bus. There are a few subtle and not so subtle differences you never really notice until you get up close and personal to them. Got to admit, I enjoy that kind of obsessive attention to detail!

Mobile design studio

It was fun to go out in the bus and use it as my ‘mobile studio’ to help design, test and refine the headliner templates. This way any changes could be doubled checked and tested in situ. Plus you get a great view at the same time. A win-win situation!

a mobile studio helps you design, test, refine
a mobile studio helps you design, test, refine

Armed with new, accurate dimensions, it was a successful day at the ‘office’. Now to head back, draw up the new template v2 and test to double-check the fit once again. Another step closer on the headliner project 2020!

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