How do I change my Vinyl Roof?
Vinyl roofs were once king but are they now? We decided to banish our Capri’s roof to the bin and go for the smooth look. Given the right vehicle, vinyl roofs are as cool as you like especially in the kitsch white option on, say, a purple metallic Granada. However, on something like our project Capri, especially when we’re going for the hard muscle-car look, complete with 302 and ’60s mag wheels, it’s just not right! But then again, muscle car… Whatever, the roof on our Capri really is non-standard and pretty horrible too. It’s ripped and in bad shape and is crying out to be gone. So, that’s what we’ve decided — let it coat the insides of the bin.
Why Is It There?
Now, before you wade in and rip that tatty vinyl off, you’ve got to consider why it was put there in the first place. Many are factory roofs and these are generally easy to spot — they’re usually done well — but plenty are of the DIY nature. Back in the day you could buy a kit through the back pages of Triple C and Street Machine, among plenty of others. Motor Upholster Supplies in Wellingborough, Northants, did a ‘Deluxe Vinyl Roof Kit’ for £11.50, complete with chrome edging. It could also supply a ‘Deep- Buttoned Luxury Velvet Interior Lining Kit’, as well as rally seat covers too. Hmm… By their very nature, vinyl roofs can cover up a multitude of sins; it’s the easy fix to a tragic car — stick vinyl on it. What you have to make sure of though, is that you’re not going to get a lovely surprise when it’s peeled back. Remember the early ’80s? Many probably won’t, but there was a massive fad of sticking glass sunroofs in everything that moved. Everyone knows they look cheap now and there were fantastic stories back then of brand new XJS Jags costing the equivalent of £75K entering workshops only to have two-bob’s worth of microwave door stuck in the roof. Getting rid is very tricky and a vinyl’s perfect. So, what should you look for? Well assuming it actually is a vinyl roof and not underseal — don’t laugh, we’ve seen it and it can look quite convincing — you should forget the outside for a minute, as the best place is the inside and the headlining. These, unless professionally done are dead hard to successfully repair. All you have to do is look — obviously you’ll see straight away if it’s been tampered with. If it appears OK, then carefully push your hand into the sunroof area — there’s often enough give in the headlining to feel the metal underneath. It’s best to do it with clean hands, especially if the headlining’s white — they seem to attract dirt like a two-year-old kid. You should be able to feel anything untoward — rippled panelling, Mig welding runs, even rivets. And if there’s a zip in the headlining, then you’ve got yourself a Police car!
Perfect Cover Up
Next, move to the top and here you’re again looking for that offending sunroof, but also the general condition of the roof. Moisture can get trapped under the fabric, which often shows up as hard lumps. This is usually rust, bubbling up under the surface. If you’re unlucky, it’ll have holed the roof, which will need careful repair. However, we’ve seen vinyl covering a roof with the appearance of black sand dunes before — that one needed the whole roof replacing! And on the subject of whole roofs, that’s another perfect vinyl cover up — a roof swap. Crash damage, especially of the rolledthe- car variety often resulted in a vinyl roof being fitted. If you’ve had to replace the whole roof section from a scrap car they’re an easy way of hiding it — especially when it’s a brown roof on a white car.
1. First thing we did was remove the glass. This can be tricky especially if you want to retain the rubbers — the potential for breaking the glass is high especially if it’s toughened. All our rubbers were shot so we cut them out with a Stanley knife.
2. Before you cut the rubbers though, you’ll need to remove the lacing in the centre plus these stainless steel corner pieces — be warned, carefully take these out and keep them, as you can’t get them anymore.
3. It’s best with two people if you can — one in the car, one out. The inside bod will need to push quite hard — it’s a knack but if you’ve cut enough of the rubber away it’ll push out. It may well be a bit stuck though!
4. You’ll be left with the remains of the rubber on the inside of the window rebate so, once we’d cleaned all the old rubber away, we could see how our vinyl was fitted — it’s actually tacked in around the screen frame.
5. Using a blunt chisel, we carefully lifted the tack heads up and then removed them with a pair of pincers. The rivets are bifurcated, which means they sort of spread out and screw in — you may need to twist them out.
6. We then eased the old vinyl covering away from it being glued into the rebate — note that it appears to have been stuck to the roof first with double-sided tape before being stretched and tacked in place.
7. Before we could get the sides off, we needed to tackle those chrome strips. The back ones were easy, they were simply screwed in but..
8. …the sides are held in with clips. These are supposed to simply slide off and plenty of ours did but several were rusted in place meaning we had to break the chrome trim — it was going in the bin anyway!
9. There was right old mixture of fittings — the aluminium rivets merely drilled out but…
10. …some of the rusted in steel sliding jobbies needed more drastic treatment.
11. With a soft pad in the angle grinder, we carefully sanded the tops off, which released the actual fitting, then ground the steel rivet beneath, flush with the body.
12. This actually made a handy hole-filling plug, which we merely migged shut. This will need to be done with extreme care because we’re right in the middle of a large, flat-ish panel. The potential for distortion is very high so it’s a case of doing them quickly and not concentrating on one area too long. If you can, switch to the other side and let everything cool down.
13. Once everything is cool again, finish the welds flat again with the soft pad and again try and keep the heat to a minimum — don’t get carried away!
14. We’re ahead of ourselves — before we can rip the vinyl off completely we’ve still got more areas to release, like the gutters. We did these with a knife, resisting the temptation to take those stainless mouldings off. Be warned, don’t — there’s a knack and if you don’t do it properly, they will not go back on without kinks.
15. The side moulding around the back windows of a Capri simply push on but it needs gently easing. Be careful here because they’re alloy and easily bend.
16. We also released the petrol flap area too — this merely un-bolts but…
17. …the vinyl covering is held on with this black alloy ring. This acts as a cushion for the flap and is riveted on.
18. With everything properly released, you can carefully peel the covering off — it’ll be full of dust and crap so you might want to wear a mask (H120).
19. Beneath the vinyl roof initially looked horrendous but on closer inspection…
20. …it actually isn’t. The bright orange appears to be the remains of some padding put in between the vinyl and the steel roof — nicely attracting and harbouring moisture!
21. It merely brushes off as dust, while the glue and dirt came off with panel wipe.
22. Our rusty areas, we DA’d off and treated with rust killer, before filling them and adding a touch of primer.
Rust Killer: POR-15 Metal Ready
Primer: POR-15 Self Etch Primer
Sander: DA Sander
23. Our paint beneath was nowhere near saveable, but then we didn’t expect it to be either. So, we again DA’d the whole roof and covered it in red oxide primer from a rattle can — the bodyshop can sort that for us. However, to give the lot a bit more protection since primer is porous, we covered the lot in guide coat black. Yes it does look like a WW2 Focke-Wulf, but then it should hold back the rust until we can get some top coat back on there giving ourselves the smooth roofed look once again.