Headliner Repair FAQ

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Courtesy of jeffrey prothero


OK… here we go…
First of all, lets cover some given data:
Headliner cost at Bavarian Autosport is about $129; cost at World Upholstery is 179.00. The cost to do it correctly is only $200.00. Not bad; but, this does not include installation, which is another $400.00 for the best trim shop (and you want the best since this is not as easy to install as today’s foam molded headliners). Furthermore, it does not include the sunroof being re-upholstered, which is a mistake to attempt anyway. Get a new factory sunroof frame already upholstered, and you will be very pleased. The only difference is that they do not heat-seam the seam in the middle of the sunroof fabric; now it is sewn. That stinks for purists, but I looked high and low for the match to the heat seam they used on these back in 1980 when my 1981 was built, but to no avail.

So here is what to do…
Order a headliner from the local dealer, but this is the headliner with the manual sunroof and no zipper. The bows all match the electric sunroof headliner, so this is good. Remove your factory RIES zipper if it is still in good shape. Just cut it out of your headliner with about an inch or two of fabric around it. BETTER YET… GO TO A JUNK YARD AND CUT ONE OUT OF A CAR. THEY WILL NOT EVEN CHARGE YOU, plus you don’t trash your car while waiting for all this to come together. Wash the zipper carefully by hand using spray & wash and toothbrush. Rinse very well and lubricate nylon zipper with silicone. DO NOT let zipper sit in water overnight since the pull may rust (I don’t know if that’s true, but just be careful). It’ll be good as new! So now we have the zipper and headliner. I sent both out to ACME and had the zipper sewn in according to my specification. Essentially, I measured from the first bow behind the sunroof out to where the zipper is on my existing headliner and that gave me one measurement for the zipper location (front to back). Then I measured left to right and right to left on my old headliner thereby giving me the second dimension thereby giving me the ability to locate the zipper in its final spot on the new headliner. BE SURE TO ALLOW FOR ABOUT INCHES OF FABRIC STRETCH FROM FRONT TO BACK; THAT IS IMPORTANT.

ACME did a fabulous job sewing the zipper and they were very nervous about doing it. It looks exactly like factory work. Once they got me the headliner back (after charging me $75 to sew the zipper), I was ready to go. The factory upholstered sunroof frame had arrived and I flatbedded the car about 90minutes from my home to the best technician in the business. They installed everything so doggone well; That was a $400 bill from him, but I also had him re-do my B-pillars which got hammered from the poor retracting seatbelts BMW put in these nice machines. (THAT,, by the way is easily remedied by taking the seatbelt recoil apart and cleaning it and oiling it with some 3in1 oil. Then have the female buckle removed and re-install another 18inches down the belt fabric. This works well if you know a trim guy that will do it and if you are not 350 pounds and need the extra 18inches of belt you just cut off).

VETERAN Company in CA is the best auto fabrics importer and supplies everyone that is anybody in the auto upholstery business. That’s where you want to get your B-pillar vinyl to do a job not even the best judges will be able to spit on.

Back to the headliner….
Because the factory sunroof frame comes to you without the guide arms riveted to them, you need to re-use your old guide arms to the new frame. This is done OVER the white vinyl. And to do that, I found a company that manufactures the riveting machines that do this and sent the sunroof frame to them along with my guide arms. They riveted them at no charge and actually asked me what color I wanted the rivets to be. So long as they did not rust, I was happy. In fact they shipped it back to me at no charge, too. That company was Stimpson and Company in Bayport, NY.

That’s it; nothing else. ..but, I do have some advice for anyone going forward with this. Take an old wooden yardstick (not a rigid one; a cheap flexible one). Cut it to 22-24inches. Mix a bucket of PineSol (or some good dirt/grease cutting detergent) and hot water. Using a piece of plastic covered 16-18guage wire, fasten a wet terrycloth rag from PineSol bucket to end of stick. Then push stick into sunroof cavity in roof and gently but thoroughly go back and forth, rinsing rag often, until inside cavity is clean. If you don’t do this, say good bye to your new sunroof headliner frame fabric. It will soil so fast you’ll never keep up. Take your time and clean it right the first time. STEP2 is to cut the stick down to about 12inches and do the same thing with the PineSol rag. You don’t have to cut the stick if the entire sunroof lid is off the car; then you have room to work. The point is …make sure you clean the cavity front to back or you are doing this for nothing.

Any questions: just call me: J. Prothero, a bit anal… but I do things right… or…at least I try. I genuinely hope that some of you try this. Please take a moment to pass along your results. It is well worth it. Nothing worse than: nice engine, nice body, nice interior… oh… but bad headliner! Good luck E12’ers!!

By the way, you want to order one from BAV or WORLD, … don’t bother. The one from WORLD is a repro (which is fine if a factory match) but the sunroof zipper was 34 inches long… a bit out of spec.) also, their zipper had about 12 teeth per inch and was so grossly fat it was a joke. They have ALL their headliners made at ACME, but ACME had the wrong patterns for E12 cars (no surprise since it is not a big demand item). Just order it from the dealership and you will be most satisfied… at least that is my experience on this project.


(Click on images for larger versions)

ACME Auto Headlining, Inc.
550 West 16th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
Main Phone: 562-437-0061
Ask for Bob (he is the godfather known all over the USA as the best in custom headliners)

Veteran Company
5060 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019-4130
Abraham is the owner and great guy.

Stimpson and Company
900 Sylvan Avenue
Bayport, NY 11705
(631) 472-2000
Nancy was my contact

BMW Part Number for Headliner frame for Sunroof: 54-12-1-848-551 $ 84.00
BMW Part Number for Headliner Fabric with Manual Sunroof: 51-44-1-857-955 $125.00
Cost for ACME to sew zipper $ 75.00
Installation of headliner by “best” technician in Western PA $400.00
Total I spent…. $684.00

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