An excellent 'How to' written by Chris Wright. 

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                                    Replacing headlining trim – Lotus Excel.


The headlining and associated trim comprises 4 removable sections, plus two large rectangles of fabric glued to the roof and the fabric-covered area of the 2 B-posts. Added to these, you may wish to re-cover the sun visors, which would make ten panels altogether. My sun visors were in fairly good condition so I did not re-cover them.


Upholstery materials

3 metres (if you are very economical with waste / off-cuts when marking and cutting out the fabric) x about 55inch of foam-layered fabric (allow another half metre if you expect to include the sun visors) - available from Woolies or other specialists;

1 litre of high strength, high temperature contact adhesive (Woolies);

Spreader and/or brush with which to apply adhesive (a flexible spreader is best for fabric, large brush for applying to the roof and a small brush for fiddly bits);

Soft pencil or dark felt tip pen;

Cloth scissors,

Soft foam roller,

Cellulose thinners for cleaning brush, hands and thinning glue.


Other needs

Work in a well-ventilated area – you will need to leave the car doors and windows open to avoid being intoxicated by the glue/solvent fumes.

Clean table for marking and cutting fabric and for working on trim sections

Tools for disassembly – Philips screwdriver, 17mm spanner for seatbelt mounting, pliers for the rear seat back securing tags.




A. Remove the trim sections.


1.   Header rail. This is a U-shaped fibreglass trim panel that is held on by 6 screws (2 behind each sun visor and 2 through the rear view mirror bracket) plus two flat metal tags on each side that tuck into the door seal rubber. Undo the visor screws first, then the mirror, then ease the tags out and pass the trim out of the door. The sun visors can be removed by releasing the 10mm nuts and carefully pushing one threaded stud into the visor until there is clearance to unhook the visor from the trim. Watch out for loose washers. I used a needle file to open out the holes in the fibreglass to make re-installation of the visors easier.

2.    Rear cant rails. These are held on by a single plastic push-in clip close to the top edge of the rear windscreen and are removed by easing out from the roll bar end, unpopping the clip and flexing the trim over the edge of the rear seat. It is easier if you loosen the top edge of the rear seat cushion by removing the boot trim (3 Philips screws near the top edge and 4 screws along the bottom edge) and pushing the locking tags through the slots so that the cushion can be drawn forward to give room to manipulate the rear end of the cant rails.

3.    Roll bar cover. This is retained by a single Philips screw that is visible when the courtesy light is removed from the trim but is also held in place physically by the tops of the B posts. Remove the screw, remove the door rubber at the top rear corner of the door aperture and unbolt the upper seatbelt brackets (the plastic cover levers up and off). Lever the B post inwards and down to provide clearance to push the roll bar cover up and over the top of the B post. It takes physical effort and distortion of both trims, but shouldn’t damage the trim. There is a dart of extra fabric next to the door rubber and this may need to be stretched to give enough movement of the B post trim. When wrestling with the B posts, do not remove the ashtrays. The Philips screw behind these holds a spring clip for the tray but does not fasten the B post.


B. Remove the old fabric.


1.    Peel off the existing material from the trim pieces. Take care to avoid tearing of the fabric because the removed fabric can be used as a template from which to mark and cut the new material.

2.    Decide whether the sun visors should be re-covered, repaired or are acceptable. Re-covering requires stitching (or gluing) of a pillowcase-like sleeve of accurate dimensions. Repair of loose edges using adhesive is straightforward – using a fine brush, apply contact adhesive to both seams, allow to become tacky and carefully position them together. Leave the visors to dry.

3.    Peel off old fabric from the roof. Avoid tearing off the foil that is a screen / base for the aerial. This is applied to the front half of the roof. Watch out for disintegrated foam in the eyes. No matter how well you cover the seats and interior with sheets, resign yourself to having to vacuum up a lot of small pieces of brown foam!

4.    For the B posts, remove the fabric and take extra care as you approach the join with the leather trim. On my car the fabric was partially stitched to the leather, so I carefully unpicked the stitches with a sharp blade.

5.    For the back edge of the roof next to the rear windscreen, the fabric appeared to have been glued under the glass (perhaps they put the glass in last?). Therefore I cut along the edge as closely as I could with a sharp blade to try to remove all visible traces of fabric.



C. Surface preparation


1.    I managed to remove the backing fabric as a single piece to leave a fairly smooth surface with just a few adhesive residues remaining. If not, any remaining scraps will need to be removed to leave an even surface.

2.    I also wiped over the surfaces to be glued with a linen cloth (wetted with cellulose thinners) to remove any remaining residues.


D. Mark out the new fabric covers and cut them to size/shape



1.    Use the pieces of fabric removed from the trim (or roof) as templates for the replacement fabric. I unrolled the fabric so that the underlay was facing up (‘good side’ down onto a clean table) and marked round the old fabric using a felt-tip pen.

2.    Don’t forget that the fabric pieces are ‘handed’ and you need to have the fabric surface the correct way up or you will mark out the mirror image of the shape that you wanted!!

3.    It is better to cut the replacement pieces slightly over size for clip-on trim (B posts, cant rails, roll bar cover and header rail). The original fabric on mine seemed to have been stretched quite tightly with very little left to glue around the edge of the trim. Having a little extra fabric to glue over the edge of the trim allowed me to put tension on the fabric to stretch out any wrinkles without the fabric unsticking. I also allowed extra fabric for the rear roof panel to make another glued hem by the rear window as this edge is not covered by trim.


4.    Seams. The original header rail fabric cover is made of three long narrow sections that are stitched at the edges adjacent to the sun visors. The cant rails have a similar seam. As I cannot sew in a straight line, I cut the centre part of the header rail cover slightly over length and then glued the end edges so that they could be folded back to make an even (glued) hem. I made similar (glue and fold) seams for the appropriate fabric pieces of the cant rail covers.

5.    It is worth placing each fabric piece over the trim or area that it is to cover to make sure it is the correct size/shape.


E. Apply adhesive and then apply the fabric


1.    Roof sections - The contact adhesive should be applied to both surfaces over the whole area.
Starting with the roof, apply adhesive using a brush or spreader to the whole surface to be covered. I did the front panel first and only started gluing the rear roof section when the fabric was on the front section. The adhesive dried quite quickly and was tacky within a few minutes.

2.    Making sure that you are applying to the non-face side of the fabric, apply adhesive (it is easier to use a soft, flexible spreader than a brush) evenly over all the fabric that is to be attached to the roof. Allow the glue to dry and become tacky (takes only a few minutes, even in February in the UK!).

3.    A second person comes in handy at this point so that you can take your soft foam roller and sit inside the car. Your assistant can then pass the glued fabric in to you and hold one end, while you carefully apply one edge/corner and gently roll the fabric, stretching slightly to avoid bubbles or wrinkles. If this is done with care, the fabric can be briefly eased back again and re-stretched if a wrinkle starts to appear. Once positioned, roll more firmly and check for bubbles, sags or wrinkles.

4.    For the rear roof section, I aligned my glued hem with the rear windscreen edge and rolled the fabric on gently in steady stages.

5.    Trim sections; Cant rails – The covers consist of two pieces that ideally should be stitched together. A glued hem overlaid and glued to the other piece of fabric beneath seems to work OK. The trim sections can be worked on while placed on a flat table – make sure you don’t leave glue or anything else there that might mark the fabric. Apply glue to the inside edges of the trim to which the overhanging fabric will be glued and then apply glue to the edge of the fabric. Also apply glue to any inner surfaces that fabric will be stretched away from (i.e. the inside of curves) – apply to both the trim section and the fabric. Fix the fabric to one edge of the trim and then, working from one end, pull the fabric over the trim and secure the other edge, applying even tension on the fabric and avoiding pressing with fingertips where this might force glue through the fabric. Use frim pressure via a soft roller to ensure that the fabric sticks well on curve inners or awkward surfaces.

6.    Roll bar cover – As for the cant rails, apply liberal quantities of glue on inner curves, stretch the fabric across after gluing one edge and use scissors to cut nicks or darts in the overlapping fabric so that it can be glued down. Make an X-shaped cut in the recess for the courtesy light and glue the flaps to the inner edges.

7.    Header rail - if you do not stitch a seam on each side, glue the side pieces on first and cut nicks in the fabric to allow it to pass over the metal retaining tags on the outer edges. Glue a hem on one edge of the centre fabric piece. Align this with where the stitched seam was (close to the outer edge of the sun visor) and glue it on firmly. Glue the front and rear fabric overhangs and trim edges and apply plenty of glue to the trim and fabric where the fabric passes over a recess or curve.  Using a roller and firm pressure, stretch the fabric slightly over the curve of the trim and secure the edges, snipping nicks or darts from the fabric as required. Work most of the way across to the other side and then form the other hem/edge to give symmetrical seams, gluing the edge and again applying firm pressure. Cut an X for the courtesy light fitting and glue the flaps over. Leave for the glue to dry before re-fitting the sun visors.


Side pieces applied to header rail. Small nicks were cut in the edge of the fabric to fit the metal tags.

8.    B posts – if you don’t sew, glue a seam / hem at the base and apply a lot of glue on any inner curves. Align the hem with the top of the leather trim and glue it firmly in place. Glue the edges of the trim and carefully tuck the overhanging fabric between the rear side window and the edge of the trim. At the front edge, tuck the extra fabric behind the trim so that the piece of fabric between the door rubber and the trim looks fairly flat. Apply glue to the edge of the fabric that will sit under the door rubber and trim off any excess fabric.


F. Re-fit the trim panels


1.    Before fitting the trim panels, carefully mark any screwholes with a fine point and felt tip pen mark through the fabric to help align them.

2.    Roll bar cover – with the door rubber still removed and the upper seatbelt bracket released slot one end of the roll bar cover into the top of the B post cover. Pull the opposite B post cover inward (hopefully you left a good stretch of fabric to give enough clearance) and push the roll bar cover over the top of the B post cover. Re-install the Philips screw through the bracket and tighten. Reconnect and snap in the courtesy light. Check its operation.

3.    Cant rails – swivel these over the rear seat back into the corners and then lift them up into position. Looking from the roll bar / B post end, adjust the push-in clips to the correct position and push the trim into place so that the clips engage. Tuck the B post end of the cant rail against the roll bar cover.

View to show metal clip into which cant rail fastener ‘pops’.

4.    Header rail – this is more easily fitted by two people, one to hold up and one to align the screw holes. First check that the sun visors operate smoothly and will not droop – tighten the 10mm nuts if necessary. Holding up the header rail to align it with the roof edges, start with the rear view mirror bracket and fix the two Philips screws through and into the nylon clips behind. Replace the plastic cover. Hook the metal tags on the header rail edges in place behind the door rubber (replacing the rubber into position around the door aperture) and then carefully align the screws that sit behind the visors. Make sure they engage in their holes and then tighten them. Reconnect and snap in the front courtesy light, checking operation.

G. Completing


1.    Re-install the upper seat belt brackets and clip the plastic covers back on.

2.    Fit any coat hooks or other clips that were removed.

3.    Re-fit the rear seat back (you may need a second person to guide the tags through the slots) and replace the boot trim.

4.    Vacuum up all the pieces of disintegrated brown foam and tidy tools away.


View of the finished article with header rail re-installed – note the bulges in the door rubber (upper foreground) that need pressing in where the metal tags from the header rail tuck in.