Fitting a ZA rooflining


Having fitted a roof lining in my 1956 ZA, I thought it might be helpful to write a few notes given the lack of any specific instructions available for the model.

As a preamble, I bought the cloth roof lining in grey from Peter Martin, who supplies either cloth or vinyl roof linings in both grey and beige. I opted for the cloth because that was what was fitted originally in mine. I understand that later models may have switched to the vinyl type. I chose grey as a personal preference because it seemed more appropriate for the green trim and upholstery fitted in my car.

The head lining comes as four items – the bulk of the lining ; two pieces to cover the cant rails; a single piece for fitting under the back window.

Tools/items needed

The following items will be needed when fitting the roof lining :

A really good pair of scissors (the lining is very tough)
Cross-headed screwdriver
Wide paint/wallpaper scraper
Hole making tool (I used a small screwdriver with the flat ground into a point)
Flexible tape
Marker pen
Contact adhesive
Small self-tapping screws (see text)
Paint for the cant rails

Removing the old lining

Remove the cant rail which is held in place with spring trim clips. I found a wide scraper to be useful to prize the cant rail away, but take care to apply pressure adjacent to the spring clips as the rail itself is made from relatively thin ply and could easily break if pressure is applied say, half way between clips.

some of the clips were broken and others missing so I bought a set from Peter Martin. On the ZA they are a two-part piece – a backing piece that is fixed to the rail, and a sprung "tooth" that clips in to the base. Once removed I stored the rails in safe place to avoid any accidental damage.

The clock, rear-view mirror and sun visors will need to be removed, as will the centre courtesy light. The wooden trim round the top of the windscreen and all the trim around the rear window will need to be removed. This may be an opportunity to renovate the wooden trim if it has become a little tired.

The lining is held in place by four rails that are attached to the body at each side, while the front rail also has two wires that attach to the body over the windscreen. I removed the old lining by literally pulling it off the rails because it was so flimsy. Unscrew the two screws that hold each side of each support rail, and detach the wires from the front rail, then remove the remains on the lining from each rail. If your existing lining is still quite strong then you may be able to remove it in one piece. Take care to ensure that you identify each rail as they are all different. I attached a number tag with wire through one of the fixing holes in each rail. Note too that the rails are handed as the two fixing holes each side are staggered so the rails will only fit one way.

Roof insulation

Most of the felt insulation above the lining was detached from the roof and was pretty awful so I removed it completely, cleaned the roof and bought some self-adhesive insulation material which I fixed in place.

Rail preparation

It is almost inevitable that the rails will have rusted, so clean away the rust and paint the rails. I used white paint as I thought it less likely to show through the lining but I suspect the lining material is thick enough to obscure any paint colour.

Preparing the new lining

The lining will arrive folded and because of this have fold marks in the material. I opted to iron the lining, although I expect the experts would use some form of steamer to remove creases once the lining was installed. Having ironed the lining, it was laid out on a double bed and the numbered rails were slid into their relevant slots in the lining. Remember that the rails are handed and make sure you get the offset screw fixing holes aligned correctly. The front rail is slightly more awkward as the wires that attach to the front body have to be located in the slot and worked out through slits pre-cut in the lining. Once the rails were fitted the lining was carefully gathered up and taken out to the car.

The cant rail lining pieces, and the "extra" piece for the area under the rear window were also ironed and kept flat until needed.

Fitting the lining

I first of all glued the small piece of lining under the rear window. There is ample width in this piece (I was initially a bit nervous about the width) but I left the ends untrimmed until I had fitted the bulk piece.

Without doubt the assistance of a helper will make life much easier when fitting the bulk of the lining as the helper can hold the bulk of the lining whilst each rail is attached to the body. I worked from the front backwards. To start with I fixed each rail end with just the upper of the two fixing screws until all the rails were fitted as this released the helper. It did result in a rather large area of lining hanging down at the rear of the car...

...but we'll come back to that later.

Moving back to the front rail I attached the wires to the body over the windscreen, looping the wire in the same way and in the same place as they were originally fitted :

Returning to the front rail, I undid the fixing screw on one side and then cut a slot in the lining just above the upper fixing screw position to allow the end of the rail to be pushed through the lining so that it was now over the end of the rail. I then re-attached the upper fixing screw and tensioned the lining by pulling the lining downwards. The second fixing screw was then fitted through the lining first, and then through the rail into the body. The lining is pretty tough and I found an old small screwdriver, ground down to a point, ideal for making the hole through the lining. The same tool comes in very useful later on too. I believe you can buy what are called hole making tools. The process was repeated for all the rails.

Before gluing the edges of the lining to the body I marked the position of the cant rail clip holes with a black marker pen and then cut an inverted "V" shape to expose the fixing hole. Note that the material is sufficiently thick and tough that the cant rail clips will not push through without the cut being made. Also, use a cant rail with its clips in place to check where the corresponding holes in the body are located as there are more holes than needed for the cant rails.

Once all the rails were fixed in place, I used contact adhesive to glue the lining ends between the rails, to the body. I used Evo-stik contact adhesive which worked very well.

Moving back to the front of the car I carefully cut the lining for the clock and refitted that as it provided some tension of the front of the lining. Care is needed when trimming the lining. I found it easiest to mark the line I wanted to cut to with a black marker pen and then cut to that line. Once again contact adhesive was used to glue the end of the lining to the underside of the upper windscreen area. With this done and the adhesive set, I refitted the sun visors using my pointy screwdriver to locate the fixing holes.

And so to the back. This does prove to be a bit unwieldy due to the volume of material hanging down. I made a horizontal slit in the lining that corresponded to the middle of the rear window, making sure it was not as wide as the window. A similar vertical slit was made in the middle – again not as deep as the window. This does allow the fitter to see what's going on – a very useful thing! I then located the holes in the body used to keep the rear window trim in place and using my pointy tool, made a hole in the lining to correspond to each hole, and, used small self-tappers to hold the lining to the window surround. I then trimmed off the bulk of the surplus material around the window, followed by a very careful trim to slightly more than the window aperture. Obviously you neither want too much lining here as it would show when the trim is refitted, nor too little so that the trim doesn't cover the edge. Slow and steady is a good maxim here.

Once I was happy with the tension, I glued the edge of the lining between the screws, then once that had stuck, removed the screws and glued where they had been. I didn't find it necessary to remove the lining around the rear window trim fixing holes as the self-tappers used the holes already made.

I allowed sufficient material from the bulk of the lining to create a fold such that the overlap with the smaller piece (already glued under the rear window) would be reasonably neat. I trimmed the surplus from the smaller piece and then glued the ends of the bulk lining to overlap the smaller piece.

Finally came the tensioning of the two rear pillars beside the rear window and a bit of head scratching. In the end I used my pre-made parcel shelf cover (3mm ply covered in vinyl) to act as the tensioner. To do this I marked the position of the cover on the steel of the rear shelf at the base of the pillars and then glued the lining slightly inboard of that line. Placing the shelf cover in its correct position, created just the right tension to remove any creases. Not perhaps the professional's approach but it worked for me.

Cant rails

I suspect that my rails weren't standard as they comprised a 3mm ply backing piece with a narrower piece glued along the length in the middle. I chose to cover mine with 6mm foam (bought from Woolies), and then covered that with the lining strips provided. I used an industrial stapler to attach the lining to the back of the cant rails, but contact adhesive would work just as well. Take care with the narrower (front) end to ensure that you cover this piece as it can be a little tricky.

Finished lining

Once the lining had been finished the trim around rear window was replaced, the centre light fitting re-attached, and the clock surround screwed back in place.

Roger England

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