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Hood insulation and interior headliners

Q: What's the best way to make accurate-looking hood insulation and interior headliners? Also, are there any materials available on how to use photoetched-metal detail parts?

- Richard Jarmusik
via E-mail

As a rule of thumb, Richard, try to use a material that resembles whatever it is you're duplicating in scale. If you're building a wooden bed for a truck, start with real wood. The same holds true for engine compartment insulation and interior upholstery.

Several headliner options are available, depending on the particular car, the era you're modeling, and the look you're after. A trip to a fabric store will reveal a wide range of cloth that can be cut and fit to form headliners. Look for tightly woven, thin, dense fabric. Glove leather, which can be dyed almost any color and is fairly thin, can be used to replicate Naugahyde and, of course, leather.

After you've selected a fabric, you'll need to make a pattern. Cut a paper pattern that matches the underside of the roof to be upholstered. Transfer the pattern to fabric and cut it out with scissors. Seal the edges with anti-fray seam sealer, also available at the fabric store, then carefully glue the piece of material into place. The choice of adhesive is important; avoid water-based glues that will soak through and stain the fabric. Any type of spray glue should work but, as we usually suggest, try it on a small separate piece of material first.

Other choices include flocking, which is available in many different colors, and Scale Motorsport's Faux Fabric spray, which can be applied to create realistic-looking cloth textures. For a tuck-and-roll effect, Evergreen round styrene strips can be glued into place individually then sanded to knock off the crown.

Thin-scribed Evergreen stock, used as exterior siding in smaller scales, can also be cut, bent, and applied to simulate a vintage tuck-and-roll headliner.

Hood insulation is thicker than upholstery and will require thicker material. If possible, check out some cars with this type of insulation, examine its texture, and match it at the fabric store. Foil-backed insulation and sound-deadening material can be duplicated with Bare-Metal foil, and painted with your favorite flat finish to eliminate the shine. Just remember - try to duplicate the texture and the color of the real thing to create a successful illusion.

Photoetched-metal parts are another matter, and volumes could be written on their usage. Simply put, photoetching is a process whereby detail parts are acid-cut from thin sheet metal. The finished pieces either end up connected to a metal tree (similar to the way kit parts are molded on a plastic sprue) or independently mounted on a more costly (but very convenient) rubber backing. Military modelers have used photoetched-metal parts for years. The scale automotive photoetched-metal parts aftermarket has made tremendous strides, and hundreds of detail items are now available.

Preparation and application are key when it comes to using photoetched-metal parts. Begin by removing the part from the tree with a pair of sharp cutters. Clip as close to the piece as you can and finish the rough edge with a file. Next, do any required pre-shaping or assembly, depending on the piece and the instructions that are typically included with each detail set. Use quality tools to make clean, crisp bends. To attach photoetched parts, use super glue, clear epoxy or, if the piece is very small, a dab of "clear" applied with a small brush or the end of a toothpick. One more consideration - if the part isn't going to be painted, you may wish to polish it before cutting it from the tree. Use a metal polish, such as "Simichrome," and a buffing wheel chucked in a motor tool.


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