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Premium Member
1991 560 SEL
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I'm finally getting into my lower priority project list for my '91 560 SEL. And with the bizarre world situation right now and social distancing, I also have time to write up what I'm learning. Below are my lessons learned from reupholstering my very worn B pillars with MB-Tex vinyl. There are several posts that I gleaned helpful info from, but my searches didn't turn up a complete how-to. So hopefully the following will help someone in the future. I'll do it in two parts, just because of the 10 pic upload limit. This was a satisfying project, more arts+crafts than wrenching. Disclaimer: I'm an intermediate shade tree mechanic with no professional training. I had disassembled my front seats before and recovered them, so have a bit of interior upholstery experience.

Materials and tools I used, plus notes:
  • 1 yard of MB-Tex or similar vinyl. The original factory vinyl is finer grain and has a thin foam padding on the back, which disintegrates over time. The MB-Tex is marginally thicker overall with a fabric backing, so I think no foam layer is needed. I sourced the MB-Tex from GAHH in Los Angeles - they sell it by the yard from their website (example here in dark blue).
  • Steel wool + household cleaner to clean off the aluminum B pillar frame. A plastic scraper can be helpful too.
  • 25+ wooden spring loaded clothespins. Get higher quality ones that don't easily come apart when you operate them.
  • Quick set epoxy or plastic epoxy. Note that I originally tried 3M Super Trim Adhesive, but it's too thin and challenging to apply to small areas.
  • Sharp knife (like X-acto) and scissors for trimming vinyl.
  • Painters tape.
  • Q-tips and/or wood popsicle sticks to spread epoxy.
  • A few pieces of wood (like 6" sections of 1"x1" or 2"x4") to support the aluminum frame on the workbench.
  • Interior trim removal tools, Phillips screwdriver, and 17mm socket or wrench to remove trim and pillars from the car.
  • Optional - a heat gun can help mold the material to curves and remove any clothes pin marks.
  • Zen upholsterer attitude.
Removing the pillars:
  • Move the front seat forward to its stop to give you room to work.
  • Remove the two Phillips screws on the hard plastic cover at the base of the B pillar. It will not come off just yet...
    2625121
  • Pry up the ends of the rubber door jamb trim on both doors - the rear part of the front door trim; the front of the rear trim. The B pillar plastic cover has a tab that fits behind and beneath the end of the door jamb trim on both ends. Once you un-tuck the tab, you can pull the cover down and away from the B pillar. Note how it all fits together, including how the plastic piece actually fits around the final few mm of the B pillar trim.
    2625122
  • At this point you can remove the B pillar trim, i.e. the thing you're going to be reupholstering. Note that it fits around the B pillar by a few mm and into the fabric door trim, so there's some tension. Pull it towards the interior of the car, then down. The large clip at the top of the trim is vertical, i.e. must come downwards to release.
    2625123
  • Move to the floor of the car and the attachment point for the seat belt. Remove the black plastic cover over the bolt. Use a 17mm socket or wrench to remove the bolt. Once free, feed the belt + bolt through the B pillar trim. The trim should now be free from the car. If you want, loosely reattach the 17mm bolt just to keep it in place.
    2625124
Preparing the pillar trim:
  • Remove the plastic trim piece that attaches to the seat belt height adjustment. At the lower part of the trim piece, on the back of the B pillar, there's a 'stop' ridge in the aluminum. Pull the tab up on the trim piece and over the 'stop'. Then the whole trim piece just lifts down and out.
    2625125
  • At this point, you may want to snap a few pictures of exactly how the old vinyl is folded + attached to the inside of the frame - especially at the top and around the seat belt opening.
  • Remove the old vinyl from the aluminum frame. If yours is like mine, this will come right off. All the disintegrating foam will make a bit of a mess, so put down some newspaper or a tarp to catch it.
    2625126
  • Clean the aluminum trim. The outer surfaces should clean pretty easily. On the inner surfaces, your goal is to clean off all the foam residue, to create a reasonable surface for new adhesive. Note that you will NOT be able to remove the old yellow adhesive, unless you spend way more time than I did. I don't think it's necessary. I used a plastic scraper first, then followed with steel wool + Formula 409. It cleaned right up.
Cut the pattern and test fit:
  • The MB-Tex I sourced happened to be from a 54"-wide roll, which is just about perfect for this pattern. Roll out enough material and then spread the old vinyl out over it. Mine would not lay flat, so I got an old pillow case and the iron, and ironed it out a bit on low. You can also use a heat gun for the same. Once flat-ish, I used painter's tape to tape the old vinyl down. Trace the outline of the old vinyl onto the new one - this is the pattern you'll cut out. Be sure to trace the seat belt cut-out in the middle. Also, note spots where a cut has been made at the very edge to enable the vinyl to wrap around a corner. My advice actually is NOT to cut these yet, but instead wait until you're fitting the vinyl to the frame.
    2625127
  • Just for your reference, here you can see the difference in grain between the MB-Tex I used and the original vinyl. The MB-Tex has a more pronounced, larger grain. It integrates great into the car, but might bother purists. This shot also shows the little cut-outs of the original at the very corners of the seat belt pass through.
    2625128
  • Cut out your pattern. I tried it with both shears and a knife and found the knife to be easier and more exact. If you have any extra material, leave it at the bottom (wider part) - this can come in handy. The original vinyl is more stretchy than the MB-Tex, so you may want a bit extra.
  • Once you have your pattern, roughly test fit it to the aluminum frame using clothes pins.
    2625135
  • This is a good time to plan for and cut the new vinyl so that you can neatly wrap it around corners and edges. There are just a few areas to pay attention to: 1) the very top, where the aluminum has several curves at nearly 90 degrees to the main surface; 2) the four corners of the seat belt pass through; 3) the very bottom, where you have again 90 degree aluminum bends. A professional would do this more artfully than I did, for sure! You will have to fold over some material on to other material. Here's an example of how I did one of the corners:
    2625144
  • OK, with your pattern all cut and test fitted, you're ready to do the adhesive. I'll keep going in a second post, since I've hit the 10-pic limit at this point.
 

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Premium Member
1991 560 SEL
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Part Two...

Gluing the new material on the frame:
  • I learned a lot between the first pillar I did and the second. I flubbed my way through the first one with a lot of epoxy! I took a different approach on the second one and I think it worked better with less epoxy: essentially a line of epoxy on the inside (back) of the frame only, where the material folds over. In other words, no adhesive on the large outside (front) surfaces of the frame. This is similar to what was done at the factory.
  • I found it best to work a section or two at a time, from inside out. Think about the sequence here: you will be creating tension on the material across the frame to avoid wrinkles. That means it's helpful to attach one part of one side, let it cure, and then attach the same part of the other side (i.e., opposite it) so that you can stretch the material a bit.
  • Here's the sequence that worked well on the second pillar I did: 1) top lip of the seat belt cut out; 2) one long side of the seat belt cut out; 3) the opposite long side of the seat belt cut out; 4) the bottom lip of the seat belt cut out; 5) both of the sides of the pillar around from the seat belt cut out; 6) the sides of the pillar near the top; 7) the very top of the pillar; 8) one half of the long lower edge of the pillar; 9) the opposite half of the long lower edge of the pillar; 10) the very bottom. I'll try to clarify with the following pic. Note - I'm not brilliant...you may be able to devise a better solution. It's all about enabling you to tension the material. With the epoxy I was using, I let each section cure for about 45 min before moving on to the next.
    • 2625150
  • As to the actual gluing process for each section: I mixed a small amount of epoxy and then used a Q-tip or popsicle stick to apply a line of it to the inside aluminum surface that the material attaches to. I followed with a very light application on the backside of the material itself (on the fabric). Then I used my fingers to wrap the material around the edge, get some tension, apply a couple clothes pins, move an inch or two down, and repeat. Usually I would go back and re-tension / reset the clothes pins to get decent tension. The following pics give you a couple examples. The more complex the section, the smaller area you should focus on. You will want some paper towels around for the inevitable bits of epoxy you will get on yourself and the material.
    • 2625151
    • 2625152
  • Remove the clothes pins after the epoxy is bonded. Note that to a degree, you can use a heat gun to heat edges around complex curves. Also, a heat gun can help to remove any indentations the clothes pins leave.
  • Once you're done, pause and admire your awesome work!
  • Refit the plastic trim piece for the seat belt height adjustment. It has four grooved "feet" that slip around ridges in the aluminum.
Refitting the pillars to the car:
  • Yes, it's just opposite what you did before. But a few lessons I learned...
  • The pillar trim fits over the actual B pillar by a few mm. I didn't realize that when I pulled them off. You need to get it seated over the B pillar before you will be able to get the hard plastic trim in a place where the screws will catch. The following sort of shows it.
    • 2625155
  • Despite the thicker MB-Tex material, I was able to fit the recovered B pillar into the groove on the hard plastic trim without problem.
  • Fit the fabric door seal over the edge of the B pillar trim - it'll cover it just a bit. A plastic interior trim tool is helpful here.
  • When re-securing the bottom bolt for the seat belt, note that it's at a slight angle, not 90 degrees to the floor. Be careful here, lest you cross-thread it.
    • 2625156
  • Getting the seat belt height adjustment piece seated is a bit fiddly. There is a round "target" on the back of the plastic trim piece that fits right into the bolt holding the seat belt at the top. Fiddle with it till the mechanism operates correctly, otherwise the seat belt itself may pinch.
All right! That's it. Hope this is helpful to someone. Viel Spass!

-Robert
 

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Registered
'90 560SEL Blauschwarz/Black
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11 Posts
Excellent write up!

I plan on doing this myself in a few months. I almost wish you had done a video too.

Thanks!
 

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Premium Member
1991 560 SEL
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Happy to answer any questions when you do it. Video would have been tough with this one as I was always using two hands and, frankly, learning as I was going. :)

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk
 

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Outstanding Contributor
1989 560SEC, 1989 560SEL, 1995 E420
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4,182 Posts
RobertD, great job and great writeup.

For those who are lazy, like me, I was able to use my existing material and contact cement. My material was peeling away from the seatbelt opening and a little from the edges.

Make sure you rub off all the dried up foam from the back of the material. I just had some peeling edges so it was not a big job. The contact cement eliminates the need for clamps because the material just sticks where you put it.
 

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68 250S, 91 300se, 98 SL500, 450SEL 6.9, 14 CLS550 Past MB's; 300SD, 300E, 300TE, 190E, ML420
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4,280 Posts
Nice write up. I would consider using 3m adhesive remover and then use 3m 90 adhesive.
I very much need to do this job on my car.
 

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Premium Member
1991 560 SEL
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Rumb, my only feedback is: I don't think you're going to have good luck w a spray adhesive. That was a lesson learned for me. I went in thinking that spray was the way and I bought a $30 can of 3M stuff - but I had made an incorrect assumption: that the material was adhered to all surfaces of the frame. Turns out it's not - it's really only adhered to the first inch or so of inside/back of the frame. To replicate that with the new material, I needed a thicker adhesive that could be applied more precisely with a brush or Q tip. Also it needs to make quite a bond, so that the material can be stretched a bit over the frame to remove any wrinkles.

If you can find the 3M stuff in a gel, that would be the ticket. Just sharing my feedback based on my experience.

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk
 

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Premium Member
1989 560 SEC - V-8 Kompressor - 95 E320 Estate
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1,940 Posts
I have always used DAP Weldwood contact cement. Been using it for years after a professional interior upholster recommended it. What is important is to follow the instructions, let it set-up for a few minutes before putting vinyl to metal in place. When used properly it will set quickly with minimal clamps etc. Spray will work but is sometimes uncontrollable and become a massive mess. I personally would not use MB tex seat material as it is very thick compared to what was originally installed. I generally purchase this type of material from a local distributor that carries many types and colors with next day delivery. Average cost is around $20-25 a yard. The colors of our cars are very basic and common to the upholstery industry. As with many repairs/restoration activities the first time recovering the B pillars took me about 3 hours. Now after performing this task many times the project can be completed in about an hour. As we all know there are over 100 DIY's for our cars and sometimes we should consider having a professional perform some tasks. A great shortcut I currently use is when replacing the headliner on SEC's (they are all 30 years old and will fail) is that I remove the capsule and take it and the sunroof panel to a local upholster to recover those bits. Their price is $300-350 depending on the material costs and get the job done in a few hours. In the past if I would take the whole car to an upholster they would charge about $8-900 for the job. The reason why is their tech is not familiar with these cars, learn as they go and hope they don't break something during the removal and installation. Putting cloth/material on a capsule is what they do best, working on 30 year old specialty cars is not a normal process for most shops. Best of luck and success with your projects. Mike
 
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