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December 18, 2017

Boot Trim

The TR6 had pretty spartan trim in the boot.  The sides, front, and rear were covered in six fitted panels of some flexible fibrous material that was sort of a cross between hardboard and cardboard.  The panels didn't stand up to pressure, abrasion or water very well and mine were in sad shape.  They were dirty, warped, frayed, and had large chunks missing.

While replacement panel sets can be ordered in either original or a more durable plastic material, they seemed to me a reasonable thing to attempt to make myself.

I chose a plastic material called Kydex.  It is an alloy of PVC and acrylic that has some interesting properties.  While normally fairly stiff, when heated to something over 300 F, it goes limp, and can be easily formed.  When cooled, it regains its stiffness, but in the new form.  It is most commonly used to make form-fitting hand gun holsters or knife sheaths.  It has a low gloss grained surface texture on one side not too different from the original panels.  Kydex comes in various thicknesses, and I chose 0.080" stock, which is still fairly flexible, but very tough.

To get the hang of the materiaI, I started with the front panel since it had no curves.

I used the old panel to help make a cardboard template.  I also had to look at some catalog pictures because so much of my original panel was missing.

After a few rounds of fitting and trimming, the template fit pretty well.

Then the template was used to make the Kydex shape.

I installed the boot lid hinges temporarily to help me mark out the clearance slots in the panel.  I hoped that by doing it this way, the slots would not have to be as wide as they were in the original panel.  They turned out to be only about half as wide as the originals.  I also made the cutout for the boot light.  It looked a little lopsided, so I cut for another one on the left side.

The original front panel had a stiffener on its bottom edge where it spans the spare tire well.  It was just a piece of light-gauge metal wrapped around the edge of the panel.  I thought a small aluminum L shape would do a better job.

I did the side panels next.  They were a little more challenging since they had a right angle flange at the front and a curved section at the rear.  The originals served as a starting point for cardboard templates.  I had to add nearly an inch to the length of the templates in order for them to hold the rear pieces in the correct position.  I've seen quite a few pictures of ill-fitting rear panels, and I think this is the cause.

I cobbled together a way to bend the right angle flange.  The material was heated until it was pretty flexible, and the wood former to the right was pressed in place until the plastic cooled.

For the curve at the other end, I heated the appropriate area of the plastic and then formed it over a piece of pipe of the approximate radius needed.

Not bad for my first try at forming this material.  It looks dirty in the second pic because it was.  It cleans up really well, though.  The other side was the same except for the cutout for the boot lid support boss.  I was able to cut that quite a bit smaller than the original for a much neater look.

The two rear panels cover the tail light wiring areas at either side of the back of the boot.  They are more complicated than the others, each with two flanges and a curved area to fit to the rear header in the boot.  The original panel served as the template.

The flanges and curves were formed as with the side panels.

It took a few iterations to get the fit right.

The rear panels were originally fastened directly to the tub with sheet metal screws.  This is never a good idea for fasteners that have to be removed and replaced.  The holes get stripped and hogged out so that they won't hold the original size screws.  I found a variety of screw sizes holding the panels on.  I decided to put an end to that nonsense by installing 6-32 rivet nuts.  It's what the factory really should have done.

Most other places, the panels are held to each other and to the tub with sheet metal screws in clip-on "U" nuts.

Now, before I could finally install all the panels, there is an important detail to take care of.  There is a small section at the rear of the wheel well that is not covered by the trim panels.  I don't remember what this area was originally covered with, but I had some automotive utility carpet that seemed to be appropriate.  I marked the areas that had to be covered.

Then made masking tape templates to use to cut the carpet.

Then glued them in place.

Side panels screw to the rear panels, and to a tab on the tub in front.

Front panel goes on last.

Next up was the spare tire cover.  Mine was all there, but the metal parts were pretty rusted, the hardboard panel was scuffed and warped, and the metal stiffener at the front was buckled.

 I decided to start over, but I thought I could re-use some of the metal parts.  Taking everything apart, I decided that the "C" section rails at either side of the cover could be saved, but the front stiffener could be improved on.  I fashioned a new "L" stiffener from slightly heavier metal, and included a doubled over vertical flange for even more rigidity.

The original panel was 1/4" hardboard.  Since today's 1/4" hardboard is actually significantly less than 1/4" thick, and since I really wanted more strength, not less, I ended up laminating a piece of 1/4" with a piece of 1/8" hardboard (which is also undersized).  I bought the 1/4" material with a black melamine finish.  It is sold for cabinets or displays.  The two pieces were joined with contact cement. The total thickness comes to almost 5/16".

I trimmed the panel to size, including the slightly curved rear edge, then sealed the backside with a few coats of polyurethane.

I painted the metal parts and secured them to the panel with blind rivets, as original.  Also installed the snaps for the carpet.

A strip of felt goes on each rail to pad where it rests on the boot floor.  Also, a little pad of felt goes where the tub retaining tab rests.

In case anyone is under the illusion that I don't make mistakes, let me announce here publicly that when I drilled the hole for the cam latch, I mismeasured and put it in the wrong place.  Rather than start over, I just covered up the problem.  Took an extra few hours, though.

Speaking of the cam latch, here's another little item we can add to the gripe list for aftermarket parts.

The three parts on the left are what I got in a "spare tire cover cam latch kit" from one of the three major TR6 parts suppliers.  The long part is supposed to go through a hole in the cover, and the round part slides up and over the barb-like feature to retain it in the panel.   Well, obviously, the position of the barb won't let this happen for a 1/4" panel--it's too high on the shaft.  It looks like it would work OK for a 1/8" panel.  The three parts on the right were from an eBay seller, and it is correct and works fine.

So here we are with the trim panels and the tire cover installed.

To me, it looks unfinished.  That space between the two rear panels seems to stick out.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so.  I've seen at least a couple of cases where people did something about that gap.

I had just enough Kydex left over to make a panel to fit that space.

Now, on to the carpet.  First, I made a cardboard pattern...

...and laid it out on some automotive utility carpet.

After a couple of test fits and trims, I was satisfied.  I cut the carpet to leave about a 1/4" gap all around to make room for this edge treatment.  The carpet I used is not woven, so technically no edge binding is necessary, but some kind of finish strip makes the piece look more "workmanlike".  The edge material is basically a vinyl piping with a tab that adheres to the bottom side of the carpet.

Then marked and installed the four snaps.

The only thing is that this approach leaves the backside of the carpet looking sort of tacky.

As a little piece of serendipity, I had some carpet that I originally bought for the boot project, but thought was too lightweight for the job.  It just felt like heavy felt.  It seemed perfect for a backer.  I cut out and fitted a piece of it and glued it to the assembly I'd just made. 

Now the back looks almost as good as the front.

Fingers crossed, I took it to the garage.  Seems to fit OK.  This job is done.  Now I'll take it all out and store it out of harm's way until I need it.

This was a project with a lot of learning involved.  I like those projects.  The total cost was under $100, not counting the considerable time it took.

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