The Build

Working with Vinyl

While planning the conversion of my van, I knew that I wanted to get away from the grey interior that comes as standard on a panel van. Seeing how others had done this, I noticed a lot of people had used paint to get results. Some look good but I was always worried about chips or flaking, especially as the temperature can get very high inside on a summer's day. I was also trying to go for a manufactured look and was looking to use plastic trim as much as I could, but this has colour problems of it's own. I purchased the Trimtech kit to cover the B pillars and sliding door rail, as you can see from the following picture, the greys are not even the same.

An image showing the Trimtech plastic trim.
An image showing the Trimtech plastic trim.

As mentioned in my previous post, the style I was trying to achieve was similar to the Range Rover sport black and ivory interior, hopefully giving more of a prestige look rather than sporty so nothing seems to say prestige more than leather. Of course trimming the vehicle in leather, though maybe possible, would be very expensive and tricky, definitely beyond my skills. The solution was to use vinyl. I found a supplier online who had exactly the colours and style I wanted, AS-Trim. I purchased the smooth grain leather effect vinyl and contact adhesive.

My idea for the door cards was originally designed on Photoshop combining the black and ivory vinyl to give a slightly less builders van look.

A mock up created in Photoshop for the door cards
A mock up created in Photoshop for the door cards

I had previously worked as a sign fitter so had a bit of experience in fitting vinyl, though this was much thicker than what I was use to. The first thing I worked on was the grab handles, with a lot of patience and the use of a heat gun, I managed to work the vinyl around the edges of each half of the grab handles, end result is a comfortable to the touch leather like handle. With the slight extra gap caused by the vinyl, they need a good banging together to stick, but it does work.

Using black leather effect vinyl on the grab handles
Using black leather effect vinyl on the grab handles

I wanted to achieve the Caravelle style padded section at the top, in order to achieve this I marked out an area to cut from the door card using a permanent marker, I then cut this out using a dremel.

The Caravelle style arm rest area.
The Caravelle style arm rest area.

Once I had two pieces, I needed to create a lip for the cut-out to stick back onto when it was finished, this was made from fiberglass. To do this, I covered the back of the cut-out in foil tape and vegetable oil so that the fiberglass would not stick to it, then taped it back onto the door card. The fiberglass was then placed around the edge on the back of the door card and as it molded around the cut-out, it gives a good lip for it to sit back on. Once the fiberglass was set, the cut-out could be removed, ready for covering.

To give it a padded feel, I used scrim foam (also available from AS Trim) underneath some black leather effect vinyl, tucking it around the edges of the cut-out. Once that was all done, I stuck the cut-out back into place on the fiberglass. I had a couple of clips lying about which I used to position the arm rest section onto the door card and some contact adhesive too.

Clips used to secure arm rest
Clips used to secure arm rest

The vinyl that covers the main part of the door card would not stretch inside the arm rest area unless I created the arm rest area anyway, so besides giving some nice detail, it is essential when using vinyl.

I needed to find a point on the door card to join the ivory vinyl at the top with the black vinyl at the bottom. After some thought, I solved this by cutting a slot into the edge of the door card, one at the front and one at the back, this only goes up to the door pocket, I then wrapped the vinyl around the back to give a smooth join which will not peel off in time. This method will only work if you have a door pocket though. This is illustrated in the image below, the vinyl at this stage needed rubbing on a bit more so looks a bit lumpy.

The slot in the door card where ivory meets black vinyl
The slot in the door card where ivory meets black vinyl
Black leather effect vinyl used on bottom of door card
Black leather effect vinyl used on bottom of door card

The door pockets were removed from the door card and wrapped separately.

The door pocket being wrapped separately
The door pocket being wrapped separately
The doro pockets wrapped in black smooth leather effect vinyl
The doro pockets wrapped in black smooth leather effect vinyl
The door card complete and put back together
The door card complete and put back together
Door card with chrome strip added.
Door card with chrome strip added.

As well as the door cards, I applied the ivory vinyl to the remaining plastic trim, this ensured the same style was carried throughout the van. The Trimtech plastic trim was a lot easier to cover than the door cards and the full furniture unit was also covered in the same.

Vinyl used throughout the conversion.
Vinyl used throughout the conversion.

The one thing I did not cover in vinyl was the dashboard, the contours of this I find to be just too varying for vinyl to work. At the moment the dashboard is painted black, but I have plans for the spare one I have at home which involves Wicked Coatings in Poole and a padded finish so watch this space.

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The Author

sharkbait

sharkbait

A complete self-confessed VW nutjob. My VW T4 is actually my first and only VW I have ever owned but I love it. Having bought my van as a straight forward panel van, I enjoyed the process of converting it how I wanted. Now the van is all done, it's getting out and exploring I love to do.

  • Simon Olsen

    We have a T4 , buck­et list job , my first ever adven­ture 1974 , was a trip round France with friends in a bay , mid 60,s , picked grapes , got laid in oth­er words the life of a 70,s stu­dent . Time moves on , now my wife and i live in France ‚have done for more than 15 yrs , to cut this long and tedious sto­ry i am rid­dled with can­cer , the ter­mi­nal kind , at this point peo­ple mum­ble the usu­al stuff , but this has noth­ing to do with my immi­nent demise , this is about vw t4,s . First , con­vert­ing it to fit my needs , toi­let , big­ger water tanks ‚plen­ty of 12 volt 230 for camp sites and my won­der­ful wife mak­ing it spe­cial inside , why a t4 ? , we are not poor , we dont have to bud­get for any­thing , we spend what we need to , We have a 2.4 lwb 4 berth pop top barn doors , Engine in great order , tat­ty paint work , to spray or not to spray ? . so why a t4 , i sup­pose it,s a foot in both worlds ‚if we had spent £30 k plus on a newish one we would of climbed aboard and sod­ded off , but the t4 means we can make it our own and although i can do none of the work myself friends and fam­i­ly make it eas­ier . This site is a god­send ‚oth­er sites the same , ideas all over the place ‚so thank you and i need to know charg­ing the leisure bat­ter­ies , best solu­tion , my body lacks pow­er ‚its dif­fi­cult to lift the pop top , any ideas ? , my body has a prob­lem with stay­ing warm , every­one else hot sweaty , and i shiv­er so heat­ing solu­tions , any sug­ges­tions , and of course awnings , all ideas grate­ful­ly received , thank you .