Repair and Maintenance Of Your Imperial's Package Tray


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Question from  Tim:

Almost everyone who has an Imperial that has that woven/wicker/ material on the package shelf under the rear window must need to replace it eventually. The stuff is so delicate when it gets old and was used in the worst place were sun and water and condensation (if you have rear air outlets) got to it.

What is the replacement material and were is it gotten? I am going to try "monk cloth" and "Aida cloth" but there must be a closer match available? Any suggestions? I have it in my '63 were the rear air duct condensation has stained and weakened it and I have it in my '57 where it is on two levels and the lower level is damaged because it is so easy to put an elbow or hand on it.

Replies:

From Chris:

I have seen where nylon lawn chair fabric works perfectly. (Sold at most fabric stores.) Don't worry about color, just find some with the right weave and texture. Spray paint it the color you want and install. It is usually not wide enough, so you will likely have to buy two yards. Total cost, including paint, should be under $20.

From Kerry:

I found a material that looks like it will do nicely. It is outdoor furniture fabric. It is plastic but looks like a woven fiber. It comes in several colors but can be dyed with vinyl dye in any color. I think it was about 10 buck s a yard (54" wide) and you need two yards as 54" is not enough to cover the tray. However two yards would do at least two trays, maybe three.

Any upholstery place can get it.

From Bill:

Riches Custom Upholstery has the orig. material in his shop here in Seattle. When I had my '63 it was quite brittle, and he replaced it for virtually nothing when he did my seats. I don't have his number offhand, but you may look him up in the 206 area code under:

Rich's Custom Upholstery 

Aurora Ave. N. & 100th St.

He did a lot of restoration work on my '60 Convertible, was very knowledgeable and reasonably priced. His bread and butter though is GM cars 50's thru '60's. If you want any kind of original material please save yourself some time and call him!


Tips from Jay (1966):

I decided to try finding the mesh material at a fabric or upholstery supplier. I did that and found a vinyl mesh that closely resembles the original. I purchased 1 yard of this material and a spray can of vinyl dye that is very, very close to the original color of the factory piece. Pleased with my purchase, I headed home to get the project moving.

At home I proceeded to remove the old tray by taking out the entire back seat (it's easier than it sounds) and the chrome trim pieces around the back window and rear seat. I also had to walk into the trunk (crawling entry not necessary in a '66 Imp trunk!) and disconnect the rear window "blower." (it doesn't "defrost" very well) The old piece was removed in a hail of disintegrated mesh "dust." The mesh that remained stuck to the tray was easily removed by gentle shaving with a putty knife and a little sandpaper. Since the tray "pressboard" was a natural tan color, I decided to paint it black so the speaker grill holes would not show through the new mesh material.

At this time I made two discoveries that will change the course of the day. 1) I purchased 1 yard (36 inches) of mesh - the roll of stock is 60 inches wide - 2 inches too short to cover the whole tray, and 2) The can of near perfect colored vinyl dye was old and it had NO PROPELLANT! Sure it came out of the can - in a 10 foot stream! I figured that I could "get creative" with the mesh and do some sort of "overlap" thing on each side near the B pillar. At first I thought that the problem with the can of dye was a bad nozzle, so I went back out to locate a new nozzle. Did I mention that this nozzle is not the standard run-of-the-mill paint can nozzle? This nozzle is not the "plunger" type you see everyday - it has a hinge!?! When I did find a replacement nozzle it shot the same 10 foot stream.

It was late in the afternoon on Friday and stores were closing down for the day. The can of dye and fabric was purchased 20 miles away and they were already closed. The car was apart and I was not willing to wait till tomorrow to get this project done. I had lost my patience. I needed a new can of dye and nobody else stocked it. I decided on PAINT - I would find a similar color and that would be that. HA! Nothing I found even came close. I ended up with gray (similar in shade but color off a bit) I got back home from running to get the paint to find that my fiancÚ' had tried to get one of the nozzles to work and ended up spraying down the kitchen in the process and ruining the can (I planned on returning it for a refund). She had also shot the mesh piece and, heavy with thick dye, was stuck to the newspapers that I had placed down for "overspray." Having a yard of mesh and only using a strip of about 12 inches, I had plenty of extra material (2 inches too short of course) so I cut a new strip.

With the new piece painted and dry, it was now time to apply the mesh to the tray. I used weatherstrip adhesive to glue the mesh to the tray. I found that the stiff vinyl mesh didn't fold over edges very easily, so I employed the help of several small "cut tacks" to hold the mesh down until the adhesive dried.

When I finally installed the completed tray - WOW, what a difference! It looked wrong - WAY WRONG! Wrong color - there isn't any gray on this car anyway. What the hell was I thinking? (I think my brain already left prior to that decision) The sun was real close to the horizon. Did I mention that I was doing this in my Apt complex carport? No electricity. No sun = no light. I calmly removed the tray and declared it's next color to be BLACK since that was the only other can of paint that I had. The tires are black, the weatherstripping is black, the Imp's vinyl top is black. Black goes with everything, right? It'll look good, right? WRONG! It looked wrong. Not way wrong but wrong for the interior. Not good enough and I was not happy.

I truly believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, decided that I was not to complete the task that day. He knew that I purchased inadequate materials and I was making hasty decisions. I figure that God too must love Imperials, as he was not about to let me alter the car in a way that would render it an eyesore or disgrace the Imperial line.

I placed the back seat back into the car and locked it up. I didn't even clean up my mess in the house. Not finishing a task to completion and leaving a mess are not my style. My fiancÚ's fingernails reminded me of the color that I wanted the PACKAGE TRAY to be. (reference the "kitchen incident")

The next day, armed heavily with my hard lessons learned, I went back to the establishment that sold me the "too short" mesh (my fault) and "bad" can of vinyl dye (their fault). I came out with 65 X 60 inch piece of mesh and a can of the proper color dye that actually sprays like it's supposed to! Things were looking up.

At home, back in the carport, I removed the rear seat and tray. I removed the too-short-and-black mesh. Using the old piece as a pattern, I cut the new piece (at 65 inches) and dyed it the desired color. The colored dye worked great - it covered evenly and dried very quickly. I used the same technique of adhesive and temporary tacks to fasten the mesh to the tray. The tray was then installed in the car. At the leading edge (front) of the tray I had left about 3 inches of mesh overhanging. This is similar to the original piece. This overhang was then stretched and glued to the body that supports the seatback. The seatback was then bolted into place. From inside the trunk, I used a razor blade to make a slit in the mesh to use as a guide for the subsequent cut-out for the rear window "blower." The blower bezel was hand polished to remove oxidation and waxed.

With everything fresh and assembled, the results are striking. What a difference from the old, broken, faded piece that came out. I will remember this restoration episode everytime I look into the rear window and see that beautiful tray.


Question from Chris (1966):

How do I repair the package tray in my Imperial?

Replies:

From Elijah:

Take a piece of the fabric from the package tray with you and visit some fabric stores. Ask them for outdoor furniture fabric. I found some at a fabric store here in Chattanooga last year that was almost an exact match for my package tray.

It's very easy to glue the new fabric onto the package tray with some 3-M spray adhesive (available at WalMart or any auto parts store). If the cardboard part of the tray is cracked or broken, first glue on some plain fabric (I used a piece of an old bed sheet), then attach the outdoor furniture fabric over that. Then you can just spray paint the whole thing, and it will look like new! You can have a paint shop mix a can to the original color, or you can probably find something pretty close at WalMart or wherever.

The spray paint works really well, by the way. The outdoor furniture fabric I found was pink and white striped! But a couple of coats of Midnight Blue Metallic spray paint made it all look like it was the original thing. :o)

From Dave:

When I did my '60 , I used the backing fabric that is used in cross stitch ! it has that coarse woven effect , just needed fixing to a new cardboard then paint it , cost less than 10 dollars to do.


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