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Full Sail Ahead

It’s common for 914 fanatics to remove the black vinyl from their sail panels and targa bar for a cleaner look.  Porsche even sold specific models of the 914 without the sail panel vinyl, but I decided to stick with my vintage stock look and replace it.  Better to curb my budget conforming to known standards than go overboard on shaved door handles, fender flairs and a spoiler.

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There is a great tutorial on the 914World forums for replacing sail panel and targa bar vinyl.  The first half of the article describes removing both interior and exterior trim, and stripping any residual dried glue from the body surfaces.  Since my body trim was already off, my work was much easier.  I started by scuffing the relevant targa body panels with a scrubby for good adhesion. It was a strange feeling destroying the beautiful new paint finish, but it was unavoidable.

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914 Appearance & Performance offers a precut sail panel kit for a very reasonable price online, but if you’d rather do it yourself, high quality exterior black vinyl is available from upholstery supply shops that match the original texture and finish perfectly.  Veteran Company in Los Angeles carries the “Cabrio” style, which is used for VW and Miata convertible tops.  I purchased a linear yard for under $30.  The major disadvantage of doing it yourself is that the original vinyl is probably history, so you’ll need to create the cutting patterns from scratch.  I used newspaper and tape to create the prototypes, and then tweaked and fiddled before committing the cuts to vinyl.

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Whether your vinyl is precut or not, it’s a good idea to have all of the aluminum trim handy to observe how it overlaps the body panels. Now is the time to get familiar with how the vinyl conforms to the panel contours and folds over the corners, and do any last minute trimming. It’s important to figure where the vinyl edges and seams must fall to be completely hidden under the trim.  This part needs to be exact, or the edges and seams will show beneath the trim. The best anchor point is the front lower corner, since the bottom edge of the vinyl will be aligned to just barely cover the lower trim strip mounting holes.  It’s good to take some time here, because once the contact cement is applied, there is no turning back.

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When the exact placement of the vinyl was certain, I temporarily taped it in place and then masked around it to define the exact area that would receive contact adhesive.  This area can be masked slightly smaller if you want to focus on the edges later, after the main part of the vinyl has already been glued down.

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A couple even coats of 3M Super Trim Adhesive is applied to both the backside of the vinyl and to the masked body surface, and then allowed a few minutes to become tacky. As seen above, the glue was sprayed all the way to the edges of the vinyl backing, so exact placement on the car will be crucial.   This adhesive is very strong, and trimming the circumference after the fact would be very unpleasant.

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Once the adhesive on the body panel has become tacky, remove the masking tape before applying the vinyl, or it could end up bonded to the material and be extremely difficult to remove later.  If adjustment is needed, it’s possible to peel the vinyl away from the car while the adhesive is still wet, but the aim is to get it right the first time.  The spray coat on the panel above looks a little thick and goopy, but it didn’t really make any difference in the vinyl surface finish.  I’m happy knowing the vinyl will never peel off unintentionally.

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Here is the vinyl permanently affixed to the sail panel.  I started by carefully pressing the lower left corner in place, and then aligning the bottom edge of the vinyl to just barely cover the trim holes across the bottom of the sail panel.  Once the bottom was attached, the alignment of the rest of the vinyl followed suit.  I smoothed and pressed the material into place with my hands, and then used plastic scissor handles to work the vinyl around the corners and firmly into the creases.

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I applied the targa bar top piece last, intending it to overlap both side vinyl panels at the joins.  The above image shows the targa bar masked, scuffed, cleaned, and ready for adhesive spray.  If any over-spray happens to land on the paint or upholstery, I recommend dropping everything and wiping it off before it begins to set.  Indeed, it happened to me.

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Here’s the finished product.  I left the corner edges of the top vinyl dangling until I’m ready to install the trim.  That way, I can play with the position of the overlapping vinyl layers relative to the trim and mounting screw holes underneath.  Then I’ll glue it down for good.  Until then, the aluminum trim needs to be stripped, straightened, polished, and re-anodized.

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2 Responses to “Full Sail Ahead”

  1. Dude… you are my total hero.

  2. One day, with hard work and a little determination, I shall become a superhero, and I will be allowed to turn my bobcat pin right-side up and eat at the grown up table.


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