I had done a bit of research, and head-scratching for a couple of years (and procrastinating) of the various ways to cover up and provide a solid foundation for the floorpan and other surfaces in my 1973 VW Thing.
I had purchased the Thing several years ago, done some modifications and repairs and had driven it to the beach on numerous occasions, then suddenly stopped one winter. Over the course of the years of it sitting in my garage I had decided to fix it up and either continue to drive it for fun, or get rid of it and move on to other projects. I would tinker with it and fix little things but never really got down to the nitty-gritty and do some real upgrades; partly due to the available time or my available money. Time and money never seem to go hand-in-hand. I have recently retired once again and found plenty of time on my hands; however, we’ll see how the money plays out once I see the retirement checks flow in.
The flooring areas in the Thing were awkwardly finished with a tan colored carpeting that my wife and I didn’t care for. After removing the seats and ripping out the carpeting I had found that the original floorpan had been replaced with a fiberglass pan and some decent industry standard body work in support of that new pan installation. There were also body modifications and repairs to eliminate rust-thru in the front luggage compartment and the lower exterior body panels. Some solid repairs, but those repairs were covered up with the hide-all carpeting. What I was left with was various glue residues, body tape and screws holding everything together. I just couldn’t see myself replacing the carpeting back on such visual and foundational melee and atrocities.
Reading the specifics about Herculiner, I had found that it bonds to pretty much any surface, compound or material with adequate surface preparation and proper masking. I had also found that it remains somewhat flexible because it is a rubberized compound. That was an important factor in my material selection since the product that I chose was to cover painted surfaces, as well as body-taped joints, cured but unhardened glues and flexible sealants. My Herculiner project was to cover fiberglass and body joints that required encapsulation to keep water, moisture, dirt, oils and greases from entering those areas. The overall project was to appear as to be one coated surface without edges and seams that can be discerned from one another. I couldn’t find another product that met my needs as close as Herculiner, and I couldn’t afford to have the Thing completely rebuilt or even have the necessary surfaces coated from a professional bed liner process. I also found Herculiner to be available at the home improvement retailer Lowes for about $80 a gallon, enough to do two coats (a thorough cover-up and protected surface) on a standard 6-foot truck bed and tailgate.
After deliberating a few more months and some more research into other various products, verifying the availability at my local Lowes store, finding other surfaces in my Thing that I was going to cover and finally convincing myself that this was the right product, I waited and procrastinated for a few more months. Finally, I had found an advertisement for Herculiner that was about $20 cheaper in an on-sale advertisement at NAPA Auto Parts; so I jumped on the opportunity and bought two 1-gallon Herculiner kits that included everything needed to apply the product except for necessary acetone for surface degreasing and cleanup. I also found that Xylene (for thinning, if necessary) is not available locally due to it being an ozone-depleting substance with higher volatile organic compounds (VOC) beyond California’s or San Diego’s air compliance regulations.
The Herculiner resurfacing project began several weeks ago with more parts removal and disassembly from the Thing, and a thorough pressure washing of all intended areas of application. I then spent about 16 hours over the course of three days carefully masking the areas (I cannot stress how important this is . . . a very unforgiving product). Using the provided scrubbing pad in the kit, I relentlessly attempted to scuff each and every surface to a dull appearance. After going through one supplied abrasive pad (similar to 3M brand), I utilized various other sandpaper grits from 100 to 180, small and large wire brushes and other abrasive pads that gave a bit more aggressive surface preparation, I finally got everything ready for acetone degreasing and final preparation for the Herculiner product.
Herculiner directions communicate anticipating 1-4 hours between coats at a fair ambient temperature (I was inside a my garage ~ 65 degrees) but to not exceed 24 hours (full cure), otherwise additional surface preparation will be required. This took careful planning since I was going to attempt to get three coats applied for extra coverage and blending of the dissimilar surfaces. Also, between the taping and the final acetone cleaning, I needed to fill voids with a sealant compound designed to remain flexible and accept painting. I used Dap Dynaflex Ultra to accomplish this using my nitrile-gloved finger to smooth it into the gaps and seams. It provided a good foundation for resolving the surface dissimilarities and it came in black as was the final finish of the Herculiner product. I allowed two weeks for an adequate cure time of the sealant.
After carefully planning 2-3 days for Herculiner application and tape removal (definitely necessary immediately following final coat application) as per the Herculiner directions, I began the application using the provided roller and brush. What I found is that the provided roller works fine for open areas and the brush is fine for the tight corners as the Herculiner directions outlined; however, since I was also doing the lower section of inside the the Thing’s door panels, the roller was not small enough to fit inside the pocket, and the provided brush could not be manipulated to accomplish dabbing vice a brushing stroke in those door panel areas. I was fortunate to have had a few heavy-nap 4” roller covers and an extra 4” handle available from previous house painting tasks. These proved to be very useful for applying the Herculiner to the inside of the door panels and the remainder of the Herculiner application (I could also reuse them for subsequent coats by wrapping tightly in a plastic bag) whereas the included roller in the Herculiner kit fell apart after the first coat. The instructions say not to use their supplied sponge material roller covers between coats (the kit provides two). Also the provided brush in each kit proved to be too flimsy for application using a dabbing method, so I had cut the other brush’s bristles to a shorter length. The brushes really didn’t last too long so I had several other cheap brushes that I cut the bristles to a short length and discarded each in between coats.
The first coat was applied by brush along all of the taped and masked areas, in all of the corners and hard to reach areas using the supplied brush. I then followed up with a quick first coat with the roller to give a good base for application of the subsequent coats as directed in the included instructions. The first coat is definitely not enough for final coverage as it thins during its curing. My first coat took almost 8 hours to dry to the touch, I believe because the vehicle had been sitting in the cool garage for several months and the metal surfaced were very cool to the touch prior to the first coat application. The subsequent coats dried to the touch much quicker.
The second and third coats were applied using my own 4” roller and my own cut brushes. This proved to be very effective as the second coat was sufficient for final coverage; but, what is better than two coats . . .? . . . three coats. I applied all three coats within two days and had enough time in the evening of the second day to remove the tape from the key areas where application lines were essential. During the tape removal process is where I found the rubberized quality to become apparent as the tape and Herculiner pulled some of the previous paint coatings off from poor paint preparation used from the earlier owners of the Thing. Once I removed the tape, I allowed the Herculiner to cure for three days before I re-sanded/scuffed those areas that had peeled as per instructions, then used a small application brush to do touch-up. The Herculiner also crept under some of the masking tape, but was able to be removed using the clean-up acetone and a bit of careful elbow grease.
A couple of tips for the application of Herculiner. Ensure you mask anything that may get over-brushed, over-sprayed or splattered upon (e.g garage floors). Cover yourself well and have plenty of nitrile gloves available (I went through about 3/4 of a box). Herculiner is some wicked stuff and is designed to adhere to damn near everything, and it does that very well. It will not come off of your skin without using acetone (not recommended). Have plenty of rags ready and some clean-up acetone available. Also have some butile gloves available for handling the acetone as it eats nitrile gloves swiftly.
More tips on using the Herculiner product include utilizing a mechanical (e.g drill operated) mixing attachment. As Herculiner cures with the moisture contained in the air, it became imperative to keep the container closed if not aggressively stirring, using the mechanical mixer or pouring into a roller pan. If maintaining a tightly closed container, Herculiner will not require thinning using the aforementioned Xylene. Keeping the Herculiner mixed well is important for the appearance of the rubberized texture gets evenly distributed through the application process. Read the instructions several times before you begin the application process as there are application tips throughout.
Herculiner is a really good product. My kids are already looking to apply Herculiner to their truck beds as it is about 1/8 the cost of having a similar product professionally applied. I am totally satisfied with Herculiner to this point. I have yet to review this product after several years after application; but with all of the subsequent, post Herculiner application work I have done reinstalling components in the vehicle, there is not yet a peel, scuff, tear or crack, Herculiner seems to be the right product to receive my coveted five eggplant rating 🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆.
An excellent product with excellent results.