Garage => Interiors & Exteriors => Topic started by: BCK1963 on 05 November 2020, 04:33 AM

Title: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: BCK1963 on 05 November 2020, 04:33 AM
As I understood from the feedback to my recent intro and to previous posts in this forum, there is some demand for information about curtains for the W116. So I fetch back all repressed memories and tell you my passion story.
I purchased my curtains on ebay from 'Altstern Sonderausstattungen'. Their offers of curtain sets have previously been discussed on this forum. They offer a lot of parts advertised as NOS, imo considerably overpriced. At first glance the curtains seemed NOS as well and only after the purchase I heard that they are suspected to sell repros of many parts. After 27 years in the oldtimer scene and 8 years with MB I should have smelled those inconsistencies but afterwards you always know better.
As far as I have learned MB offered these curtains for the W 116 upon special request, and they came exclusively in black. Only after they became more standard for the W126, aftermarket suppliers offered them in various colors also for the W116. There were a few manufacturers for the rails and curtains and even fewer of them still seem to produce the parts. That may not be correct in all details.


When I received them the curtains were of a very good quality. I have not seen originals in real life but they looked very similar on photos. The metal installation parts were stained and partly corroded. Installation would process with the parts in image 1.1: The rear rails and lower door rails to be bolted like the left in 1.2 and the upper door rails like the right. I missed to add self-securing nuts which are supplied. The rails in general also seemed to be of a good quality. The rear window rails were bent and had matching corner plugs. The upper and lower door rail ends were a mess: The plugs were too small and looked like cut with a knife (image 2.1). The lower rail rear ends and upper rail front ends had a piece of plastic in them, apparently to prevent the curtain hangers from sliding out (pic 2.3). No installation plan came with it, and a plan for the W116 doesn't seem to exist. You have to adapt actions from the W126 plan.


 If that was just a disappointment, now the real mess started as, in an attempt to peel one of the plugs out of the rail I broke it off and eventually I even lost it. I called the seller and wanted to return it, which he accepted first, but refused when I said that a plug was missing as he wouldn't be able to sell it again. So my case is not an exception but apparently standard. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned the loss but since it was Corona time with closed borders and I had to arrange shipping and mail pickup from Germany  via friends I didn't want to take the risk of having shipped the stuff back, which he would not accept and return everything again on my costs.
The seller offered to send me the right plugs for free but had to admit later that he didn't have any. Instead he sent me four new rails for the doors with the same violated plugs for free.
So I had to make the best of what I got, and basically I wanted to have those curtains.

As a general hint, the rails are made of ABS, which is an amorphous thermoplastic. It cannot be bent to narrow curves without breaking. Heating with a hot air dryer must proceed carefully as too much heat creates small bubbles on the surface.
The rails have a considerable amount of intrinsic tension which leads to uncontrolled bending when heated. As a rule: They will always bend in the undesired direction. Touching and bending the softened rails will squeeze the tracks which guide the curtain hangers. When that happened I pulled a thick screw driver through the tracks after warming them again in order to open the gap again. It takes some time to get the feeling for all these manipulations.
From the beginning I intended to do the installation with the possibility to return to the original status, just I case. In order to not drill holes into pieces of my original interior, I bought the rear roof part, the door panels and upper door frame vinyl strips on ebay. The roof and vinyl parts matched in color perfectly and needed only cleaning. Parchment door panels were very expensive and  bought cheap ones with other colors and intended to spray paint them. I tried two vinyl sprays from FGS Lederfarben in Germany but the color differences were too strong and I ultimately used my original panels.

Rear window rails:
The rear window rails didn't fit very well and in particular the outer narrow curves needed to be modified. I made a kind of template for the lower rear rail to fix it on a wooden plate (3.1). I heated it for some minutes and let it cool down which brought a fairly good result. The secret is to warm it in steps of ca. 20 cm, bend it along the template line and let it cool to stiffness. Fix the bent sections along a track of nails to the plate. At a later stage I had to repeat that but with a different method.
To bend the upper rail I took a thick wire, bent it along the roof curves and heated / bent the upper rail along that curve. It sounds easier than it is as this piece is modelled three dimensional. The ends of this rail are supposed to be fixed to the long roof panel pieces with screws. I found that not being necessary as the drag from the curtains being installed don't bend the rail ends.


Installation on the parcel shelf is a major challenge. The lower rear rail is supposed to be fixed on the shelf with threaded pins as shown in 1.2, left,  which reach through the body metal underneath the shelf, and to be fastened with screw nuts from inside the trunk. Firm fixation is essential because the drag from the curtains would otherwise lift the shelf. Drilling matching holes through honeycomb-type of body metal without a template seems tough, if not impossible. I removed the parcel shelf and bolted the rail with the pins to the wooden shelf plate along the rear rim to be positioned a few mm in front of the curved rear trim piece which covers the vent slots.  Underneath I shortened the thread pins to the level of the nuts. Then I cut aluminium stripes, ca. 10- 20 cm x 6 cm, and pushed them between the pad on the shelf and the wooden plate along the entire length in a way that they reach underneath the tight rail (4.1). By doing so they are firm and don't move easily and the other half of the width will later be covered and held down by the curved trim piece. I put the shelf and trim piece back in place and fixed the trim from inside the trunk (4.2, 4.3).


My car is equipped with contemporary Pioneer speakers, the covers of which are wider than the original MB speakers. This requires the lower rail's ends to be shortened a bit. Unfortunately I cut it too much. That would later create a notable gap between the outer curtain edge and the rear edge of the C-column panel. I hoped I could live with it but after a few days I found that I could not (I mentioned that I tend to be a perfectionist). The seller demanded 112 €(!!!) for a new rail by mail and 90 € for self pickup. A german friend was ready to pick it up but a few hours before the pickup the seller phoned me and said that he didn't have the right color available, new supply would take months. Also, the correct plugs are not available anymore. I tracked down the manufacturer of these rails who happened to be located in Russia. Ultimately no way for me to get a new rail at reasonable conditions.
 Since I was at a point where I didn't want to throw more money after this seller I decided to create a new rail from the two lower window rails which the seller sent me as spare parts. With the experience meanwhile gained in warming and bending this eventually ended well. I cut them to the right length, fixed them in the middle of the shelf end-to-end as close as possible and warmed it inch by inch only along the narrow curves around the speakers, fixing them bolt by bolt as I went along towards the outer ends (3.2). This bolting along the way is a better way than fixing it with nails, see above.
Needless to say that in the course of that job I was repeatedly tempted to tear it all out again, beat the whole cr…p to pieces and return everything to originality.

Door rails:
The door rails are unsymmetric along the longitudinal axis, with a higher and lower side (1.2). The question is what side should point to the window and what side inwards. The seller displays some installation examples on his website     and sent me several more by mail. In addition I received some close-ups from 6.9s which were presented in car journals and the owners of which I was able to track and contact. They were happy to provide help. Ultimately I installed the door rails with the lower side towards the window as this fits better with the shaping of the door panels they are mounted on. This is the MB factory way (5.1, 5.2), the seller does it differently (6.1, 6.2)


In order to make the rough cut plugs fit smooth I carefully heated 5 – 7 cm of the rail end section and flattened the edges increasingly deeper down to the level of the plug. This flattening leads to a squeeze of the side walls and closure of the middle track where the curtain hooks are running in. I cut the tracks open again with a knife. Care must be taken to ensure that rims remain to later hold and guide the curtain hangers. Eventually I fine-grinded the rail end with sand paper under water and polished it with car polish.
The rear ends of the lower rails were a different problem. The seller's way of placing them is different from MB factory installations (5.1, 5.2) as his reach over the chrome bracket which separates the lower door panel from the rear upper panel piece (6.2). I went for the MB style and cut off the rear section with the cutout in an angled way as pictured. The rear section of the lower door panel has a very pronounced edge where the rail with the plug will rest on. In order to have the rail rest as close as possible to the door panel, a deepening needs to be grinded underneath the rail and plug. The panel edge will rest in that deepening (7.1, 7.2). To fix it on the panel drill four holes with 6 mm, make sure the drills are exactly vertical.


It is not necessary to warm the entire lower rail for adjustment of the curved rear part.
The upper door rail rear ends need to be heated and bended down a bit in order to follow the upper door frame line. The seller apparently didn't bend them and as he installed the door rails with the high side to the window the rails don't seem to fit in place, see 9.1. They are supposed to be fixed underneath the upper door frames as pictured in 1.2, right example. The small fastening plates to be screwed onto the frame and finally the rail to be pushed over the plates from rear. To my understanding the shape of the rear door frame doesn't permit that, so I developed another way. I removed the long vinyl stripe panels under the doorframe and fixed the rails on the underside with screws from the upper panel side. The screws must be as short as possible since they might reach into the tracks for the curtain hangers and block the way. Ultimately I glued the outer edge of the vinyl panel to the upper door frame with a good industrial cement. Due to a minor fault I had to remove one side again after a day. It needed some force to loosen it but the vinyl and paint on the door frame weren't hurt.

Putting the curtains in place:
Eventually the curtains could be inserted. The rear curtains are supposed to hang with tension between the upper and lower rail, 8.1, and not like a hammock as mine did, 8.2.  I received photos from the seller which suggest that he mounted the lower rear rail on the curved trim piece. The gained distance would cause the curtains to tighten.  I can't see how that would work given the shape of the piece which would not permit an entire overlapping with the rail.


The hammock style wouldn't be visible with the curtains fixed to the side panels as in image 9.2 and 10.1 but I always liked the view of them as on 8.1.  So I decided to see a taylor who could shorten the two curtains by making an overlap on the bottom side which would later be invisible and retain the distinctive seam with the welds as on image 9.3. I emphasized the need to maintain an original look.


The young taylor, over-enthusiastic, wanted to do a more professional job by opening the entire lower seam and sewed the inner darker band which holds the hangers visibly on the outside. This included the destruction of all of the unique 'welds' along the seam beyond repair. We agreed on an insurance case and I received the money for a new set of rear curtains (250 €). The taylor later said she was sort of scared when she saw my face when she presented her work.
The new curtains had much less of a hammock effect, but given the work to correct that I may do that some time in the future ….. or never.
The fixation of the rear curtains to the panel of the C-column was supposed to be done with a screw directly through the fixing strap into the panel, 10.1. In order to avoid this I made two metal sheet plates which hold the curtain straps as in 10.2. These sheets can be pushed between the panel and the C-column metal.


The door curtains fit much better. Tension is good and they are easy to insert. The remaining question is how to attach them to the rear curved panel piece, in particular whether to the inner or outer side. I have no close-up from either way and don't know the MB factory way. I think I read that they need to be cemented to the panel which I didn't like with the option in mind to return all to the original status.


I was seeking a method to not give it a rough-cut appearance.
The rear ending of the door curtains is excessively long and it seems like the excess needs to be cut off . I made an aluminium strip as highlighted in yellow on pic 11 , ca. 1 cm wide and 1 mm thick, pre-bent it and clamped it tight between the upper and lower rail plug in a way that its entire length presses firmly against the panel line. So I could clamp the curtain tight to the panel between panel and strip and cut off the excess. I fixed the strip with three pins through holes previously drilled, on the image yet to be painted beige. Unfortunately I cut off a bit too much on the left side and afterwards the rear end folds of the right curtain fell much better than on the left side but with regard to all the work and the price for a new set of door curtains (200 €) I will have to get used to it.

To those of you who may not be deterred and still consider installing such curtains:
Sources are only a few and it seems as if the remaining producers of parts for the sets exit the business. The former manufacturer company Salzar now produces deluxe curtains exclusively for Rolls and the like.
Besides seller 'Altstern-Sonderausstattungen' I know only company Steenbuck to supply them:
Steenbuck demands up to 800 € for a set, depending upon color. At Altstern you may get them for ca. 500 €. Available colors are limited. The guy is always friendly on the phone and sends pics but he cannot send what doesn't have, and he is not overly open in that.
Currently he offers a set explicitly advertised as NOS, see 12:


 The zoom suggests that the rear ends of the lower door rails have the same recess as the ones he sent to me and which he uses, 2.2, 6.2, 9.2.  I would not consider this a MB level of detailing, in particular as 5.1 and 5.2 show MB installations. So, without accusing him directly, to me this appears to be a fake. The condition of the shipping box with the MB sign also seems a little too good for NOS. But I may be wrong.
If I'd buy again from him then only with personal pick-up and a chance to check what I get.

The entire job took me several months. Was it worth it?  The rear curtains are a considerable disadvantage when parking backwards. The expense due is also notable but the joy remains when the price is long forgotten. Eventually and after all the struggles, it feels good to have finished the job. Last but not least: The awe in public response is unbeatable, maybe in particular with a matching color combination. And my car being named a perfect dictator car is kind of the ultimate laurel   8).
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: rumb on 05 November 2020, 07:26 AM
Thanks for your detailed how to manual.  Quite a project!
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: raueda1 on 05 November 2020, 08:16 AM
Absolutely great!  I've been hoping for a post like this for a long time.  Quite a job.  Thanks so much!
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: nathan on 05 November 2020, 11:21 AM
great pictorial post, well done.
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: daantjie on 05 November 2020, 11:56 AM
Very impressive indeed, full marks ;)!
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: ptashek on 05 November 2020, 03:51 PM
Impressive, and kudos for being this patient. I'd likely chuck the lot in the bin within minutes...
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: Taha on 05 November 2020, 08:12 PM

Very nice job and thank you so much for sharing it with us. I just wanted to mention that the rear doors curtains are supported by the curved panel and it's 2 screws. Installing those curtains is a bit tricky and need patience because you have to align the holes on the door, curtain and panel together otherwise you might make holes on the curtains which happened to me and I had to shorten and punch them again to fix the problem.


Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: BCK1963 on 05 November 2020, 11:34 PM
Hi Taha,

thanks for the Input. My curtains didn't have that closed end seam with the holes. Mine were just cloth cut off.
Your rear curtains seem to have the right stiffness, just as I like it but don't have  :'(.

Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: Randys01 on 07 November 2020, 03:29 PM
OMG!.  a PhD in curtain instlln.!..........breathtaking dead set mongrel of a job...take a deep bow not only for doing the job but documenting it so well.
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: 6.9original on 07 November 2020, 07:50 PM
Thank you, BCK1963.

i have a set from Altstern too and haven't started to fit them yet ... I have the exact same observations about poor track end finish etc, and lack of instructions.

I will try anyway, and will eventually let you know how I go.
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: floyd111 on 08 November 2020, 06:43 AM
..What all of them said! ;D Epic write-up.

As far as the French brothers are concerned, being overpriced is one thing one can accept or not.
They are using at least 4 or 5 AKA's online, probably to rid themselves from bad feedback effects.
I ended up being blackmailed by them. Doubling prices on me -after the deal, after making payment- but before shipping, for half a MB suitcase set, because they knew I had purchased the other half elsewhere, all of it useless if not complete. Another 700 euros, AFTER I paid 700 is what they wanted. That s where I drew the line. Luckily I got my money back, but was left with only half a set of suitcases.

The MB box in your photo carries a logo and a star that were not in German use until 1989, and in reality several years later. There are no NOS items from the 70's or 80's with that box-print.
Items sanctioned by MB but commissioned by a foreign country-MB distributor outside Germany, like a French or Japan MB distributor could, would follow the current German font. That ain't it.
Only third parties with a remote affiliation/permission from MB would be forced to use out-of-era MB fonts and stars, where star and font would need to be from 2 different era's, both unlike the then-current ones. That ain't it.
(Just look at f.e. any MB watch ever made before the 90's. Production date and font/star are always out of tune.)
So, these curtains are either wrongly packed, falsely packed, and/or produced after 1990. I can't imagine MB would be producing W116 or W126 curtains after 1990.
So what's the story?  They have colors to choose from, and regular restocking. All very interesting.

Besides all of that noise, I would love me a set of curtains, the thick, starched version. Ready-to install, without all the DIY. Hats off to you for persisting!
Did you contact Steenbuck? I did, years ago, but nothing came of it. Must have been a dead end. Can't remember the details.

You also spoke of MB only making black sets "on request" Might you have hard data to substantiate any of that? I have not been able to find any such data.
What I think I know is that it was a regular W116/W126 option with a number, and like most interior parts from back when, there were colors to pick from.
Very few were ever made, and like all vinyl and cloth items, always the very first to get discontinued.

Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: G Johnson on 08 November 2020, 11:11 AM
Would they not make white sets so they could be dyed ?
Those sellers have some nice stuff but there is no way
I would pay their prices or deal with them
Graeme Johnson
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: 6.9original on 08 November 2020, 04:34 PM
Altstern tried to get about another 50 Euro from me for freight after the fact. They'd already sent them. Seeing they were not cheap and have deficiencies as noted, I ignored them. They are definitely not factory originals. Altstern are gunslingers.
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: BCK1963 on 09 November 2020, 04:00 AM
Seems like my experience with Altstern is among the better compared to what they are good for.

I fear I cannot tell much more than I already wrote

There are two Steenbuck Shops:    who sells coth,carpets, leather, etc.      who sells cars.

I talked to Joerg Steenbuck from  repeatedly. A friendly and chatty guy who told me a lot About the history of curtains in W116. He promised my two times to send me photos, and never did. Even when I said that I wanted to purchase a rail from him he promised to call back but never did.
Steenbuck told me that he asks between 600 and 800 € for a set, depending upon color. I don't know if his curtains are made from the same templates as Altstern's.


Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: Youcef W116 on 22 January 2021, 02:12 PM
Thank you very much for sharing and special thanks for the pics and the details .....I'll start thinking about installing curtain into my W116 , i will dream about it before sleeping today .

Best Regards,
Title: Re: Curtains pains'n'gains
Post by: Braminator123 on 04 March 2021, 04:06 AM
Your persistence and patience is extraordinary!

Thank you for sharing your experience.