To restore car convertible top, often times replacing it completely is the only option, as it is nearly impossible to patch it up and have it look good. This is the part of car restoration that you would leave until the very end, or as in this case, the guys at Jeff Lillys restoration show you how to simply replace the old top with a new one. So on tho this segment of auto restoration.
Although it may look decent from twenty feet away, as you get closer you begin to see signs of aging, wrinkles and wear and tear, making this convertible a good candidate for a new soft top.
The old tension cord has snapped and the sides of the top are starting to lift up.
The first thing to do is to prepare everything. To protect the paint, the car has been covered up, also the back seat has been removed for easier access. This is a good time to do a thorough inspection and plan out exactly what you will be needing for the project.
Don’t forget to have new seals ready prior to beginning.
If possible, order the top with a glass rear window rather then the cheep plastic.
The alignment pins can be found at the front header above the sun visors. As you can see it does not line up,
The back seat is taken out so that there is room to freely work on the hydraulics.
Next remove the snap studs from the rear seat panel to get at the well liner and be able to go through the mechanisms.
Organize the parts you take out so that everything is easily accessible for reassembly.
The well liner will snap out of the channeling and you should be able to pull it out. Every car will be different, but the basics are the same.
Next remove the spring tension on the well liner rod under the liner.
Here it is out of the way and is to be replaced with a new one.
Nest remove the tack strip at the drain well which is below the rear window.
In this example the back window has it’s own section of top, thus has to be removed separately making this a more difficult project.
Next get the sail panels out of the way to allow for better access.
The listing screws, the weatherstip seals and the metal retainer all have to be removed at this point.
The staples holding in the wind lace have to go.
On the interior, behind the quarter window glass are the side flaps, the screws holding these in come out next.
The wire on trim cover on the last bow at the top is removed by screwing out the chrome covers and then simply pulled out with all the staples.
Then on to remove the rear curtain zipper retainer.
Poorly done past repairs are uncovered as the top cover is pulled off.
The glue at the sail panels should come off, but some of it may have to be cut out.
With the top gone, use the staple remover to take of the old stay pads.
With the top gone, it is much easier to remove the side seals.
Here is the old tension cable that was seen hanging off the side earlier. At this point is a good time to do any work on the frame, such as blasting and paint if you choose.
Now, back to installing the new top. Use some glue to retain the new tack strips in the channels
If needed you can use a sander to trim the channel materials down.
The back bow has a specific height measurement, you can use a piece of wood as a spacer to retain the proper measurements.
These are the balance link adjustment bolts, these have to be adjusted to pull the top forward and drop the pin at the front creating proper alignment. This is what controls the top coming in evenly on both sides.
Be sure to pick out staples that will fully go through the channel but not all the way to hit the bottom.
The side stay pad materials are installed first, these will keep the top tight and partially aligned.
Use a few staples to hold it in place and back off and check the alignment.
The bottom of the vinyl should be even with the edge of the header.
With the front header latched down in place, pull it back tight to remove any wrinkles. At the rear bow it steps down for materials to lay just before the drop off.
Next, inserting the foam pads, glue down and tightened.
The cable and the spring have to be in place before the flaps are glued down.
Check the old sail panel stay pad tack strip to see how they line up with the top for reference with the new replacements.
Match the factory line to the tops binding edge. Fold it up against the line and staple together.
Next reinstall the sail panel and the tack strip.
Tape the seams once it’s all installed to your satisfaction and prepare to put on the top.
The new top has a reference line for fitting the rear window.
Line up the metal tack strip to the reference lines and mark the places for the screws.
Here the back window is being mounted into the marked holes.
The top is unlatched so that it will be easier to install the rear window.
Staple the glass materials from the center out.
There are some wrinkles that have to be tightened out with some adjustments, but most of the time the sun and the heat will perfect it down the road.
The side binding edge has to be matched to the tack strip retainer.
You can see the reference line right on the edge here. This is exactly where you want it when you staple it into place. Staple a few for reference and if it all looks good go ahead and go across the entire thing.
Mark the front header for reference of the fold and then go a little over when you staple it into place to keep it nice and tight.
Now the sail panel tack strips can be screwed back into place.
The top is looking good but the sides will need to be tightened to remove those wrinkles.
This make shift curved iron is clamped in place to hold the quarter flaps after they are stretched. Next you can install the side rubber and check the door and quarter glass seals.
Glue it in and clean well prior to installing the weatherstipping.
Nearing the end it is important to take care and make those final adjustments like cutting and folding extra vinyl and stapling it into place.
Finally the wire on is stapled back onto the rear bow.
To get rid of those final persistent wrinkles you can use a steamer.
Finally, remember to snap in the well liner.
With the back seats in place and the plastic off there it is, a brand new convertible top finally installed on this classic car. So to restore car top you pretty much have to replace it, making this one of those things that you leave to the end of your classic car restoration.