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Technical Building a hidden folding top for my dad’s chopped 1936 Ford Cabriolet

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 36cab, Feb 8, 2019.

  1. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
    Posts: 542

    36cab
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    My dad had started building his custom 1936 Ford cabriolet back in 1957 but he never finished it. He worked on over the next 35 years but finally gave up on it in the early 1990s due to lack of money and getting older. My brother and I took the car out of storage in 2006 and finished it for him. I drove the car without a top or side windows for about five years after getting it back on the road. I decided to build a top for it after getting drenched in rain storms numerous times while driving the car. Dad’s plan was to always build a removable Carson style top for it but he never got around to it. I love the looks of a Carson top but their drawback is that you either leave home with it on and you are stuck with a top while the sun is shining or you leave home without it and get caught in the rain. Because of this reason I decided to build a folding top. But I also disliked the way the stock top folds down and sits up on the car and ruins the lines of the car. So my challenge was to build a folding top that has a good custom profile to fit the car and that is completely hidden when it is folded down. When it is down the top will be hidden in the well behind the seat. I did have an ace up my sleeve as my brother Ron is very mechanical and he was also foreman in a car upholstery shop for many years. His advice and help with building the top were priceless. So here is how we made it all work.
     
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  2. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
    Posts: 542

    36cab
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    I started out looking for a set of top bows that may work. My plan was to make top bows that when folded down would fit down in the space in the well behind the seat and be completely covered by a tonneau cover. The well already has a gas tank and battery in it so I had about 10 inches of room between the top of the gas tank and the top of the car’s beltline to work with. I bought a set of mid 70s MG Midget top bows on ebay for $25. The problem with these bows is that they were about 10 inches too narrow and about 18 inches to short.


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  3. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
    Posts: 542

    36cab
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    02.JPG I cut the bows apart and made some 10 inch filler pieces. I only widened two of the three bows. I curved these pieces to match the original bow’s profile by bending them over my knee. I added solid rod to the end of each piece to sleeve it into the originally hollow bows before welding them in and grinding them smooth.
     
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  4. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    The front of the bows were a little trickier as I needed to extend them 18 inches but they had to fold small enough to fit down in the well when folded. We determined that 5 inches had to fold back. I built a hinged extension that will fold back on its self to make the bows short enough to fit in the well.


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  5. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    I left the overall height of the top bows at their original height. This allowed me to use all of the stock hinge and pivot points so the top would fold down as designed. To get the top profile and height that I wanted I moved the mounting brackets 8 inches lower than the stock 36 mounting location. The mounting point is now down inside the well attached to the post channels behind the doors with a bracket. They are mounted about 4 inches in from the side of the car. I also mounted it 8 inches below the top body line so when it is folded it is completely under the body line. When the top is up the scissor mechanism is next to the side of the seat.


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  6. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    My dad had made an oak header for the windshield years ago for the windshield. It was just roughed in and not finished. I whittled and sanded it down a bunch and stained it and varnished it. The header uses the stock 36 Ford pins on the top of the windshield. I then bolted the hinged extension that I made to the header.


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  7. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    I wanted the profile of the top to look racy and sleek to match the lines of our chopped and lowered custom. I cut and moved the bows around until I was happy with the profile. After every change I folded the top down to make sure it still fit down in the well. I ended up moving the rear bow up 2 inches and back 2 inches. I used newspaper to mock up the top material while I was changing the bows around.


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  8. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    The top will be covered in white material to match the interior color so after I was happy with the profile and how everything folded I covered the reworked profile in white butcher paper to get an idea of what it would look like. Interesting enough, when I covered it with paper it looked more like a Carson top than a folding top but at least it gave me an idea of the new profile that I came up with 07.JPG 07A.JPG
     
  9. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    Ron first made a practice top out of black Sunbrella awning material to check the fit. Once he was happy with the fit he cut the practice top a part and used it for patterns


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  10. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    Ron no longer works in the upholstery business but he has a friend that owns a shop and he was nice enough to let us use his shop and sewing machines over a weekend to sew the top. A big thank you to Steve Luedtke at Auto Interiors and Convertibles in Cedar Rapids Iowa. I chose Haartz Bison Grain white material for the top material and Steve order the material for me. I also bought a new rear window frame and glass from LeBaron-Bonney.


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  11. 36cab
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    After that it was just Ron doing his thing sewing the top up. He still knows his way around a sewing machine after being out of the upholstery business 25+ years!


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  12. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    After it was all sewn up it was time for a trial fit. Ron also incorporated a large zip in panel that the rear window is in. This allows us to unzip the back of the top when it is not raining and lets the air flow through while we are driving so that the top does not billow.


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  13. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    With some minor alterations everything was looking good so it was time to finish up 12.JPG 12A.JPG
     
  14. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    When my dad had the front seat upholstery sewn back in the 1980s, he had enough matching material sewn up to make a tonneau cover.


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  15. 36cab
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    After fitting the finished top Ron finished fitting and sewing up the tonneau cover 14.JPG 14A.JPG 14B.JPG
     
  16. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    As you can see, with the top folded down and the tonneau on, the top is completely hidden.


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  17. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    I think we achieved a good profile that matches the look of the car.


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  18. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    This was a fun project. I had a couple of months in working and reworking the MG top bows to get the profile that I wanted. Ron was able to whip out sewing the top in one long Saturday and then finish the tonneau cover in a couple of hours the following Sunday morning. I can now leave home on a sunny day and quickly put the top up if it starts to rain. It takes about 5 minutes to put the top up. Now I just need to get my butt in gear and chop the side glass and put the roll up windows back in!
     
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  19. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,537

    alchemy
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    Very nice. My daughter has a 73 MG Midget and I always wondered if a top from one of them would be a good donor to an old Ford.
     
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  20. flynbrian48
    Joined: Mar 10, 2008
    Posts: 6,090

    flynbrian48
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    Looks great, I like the swoopier profile as compared to the original bows.
     
  21. low down A
    Joined: Feb 6, 2009
    Posts: 157

    low down A
    Member

    i think that car would look good with just about any top. cool car
     
  22. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 2,080

    41rodderz
    Member
    from Oregon

    My Dad has a '36 Cabriolet with the rumble seat. Fortunately his has the original bows and wood. Original black paint as well. Good to see another. :cool:
     
  23. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 735

    goldmountain

    Looking good. I'm just curious as to how you are going to make the seal between the top and the new door glass.
     
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  24. 36cab
    Joined: Dec 2, 2008
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    36cab
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    Ron sewed a second flap towards the inside so that the window can sandwich in the fabric channel between the outside of the top and this flap to somewhat seal it off.
     
  25. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
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    F&J
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    That whole car is so old time sweet...and thanks for the tip from your brother about sewing up a practice top. I need all the pro tips I can find. I have 2 prewar convs to go, and i'd like to get better with sewing stuff.
     
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  26. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 2,080

    41rodderz
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    from Oregon

    Didn't you get married for that reason?:D
     
  27. Great job. My 40 convert has been chopped for about 30 years. You hit all the important points on doing a chopped folding top.
     
  28. Nailed it! Super nice.
     
  29. ss34coupe
    Joined: May 13, 2007
    Posts: 3,958

    ss34coupe
    Member

    yes, I agree, looks great!
     
  30. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 990

    Hollywood-East
    Member

    Awesome job!! (.)(.)'s
     

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