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Convertible Top Installation

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Pasta, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Does anyone have any tips or tricks of the trade to offer regarding the installation of a two piece convertible top? The rear window curtain is seperate from the main top material.
    My trouble is in the attachment of the window curtain at the well area, where it attaches to the bolt-on trim sticks. I can't seem to get the material between the dutchman panel and the glass rear window wrinkle free. I have installed and removed it several times to remove staples and reposition it, and although it's getting better, there are still wrinkles and sags at the outer edges closest to the quarter panels.
    Once I finally get this window curtain installed correctly, I dread having to remove it to install the main top over it! LOL
    It's an OT 1969 Dodge Dart, but the top install process is the same since the 40's design.
    I can't afford to have it professionally installed. The local top guy wants $750 just to install it, and now I know why. Those of you that may do this for a living earn every penny, and my hat's off to you!

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Thanks in advance, guys.

    George
     
  2. First of all, I think you're brave to try install the top yourself. I read up on installing a top and it warned about looseness and tightness of the installation. Then I thought, not for me; leave it to a professional. You should save coin and have it installed by a pro. That local guy that wants 750 seems very reasonable to me. I got quoted over a grand for my GTO...and that was over 10 years ago.
     
  3. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    Wish I could see it. Pics possible ? Anyway, the curtain should have had some marks on it. Some mark the top edge of the tack strip as a locator and some mark the bolt holes. Make sure these are correct. One common mistake is to staple the curtain (or top for that matter) at one end and then just staple around to the other end. NO! Staple one end till you know it's secure and then staple at the other end (wherever it goes, you should have marked the ends where the old curtain was) then you stretch the part of the curtain(or top) in between and staple.
    Another factor and I cannot remember if yours has a 1 pc or 3 pc tack strip but if it's a 3 pc you want the gap between the pieces exactly like it was before. You have some wiggle room via the elongated bolt holes to adjust stuff.
    Center the curtain on the center of the rear bow, pull up to the correct bow height (you did check bow height, right ?). If the pads were installed right they will allow you to pull the curtain up to the correct position. Staple at center, pull up tight at the pads and staple there and fill in between pulling tight as you go.
    As for the top, once you have the curtain right, unbolt the tack strip from the car, staple on the top (aligning new top to same position as old top at the tack strip) bolt back in and go from there.
    Maybe we can get you going the right way on the curtain and address other parts of the install as they come up.
    Sure wish we had some pictures. Can you do that ?
     
  4. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    Price is dependent on location and market. My labor book calls for 9 hours for complete install. I can normally do one in about 7. The one thing to remember, trimmers make their living both selling product and installing those products. If you show up with your own top and want it installed , you just cut the trimmer out of substantial profit. He can do yours for $750 but the same car with the trimmer providing the materials might net him $1000 .He may be charging you more than his normal labor rate to make up some of that profit. Not uncommon at all. I actually have a sign at my shop that tells you I charge more labor if you bring in your own material. Some won't install customer's stuff at any price. I gave a guy a price once for a new top on a 450SL. He thought it was too high, and ordered one off Ebay and then brought it to me to install. I did it at a higher labor cost (told him this up front and he thought he was still money ahead). The top has been nothing but trouble for him. Must have been sewn in China or Bangladesh or ???.Not all tops were created equal.
     

  5. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Flinttim--

    Thanks for the lesson.
    I approached the local top guy last year, and he's the one who sent me to the place I bought it from. He told me what to buy, and, at the same time, told me how much he'd charge for the install. Only problem is, I am now flat broke. If I didn't already have the top, I would have left the old one on it all ripped to shreads. LOL
    Anyway, when I bought the car the rear window/curtain was already cut out of the car, but I was able to take measurements from the rear bow to the window zipper so I know I'm within 1/8" of the original location.
    Short update.....today I removed the curtain from the car and repositioned the lower end on the trim stick and got it to fit tightly, so at least it looks good so far.
    I did record the bow height as I disassembled the old top so at least I had that. The stay pads are new as well.
    Next step is to try and position the new top behind the window curtain on the center and side trim sticks. There's 3 of these things in the well area.
    To answer a couple of your questions..
    Yes, there's 3 piece trim stick in the well. I can take & post pictures, but because it's an O/T car I didn't want to rile the troops! LOL

    When I start the TOP install, even though there is a line on the new top from the factory, can I simply line up this factory mark with the end of the trim stick and staple it in place? Are these lines (maybe 1 inch up from the end all around) that accurate, or will it be a trial and error just like the curtain?
    Reason I ask is because when I took the trim sticks off the car with the original top, the edge of the top was a rather crudely cut line of material, not a straight-as-an-arrow machine cut.
    Thank You so very much for all your help. It is greatly appreciated.

    George
     
  6. Its been a long time since I installed a conv top. I would only install tops made by one company. They are located in the north east and have been in business a long time.
    Sometimes you just have to readjust the top several times til it gets right. Remember you are dealing with a 40+ year old car and the pivot points may be worn. Take your time, walk away from it if needed. You will get it!!!
     
  7. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    Probably was not the original top anyway. Once stapled most trimmers just cut the excess vinyl off with a pair of scissors. Hence the ragged cut. I use Electron tops and the guideline is always really close. But most probably are, since they would hear about it if not.
     
  8. Every Electron top ive installed went on without a hitch. And the customer service is top notch. The early Camaro/firebird tops even had the holes prepunched.
     
  9. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 8,232

    junkyardjeff
    Member

    The windows can be the trickyest to install since they usually dont have the marks on them above the zipper,I lay the old window on top of the new to get me a idea on where to staple it. I got a 62 Impala I am working on right now and it had very little of the top left and nothing to go by and since I am painting the frame aqnd repairing the front bow this one will take longer then usual to get looking good.
     
  10. The electron catalog has the measurement from the body to the center of the rear bow. Install the top pads from the front back and when you get to the rear bow measure from the body to the bow and staple pads in place. The staple the window to the tack strip, bolt it into place then pull the window up tight to the bow and staple in place starting at the center and work out.
     
  11. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    For you do it yourselfers, if you need to know the rear bow height, give us trimmer a shout out. We have that info.
    While on convertible tops-- nothing gets me wound up quicker than to see a car going across the block at B/J or Mecums with big (or even small) wrinkles in the rear quarters. And the "play by play " guys will go on about the restoration, how good it is, how good it looks, all the while these big wrinkle out there for all the world to see. Pisses me off to no end. Sorry, off my soapbox now.
     
  12. Me too... I was watching some resto show on spike the other day and they had a 67 nova on there and the guys doing the show installed the headliner. It looked like crap. Wrinkles at every seam! And they call themselves pros.
     
  13. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Thanks for all the help, guys.
    I'll have another go at it Saturday morni..........I mean all day!

    :D
     
  14. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221

    F&J
    Member


    Holy cow, I just noticed you are in CT. Hey buddy,old pal :)... there is a 69 GT 4sp conv in the shop with no top covering, and have a new white ebay top from the former owner.....soooo, if you get bored :D


    Kidding aside, which I am NOT..;)... I did spot the rear attaching strips when it came here 6 years ago, and I knew it must be a pain to get the top stretched right with those strips.
     
  15. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    F&J
    6 years?! WTH are ya waiting for? LOL
    It appears that I will ruin another Saturday swearing at the car, and smoking my brains out in the garage trying to do a professional installation with zero experience, but I'll not stop nor give up until it's right!
    Where in CT are you? Might be able to help after I get this one installed.

    George
     
  16. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221

    F&J
    Member

    I'm in Mansfield, 5 miles north of Willimantic.

    I spotted that car in my former town in 1991 and put a note on it, wanting to see if it was for sale. He called and said no because it's been a keeper since 79. The next year we both had sons born, they became friends, so I'd see the Dad at games and school things.

    He ended up with a medical condition 6 years ago and can never drive again, so he remembered I wanted it in 91 and called me up :)

    I bought it to flip, but my son fell in love with it. I am a hotrodder so I put tri-power on it :) It was 273 4sp, now 340 with GTS hood.

    I've done early 30's tops on convs, and they came out great, even making my own wood header piece and wood tackstrips........but those modern strips look impossible to work with. I can't see how you can attach material to them, and then just bolt the strips on, and have it work.

    The new top has a plastic rear window, but I still have the thin stock rear glass. I suppose I will use the plastic one for experience, and then maybe get the right top that can use the glass.
     
  17. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    Either glass curtain or plastic will go with the same top.
     
  18. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221

    F&J
    Member


    The car never had a replacement top, and the former owners sons took the top material off and tossed it. From what little I read online, the back curtain piece is different, and you are supposed to order your top with a certain technical name for the curtain that can take glass? :confused:
     
  19. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    I checked my Electron catalog. Same top, no matter what . It appears that maybe the Dart never came with a glass rear curtain, just plastic. (I'm surmising that from the catalog). Some manufacturers of aftermarket tops did and do offer a glass curtain because some folks' won't rest unless they have a glass window. In these cases the glass curtain is a compromise at best. Most of those old cars did not have a well area big enough to hold a piece of glass. The plastic curtains and the top folds up to go in there. Glass , not so much. So what they do is make a curtain with a much smaller piece of glass in it. Looks like shit in most cases. In some cases they even made a two piece glass, that had a strip of silicone or something to act as a hinge. They did not last very long. The genesis of the Dart was an economy car and I doubt they even offered it with glass. There may be something very germaine to that particular top and car combo that I am not aware of that requires a bit something different in the top. But truthfully, were it my car I would go with a plastic curtain and leave it at that. The biggest enemy of plastic curtains is sunlight. The UV causes the hydrocarbon (oil) molecules to migrate to the surface and this is the yellowing you see on old curtains. Cars like yours today won't see an inordinate amount of sun, not like a car sitting out 24/7. I'd go plastic.Easier to put in too.

    BTW, Google "Electron Top" and look at their product catalog. A wealth of info there for any of us.
     
  20. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221

    F&J
    Member

    I think the glass I have is original. I will take a look for logos on it I guess. It's pretty much the same size as the rear curtain, and very thin tempered glass. The top well is big.

    I'd like to reuse the glass, but I would have to find a place to sew a curtain to it, or around it, I suppose.

    I should just go with the ebay top just for practice, and maybe redo it later.
     
  21. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Cool story F&J! Glad the car finally came around. My 12 year old boy loves the body on these cars too.
    Yeah, the rear window that I removed was glass too. The replacement top/curtain I bought was glass as well. HEAVY piece to work with I'll tell ya that! I also spent the extra cash for the crush grain top material as opposed to the pinpoint material like a GM car has, even though I like the GM style better.
    The well is huge too, and the owner's manual states that the top can be lowered into the well with the rear window zipped closed or unzipped.
    I know some Mopar cars would shatter the rear glass if you didn't unzip the window before lowering the top.
    Few more hours till everyone is awake and I'll get in there. Gotta wait because the swearing will wake the wife & kids. :D
    I'll keep ya's posted.

    Flinttim, I'll Google Electron and see if I can learn anything. Thanks again.

    Geo
     
  22. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    If all you have is the piece of glass, you have nothing. The vinyl (same as on top) is bonded to the glass at the factory in a process that you cannot duplicate. As I said, if all you have is a piece of glass that someone has "peeled " the old vinyl off of (they usually separate with age anyway) you might as well throw it away. Go with the plastic curtain. You'd be amazed the number of times I have been contacted about putting in a "customer's own curtain"and they show up with a piece of glass that they cut out of an old car at a salvage yard. "Oh, I thought you just sew it in ", is their response. Ever try to sew thru glass , is my response.
     
  23. I doubt it came with a glass window. Like tim said not much room in the well. Besides with a glass rear window you must unzip the window (zipper along the top edge of the window) and gently lay it into the well. The plastic window will fold as it retracts into the well. I always made sure the plastic window was zippered and advised the customer to unzip it and lay it flat in the well before retracting the top. Plus you could ride around with the window down and the top up and get the breeze.
     
  24. Oh yea one more thing... the glass windows are much harder to install due to the weigt.
     
  25. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Well, I worked all day on the drivers side where the top attaches to the quarter panel trim stick, and all I ended up with was a loose, baggy mess at the end of the day. I made absolutely no progress and my hands/fingers and wrists are killing me. I'm starting to think I'm not going to be able to crest this hill. I haven't given up yet, but it's looking like this will be the first auto related project I simply am unable to accomplish. Very disheartening.
     
  26. Flinttim
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 88

    Flinttim
    Member
    from Indiana

    Post some pictures of what you have and maybe we can guide you along.
     
  27. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 6,193

    stanlow69
    Member

    I disagree. The plastic windows are a pain to get all the wrinkles out. The glass windows are much easier to install. Do not touch the plastic window with your bare fingers., it will scratch the surface.
     
  28. timothale
    Joined: Feb 3, 2007
    Posts: 234

    timothale
    Member

    jeff lily restorations has some good convertible top info on his site.
     
  29. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221

    F&J
    Member


    I agree with the pics. When I get in a jamb, there is always someone on hamb that can figure it out if I put up pics.
     
  30. Pasta
    Joined: Aug 16, 2010
    Posts: 65

    Pasta
    Member

    Well, I took a step back. I removed all the trim sticks from the car and marked the top location as they were located on the sticks. I then pulled a bunch of staples, repositioned the top material on the sticks, re-stapled and tried reinstalling them. It was MUCH better. I did this 3 times, but now it's tight enough where I feel it will be OK once the top is secured across the front header.
    Hardest part of doing that was you have to remove about 20 bolts and all 3 trim sticks have to be unbolted in order to make ANY staple adjustments. Then, to check your progress, all 20 bolts must be reinstalled, and tightened in order to see what it looks like. What a PITA.
    I'll post a picture of the finished project (hopefully) later today or tomorrow.

    THANK YOU so VERY much for all your help, fellas. This job is a real bitch......at least in this particular car, anway.

    George
     

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