Larry Jewett
August 1, 2001

Step By Step

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This car had a rib that ran on the outside of the top along the rear brace. The brace was stapled on and showed signs of wear. It’s the first to be removed.
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The stitching on the edges of the old top had begun to separate. The look isn’t one you’d want your friends to remember.
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Once the rib had been pulled off, all the staples had to be yanked from the tack strip to start removing the old top.
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Rick went inside the car to remove the well liner. Using his tools, he removed a series of about 20 7/16-inch bolts that were holding the top in that anchored position.
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The old top has been pulled away from the car at the left rear corner.
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Rick starts to pull out the old top. Note the protective material taped to the car’s trim. It’s there to prevent you from scratching your car’s paint while you work.
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As the staples were removed, you could tell there had been a replacement top already installed. The factory used stainless staples, while the replacements were either zinc or copper. There were traces of staple rust, which stainless wouldn’t have left. The new staples will be stainless.
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The old top is pulled away from the tack strip. The strip appears to be in fairly good shape to hold the new top.
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One tack strip had a large chunk of material missing. There are different ways to handle a situation like this, including the use of body filler, but the material must be pliable enough to accept staples—too brittle and it will crack and not hold.
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As the old top is being removed, the skeletal structure is assessed and is sound.
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The cable is disconnected and hangs free on each side of the car.
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Rick begins to remove the top from its mounting at the front of the car. Obviously, the top had to be raised in order to get this done.
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As the screws are removed, there’s evidence there had been glue used on the top. It’s OK to use glue here, even though it doesn’t help sealing. Glue elsewhere will not withstand the pressures.
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The old belt padding is removed from both sides. A Phillips screwdriver will do the job.
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With the top removed, this is a good chance to lubricate the moving parts in the convertible top.
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Here are the skeletal workings of the car’s convertible top. With less strain on the mechanism, this is an opportunity to check the workings. You’ll see if the top’s motor is working too hard or if the process is sticking. This is the time to make any necessary repairs before the new top is in place.
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We’ll be reusing the glass window that was on the car. It’s the original window, which can be removed by unzipping the unit. It’s still a mystery to some of us why you’d want to remove a window instead of lowering a top. The tack strip needs to be marked for proper reinstallation.
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New pads were provided in the Hydro-E-Lectric kit. Throughout the process, the fit was right on the money.
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Rick applies the new pad on the right side.
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Staples will be used at the rear, and pop rivets will be used up front. The pad must be pulled very tight.
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These pads had strong burlap reinforcements inside.
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You can see the staples being used in the pad material. Rick followed along with a tack hammer to seat the staples better for a secure job.
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Excess material is trimmed away. Plan on having excess in some areas, but remember—measure twice, cut once.
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Once the pads are installed, the top is laid loosely on the car to see if the hold-downs match up with the tacking strips. Reputable top manufacturers can make this a certainty. There was no problem here.
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The old window housing is compared to the new one.
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The new tack strip is then stapled to the window-housing cover.
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The rear portion of the top is gathered in to start the installation of this area.
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Rick goes back inside to secure the tack strip.
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Looking into the rear window, you see he’s progressing across the rear of the car and securing the top at this point.
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The time has come to begin stapling. If you haven’t measured and placed the top properly, you’ll have to take out staples. Be sure you’re right when you get to this point. Start with the rear tack strip.
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This is the time to replace the outer rib that was first removed. The excess will be trimmed.
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After the cabling has been reattached, the attention goes to the front. Rick sprays a fine mist of glue to provide enough tackiness to hold the top in place. It’s not meant to be permanent.
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Rick pulls the material around tightly to the front, and starts tacking it down.
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A hair dryer is used to blow out some of the wrinkles. It will take some time for the top to stretch completely, but the more that can be taken out at this time, the better. You could also just leave it in the sun for a few hours. Whatever you do, pull the top as tight as you can when finished.
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A row of windlace was fashioned for the front of the top. It will be tacked along to help the appearance and durability of the top.
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The screws are replaced at the front of the top. Since this wasn’t the first replacement, a problem developed with the old screws. New ones had to be used in some places.
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Caps are applied to the outer rib with a single screw.
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The finished product sits in the Florida sun. A little time outside will pull out those wrinkles, but Rick recommends a new convertible top not be opened for a couple of weeks. Doug will comply with that request.

Cruising season is more than a six-month proposition in many corners of the country. For some convertible owners, that’s a godsend. They’d rather have their car be seen with the top down because the cloth itself is in very bad shape.

It’s something that no self-respecting convertible owner should tolerate for long. It’s a fact that these convertible tops do not last forever. They’re subjected to the elements (in many cases). Even sun can have a detrimental effect on a convertible top. Replacement is your only option.

Doug White of Clermont, Florida, acquired a ’66 Fairlane convertible. This car is his joy-riding car, and he takes great pride in it. The top hadn’t been replaced in nearly two decades. It was time.

Rick Stevens at Convertible Pro took on the challenge. His busy shop in Winter Park, Florida, has developed a reputation for quality work, so we were fortunate to get Doug’s car in on a Monday morning. With the help of the folks at Hydro-E-Lectric, Doug drove off that day with a shiny black top on his white ’66.

The mechanism was fine on this car, so the cloth was the only replacement necessary.

EPILOGUE
This project took seven hours, as Rick worked nonstop through his lunch hour. The car came into the shop at 8 a.m. and left at 3 p.m.