Larry Jewett
August 1, 2001
Contributers: Larry Jewett

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.

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Project Points

• When using an air tool to remove bolts, make sure you pay close attention. In older cars, these bolts will strip easily.

• To save time and effort, try to reduce trips outside the car once you're inside. Bring the proper tools.

• Fabric around the glass will wear quickly because of stress from the top going up and down. Keep a close eye on this area of your car.

• Belt padding faces plenty of stress. (This car had torn belts.) Padded belts, rather than cloth strips, work better.

• When replacing the top, check for header rust. It may also be time to replace weatherstripping.

• Plastic windows are harder to install than glass. Glass will be flat; plastic will flex and have to be made flat.

• Try to end the rear rib molding at each of the belt pads. If you make it too long, it will rub when the top is lower and create wear spots.

• You can apply steam to help pull out wrinkles. A few days in sunshine will help draw out wrinkles as well.

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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.