Jerry Heasley
May 4, 2012

I first heard about cloth tops for early Mustangs when I photographed Scott Drake's "Pay it Forward" '66 convertible for the November 2009 issue. I thought the top really looked clean and classy. But I figured OEM vinyl would be tougher.

I was wrong. According to one of the leading experts in the industry, Doug Robbins from Robbins Auto Top, cloth tops are actually stronger and more durable. And the good news is that Robbins manufactures cloth tops for early Mustangs, available with either a plastic rear window or a folding glass rear window, which was not available from the factory for '65-'66 Mustangs.

I'm building a Poppy Red '65 convertible as a fun project car, not a rigorous restoration. Not overly concerned about keeping the car 100 percent stock, I felt a cloth top would add to the beauty of my car over vinyl. Seeing Drake's convertible was enough to get me interested.

At first, the name "cloth" threw me. In the trade, people also use the term "canvas" for the same material. Cloth doesn't sound very durable and canvas reminds me of the material used for tents. I remember water going right through those old tents that were finished with a cheap plastic coating. I wanted to know more about this cloth/canvas.

Kevin Hartman from Convertible Top Guys in Rhode Island, who sells Robbins Tops, explained, "The difference between canvas and today's vinyl is that the canvas is a true two-layer product. It's got a butyl rubber inner layer in between the outer canvas and the inner sheet." For this reason, canvas (cloth) lasts longer than vinyl, which can be susceptible to shrinking.

But what about installation? Are the steps the same?

To answer this question, I went to one of the best in the business, Troy Anderson at Troy's Upholstery in Amarillo, Texas. When I asked Troy if he could install a cloth top, he replied, "I just put a cloth top on a '67 Mustang convertible." Troy used the brand name "Stafast" to describe the cloth.

In Troy's retail business, cloth tops are hot right now on classic cars. Installation is no different or more difficult than vinyl. I snapped some pictures of the installation--not the usual step-by-step how-to but more of an informational article to demonstrate the features of a cloth top and how one fits on a classic Mustang. Robbins tops are available from National Parts Depot.

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