Sunday, May 12, 2019

Topless No More

I haven't written in a while because I haven't had much to write about.  That's nice.  I'm up to 1,900 miles and all is still (mostly) well.  I find that I will need some extra cooling when it gets really warm out, but otherwise all systems are GO!

Anyhow, today's post is about my finishing up the last major item to call the restoration officially "complete" - installing the soft top, or '"hood".  Gidget is "topless" no more. :)

I started out with cleaning up the header rail and frame.  Here's the original top that I had cut out the windows from (because they were so yellow, you couldn't see through them).

And here's the top frame.  In the MkII, the frame is removable (the top doesn't fold down).

I disassembled the header rail and removed the bar that holds the top in place in the back...


And I cleaned up the frame and header rail.

I then worked to get the frame to fit properly.  The whole car had been twisted before, and the frame matched it--it no longer fit correctly.  I had to straighten things out to get it "good enough".  I made it fit, just like old times.

Some of you may recall my $100 eBay special NOS Robbins top.

It looks nice.  But it's also old, feels kind of greasy and is no longer very flexible.  My attempt to install this top was a disaster--things had shrunk just enough that the top didn't secure properly in the back at the snaps, and I couldn't get enough stretch to have it fit right and be able to close the doors.  That was not good.

So I bought a new top from Prestige Auto Trim in the UK ($299 for OEM quality vinyl).  I splurged and got the zip-out rear window (an extra $26).  This top is really nice, folks.  It's supple and the windows are perfect.  The fit is nice.

Installing the top was surprisingly straightforward, though it took a while... and you need two people.

First, I let it sit out in the sun for an hour or so.  That's easy in AZ.  That gives the top a chance to loosen up and make it pliable to stretch a bit.

Then, I fit the frame and the header rail.  I put the rubber seal in place and snapped the top clamps shut to give it its "correct" position.  Without the seal, the header rail flops around and doesn't stay fastened.

Once that was done, I installed the rear bar and the snaps.  This is where having two people really helps--mostly to transport the top back and forth to the bench.  I marked each spot carefully with an awl, then punched the hole on the branch and installed the snap or fastener.  The MkII has a Lift-The-Dot fastener and two snaps in the side, per side.  It also has a metal grommet per side which fits over a fastener inside the car to hold the bottom of the window opening in place.  This is where the details mattered--getting everything centered and fitted was a chore.  It has to be precise or things won't stay closed.


Once the snaps were in place and snapped, we fitted the front portion to the header rail.  This is done by brushing a light amount of some strong glue (3M 90 worked for me) along the rail, then stretching the fabric into place.   Too much glue runs all over the place... you can guess how I found that out.  Fortunately, it cleaned up because we got to it quickly.

The first time I did this, my dad helped.  The fabric didn't stretch a lot.  So we stretched it as much as we could and continued.

Once the glue dried, we removed the top and secured it to the header rail, and installed the seal properly.  It looked pretty good, but part of the header rail was visible along the sides.  It also had a wrinkle, and I couldn't fasten the inner snaps along the windshield pillar.


What a difference it makes, hey?

However, after letting things sit for a week, I noticed the top starting to sag.  That means it was relaxing--and I could get some more stretch.  So I removed the top from the header rail and let it sit outside a bit longer.  Then, I re-glued and stretched the top some more.  This time I got another inch of stretch--enough that things lined up like I expected.  I was able to do this by myself by stretching one side, then the other, and keeping the fabric glued in place on each side.  Maybe this isn't realistic, but I think you could do this by yourself in a pinch.

Anyhow, now the top is nice and tight, and I can still close everything up properly.  The inner pillar snaps snap and the the header rail fits (a bit tightly, but I suspect it will loosen up a bit more).  You can see the alignment of the top edge with the rain gutter on the windshield pillar, which is how it is supposed to be.  And, the header rail doesn't show at all.


It's still not perfect--but I'm plenty happy.  It will keep the rain and sun off my noggin on the rare occasions I need it.  I'll fuss with it a bit more (I left a little extra to relax it a little if I have to, or tighten up the edges).


Now, I'm "really" done.  That is, until I install the electric fan.  And the 5-speed.  But the 5-speed's for the fall... it's not cheap, and I need the accountant / boss to approve.

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