Replacing my convertible top - 1965 Chrysler

D Cluley

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When I got this car 20 years ago, it needed a new top. The main part overhead was in fairly decent shape, but the sail panels were tearing at the bottom, and the rear window was mostly gone. I don't remember what it cost to have it replaced, but I think it was around $800. I got a solid 15 years out of that top, so can't really complain, but the last few years it has been going downhill quickly. Again, as the vinyl shrunk, the sail panels started to tear, and in 2020 the base of the rear window cracked. I mostly drive it with the top down, but it did need a little stabilization, to keep things in place & reasonably water tight. A vinyl from the fabric store and some extra fasteners looked terrible, but made a decent short-term fix.

After redoing the seats in 2020, I started to consider that the top might be something I could do myself. The two shops I knew of years ago have closed, and while I'm sure there's somebody else local, I'm assuming at this point it would be well over $1000. At that point, I could buy all the supplies needed, completely screw up, and get a second try for less than having it done. So, I ordered everything last summer, and eventually got it in January. Dealing with the transmission, turned my June project into an August project, but things are finally underway.

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Room to work, let the carnage begin. :)

Got the weatherstrip and retainers off, and only had to attack one rusted screw with the dremel. I'm kind of amazed.

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A little rust at this end of the header, but I kind of expected worse. Seem to be missing one screw from the latch, and the pads have lost all of their padding. Fortunately, I ordered new ones.

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The trim strip over the rear of the top is supposed to have a screw that goes into the tack strip on the rear bow. Years ago, it was coming loose, and leaking water, so my solution was to drill through and put a T nut on the inside for a machine screw. Since the hole is already there, will put it back this way, but I'm planning to paint the T nuts, while things are apart.

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Can't imagine why a screw came loose from this. Definitely going to replace the tack strips.

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Main top is completely off, and it's time to call it a night.
 

3175375

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When I got this car 20 years ago, it needed a new top. The main part overhead was in fairly decent shape, but the sail panels were tearing at the bottom, and the rear window was mostly gone. I don't remember what it cost to have it replaced, but I think it was around $800. I got a solid 15 years out of that top, so can't really complain, but the last few years it has been going downhill quickly. Again, as the vinyl shrunk, the sail panels started to tear, and in 2020 the base of the rear window cracked. I mostly drive it with the top down, but it did need a little stabilization, to keep things in place & reasonably water tight. A vinyl from the fabric store and some extra fasteners looked terrible, but made a decent short-term fix.

After redoing the seats in 2020, I started to consider that the top might be something I could do myself. The two shops I knew of years ago have closed, and while I'm sure there's somebody else local, I'm assuming at this point it would be well over $1000. At that point, I could buy all the supplies needed, completely screw up, and get a second try for less than having it done. So, I ordered everything last summer, and eventually got it in January. Dealing with the transmission, turned my June project into an August project, but things are finally underway.

View attachment 549067

View attachment 549068

Room to work, let the carnage begin. :)

Got the weatherstrip and retainers off, and only had to attack one rusted screw with the dremel. I'm kind of amazed.

View attachment 549069

View attachment 549070

A little rust at this end of the header, but I kind of expected worse. Seem to be missing one screw from the latch, and the pads have lost all of their padding. Fortunately, I ordered new ones.

View attachment 549071

View attachment 549072

The trim strip over the rear of the top is supposed to have a screw that goes into the tack strip on the rear bow. Years ago, it was coming loose, and leaking water, so my solution was to drill through and put a T nut on the inside for a machine screw. Since the hole is already there, will put it back this way, but I'm planning to paint the T nuts, while things are apart.

View attachment 549073


Can't imagine why a screw came loose from this. Definitely going to replace the tack strips.

View attachment 549074

Main top is completely off, and it's time to call it a night.
Good on you for tackling this!

I have never replaced a convertible top, but there’s so much information out there, I am positive that you can do it, properly and you will have a great amount of satisfaction in completing this!

I replaced a 13’4” slide out floor in Bruno, my 2010 38’ Holiday Rambler Endeavor diesel pusher.
My friends thought I was insane, but I did it and it worked out fabulous.

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volksworld

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same here...mines had a small rip since i got it 20 yrs ago and i pretty much cant see out the rear window anymore...which leaks into the well...so if theres any chance of rain it stays home...
 

D Cluley

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Thanks to everyone for the encouragement. Honestly there is almost too much info out there. Every car is a little different, and everyone has a slightly different order of doing things. I spent last week, going through about 6 different articles/post/videos & making my own checklist.

The disassembly continued last night.

I put painters tape around the rear trim and marked the snaps with lines. Once the trim was off, I marked the other retainer screws with x's and then pulled those to free the base of the window curtain & the sail pillars.

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Then pulled more staples out of the rear bow to release the top of the curtain & the rear of the pads.

So many staples!!

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More staples hold the pads to the intermediate bows & there are screws into the front header. Found a little more rust under the pad on the driver's side of the header, but still not bad. With the pads off, I just needed to pull out the old tack strips from the bows. Sounds like a lot of convertibles have a tack strip under the header to hold the front of the top down, but the slabsides just use glue & the weatherstrip retainer to hold the top in place.

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The middle bows just have short bits of tack strip at each end to hold the pads, those came out pretty easily. The strip runs all the way across the rear bow, and that one wanted to fight. What I had read suggested using window sealant or trim adhesive to attach the tack strips, but the rear one had 3/4" staples through the strip into the metal of the bow. So each of those has to get pulled up & then the next couple of inches of strip can be pried out. I got half of that done before quitting. Hopefully can get the rest done Sunday morning as the forecast doesn't look good for the next couple of days.

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volksworld

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ok first of many stupid questions...i've done tops on VWs before and everywhere the top attached it was stapled on to a piece of wood that was glued or screwed onto the top frame or body...and were usually too rotted to re-use and new ones had to be sourced...is this stuff readily available for our cars and from where?
 

D Cluley

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ok first of many stupid questions...i've done tops on VWs before and everywhere the top attached it was stapled on to a piece of wood that was glued or screwed onto the top frame or body...and were usually too rotted to re-use and new ones had to be sourced...is this stuff readily available for our cars and from where?
Yes, that is the stuff I've been calling tack strip. The old stuff that came out of my car was some sort of fiberboard, but it looks like most people are using plastic now.

The installation kit I got came with 2 sizes, and the 1/2" x 5/16" works but I need more. The channels are quite deep, so I will stack 2 layers to get it flush with the edges of the bow.

There seem to be lots of suppliers, but I just ordered some here.
12' Convertible Top Tack / Tacking Strip 1/2" X 5/16" New! | eBay

The rain did hold off today, so I was able to get the last of the old tack strip out.

I removed a couple of the bows & started painting them. I'm using satin black.

Cleaned the rest of the top frame, and started painting that as well. Most of it is in good shape, but there were a few little surface rust spots, and the finish was looking chalky. The front header is the worst, not sure if I will remove that from the frame, or paint it in place.

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D Cluley

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NOPE!

It did dry out later, and I got a little more painting done. Took the latches off so I could work on the header. Who thought this bolt was a good idea? Took 3 rounds with the grinder to get a 1/4" drive socket thin enough to fit down in there. It may not be original, but that's getting replaced with a phillips head.

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D Cluley

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I've been a little concerned about the alignment of the top for a while. When closing it, the locator pins on the latches would land about 1/2" towards the passenger side. It did seem to close fine, if I nudged it to the left, just before it closed. Everything latched fine, and the windows lined up with the weatherstrip, so not a huge issue, but I did want to look into it once the old top material was off & it was down to just the bare frame.

Having spent considerable time this week deciphering the FSM and experimenting with the many, many adjustments and measuring height, length, angles & levelness I was quite frustrated yesterday morning to realize that the two sides matched almost perfectly when the top is completely down, and when it is completely up, but not when in the processes of moving.

It finally occurred to me that this was actually the answer. When putting the top up, the driver's side lifts slightly before the passenger side moves, so it is always slightly more unfolded and therefore longer than the passenger side until it is completely done. I'm hoping that there is just some air in the lines or the passenger side cylinder, but even if the cylinder needs replacing it is not a problem with the top frame or it's alignment on the car. This means I can proceed with the top replacement and deal with the hydraulics later.

Having settled that, on with the show... :)

After all that concern with alignment, I decided that trying to remove the header from the side rails was just asking for trouble, so it got painted in place.

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While that was drying, I moved to the back.

These cars have a pair of short tension cables that help hold the rear bow in place. One of mine was broken, so I orded a replacement pair. They attach to the bow with a shoulder screw, and then the other end of the cable threads into a clip nut under the top well liner. The length matched nicely with the old ones, but I had to enlarge the screw hole slightly. I think they were designed for a normal screw, not one with a shoulder.

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The cables can be adjusted by how far the lower end is threaded in, and the FSM gives a specification for the height of the rear bow. First, I needed to mark the middle of the bow. This will be needed for getting the top centered as well, but finding the middle of a curved piece like this seemed tricky. What I did, was cut the piece of plastic trim stick to fit from end to end in the bow, and then pull it back out and measure that flat on the floor. I marked the middle of the trim stick & then used that to mark a piece of tape on the bow. I turned the trim stick around and double checked from the other end, and the difference was less than 1/8", calling that good enough.

Once the center is marked, you measure out 20" in either direction, and then measure from the top rear edge of the bow to the edge of the top well. When the cables are correct, the bow pushed forward will stop at 26.75". When everything is done, the pads will pull the bow to the front, the cables & the window curtain will pull it back, and the main top will go both ways.

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D Cluley

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It's not uncomplicated, but I'm finding as long as I just move forward with one thing at a time it is going ok. Compared to engine & drivetrain repairs where things are measured in thousands of an inch, grabbing a yardstick and deciding that if it is within 1/8" it's probably good enough is not bad.

I've been busy with other things for a couple of days, and am waiting for some supplies to arrive, so all I've done is mark the centerline at the base of the window.

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I used this frankenmeasure to find the middle between the two edges of the top well. It lines up with the middle of the trunk lid, so that seems good.
 

D Cluley

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The extra tack strip arrived on Friday, so that got glued into the bows.

The 1/2" width matches the channel in the bows nicely, but 5/16" is not nearly tall enough.

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Add another bead of 3M urethane window sealant, and add another layer of tack strip.

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I used the quick clamps to smoosh everything down firmly, and then added cable ties to hold it in place while the sealant cures.


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It was raining again on Saturday, so I did the intermediate bows in the garage. These just have short lengths of strip at each end where the pads attach.

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D Cluley

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What are the new tack strips made of?
Some sort of plastic. It is solid, but you can cut it pretty easily with a utility knife, and a belt sander goes through it like butter.

Which is part of what I did last night.

The intermediate bows attach to the top frame with self-tapping machine screws, so I drilled pilot holes into the bottom of the tack strips for those. The two intermediate bows look the same, but the mounting holes are placed differently, so if things don't line up with the brackets on the frame, try switching the bows around.

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After removing all the zip ties, I used a belt sander to bring the tack strips down flush with the top of the bows and then touched up the paint on the bows where I got a little too aggressive with the sander.

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