Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Top of Ol' Rusty (Part 1)

Winter is in full swing and nothing makes you feel more exposed to the elements than being topless.  That's how it felt for Ol' Rusty anyway, the original top tattered and missing the rear window.  It might as well have had no top at all for what it was worth.  That was just fine during the summer months, but now an occasional 50 or 60 degree day is just over the horizon.  Although I wouldn't cruise around with the top down in temperatures that cool, I would with the top up... if I had one that is.

Like just about every other task with these cars, there is quite a bit of reference material out there from the original factory manual to personal blogs such as the recent work done by Risto on his 65 Convertible in his four part blog series and professional web sites such as Mustang Monthly's top replacement guide.  Additionally, there's an amazing compilation of Mustang convertible top replacement information being maintained by an Australian member of the VMF whom goes by the name Dalorzof.  I didn't mind donating a few bucks to his cause because he's put so much time into the document and who knows?  Maybe if you shoot him an email, he'll do the same for you.

You might be asking yourself why I would even bother when I could just pay somebody about $700 to put one on for me.  The answer is the same as always with me...  because I love a challenge!  (And I'm cheap)

Normally, the task would begin with the removal of the rear window which is accomplished by unzipping the top of the window and unbolting the rear tack strip from the car.  In my case, lacking a rear window, the task begins with the removal of the old top and the removal of the old top begins with the removal of the rubber seals.  The side seals are attached to the top frame via studs and speed nuts.  All are fairly easy to get to  and remove just by opening the top to strategic positions to give your hands and tools room to work under the fabric.   The front seal is screwed into the header bow (the frontmost bow) with self-tapping screws.  The header windlace is removed by either removing the staples or simply peeling it away as a majority of the staples were rusted away. Underneath the windlace, the top fabric is glued to the header bow and once this is peeled away from the bow, the front portion of the top is pretty much off.   Each of the two center bows are affixed to the top via listing sleeves.  Sleeves through which ribs are inserted and screwed to the bows.  Both of these sleeves were ripped away from my top years ago so there was nothing to do to remove the top from these.

The next attachment point of the top is to the fourth, rear, bow.  This bow contains a tack strip to which several layer of "stuff" is stapled.  The first of this stuff is a rear "wire-on" which unfolds exposing staples that can then be pulled which exposes more staples.  Removing these remaining staples frees the top from the rear bow.

Once the top is freed from the rear bow, there are two cables that are threaded through a sleeve in the rear section of the top between two top frame members.  The cables can be removed by pulling a plastic plug out of the frame which will release the cable end from the frame.  The cables can then be pulled back through their sleeves and their springs can be released from a hook in the rear frame member.

When the cables are released, the only thing holding the top to the car are the rear tack strips which can be unbolted from the rear drain channel of the car allowing the top to be de-stapled from the tack strips.

The old top can then be discarded with an expression of cold contempt or simply mild disgust if the mood should strike you.

One ugly old top in a "before" pose

Yeah, no back curtain and the rear sail panel rotted away awhile ago.

These are the speed nuts that hold the side seals onto the frame.

These are the screws that hold the front seal to the header bow.

The entire top seal after removal.  There's a rib inside the front section  that was screwed to the header bow.

The front windlace to be removed by a good, hard, yank.

The top material is glued and stapled to the header bow tack strip.

The top removed from the header bow.

The business end of the rear cable.  That plastic plug pops out.

Cable removed from the top fabric.

Rear sail panel tack strip to be removed.

Staples to be removed from the tack strip.

Top sail panel removed from tack strip exposing the rear pad.

Rear "wire-on" opened up to expose the staples.

Wire-on removed exposing the top staples.  When they are removed, the top is free.

This is what it looks like without the top.  Just the pads and frame now.
Once the top was off, the frame pads are all that's left.  Here's where I stopped to take some measurements.  The top pads really set the distances between the bows so I measured separation distance using the front bow as a reference and measured to center.

Distance between front bow and second bow.  There's a ridge on the front bow that I'm butting the ruler up to as a reference.

Continuing the measurement on back to the third bow.

The fourth bow is measured in relation to the rear chrome trim
Finally, the pads are removed.  The front of the side pads at the header bow held onto the header bow via 4 self-tapping screws.  A majority of these were frozen and had to be drilled out to be removed.  The screws at the second and third bows came out with little trouble.  The side pads are only stapled to the rear bow but the rear pads are stapled to the rear bow and the rear tack strip.  The rear pad staples must be removed first, followed by the rear curtain upper zipper panel, and finally, the back end of the side pads.

The front of the pads are screwed to the header bow but don't expect them to leave without a fight.

More tolerant screws

Pull the rear pads first

The rear curtain next followed by the side pads.

It's OFF!
Next, I'll be working on the frame.


  1. Holy mackerel Alex! And I thought there was a lot involved in replacing the headliner in my fastback. You've certainly done your homework and documented it superbly, as usual. I'm looking forward to the rest of the 'vert top replacement.

    1. Thanks Dennis! I wouldn't mind seeing how a headliner is done (hint, hint). :-)

  2. Well, that was the easy part Alex, now you have to put the new on. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Grant. Indeed, my problems have just begun.

  3. Well Alex, it feels a little like the beginning of the end - or rounding the last turn headed for the finish line. Almost there - keep at it!!!! BTW, the car looks GREAT!!!


    1. Thanks RJ. Yeah, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but still lots of odds and ends to tie up (exhaust system, wheels, more interior, carb and engine tweaking, etc).

  4. Way to go Alex ! No doubt you'll do a great job with this one.