Monday, March 18, 2013

On Top of Ol' Rusty (Part 3)

When we last left off, I had completed the refurbish and assembly of the top frame.  The next step was obviously to put the frame back on the car.  I placed the folded-up frame in the top well and inserted the 6 bolts into their respective holes and then, with the top cylinders unattached, unfolded the the frame forward to the windshield header to get a feel for the fit.  I adjusted the header bow distance to allow the relaxed frame to latch to the visor pivots.  That's when I realized that something wasn't quite right.  The latch hook seemed to want to engage the visor bracket  before the latch handles were locked back.  Strange.

I fiddled with it a bit until I realized what had happened.  I had installed the latch hook blocks on the wrong sides!  Grumbling, I grudgingly removed the latches from the frame and brought them back to my bench,  knocked the pins out of them, and set to figuring out how they were supposed to go back together.  I finally sorted it out and installed the latches back onto the frame and viola!  They worked as expected.

Removed the latches from the header bow.

The correct way that the springs are installed.

The correct assembly of the passenger latch.

The correct assembly of the passenger latch and spring.
The next step was to ensure the adjustment of the frame in relation to the windows.  The various manuals and guides are specific about the tolerances and my frame appeared to meet the requirements.

The rear window in relation to the rear frame segment.

The clearance of the side window to the center link of the frame.

Frame installed with rear bow in place.
Well... no sense in putting off the inevitable.  I loaded up Dalorzof's convertible top guide on my shop computer and started through it. The first step was to install the pads.  I had ordered a good-looking set from NPD.  The repro pads were surprisingly similar to the originals and even had the plastic strips glued to the header ends.  However, they were a bit narrower than the originals so I would have to keep that in mind as I was laying them out.   Of course, true to my luck, the outside-most header screw hole that I had drilled and tapped needed to be moved in about 1/4".   Dalorzof had used a paper template to make his own plastic header strips so I used his idea to transfer the screw holes from the header to the pads.  The holes could then be drilled and the pads screwed to the header bow.  I had previously measured the bow distances on the original frame before I took it apart and also confirmed my measurements with Dalorzof's document. After I had established the correct locations of the 2nd and 3rd bows, I clamped them to the pads.  Screws were then driven into the tops of the bows to hold them to the pads.  Lastly, I confirmed the location of bow #4.  Dalorzof's document indicated that the standard height was 20 1/2" from the rear trim to the middle of the bow and my original measurements confirmed this.  However, the ARO top I had purchased back in 2008 had a requirement of 21 1/2".  I test-fit the new top with the bow set at 20 1/2", 21", and 21 1/2" inches and sure enough, the top wanted to fit the best at the prescribed 21 1/2".   I put in some staples through the pads into bow #4 at the 21 1/2" setting.  What's the big deal with just an inch or so off of spec?  Read on.

The pads in comparison.  Old vs New.

Hmm.. the new pads are a bit narrower.

The plastic header strip is there!

A template was made of the old header strip and the new hole locations transferred to it.

The hole locations were then transferred to the new header strip.  Note the left-most hole.  I had to move it to the right 1/4" to accommodate the narrower pad.

The pads installed on the first 3 bows.
The pads stapled to Bow 4.
When I had purchased the ARO top back in 2008, I had convinced myself that a plastic curtain was what I wanted since this car was going to be just a driver.  Why pay the extra money for such a silly thing that just split out it's hinge in a few years?  Fast forward to today when I realized that the glass rear window was one of the very few options this car actually came with and was sure as heck going to replace that one measly part.  I called a few vendors to find just the right one and was finally swayed by Mustangs Unlimited for their Kee glass rear curtain which the salesman assured me would fit the top that I had bought from them in 2008.  What I forgot to ask was the simple question, "Does it have a brass zipper"?  The answer is no.  I was sorely disappointed but, for several reasons, decided to go ahead and make the concession that the Kee window is still of good quality and the hinge is reinforced so that it can withstand folding.  People will recommend taking the rear window out completely or unzipping it and laying it on a towel inside the top well but these prospects  don't appeal to me at all.  I'm going to use this car and in Oregon, that top is going to be folding up and down more than a Chinese contortionist and I don't want to mess with the rear window every time.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the non-concours reinforced window.  The plastic zipper is tougher than it sounds too and works very smooth.

So, once I rationalized keeping the Kee curtain, I could move on to bigger and better things; The installation of the Kee curtain.  I temporarily installed the ARO top to ensure that certain measurements were kept in check.  Namely the zipper's distance from the tops rear opening edge.  I found that the tops most critical installation points were the flaps at the rear window opening, the bow listing sleeves, and the rear bow tacking reinforcement strip.  Once these points were clamped in place, the top could be used for reference throughout the installation.

I wielded my handy-dandy air-stapler loaded with a lethal ammunition that consisted of 3/8" x 1/4" crown staples that I had special ordered on Amazon.  The first victim that fell prey to its awesome power was the top zipper strip of the Kee curtain.  The measurements for it were fairly straight-forward with the lower tacking strip location being more critical, and variable.  Once I figured out the location of the bottom tack strip with some actual thought but mostly trial and error, I stapled it to the bottom of the curtain.  Actually, I think that it wouldn't be as difficult as I made it because the Kee tops have the tack strip location marked out  on the bottom flap... for a 20 1/2" bow setting!  There lies the problem with the weird 21 1/2" setting of the ARO top.  It seems that the side pads and the rear curtain expect a 20 1/2" bow height so mismatching a top and everything else just ads undue complexity to the project.  I was very lucky that the bottom flap of the rear curtain had a spare inch to use because the tack strip was nearly all the way to the bottom.

Comparing original curtain to the Kee.  Differences include a plastic zipper and reinforced hinge.

Clamping the listing strips to the bows for top test fit.

Clamping side flaps to frame for top test fit.

The rear curtain zipper strip test stapled to bow 4.

Checking the centering of the zipper strip and distance to edge of the top to the zipper.

Bottom tack strip test stapled.

Zipper strip stapled permanent.

Tack strip stapled permanent.

Window installed with top clearances test.
Up to this point, I had gone off the reservation so to speak and stapled the curtain permanently whereas Dalorzof's instructions wait till after the fitting of the rear quarter pads before stapling the top to bow #4.  I admit that I panicked a bit when I discovered this but chose to let the rear curtain determine the location and tension of the pads rather than the other way around.  I think I would do it Dalorzof's way if I were to do it again though.  I think that his is a more accurate method that likely allows for a tighter curtain.

Speaking of rear quarter pads, the time has come to fit these... dirty little buggers.  I still had one good original one so I started with that.  I located it's position on the quarter tack strips and tape... yes taped.. it on.  I then remounted the tack strip in the car to get a feel for where things lined up.  Sure enough, it was about an inch lower than the bow... yet another thing that doesn't agree with the 21 1/2" bow height.  I marked where the edges of the pads should come up to the bow with tape for reference when installing the new pads.  I marked the tack strip location on the old pads and attempted to transcribe them to the new pads but really, that just left me with a starting point.  There was still much trial and error and even then, they weren't nearly perfect.  However, one really good tip that I had learned from the Dalorzof documents, was to mark the pads with location of the corner seam on the car between the rear quarter panel and deck lid filler panel.  That line, if marked on both the pad and the tack strip, helps relocate them later.

Old pad taped to the tack strip

Old pad in it's old position compared to the new bow 4 position.

Transcribed new pad with old pad tack strip location.  Line indicates location of the rear quarter to deck filler panel seam for reference.

New pad in position.  Still some wrinkles but not horrible.

View from inside.
These particular reproduction pads are a hassle due to their being so stiff.  It was really difficult to determine what would cause wrinkles and what wouldn't and also, would tend to bunch up on the curved portion of the tack strip.  In short, I got them as close to "good" as I could get and stapled them to the bow and trimmed the excess.  Now, we can move on to the actual top install in Part 4.


  1. I'm reading everything you've done so far and in the back of my mind is the question, "How much would it cost to have this done professionally to concours level? A LOT! Great work as usual Alex.

    1. Thanks Dennis. True, I think it would cost a lot to pay somebody to refurbish the frame, install all of the pads, the top and the seals. BUT! They'd know what they were doing whereas I do not. LOL!