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The Rusty Ragtop, Part 3

"If It Don't Go, Install the Engine"

Tony Kelly Mar 25, 2003

Hot rodders used to derisively say about custom cars, "If it don't go, chrome it." Since Ronney Kissinger and the troops at R&R Motor Sports aren't hot rodding or customizing the Rusty Ragtop Nova, when it was time to make it go, the old-reliable straight-six needed to be installed. Using some methods that the average rebuilder might use in his or her garage, Ronney and friends use the utmost care and handle the parts delicately to ensure that all the prep and paint isn't ruined by haste or carelessness.

Once the essential parts of the running gear are nestled in place, it's time to start putting the top together. There is an art to re-assembling all the pieces it takes to make a convertible top go up and down correctly, especially on older models. Our advice is, if it scares or confuses you as much as it does us, let the experts do it. We found experts at Ronney's shop.


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All dressed up and no way to go. This inviting engine room is the target for today.

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Put the wrappers on and start rolling.

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As you might do at your own shop, get the big guys to handle this job.

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Pushing, pulling, guiding and steering, it all counts.

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It looks just like it belongs there, which it does.

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No scratches, dings, drops, broken parts, or fingers--it can't get any better.

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Add a valve, cover, and alternator...

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...and it's starting to look like an engine compartment.

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If you haven't worked on a Nova, or have but forgot how unique they were, check out the pan and steering components.

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Turning our attention to the other end, the trunk floor is straight and smooth.

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For those of you who noticed the contrasting paint on the outside of the rear, this is not the correct pattern. Our feature on the completed car will show the appropriate way of doing this.

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Here, again, we're getting a chance to admire the workmanship on surfaces that will seldom be seen in the completed car. A top-level restoration, however, will always have this kind of refurbishing done to all surfaces, regardless of whether they will be regularly seen.

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It's good to know you're riding on a solid, well-crafted floor, instead of worrying about when the rust will finally eat through and dump you on the road.

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The refinished dash provides a solid foundation for all the trim, knobs, and other accessories we will hang there.

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We don't have a schematic to show exactly what parts bolt to other parts in the top assembly, but neither did the craftsman who got it this far. Some things the pros just know. Before these parts were re-assembled, they were blasted, smoothed, and painted. This assembly will work better than new when covered with fabric.

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Some of these convertible top parts are getting hard to find. The little guide strip, sticking up on the right side of the bracket, is tough because it has a plastic piece which wears out from the top's rubbing on it each time it goes up and down. If you have good ones on your Nova soft top, hang onto them, especially if you're taking the assembly apart.

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This is the assist spring, used on each side at the rear, that helps lift the weight of the top.

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The bottom goes first...

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...the top last.

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Notice that the bolts are plated, which is not stock but will help avoid corrosion in the future.


Chevy 2 Only
Mt. Washington, KY 40071
Siloam Springs, AR 72761

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