Subscribe to the Free

A Two-Top Job

Patience And Perseverance Make Your Shark’s Tops Look Tip-Top

Andrew Bolig Oct 1, 2000

Step By Step

For hard top installation, the first thing we did was remove the headliner, mounting brackets, and latches on the hardtop. Clean up the brackets and run a tap through the threads so the new bolts/screws will tighten smoothly.

If you plan to purchase all new latches, keep all the old parts. Some of the pieces may not be available anymore, and it’s better to have a part that needs to be restored than to need a part they don’t make anymore. Put all of the cleaned latches and brackets back on the top to go to the fitting stage of the top restoration.

If your hardtop already fits properly on the car, you won’t need to worry about this step. We installed new weatherstrip, so we went back to check the fit. Chris uses 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive along with the pins to keep the weatherstrip in place.

You can see where the window had hit the chrome on the passenger side.

The windows were way off and we needed to adjust the window regulator on the driver side. You can see where the window had hit the chrome on the passenger side.

Because we needed to pull the door skins, Chris decided to keep them off until the job was finished in case we needed to go back in and readjust the windows to average the fit between the two tops.

The regulator in the passenger door was in bad shape. The rollers were dried out and loose, and the brace by the motor was broken off.

We should point out that there is a spring on the regulator that helps the motor raise the window.

If you pull the motor off the regulator, you’ll need to put a bolt through the hole supplied in the regulator. This keeps the arm with the big gear from swinging around and possibly causing injury.

While we had the window out to repair the regulator...

...we replaced the roller on the glass portion of the window.

If you need to adjust only the window, these are the two bolts you’ll have to move. If you move the front one up, the front of the window will go up. If you move the rear bolt up, the rear of the window will go up. Take your time and get the best window fit that you can. You don’t want to find water seeping in later when you could have prevented it by spending a few extra minutes now.

The side window weatherstripping is held in place by screws. We also put some 3M Strip Caulk under the weatherstrip to keep water from seeping in.

Chris uses a small awl to line up the holes and make it easier to start the screws.

There are three pieces to the headliner. The side pieces are held to the top (main) piece by two bolts each. Bolt them together before you install the top and install them as one piece, otherwise you’ll have a hard time reaching the bolts.

The headliner pops in place with these clips.

We put a little dab of 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive on each one to help keep them in place, and then the headliner pops into place.

We had to use a little bit of “glue on a roll” to keep the headliner in position until the adhesive dried properly. I wouldn’t try to use the top like this; the tape and rags really kill aerodynamics.

For soft top installation, the soft-top bows were cleaned and painted.

Then we installed the new tack strips to staple the top onto.

We installed the bows to make sure they would fold properly.

Put something between the front bow and the windshield to make up for the missing weatherstrip to make the fit of your top as accurate as possible. You’ll need this when you start to check the window gaps and the fit of the top.

We had to make some shims to go under the latch on the back bow.

The pins needed to be moved in a little on each side.

This is why we fit the hardtop first.

The soft top has more adjustment, and typically can be adjusted with the two bolts on each side and the latches/pins up front to fit. Keep the door skins off just in case you need to make an adjustment.

Chris likes to drape the top over the bows and pull the top snug over the rear bow. He makes sure that the top has the same amount of overlap on each side. He marks the position of the top with a pencil and then removes the rear bow. You’ll need this mark when you start to install the top on the bow.

Next, cut the straps for the top to the right length.

There is a template you can use, and Chris will cut the strap about a quarter inch longer just in case.

The threads in the rear bow for the straps were stripped, so Chris used an 8/32-inch Helicoil kit to repair them...

...and then installed the straps.

Place the top on a clean, flat work surface and position the rear bow in preparation for installation.

You’ll need some tools to make the job easier. Chris uses an old brake adjusting spoon and a spline roller. The other two high-tech tools are just 6-8-inch pieces of spark plug wires.

Match up the pencil marks that you made on the top to the end of the rear bow. Once you have them aligned evenly on both sides, push in the spark plug wire to keep the ends in place as you put on the weatherstripping and the plastic tubing that holds it in place.

Before you go any further, make sure that the straps you bolted on will not cover the rear window when the straps are extended. We recommend keeping the paper over the window until you’re finished because it will scratch very easily.

Go ahead and tuck in the tab from the top, making sure there are no wrinkles and that the top is spread evenly with no areas bunched up. Because there needs to be room for the weatherstripping and the vinyl tubing, the top won’t stay in the groove by itself. The corners will be the most difficult.

Next, put the weatherstripping into the groove. You can use a screwdriver, but be sure not to damage the weatherstripping.

The last step for the rear bow is to insert the vinyl tubing. Chris has tried several liquids to lubricate the tubing, and he has found that water does the most good. Make sure the tubing is seated around the entire bow. You should barely be able to see it once it’s seated.

When you get to the ends, you’ll have to remove the spark plug wire pieces to complete the process.

Install the rear bow back on the car and staple the straps up to the next bow forward with 3/8-inch staples.

Chris marks where the template indicated he should have cut it, and makes that his starting point. If there’s a problem and the strap has to be longer than what the template showed, you’ll be very happy you left a little more on the strap. It can always be trimmed later, but you can’t add to it once it’s cut.

The bow pads are installed next. You don’t want the top to be latched down because the bow pads should be stretched tight when the top is latched.

Start at the front and staple the bow pads down with 3/8-inch staples, working your way back to the bow above the window.

From the bow pads you should staple the top to the bow above the window. Use only as many staples as you need. You may need to pull them again. Don’t have the rear bow latched because you’ll have to stretch the top a little to get the wrinkles out.

Chris pulled the front of the top forward and tapped his hand on the top to help stretch it so we could see if it was stapled properly.

We saw that the bow above the window needed to be stapled closer to the window so the seam would fall on the center of the bow. We had to pull the staples out of the bow pads on the rear bow above the window and the straps so we could shorten them. You can see in the photo how the bow is above the seam.

Install the tension cable on each side of the window opening. This will go through a loop provided to keep the side tension on the top. You can also see the positioning of the bow padding that we installed in the middle of the two forward bows. They push right in place.

Install the padding that goes inside the bow pads. Chris uses 3M Spray Adhesive to keep the pads from shifting. We had the front tack strip for the bow pad pulled out, so we put some Weatherstrip Adhesive on it and clamped it in place.

With the rear bow unlatched, you can now pull the side curtains tight. We used more Weatherstrip Adhesive to keep them in place. Trim off the excess once you have them positioned.

With the front tack-strip adhesive dry, we put the tension cable through the loop and pop-riveted it in place.

With the side curtains tight and the rear bow unlatched, you can install the Hydem strip. Staple the top section and the Hydem strip at the same time. Make sure that the staples are centered in the Hydem strip and that the top is pulled evenly so there will be no wrinkles. Once you have them stapled satisfactorily, you simply bend over the Hydem strip to cover the staples. We’ll trim the Hydem strip and install the ends once the entire top is complete.

There is a plastic header trim panel that goes inside, and it should be installed next. It simply screws in place. You can see the inside tack strip right above the trim panel. We will be using that next.

Starting with the top centered, use 5/16-inch staples to hold the front of the top. Put a mark where the lip should be so you don’t get the top too tight or too loose when it’s latched. Start at the middle, and work your way out to the ends. This will help keep the sides even and will help remove wrinkles. You want the top to be tight enough to bounce a quarter off when you’re done.

There are two flaps at the front sides of the top. We used more Weatherstrip Adhesive to hold them in place. They will be covered up by the weatherstripping later.

We stapled the front trim bead to the top using the first flap...

...and then used more Weatherstrip Adhesive to hold down the second flap so you don’t see any staples.

Finally, we installed the weatherstrips to the front of the header and the sides for the window seals.

Make sure that the angle cuts face the right way or you’ll have big gaps on one end and bunched up seals on the other.

The last part to put on is the ends for the Hydem strips. Remember to cut the Hydem strips so that they are even and you can screw into the tack strip on the bow. You only get one chance to make a single hole, so take your time. Also, at this point you can remove the paper from the rear window.

There are several reasons you’d want to change the top on your Corvette. Tears, vandalism, and weather can wreak havoc on convertible tops but, fortunately, suppliers like Corvette Central provide pieces to replace those tops that make our Corvettes look new again. Corvette Central provided all the pieces, and Chris Petris of Corvette Clinic contributed the know-how to make this restoration a success. Come along and see what it takes to restore a soft top and a hardtop for a shark.

We have to admit that putting a convertible top on a shark can get quite involved, but it’s worth all the work when it’s done. At this point you should have a top that looks good but may have a few waves or wrinkles. Chris says that when he finishes a top, he lets it sit outside in the sun for a day or more. The sun heats it and works out all the wrinkles.


Corvette Central
Sawyer, MI 49125
Corvette Clinic
Sanford, FL

Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

sponsored links

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print