When the sun's shining it really doesn't matter what shape your classic convertible's top is in. And why should it, since a drop-top is most fun when you're cruising with the breeze in your hair and sunglasses on. But wait until the next time it rains or gets cold out and up goes the top, you're sure to be a little more concerned then. And, you'll be happier-and warmer-if it does its job of sealing out the wind and water.
While this is an obvious sentiment, what's not so obvious is that fixing or replacing a convertible top is not as easy as you might think. First, most older convertibles are sure to have worn out parts other than just the outer material and back window. The mechanical frame most likely needs to be cleaned and lubricated. The tack strips that hold the material on to the frame are certain to have deteriorated. The window weatherstrips are surely hard and cracked, and you can bet the pads that protect the inside of the top from the frame are worn beyond reuse. So you see, there is more to replacing a convertible top than just laying on new vinyl.
We came to realize this with a project we came across: an early Nova convertible, whose owner was trying to get the car in shape for the winter. Having sat for a decade or two, this freshly painted, but non-restoredstreetmachine, was just hankering for a new drop-top.
The first order of business was to disassemble and clean the manual top mechanism. The owner felt comfortable doing this since it was a simple matter of loosening some nuts and bolts, using some sandpaper and spray paint to make it look nice, and reassembling it back on the car-nothing that couldn't be accomplished during a couple of Saturday afternoons. With that part of the resto job complete, the attention was turned to lining up the correct materials. This was a step made easier by the experts at Year One Incorporated and our Nova guru, Joe Grom of Chevy II Only.
When the boxes arrived, they were packed with everything necessary (pre-cut, heavy-duty vinyl top with a new clear plastic backlight, tack strips, hold-down cables, etc.). The only thing missing to commence with giving this old car a brand-new appeal was a talented upholsterer and his air-actuated staple gun. For the all-important skill of putting the top on we turned to a trusted friend, Wanda Wells, at Wanda's Upholstery in San Bernardino, California, to perform the meticulous task.
Wanda, who's been stitching up custom interiors and convertible tops in street rods, race cars, and hot cruisers for more than 35 years, was more than happy to cut, stretch, glue, and staple the Nova's white top into place for our cameras. And when it was done, six hours later (the labor book calls for the job taking roughly 10 hours), what we had was one cool-looking rag-top. Hey, now that we've witnessed it being installed on this soon-to-be street cruiser, maybe we can tackle the job ourselves when it comes time to put a new top on our own Rusty Ragtop resto project. And maybe you can rise to the occasion and do your our own drop-top replacement, too.