Take a deep breath and lift with your knees, not your back. I was told this often in the weight room and in life. And such was the philosophy when dealing with the first Corvette removable hardtops. I had a 1956 with a hardtop … not sure what happened to the soft top, but I never saw it. As often as I would take the hardtop top off one would have thought it would’ve been to my benefit to have had a soft top. Alas I didn’t. Besides, I was young and in possession of ample strength.
The first time I brought the ’56 home it wasn’t but a few hours later that I had the box wrench out and was undoing the hardware that held the top in place and releasing the two anchor levers that held the top to the windshield. That proved to be the easy and fast part. Once fully released it then dawned on me that I needed a place to put this top once it was removed. After some head scratching I opted for laying out a blanket on the garage floor and combined with a piece of nice, soft cardboard the top was to lean against the wall. But I hadn’t reached my goal as yet.
How to get the top off without damaging the paint? Now, I was, at least when I was young, almost 6-foot tall but even at that height I couldn’t reach across the width of the Vette and lift off the top. Eventually I figured I could place a blanket across the body and slide the top back ever so gently and then from the rear of the car reach across from side-to-side and lift. Viola! In time I became pretty good at the hardtop “clean and jerk” as I referred to it.
Putting the top back required a little more patience and eye-hand coordination. Depending upon my mood and how much of a rush I was in there were times I would clean and jerk the top and step into the car positioning my feet one on each seat and lower the top into place. Did I mention this was also during my phase of being strong, nimble and flexible?
During those fortunate occasions when one of my buddies was around the art of top removal or installation was of little concern or effort. Well, if my “friend” turned out to be of my girlfriend the excitement of going “topless” was of lesser value on several fronts … minimal help there. But I’m guessing this is the makings of another editorial.
Then came the idea for the multi-strap pulley system that I anchored to the garage ceiling one evening while eating garage-delivered pizza and puttin’ in a new cam. Great ideas always strike over garage-delivered food … it’s a natural progression. From that moment on removal or replacement of the top was but a few minutes’ worth of work.
With today’s cars that have electric self-packing tops it still isn’t the same excitement and anticipation as removing your own hardtop and getting ready for the open road. Man, that’s what so cool about owning an early Corvette … it’s exciting even before you get behind the wheel, even before you twist the ignition, even before you depress the clutch and even before you oh so gracefully slide it into gear. There’s nothing quite like owning a Corvette, but owning a C1 is even better!