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Installing a sedan top


Earl B.
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My friend is ready to put the cloth top on his sedan and would like a good set of instructions if someone would be kind enough to write it out for him. My car had a good top on it, so, I have no idea exactly what to do myself. All help will be appreciated! thanks, Earl

Edited by Earl B. (see edit history)
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A bit easier said than done. The molding is held down with hidden wood screws if it's like my 34, so you'll have to clean the molding to find the screw heads. Remove the molding. Remove the old top material and PRAY that you find the wood intact and in good shape. Beneath the top is a layer of cotton batting that you'll probably want to remove. Then check the wire mesh as it is structurally important to the strength and rigidity of the body. Replace or repair if it needed, then replace the cotton batting. Long (or short if that's what your car had) Colonial grain roofing is available from Restoration Supply or Restoration Specialties, Cut the piece a bit oversize, begin tacking and stretching to get a uniform tension without wrinkles all the way around. Cut off any excess at the edges, caulk the edges with a good weather seal rubber or silicone product, and reattach the molding. Scout around, there are videos and also written instructions around on how to do this.

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I'll expand on the installation.

Packard used a wooden body structure, so as mentioned, the wood slats being in good condition is critical.

Over the wooden slats is usually chicken wire, then burlap or solid fabric, then a thin layer of cotton batting.

The chicken wire is sometimes used, in a closed car, for the radio antenna, so check to make sure it's not grounded anywhere if so.

Usually, the metal border surrounding the opening has oval slots in it. One end of the slot is used for tacking down the material, the other end for installing the trim strip nails or screws.

As mentioned, use sealant, and the best is to do it in the sun on a hot day. The material must be stretched tightly so that it won't flap in the wind, and if you do it in a cold shop, flap it will....

Mark centerline, tack the front middle, then move to the back and stretch, then tack rear middle. Put a reasonable pull on one side, tack midpoint on that side. Move to other side, stretch well, tack midpoint on second side. Now, start working away from those center tacks, stretching as you go and alternating every half dozen tacks or so front/back side/side. Remember to put tacks on one end of oval slot, or if it's not an oval slot, to one side of hole.

Once material is tacked down, trim by laying a single edge razor on the line you want to cut, then pulling material up against razor to cut. Move razor, repeat, keeping cut line in the middle of where the trim piece will be, and usually beyond a ridge on the metal slightly inside the tack holes.

Metal trim is tricky to save and reinstall, but it can be done, seal and fasten, then fill screw holes and paint.

Hope this helps.

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  • 2 months later...

It would help if the model year was known too. I know 32-34 used what I like to call "aluminum wireon" that gets nailed down then folded over. It's best with 2 helpers at times to keep that aluminum trim nice and straight. The top material gets sealed to the body, the trim part gets sealed to the material, then the fold-over portion gets it's nails sealed. I've found that black strip caulk, still available from 3M, is the best sealant for ease of handling, accuracy, long life, and easy clean up. Now I'm really gonna get some of you running for your parts books. What color is the top material supposed to be? The answer, body color. An additive was sold to make the lacquer flexible. It's in the book so enjoy the search.

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