trimacar

Didn't want to put the new top down....

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....so this is how it was done!  Model T, put a kit top on it (an older kit that was in a box for over a decade, if you have a kit anything for your car, PLEASE take it out of the box upon receipt!).

 

Owner made new "wheels" for rear so it would fit in my trailer.  Used the thin cotton batting padding that came with top kit, although I'd have liked to use something a little heavier, owner's choice, so not quite happy with second bow from rear and how it looks, but still (I'm prejudiced!)  looks OK compared to a lot of T tops out there.....

 

Great guy to work with, and why I do this as a hobby in retirement, another friend made!

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I've really only had two people who were adamant about not putting the top down, this T and a 1940 Packard convertible sedan.  There's no problem putting a properly installed top down, but appearance when up may suffer depending on material.  On a vinyl top, you'll end up seeing some wrinkles.  On a Stayfast top, wrinkles usually disappear.  My '31 Pierce has had the top down numerous times, and being Stayfast (Haartz cloth), still looks fine....(albeit a little dirty in this picture, see some specs of dust or pollen)

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90% of the cars I've owned were ragtops. If you have a quality top, they are fine. They are meant to be up or down. I find it ridiculous to not drive or use a car. You can have a very nice resto and still enjoy it. Seems a waste to not use it!

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Pulled the top down right after it came off the trailer a couple of years ago.

Hasn't been up since.

 

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Both of the cars I mention are to be used, the Packard has already been out and about and to a few shows, Hershey and Boca Raton included, and the T is being put together to drive. 

 

If the owner chooses to leave the top up, that's fine, but as mentioned that doesn't mean they aren't going to be used! 

 

I like tops down too!

 

Another reason the T owner didn't want to put top down, the top was a kit that was 10-15 years old and had been left in the box, so some nice wrinkles from storage.  The longer it stays stretched the better, although there were some wrinkles that probably won't go away.

Edited by trimacar (see edit history)

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Pulled the top down right after it came off the trailer a couple of years ago.

Hasn't been up since.

Sweet car!!

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Pulled the top down right after it came off the trailer a couple of years ago.

Hasn't been up since.

 

NOTHING is harder on a top than leaving down for extended periods. It will crease and shrink. Best to put it up thru the winter and often in warm weather to keep it stretched properly.

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How many '30s convertible sedans are running around never having had their tops in the down position? A great many, I'd guess. Most of them need three men and a crane to put them back up again, and as you mention, a lot of owners are afraid of wrinkles and fit issues later so it becomes more trouble than it's worth. Admittedly, many don't look good with giant top stacks piled up behind the back seat (that 1933 Auburn convertible sedan I had looked dreadful with the top down because of how big the top stack was), but others, like the 1938 Packard convertible sedan we had, was beautifully engineered and somehow disappeared almost entirely behind the seat. A bear to erect, but it was the rare convertible sedan that looked better with the top down.

 

Still, it leaves me wondering why buyers put such a premium on a convertible sedan that they never intend to use as a convertible. Why not just buy a regular sedan? I have clients with convertible sedans on which they've never put the top down. They wouldn't even consider owning a "closed" car but will gladly pay a $100,000 premium for a "mostly closed" car with leaky windows and a roof that flaps in the wind. I don't get it at all.

 

Great work, David, as always. You're a credit to your profession and the hobby in your pursuit to make it right. So few shops take the time like you do and it really shows in the final product.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Thanks, Matt, for mentioning the sometimes extreme difficulty in putting SOME tops down or up.  My 1930 Pierce roadster takes two people to do it.  My 1918 Pierce 48 5-p touring is supposed to have a one man top, but he'd better be Charles Atlas!  And the photos in the 1918 owner's manual show the man doing it while keeping his straw boater in place on his head--not bloody likely!  The 1918 top down process requires (1) detaching and rolling up and stowing the broadcloth liner, (2) removal of the rear quarter curtains with beveled glass and stowing them where the glass won't get broken, (3) folding the long top, and (4) getting the large folded top into the bag (another 2-person job).

 

Other considerations for whether one prefers top up or down include:

 

* how long are the tours and in what weather?  I'm a regular at the annual 4-day Modoc Tour in the NE Calif high desert, with temps in the 90s.  Thank you, I'll keep the top up with no side curtains and enjoy great visibility and a good breeze.

 

* how much wind buffeting can one tolerate at speed with no wind wings (1930 roadster)?  At 55 mph and up, the wind beats the heck out of you over an hour or so.  This car's windshield folds flat and looks REALLY great that way, and feels great at speeds of 25 mph or below--above that, not so much....  Windshield is folded flat for July 4 parades and other such events.

 

* one's own susceptibility to skin cancer.  I'm not in the running for Poster Child for skin cancer, but I've had a number of occurrences.  For me, SOME top down time is fun and worth the risk, but I don't want to overdo it.

 

It's interesting how some with electrically operated tops on more modern vehicles don't consider the effort and the considerations involved in dealing with manual tops on older iron...

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Thanks Matt.  It was an older kit top, I told the owner it wouldn't fit correctly, and we finally agreed to modify.  I took the seams apart, refit, and sewed again.  I much prefer fitting a top from scratch.  He did want a nice looking top, and that's hard to do with a T and a kit.

 

The 1940 Packard convertible sedan I did has a seriously ugly top when down, similar to some Mercedes, stacked in the back.

 

My 1938 1604 Packard convertible coupe looks great with top down, as it mostly disappears in the well behind the seat.  All in and done, it does make you appreciate how novel the Cord 810/812 looked with a disappearing top, seen only before then on custom bodied cars...

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Someday I may need to replace the still-original top on our 1937 Buick Roadmaster 80C. It even has its original internal headliner. Buick called it a Phaeton, but most would consider it a convertible sedan since it has roll-up windows and removable "B" pillar.

 

The top folds completely into the well, and there are provisions to strap it down.

 

When that day comes, I hope that David will make room in his shop for "Fiorello" - he was Mayor LaGuardia's personal parade car from 1937 until he left office in 1947, and continued to serve New York City well into the 1950s.

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Great looking car, Marty!  Lot of top there, I'll pencil you in for sometime.....though it sounds like not sometime soon!

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...  My 1918 Pierce 48 5-p touring is supposed to have a one man top, but he'd better be Charles Atlas!  ...The 1918 top down process requires (1) detaching and rolling up and stowing the broadcloth liner, (2) removal of the rear quarter curtains with beveled glass and stowing them where the glass won't get broken, (3) folding the long top, and (4) getting the large folded top into the bag (another 2-person job).

 

In the 1990's, I asked an old-timer whether people

put the tops down on the old touring cars.  He replied,

"The younger people did."

 

That's an interesting bit of history, which I never heard before.

How much knowledge like that gets forgotten?

 I appreciate hearing history from people who actually were there, living it.

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This question hasn't been asked yet, if an old "kit" was used vs starting from scratch how much money was saved, if any. Bob

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Last week I went out to the garage and put the top UP on my Park Ave convertible. It had been down since last summer. I figured I better stretch it out and limbered up in case I get caught in the rain this year.

 

I just like going out in the garage and seeing it top down. I don't use car covers either. Who wants to see lumps of canvas in their garage. I just walk around with a spray bottle of detailer and a polishing cloth and touch stuff. I've always enjoyed buffing a polishing cloth across the peaks on the Riviera front fenders.

 

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Bernie

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Still, it leaves me wondering why buyers put such a premium on a convertible sedan that they never intend to use as a convertible. Why not just buy a regular sedan? I have clients with convertible sedans on which they've never put the top down. They wouldn't even consider owning a "closed" car but will gladly pay a $100,000 premium for a "mostly closed" car with leaky windows and a roof that flaps in the wind. I don't get it at all.

 

Excellent point, Matt.  I have wondered the same thing.

Unless money is no object, why should people aspire to 

convertibles when they never use them as open cars?

And then, why should convertibles be double or triple the

price of a closed car, if they're never used as convertibles?

 

Some 1930's phaetons look stylish with their tops up--

the contrasting cloth top gives it a sporty air.

But I think most cars from the 1950's onward look much

sleeker--longer, lower, and wider--with their tops down.  

 

It would be like owning a powerful muscle car, yet trailering it

so you never feel its power;  or building a house with a fireplace

that you never light.  We should forget paying extra for what's "popular"

and instead spend our money on features we really use and enjoy!

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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To answer the cost question, yes, even with a kit top that doesn't fit correctly, there's money to be saved buying/modifying a kit vs. having a top made from scratch. 

 

The reason for this, on T's, is that a top kit is so cheap, uhh, inexpensive I mean.  I think current cost, Model T, for top panel, rear curtain, and pads, is around $425.  That's such a bargain.

 

I'd say that, even taking a kit that needs work to fit correctly, owner would still end up at half or less of what a scratch built top would cost.  It all depends on what you want.  If you want a super nice fit, then it has to be from scratch.  If you're satisfied with a few wrinkles, a kit top is fine.  It's hard on this one to tell you exactly, because we also spent a lot of time fitting the side curtains (and they needed slight modification also).

 

This one actually came out nicer than most T's, partly due to the owner being VERY meticulous about bow measurements and alignment, he even made a framework that holds the bows in the correct positions so you can put straps and pads on to hold in place.  He gave that to me, by the way, so next T will get the same treatment! 

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  When we got our 66 Sunbeam Tiger in '84, then in '86 scored a '55 T Bird, we solved the top up or down or hardtop on or off problem with 4 stainless steel  meat-hooks.... Took the convertible tops out of the cars and hung them on the garage wall along with the two removable hardtops !  Never worried about them again.  (until I sold both years later in Alabama, then the new owners wanted them for some reason, ha !)

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Great looking car, Marty!  Lot of top there, I'll pencil you in for sometime.....though it sounds like not sometime soon!

Thanks David,

 

It is still serviceable for now, although a trusted friend did accidentally create a small "L" shaped rip (and stitched it up) in the right sail panel. We hope to keep it original as long as possible, even though a new top would still; be acceptable for our HPOF-ORIGINAL badge. QWe DO put the top up and down, enjoying the car as much as possible, and touring it when we're able. 

 

Thanks for your generous comment. We were told that since the glass rear window still has the vertical metal strip down the center, that it is indeed the original top and rear curtain. 

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I use all my ragtops regularly and if it's a nice day (of course my Caddys and Olds are power tops), topless is the way to be! I do get those that have a poorly engineered top mechanism, they can be a b***h! My amphicar has what must be one of the worst designed (manual) tops ever. I've put it down myself too many times to count and it rarely folds the same way twice let alone correctly. Once in a while, BAM! it drops into place. Most of the time it's a lot of WTF Grrr and sumbit** damnt etc. Going up is not as difficult but for one guy, cumbersome especially when you are as short as I am! (using a wheelchair that is)

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Put the top down and only put up in rain or very cold   then put down as soon as it dries off   no one sees the wrinkles or worn places from top bows rubbing on cloth.   Open cars are to be enjoyed open and shown open so top is to keep you dry in heavy rain,  lite rain does not present a problem just pace the red lights.

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Open cars are to be enjoyed open and shown open so top is to keep you dry in heavy rain,  lite rain does not present a problem just pace the red lights.

 

Now there's a dedicated convertible fan!

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Over 20 years ago I put a top and interior kit in a 23 roadster and since I worked in the basement I had to put the top down to get it out,the owner shown me how to start and drive it so I did sneak it around the block to say I drove one.

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