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Touring Car tops

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I own several mid-twenties touring cars all with worn out tops.  Anyone have any experience or suggestions where to get tops made?

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For material I would talk to Hartz.

They are experts in the field of top materials.

I would also wait to hear what Trimacar has to say, he has forgotten more about pre-war top and upholstery materials than most of us will every know.

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About 5 years ago I replaced the top on my '21 Franklin 9B touring (5-passenger). I looked everywhere to get a decent estimate. Many restoration shops didn't want to do the job. Those that were willing gave an estimate of $5-7000.

 

I met an upholstery guy at Chickasha (who has since stopped going there). He knew a Mennonite upholsterer who could do the job. It would be the last top the Mennonite would do because he was 80 years old and wanted to wind down and spend more time with his family. I shipped the top, supplied the top material - bought from Hartz (very, very nice people) who just happened to have some Franklin-accurate top material left over from previous run).  The job took about 2 months.

 

All in all, I spent about $2600 for the top, including the material. Five years later the top is as good as new and a work of art. 

 

You need to find someone in AACA circles who has reliable connections. The person I dealt with was well-known and someone I could trust.

 

I looked into doing the top myself, but it's not a job for beginners.

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Forget about a kit like later some later convertibles. Touring tops need an experienced upholsterer and the car in that shop to properly fit and tension the top. Post your general location and someone many be able to post a nearby qualified shop close enough to take the cars there.

 

Paul

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17 hours ago, zepher said:

For material I would talk to Hartz.

They are experts in the field of top materials.

I would also wait to hear what Trimacar has to say, he has forgotten more about pre-war top and upholstery materials than most of us will every know.

Absolutely, Eric Haartz is great to work with on materials.

 

As to tops, there are trimmers who can put tops on, and there are trimmers who can put tops on correctly.

 

Steps needed:  Remove all old material, including thousands of tacks and/or staples (a slight exaggeration, it just feels like that sometimes).  Repair the bows as needed, usually a couple of tops at least have been on a car, and bows are full of holes and sometimes cracked.  Recover bows with bowdrill.  Install bows on car, and spend a lot of time getting them all in the correct position and square, this sometimes takes a day.  Make pads (don't use foam, use heavy cotton batting as original), install pads and straps inside pads, sew pads closed.  Mark you line for the top panel seams (I use a piece of cording, sewn at a few places to pad, and marked randomly with a magic marker for sewing marks).  Fit and mark main top panel.  Fit and mark two side top panels.  Sew together, fit to car and if they fit correctly top sew the seams.  Make rear window panel.  Make and install all straps as needed.  Fit rear panel to rear bow and body.  Fit top panels, and mark sides ON THE CAR, it's straight on the car but not straight when you lay it on table.  Sew reinforcing into sides, and bind as needed.  Install top.  Install wire-on or hidem welting at seams.  Stand back and admire.

 

All that takes me about 60 to 70 hours, but I may be slow.  I fit the top to the car, using the old top as a reference, but NEVER as a pattern.

 

Using Stayfast/Haartz cloth, materials will run about $1000, and if you figure $50 an hour then $3500 for labor.  You can see why you don't want to use a cheap material for the top, most of the cost is labor.

 

People do it for less.  People do it for a LOT more for Pebble Beach quality.  Quality is all over the place.  The cars I've done have won national awards, so I must be doing OK.  I'm NOT looking for business, but every now and then could sneak a top into the shop.

 

Hope that helps.  If you can get a quality top done for $2500, then jump on it.  A lot of people don't mind wrinkles, and that's fine, they're using the car.  Most Model T kit tops are very inexpensive, but don't fit well, because after 100 years the top has changed from original and the kits are done from original dimensions.  It just all depends on what you want to live with.

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CRAZYCARS - 

I have used "Mark Larder Auto Upholstery" for three of my cars and have been extremely satisfied with his work. He only does high-end or interesting old cars and is definitely not a hot-rod guy. Very great quality. Here are two examples of tops that he has done for me. Unique.

RON HAUSMANN P.E. 

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I have a 12 T I do not care for the top material on it now put on sum time ago. I was thinking of putting a new top on myself going as far as buying an old Singer 111W155 machine that is supposed to be able to handle the material. Friends have now talked me out of replacing it and drive it the way it is. Trimacar is correct you get what pay for as the less expensive the more imperfections you may have bought also. As for the old Singer it now sits in the corner of my basement waiting for my kids inheritance auction.

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Another Mark Larder top on my car. He is local to me (Homer, MI) otherwise I would have run it out to a certain shop in Winchester, VA. That is a Haartz Stayfast material.

Scott

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Posted (edited)

Very nice work, you're lucky to have a talented trimmer who appears to pay attention to detail.

 

Tops are not hard to put on, you just need to know a few tricks, have a good eye, and have a ton of patience.  

 

Since we're showing off work, here are some cars I've done!  Darrin and Cord, both once owned by the late Bill Pettit, an Autocar with a custom made top material (thanks to Eric Haartz who did 40 yards for me, note Pantasote replicated surface with light whipcord backing), and my very own '31 Pierce.....

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Edited by trimacar (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, trimacar said:

Tops are not hard to put on, you just need to know a few tricks, have a good eye, and have a ton of patience.  

Right, and that is where the extra time (and cost) really matters and you guys that do such top quality work don't always blow your horn enough.  Sure a top may look good from 3 feet away but when you walk up to it and notice the evenly spaced stitching, straight as an arrow stitch lines that follow contours perfectly, consistent width on the margins, alignment between features, nicely crimped lift-the-dot connectors and snaps, taught material, etc.  That is when you know you've had a quality job done and people notice.

 

I get a lot of compliments on my top and side curtains then people look at my upholstery and say "What the heck?"  Yes, I went to a family friend and got exactly what I paid for.  It's not terrible but certainly not to the standards that a pro like David or Mark have.  Sure I could redo the upholstery but I just can't justify the cost of doing it twice on a low demand nickel era car that might be worth $25k as is.  So, my suggestion is to budget appropriately and do it once - correctly.

Scott

Edited by Stude Light (see edit history)
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