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Antique Car Convertible top replacement


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I have been getting a lot of help trying to figure how to install and make the convertible top and side curtains for my 1925 Buick Standard Touring.  I hope this will help others and even your local upholstery shop if you prefer to not do this work yourself, but want to keep the work close to home and have the job done correctly.  My hope is that you could also partner with a local upholstery shop to save some money by doing some of the work yourself.  A lot of this work can be completed at home and then just use their shop for the sewing.   Regarding Industrial Sewing machines, they are also a great investment as resale used prices are close to new prices many times.  If you buy a used machine you can typically sell the machine after completion for the machine purchase cost.   I did install a reducer to slow my machine and installation of the reducer is on this forum if you do a search.    

 

I have not stitched a thread yet, but I have attached some fabric to the car.  I still have a long way to go, but I have started installing some pieces.  I would have preferred to take the smaller fabric starting pieces from the cuttings, but I have not made the big cuttings yet.   
 
Special thanks for those that have helped me understand how Buick installed this top in the first place.  It gives me a lot of confidence in knowing that what I do will work properly.  My top was a tattered aftermarket top that probably came from JC Whitney.  It likely kept the sun off, but maybe not so much on keeping the water out.  I did not know about the front visor for a long time, as the parts book photo is a little vague about what this part is, but to me it is key to making the front of this top work.  Special thanks to my support group - David Coco, Larry DiBarry, Brian Meek, Brian Heil, David Blaufarb,  Mike Concordia. 
 
I will start with my early documents and then provide updates as I go.   There is a lot to think about when making a top so some of these documents get rather lengthy.  This will be a long word document at the end of this process.   In this posting, I will start with the first 8 pages up thru covering the bows with fabric and the alignment, so this is Convertible Top Installation.  Then I will post the supplies and material layout.      
 
 Hugh
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Posted (edited)

Since the Convertible top supplies information is basically text, I am just cutting and pasting here.  The material take offs for fabric are power point converted to jpg so that I can post them.  Hugh

 

Top – Supplies       1925 Buick Standard model 25 Touring       Hugh Leidlein    4-2-20

Needles : sharp tip for leather,vinyl & cardboard (door panels) - search (135x16)  They should be D point or tri point.  Rounded or ballpoint tip is for fabric & tops - search (135x17)

125/20 size is good for 69 or 92 thread   Size 110/18 could also be used for 69 thread.  Use this chart for leather needles (135x16) Like NDL-718662

https://www.thethreadexchange.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=NDL-135x16

Top Thread V69 polyester bonded, exterior from Sunguard – (Using V-92 Polyester Bonded thread).

Lay out – Making a lay out of the material in Powerpoint or by cutting pieces on paper to see how much material you really need.   View – show gridlines is helpful in Powerpoint.

Paste layouts here.

Quantities - Stayfast 60” wide – Black and Tan – Using the following measurements for ordering:

Top – width @ front 52”, width @rear 58”, length of roof 93 

-          Back curtain 24

-          Sides of roof at widest (rear) 24” tall x 93 long ( 2 sides)

-          Back curtain sides length 24”(2 sides)

-          Stayfast for internal metal visor above windshield 12

-          Stayfast to cover the front bow sides 24

-          Inner Rear Curtain (could be duck cloth, but using top for color match) 24”

-          Need 2” for seaming reinforcement strip for along the top sides (cut from excess)

-          Bottom of Top Pad covering (2) 24” x 93” (cut from excess)

Side Curtains  - 80” long (plus 3” overlap each panel) x 20” tall (2  sides) – order 93”

Total Stayfast = 387” = 32.3’ = 11 yards + 1 yard so Total 12 yards  (SF-04) @$59/yd ~$708 Bill Hirsch

BowdrillTan – Total is 6 yards   Bill Hirsch

-          3 bows, 52 to 58 inch long, covered on a bias.  (The front bow uses top material.)   3 yards                                                                                          

-          Top Pad covering the top side (2) -  3 yards 

-           Cover back bow tension straps (use scraps)

Tan Back Panel Cloth - Total is 1 yard.  This is duck cloth.  Using top canvas for color match. 

-          Back window panel – 24” – 1 yard (in above calculation)

Hidem – Black (front, rear, back base) – 18 feet   6 yards @$10/yard  Bill Hirsch                                                                                                          

Tacking Strip Front (use to hold back window glass) 5/8” x 3/16” (need to split) 5 foot Bill Hirsch

 

 

 

Top Pad batting (56” wide) – Dacron2-02    3 yards Fabric Warehouse

– 10” x 93” (2 required)  Was 1” horse hair.  Use 1.5-2” Dacron Polyester batting.  Also use in visor. www.fabricwarehouse.com    207-784-7151

3 ½” burlap (Jute) red line webbing.  (Red line (11 lb) is stronger than Black line (9 lb))      Two 10 yard rolls     Ebay     

-          Top Pads - 3 pieces wide x 93” (2 sides) = 558 “ =  (16 yards)

-          Back Window 3 x 24” long each (2 yards)

Consider ordering 3/8" and 1/2" "improved head" tacks from the UK for the straps.

Tension Straps - Back bow  - Nylon or (Polyester is best) – 3 yards   Etsy- Sewing Supplies – Lake Dalton WI     https://www.etsy.com/shop/SewingSupplies?ref=ks_wide   Khaki Tan

 – 1” x .125 x 36 ” (2 sides)   Cover in Bowdrill?  

3M strip Caulk (find alternative) – for sealing around the glass and the holes in the top frame.

Top Socket rod protectors for top of side curtains (4 x $20 each)                                                                   Antique Top Hardware Co.

Chalk Pencil – to make dashed lines – not solid. – Hobby Lobby

Tacks (Home Depot & Ebay)

Small Nails – back window

Fasteners – See Fastener Excel sheet -

 Supply Sources                                                                                                                

https://www.hirschauto.com/STAYFAST-CONVERTIBLE-TOP-MATERIAL/productinfo/SF/04 BLK/TAN/

$55/yd 60” wide

 

Leather – Coast to Coast Leather (Per David)

Pleats in seat?  If leather, I recommend Coast to Coast leather, reasonable pricing on nice hides.  A pleat is deceptive, you need very little extra material to make a nice rounded pleat.  Most of the time I add 5/8” to material mark vs backing mark, and it makes a nice rounded pleat.
 

http://www.coast2coastleather.com

Tandy Motorcycle Leather $139 per hide

I buy the thin cotton batting (as used to make quilts) from JoAnns, it’s used for door panels and such.  I also buy muslin from there for backing of pleats.

 

 

 

Needle Notes

-          From David Coco : I use a triangular point needle for all my sewing, have never had a problem.  The needle I use is a #1440, 134-35 LR and 2134-35 LR. 

Issue: supposed to use rounded point for fabrics (stayfast).  Could not find this needle.

-          From Gary Martin : uses #21 size needle, used to use 3 point needles but it made slits in the leather so he stayed with the rounded for leather.  I think his needle is too big.

-          www.Thread Exchange : recommends #16-#18 needle for V69 (100/16 or 110/18).   Also suggests V92 thread for convertible tops.    

 

 Thread Notes –

-          Both said use UV69 Bonded polyester sunguard antiwick.  “Sunguard” only comes in V92 and V138 size.  Gary said the spool said size F which is V92.  

Fabric Color choice -  black on tan Haartz is a good choice, then the inside of the car doesn’t look like a cave.  And yes, use black thread on top and light thread on bottom (bobbin).   

 

Tacks  I always use steel tacks.  I put a couple on my lips and pick them out with a magnetic tack hammer.  Some people use staples, I prefer tacks because you can move them around easier, easier to take out and adjust.   DC.  I do use a few copper tacks.   The bowdrill can be installed with ¼” tacks.  The majority of the tacks are 3/8”.  Some ½” as the fabric stack gets thicker.

 

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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A lot of good information here.

 

I like to cut bowdrill pieces a foot wide, then you have plenty of room on the inside curves to move bowdrill around to make smooth.

 

You cannot cut out top side panels with straight lines as shown.  Where they attach to main top panel, it will be straight lines BETWEEN BOWS, but not all the way front to back.  The sides will be a slight arc, NOT a straight line.  Either fit the fabric to car (that's what I do) or make a good pattern.

 

I make my pads from top material, so that adds yardage.  I don't think a complete touring top and set of side curtains can be made from 11-12 yards, that said I make my curtains out of two layers of fabric, cutting away that which isn't needed.

 

I have a nice method for installing clear plastic windows, with pictures, if you'd like to include it in your narrative.

 

thanks David C.

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David, 

    I really appreciate all the guidance and comments.  I will be adding the notes you give me into the source document and I will be adding your comments into what I have already posted.  I will be doing a separate posting on making the side curtains when I get to them.  I want to show both how the side curtains were made originally, and how you make side curtains and install the plastic.  As in many cases, there is how the factory did it, and there is how a professional trimmer would do a job.  You do bring up good point though.  I was planning on showing how to install the original style wood frame and nickeled rear window.  These can be more complicated and costly than some want.  I think it would be good to show people how to trim in a plastic window for the back curtain as a less expensive time expedient alternative.  With no "Top kits" available for these cars, it would be nice to do something to keep the costs down.    Hugh

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Just for the record, here's how I do clear plastic insert windows, whether it's on the rear curtain or on the side curtains.  If you're an absolute purist, you may wish to make them just like the factory did on your particular car, which may or may not be my method.  I like a finished look on the outside, and this method accomplishes that.  One further note, when you install plastic window, leave the protective coating on it, and only peel back enough to sew.  That keeps from scratching the plastic while sewing and handling the material.

 

First picture, you need backing material larger than the window to be inserted, on side curtains I use two pieces of top material full size, then sew two pieces of material together along lines 1/2 inch OUTSIDE where you want the finished window to be.  Then, mark with chalk 1 inch INSIDE the sewn line.

 

Second picture, cut the outer fabric only, along marked chalk line, and insert plastic inside the sewn border and on top of the bottom layer of fabric.  I find the easiest way to make sure it fits perfectly is to lay the clear plastic over the top, mark with a pen along the sewn line just slightly inside of sewn line, then cut that piece and insert.

Third picture, after plastic inserted, fold outer material under and sew through folded fabric and plastic window.  Cut any corners or angles 1/2 way ONLY  through top layer of fabric so that you can fold under and continue ….

 

Once you have it sewn, go to back side and carefully cut out the back material.  I usually make a small slit in the middle of the panel with scissors, and cut toward a side.  Then, I use a single edge razor blade, hold it down where you want fabric cut (about 3/16 inch inside sew line) and pull the fabric up against it to cut, move blade and repeat.  

 

This method gives a very nice finished edge to the window, see last picture.  thanks dc

 

 

 

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Hugh (and Dave)

 

Wow . Never ceases to amaze me the detail you come up with.

I sure hope we get a chance to use this information at some point.

 

 

Brad

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Posted (edited)

The saga continues.  I now have pads on the car to support a top.  I have a good foundation and the top folds correctly and no sagging frame at the doors.  The sewn top pads that David Coco showed me how to make really look nice in the car.  The next step is to install the "rear curtain", and then I can do the top side.  I did receive original side curtains for a 1928-25 Buick from David Blaufarb and along with Brian Heils 1923-35 curtains, I have a better understanding regarding fitting these.  I will be posting the information on how to fabricate side curtains in another thread.  I am still on the hunt to borrow and draw any 1925-25 side curtains in any condition.   If you have side curtains from another year and model that would help others, let me know and I will draw them, have the dimensions archived,  and return them.   Many thanks for all the guidance and use of the patterns.      Hugh

 

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Looks good, your padding looks right and should work well....I enjoy giving advice, and enjoy it a second time when the recipient actually listens.....I've had occasion to make recommendations before, and at the end the person would say something like "well, no, you don't really know what you're talking about, THIS is how it's done".......it may be in your notes, you can bring the top pad over the front of the front bow, just don't bring any PADDING over to the front, as it will make a funny bulge on the front bow.  You should also taper the padding right behind the front bow and in front of the rear bow, so there's no weird bulge there either......

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Thanks for all the work it takes to write up this post. And thanks to all the experts you have helping you.

Hopefully this fall I will have my Whippet running again and can concentrate on making a new top by using your info.

 

thanks much...and stay safe.

 

Bill

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Posted (edited)

My only other comment is that a running stitch down the seam of the pads should be in the folded over top piece an inch or so, then out and through the bottom piece in and out  an inch or so, and continue.  For some reason it's hard to tell from your pictures, but a running stitch is not every four or five inches or so....You start with a tack at one end, tying the thread (should be waxed hand sewing thread) and then continuing from there...pull tight about every third stitch, and the waxed thread holds....I know this might not sound clear, hard to explain trim work sometimes...here's a picture of a demo piece if that helps, also shows the marked cord that's used to match main top piece and top side pieces for fit and sewing...

30d.JPG

Edited by trimacar (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Bill,

      I am trying to be a little generic where I can, and help with adding some theory behind why some steps are done this way, in case a person has no top or any dimensions, and needs to make a decision on where to best locate tacks for example.   The vast majority of information that is available is applicable to modern tops which leaves a big gap for us.  

David, 

      This is why I try to get a little more detailed in my procedures than is normally found, and also why I so much appreciate your guidance.   Also why your guidance is so important as I do need to go back and taper the pad a little more, and I did add a note about that into the procedure.  Thank you.  So when you told me a "hidden running stitch", I guess I did not grasp the hidden part as no one sees this stitch anyways.  Looking at what you did, I could have run that stitch inside had I really thought about it.   The top photo is of the stitch from the pads that were on the car.  Not sure if these were original or not, but likely not original.  This stitch gap was 3 1/2" to 6" wide on my old pads which I did think was pretty wide.  On my sewing, one needle holds the fold over which I did first to the top fabric, and the other needle holds the 2 pieces together which I did on the next pass across the pad.     Below is my interpretation of that stitch and how I sewed the 2 pieces on the third pass.   Yes I know.  There is difficulty sometimes in trying to grab the grasshopper out of the hand of the master.      Hugh

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Needing to replace the "Durable Dot Snaps" on the Buick.  Originals are #6 x 3/4" screws.  Finding that the new male snaps are either shallower inside or have a #8 phillips head screw built in.  The phillips heads are OK for under the carpet, but there will be no visible phillips head screws on my car.   The new snaps are also not as deep inside as the old, as they are now meant for a flared rivet connection and will not accept a screw head of any sort and allow the female to snap on all the way.   

I started to look into peening down the inner part of the snap with a flat head slotted screw.  It flares and lowers the head some, but there is very little metal for the screw to hang on to.  

I then somehow found a bag on Ebay of 12 from maybe the 60's of deep well durable dot snaps with #6 flat head x 3/4" screws.  Still there are 20 visible on the car plus another 6 to 9 under the carpet.  The seller adjusted the $.70 bag for inflation and it cost a dollar, but $5 in postage. 

I then had more luck and found one company that makes "Deep Durable Dot Studs".  U.S.MarineCanvas     www.marinecanvasstore.com 

Bolt Depot had the #6 x 3/4 slotted pan heads in stainless.  These screws are also getting hard to find.       

Hugh 

 

IMG_6299.jpg.ee3b81643121fe56ec8731437660043d.jpg

Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Thanks to David Coco's excellent help I have reached another milestone.  I have completed the seamed pieces of the top and the back curtain.  Nice to finally cut some big pieces of fabric from the roll.  Not out of the woods yet, but it is nice to have things starting to take shape.  I am posting the next 6 pages of the construction.  Since this is a .jpg of a word document, I am posting a few photos at the end as they have better resolution.         Hugh

 

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

More progress on the top - and another 8 pages into the procedure.  This is how to fabricate the "back curtain assembly".  This was needed to install the back window which is in another posting.  This is pages 17 thru 24.  I hope to install the back curtain assembly this week along with the gypsy curtain snaps.  Hugh

 

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

As long as I am not sleeping, I might as well do a little more top work.  The back curtain is now on the car.  Different than I expected.  The bottom of the back curtain assembly is stitched together.  This does make it easier to pull the bottom into place and tacking this part is a breeze.  Just don't hit any paintwork with that little hammer.  What is a little more difficult is holding up the rear curtain 3 parts (back stayfast,  inner linner , and the 3 webbing straps that hold the 6 lbs of window and frame).  Pull it tight with the outer stayfast being the straightest and tack it.  In a straight line in the middle of the rear bow.  It still seems like it would be easier if you tacked it across the top and everything hung down, but that's not the way they did it unless they had a fixture - which they probably did.    Only 1 page of notes on this one.  Hugh

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Hugh, 

Thank you for the detailed installation of your top.  I don,t know when I will get to doing the top on my 25,  but I know I will be following your installation closely. I don,t have any top folding  mechanism or bows.  so will propably make it a fixed top.

Rod

Edited by Rod Wise (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Rod, 

   I have all the dimensions for the top sockets including all the hardware parts for the top.   I also made full size drawings of the wood bows.   I can send you the how to convertible top file when you are ready as well.   I am getting close on the side curtain file and hope to start stitching them next.  Your call on fixed or folding top, but I can get you what you need either way.  

Hugh

Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Wow! Stunning nice job Hugh. I can't wait to see how mine will come out. When can I schedule time in your shop?

 Thank you for the pictures as they show a better representation of the rear bow.

 Rod:

 This is what I have had done so far from the drawings Hugh has sent me. New Sockets and bows.

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Edited by dibarlaw (see edit history)
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Rod:

 The Master has it's correct original top sockets and bows. It was re-topped in 1980. The Standard has a cut down and welded up set from a larger car. Possibly a 1922-1923 model 45.  It looks pretty bad in the raised position. Poor construction of the top covering the shrunken 1970s vinyl convertible top material. Torn gypsy sides from when the previous owner put down the top without unsnapping them. The rear bow is over 3" higher than what it is on Hugh's car.

1718085564_DSCF1317-Copy.thumb.JPG.b644ece12940e348a02ac5428d0875e7.JPG

The timing components (Below) and the front socket were bent up. I was able to straighten things pretty well though.

DSCF1323.thumb.JPG.a53c792e22fc1dba76c5d2ea46328164.JPG        DSCF1324.thumb.JPG.17258b2c80ac4a0b5bde1952653077df.JPG Welded section.

I had contacted a place in AUS. to do the sockets. I believe they quoted me $2,300 AU.!

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My first attempt to fold the top and sit them into a set of home made rests. Notice the weld on the lowest socket between the 2 "lift the dot" pins. Front bow (top) shows weld to the left of the cord.

 

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Posted (edited)

I am just excited to be at this stage so I am posting prematurely and I will work on the write up later.  I had to "redo" the fabric covering on the front bow as there were too many layers, but I was able to straighten that out (removed 2 layers) without too much trouble.  I just have to edit my instructions so that someone else does not make the same mistake.  

 

Today I was able to finish putting the tacks in the convertible top panel.  Hard to believe that this top started as a roll of fabric at my house.  An old JC Whitney top in shreds when I got the car.  No patterns but some decent but vague instructions on how to build a top and period photographs.  Some detail shots from Larry DiBarry  and Alan Wohl.  Got some excellent internet advice from a professional trimmer (David Coco).  I also received an original roadster (2 door) top (from Brian Meek) in a box so I could understand how they constructed it.  The back window I bent out of stainless steel with my acetylene torch and the bench vise and a bending jig that I made.  A friend helped me with that and we didn't burn each other or the shed down.  Although I did tell him that he had the face of a saint.  A Saint Bernard that is.  That was a burn he won't live down soon.  

 
There is also a wood frame around the window that is between the fabric.  The back window is glass.  Installed as they did 95 years ago. Nails driven into fabric covered rubber around the window every 1 1/4" to hold the glass.   
 
I would have a finished picture of the top, but the "hidem" trim has not arrived yet.  
 
I have not driven the car for several months for fear of getting caught in the rain with no top, but more specifically I need the sun shade that the top provides.  Without air conditioning, these old touring cars fortunately aren't too bad if at least the top is up.  
 
Still a whole interior waiting and I still have to make the side curtains. 
 
Hugh
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1925 Buick Standard 6 day 1.JPG

Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Yes Hugh this has been quite a journey for you.

 It was fate that connected you with this car. You have proved to be a much better caretaker. If I had been able to get the separated body and top at the original auction as I intended the rest would have been relegated to random parts to be sold off.

136119899_img003-Copy.jpg.50a47f523825cc7463a18570d65a0b34.jpg

 

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On ‎7‎/‎21‎/‎2020 at 12:46 AM, Hubert_25-25 said:

The back window I bent out of stainless steel with my acetylene torch and the bench vise and a bending jig that I made.

Many readers might not understand what a task it is to do those bends, especially with stainless.  A work of art created by a hobbyist, it looks dead straight and no waves or buckling at corners.

 

BTW, I saved this thread on favorites some days ago, as I will do my own top without patterns on a 32 Nash conv sedan. Thanks for reposting David's instructions.

 

 I too, had to make a speed reducer for my ancient Singer walking foot. I finally seem to have had my nervousness disappear when at the machine, I think I was so stressed with struggling to keep a straight sew line, that I was over-concentrating. 

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Posted (edited)

Larry, 

     And I thought these top were available in a box from a supplier - That's a good joke at parties.  By the way, there is more top fabric in that photo that you provided of my car at auction than I received.  I knew I overpaid for the car when I worked out that it was worth less parted out.  

F&J,  

    That was the hardest part of making the back window was trying to keep the metal from buckling at the corners.  It's bending the cross section the hard way that is difficult.  

To all,

Other than the hidem to cover the row of tacks, I am posting the remainder of the installation of the top.  As a bonus I get my ping pong table back too.  Just the top section without the back window covers and overhangs the table, and I have the small Buick Touring.  Hugh  

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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