Convertible Top replacement supplement

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mbartel
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Convertible Top replacement supplement

Postby mbartel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:06 pm

I finally finished my top replacement. This post is only intended to assist and supplement the excellent post written by tenkawa_akito (Bart).

zerothread?id=243983

I was only able to go forward with this project because of his information. However I found that since I had no experience with tops, cloth, or anything vert related I was still weary and confused about taking this on.

OK, I have always been accused of writing too much. Sorry, but my intention is to provide as much info and detail for the folks that were like me looking for anything to build a plan to do this project. Since some parts went differently for me, I felt they were worth sharing. Also, multiple points of view, and camera shots help before you tear your own car apart.

The quick history, is that I accidentally aquired this car, kind of fell in love with it for some weird reason, and then set out to fix it up. I have a decent amount of garage history, but admitadly I have learned almost everything by screwing it up once. This top project is no different.

First - Read tenkawa_akito full article several times. Its Good! Second - Do a walk through of the project following the above post, and any others you can find. Thrid - Shop for the top. I bought mine on Ebay from DiamondMall. Great service, Great fitting top, and a great price. I didn't shop for the 'best' top. My 240 is still somewhat of a heap so I didn't want to invest big $ to find out the motor would go a month later. Also, since the top is only a couple weeks old I can't speak to its quality from how it stands the test of time compared to more expensive tops.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors...ZWDVW

Fourth - Buy a staple gun, and a Rivoter. I got both at Home Depot for 29 and 19 respectively. No way your hand will live through a manual stapler. I switched form the factory staple size to a T50. The other size was a pain to get staples for, and all the big LowesDepot places have tons of T50 sizes. By the way that is a indicator of the width of the staple. Get a T50 stapler and non T50 staples, and they won't fit into the carriage. They come in different lengths and shages, but the width has to fit the gun exactly. (that may be obvious for most, but it wasn't for me until I bought a bunch of the wrong stuff)

I will step through my project here, but assuming that you have read Bart's post and are following that during your project. Things that I did exaclty as he said I don't have much to add, so you will see skips in my post.

Here you see a good shot of the beginning of haven taken out the seats and panels. You need this stuff out of the way to get started. Simple stuff, but just in case, The bottom of the rear seat has two plastic pull pins, pull on those, and you can pull the bottom pad off, then undo the two exposed bolts, which will losen the top pad. That pad will pull straight up. Mine was encrustified onto the metal, because of the leakage and years of damage in the car. When I yanked up, some of the seat padding stayed glued to the metal. You can see a good amount of rust I had to deal with later.



Now remove the rear sail retaining screw in the back coners of the headliner. You need to also pull off and/or unscrew the washer snaps that hold on the "Bag", which is the drape that the top folds into when its put down. Mine was totally shot, and couldn't even provide a photo. However the washers were all there, and had to come off. There is a plastic piece sewn into the vinyl and once the washers are off you can pry the piece out. Mine was destroyed so it needed to come out of the car and I needed to have a new one cut from its remnants as a pattern. If yours is fine leave it hanging, if not then you need to pull that piece off of the seat back metal. Mine was glued on, but pulled off easy. Pay attention to how its glued, because you will be gluing it back on. For most this piece is fine.

Then I removed the rails inside the 'wouldbe b pillar'. There are 3 little closed top 8mm nuts on the back of the rali, and you need to reach around and feel for them. I am holding the rail in the slot for this shot, so you can see how it looks, but its much deeper in there and if your ride was as dirty as mine you won't even see it at first.



Here you can see that I just pealed away the headliner. The glue was old and tired. You need to make sure you don't get too rushed. This old stuff will tear, and then you need to buy a new liner (best price I could find was more than the top at 190). Also the rubber window seal is really soft and will tear easily. I tore mine because I didn't follow Bart's warning carefully. Do as I say and not as I do. Go slow on that piece. Its likely the most fragile.



Another shot of the rail removed.



Now when your top (whole car actually) is in as bad a condition as mine was there are some advantages to tearing stuff apart. Its all busted up, so things are easier to get at. Here you can see it was easy for me to get at the 4th bow headliner screws. I could do it from out of the car with a gun, and long philips bit. Make sure you don't strip these things, because you want to use them again.



The front of the headliner is easy to figure out. There rae several screws accross the 1 bow that release a retaining bracket. Once that is off, you can peal the headliner back. This will give you the rear and front headliner hanging from the 2nd and 3rd bow. These should snap off. Mine came off pretty easy, but again take your time here, because you don't want to break these snaps. Here is a shot of the headliner laying on my trunk (covered with a moving blanket. This side up is the side up that snaps onto the bows.



Here is a close up of the shape of the snap. You will be able to pry and flat head in there and this gives you and idea of the shape to pop it off the bows. Remember a flat head is sharp, and if you slip off you can easily poke a whole in something you need to keep!



Once the headliner is out of the way you can begin on the actual top. This fastens to the front bow very similar to the headliner. There are many little screws that hold in a retainer bracket. The top material is just folder around the corners and glued, and then this is screwed on. no magic, just lots of little screws.



Above you can see me using my trunk as a work bench. Probably not advisable if you have a nice trunk or any decent body panels. Mine are all pretty shot, and would be improved with some spray paint, so I just opted to cover with a blanket. However, later I paid the price, because the one thing I scrated was the black off of the lip that goes around the lower part of the top on the body of the car. More on that later.

Now its time to drill out the cable that provides tension to the edge of the top. This is a spring loaded setup. Its pretty amazingly complex considering its a mass produced car. My cables were fine, but many posts I read spoke about replacing them. I just didn't. You need to drill out the rivot. Again careful. The trick here is to understand that what you are drilling into is aluminum, and will gladly yield to the drill. make the hole too big, and you will have trouble getting the replacement rivot to hold. I actually had to drill out the rivot guts by making a tiny access hole from the bottom. Not recommended, but I needed a mcgyver solution to get the new ribot to seat far enough in there to bite. Yes, it was a crash course in rivoting, but I never used a rivot before and it came out fine, so you will be fine too.



Next you can remove all of the retaining nuts along the rear 'gutter rail'. This is the tack strip, made of aluminum that has plastic inside of it in order to staple the materials too. Its useful to understand that the staples don't solely hold the top, the staples only hold the material in place until you fasten this tack strip down again with the zillion nuts. There are bolts welded on the body that stick out. Once you have all the nuts off (mine were 10mm) you can work the piece lose by pinching the ends inward. I used a healthy amount of penetration lube on those bolts. You don't want to break, strip, or mangle in any way those bolts. They are key to holding the top on properly. Take you time, and even use a 6 point deep socket with a nice and solid fit.

A quick aside here. I recommend doing this rather silly looking step of bagging and labeling your parts/screws/fasteners. I know this is a bit anal, but it paid off big. First of all its the very first time I actually did this, and now I know how dumb I am, because this saved lots of headache later. My project took almost 4 weeks, but only because I had time on sunday afternoon for a few hours. I had to string that together until I was done. That and I was trying to perfect the fit by doing things over and over and over later on. Also dumb. Now, the real reason may be because I can't remember jack, too many drugs in my fun years, or whatever, but having 100 or so similar looking screws would lead to chaos later. baggies, label, is worth the 5 minutes it takes. I make my wife do it.



Now you can peal the top off of the 'B' pilar. The rest of my top wasn't attached to the 2nd and 3rd bows anymore. A common sign with age. That gives the bubble effect on the freeway. I pulled the tack strip out of the back and put the top aside. Here are a few shots where my top project gets more involved. This is kind of flip that house gone bad. When I had everything out of the way I realized I would have many more steps than other posts I read.



All my nylon pads were shot. Disintigrated into powder. And at this point in the build lodged in my lungs from all the fine black dust I kicked up tearing this old crap out.



You can see that both sides the pads were done, and the used to be elastic band was not good either. From these photos you can tell that the 4th bow has a piece of plastic cin it still that should normally have the top fastened to it. Mine just came apart a couple of steps ago. I still had to get this plastic piece out by hammering the inner plastic piece out one side, and then breaking the brital plastic out of the 4th bow. What I didn't know from the other posts (until I received my top) was that this plastic piece is part of the top you buy.

You can also see how the staple are gunned into soft plastic in the bows to hold the stuff in place. In the middle of these shots you will see the lighter grey plastic rod that binds the plastic clip of the tops 4th bow retainer into the bow. Eventhough you may be banging on that to get it out, remember that you need it for the other piece.



Now you are supposed to mark the edges of where the top overlaps the rear window section, but mine was so damaged it wasn't going to tell me anything. If your top is in better condition this is a key step. I did all this by eye when installing the new pieces. With the tack strip slightly out of the car, you can pull the staples off for the top. Note the position of the staples. Take pictures (you'd think with all these I would have, Nope, and wish I did). You just want to get an idea of how far forward the top is stapled for reference later. Then you can remove the staples for the rear window. There will be lots of those. Finally you will be able to push the rear window section out of the grove that its in on the back of the 4th bow. Again, the read window section has its own plastic piece embedded. So the new one will slide right in. It is a bit tough to get out of the corner of the 4th bow, but it will eventually give way. Be careful you don't bend the bow, by yanking around on that piece to get it out. You don't want to rack the mechanics out of line.

Below is a shot of all the materials out. You can see the dust of ages all over the place. Now since my nylon pads on the sides were shot I also didn't have a good idea of where they need to be in order for the top to not wrinkle when installing the new one. This is a key step I shouldn't have skipped. In the vert supplement FSM there is a spec to make a wooden template so you know where the bows should be in case you needed to make new pads like I did. I didn't do that, and had to restable my nuts off. Should have made the piece and set the bows properly.



You can see the 4th bow kind of leaned up loosely. This has an exact place that it needs to be. Too far forward and the top will wrinkle and be lose, too far back and the back window will be floppy and the top too tight, etc.

Another angle of the same thing. Here you can also see the cable draped over the 3rd bow hanging losely in the car. I removed these old nylon pads to be a pattern for my new ones.



Now is the time to check out the mechanics. And, in my case actually admire all the work that went into building this scissor thing. I had lots of rust issues to deal with. So you see me sanding and then spray painting. It would have never been done if you took it to a shop, but if you already have the thing out of the way this is pretty easy. Just takes extra time. I also took the time to simple green everything. Every little corner and crack so the mechanism would be clean and free of grime to opporate.



Next I had to find a fabric shop that had the things I needed. I was lucky enough to have my retired dad around in need of projects, so I sent him to an area in Santa Ana (CA) Orange County and he found exactly what was needed to remake new stay pad pieces. I cut them by using the detroyed old ones as a template. Once you cut them you need to burn the ends so the nylon won't frey.



Here is another step most won't have to do, and where I became rivot skilled. I needed to drill out all of the rivots that hold the front of the stay pad. I used a small drill bits at first and worked up, but every rivot was slightly different. The big thing is that you need to get all the old rivot guts out of the hole. Later I drilled out all the holes the same size to 3/16 so I could use beafier rivots than were originally used. Not sure if thats a good idea, but that's what I did. The 3/16ths had bit heads and would hold the pad material real well.



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mbartel
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Convertible Top replacement supplement cont. (mbartel)

Postby mbartel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:08 pm

My new pad material also needed holes for the rivots. In order to get a clean hole I had my dad hold the pad in the proper place and I pushed a hot soldering iron into the rivot hole through the nylon. This gave a perfectly colderized hole. Just big enough, and already melted sealed.

I then placed the rivots in place. I like the road warrior look, but I guess it would be a bit too dangerous to leave it that way. Cool though.



Here I am learning how to use this leverage grip thing. For those who never used a rivoter. The spike you see sticking out of the material is the nail piece that is forced up out of the base of the rivot. The leveraged strength pulls the nail out from the bottom and mashed the rivot body up against the bottom of the hole you placed it into. Then the final blow is that it cuts off the remainder of the nail. It takes some power in your hands to work these, but its lots of fun. Test on some scrap metal and fabric to get the hang and rythym of it.





Here you can see a shot of the pad rivoted and stapled back into place. This shot is actually where the 4th bow is slightly too far back. About a .5 inch. I will pay for that later. You can also see the rear window section installed.



Now I followed Bart's example of how to staple the rear window section to the tack strip out of the car. No matter how I did that it came out weird. There is a good mark on the material to show you where to fold. Follow that! I eventually though I knew better, and was making up for my 4th bow being in the wrong place. Bad idea, and too long a story to be worth it here. Just follow the line. However the line will wear out if you keep dragging your fat thumbs over it. So have a white cloth marker handy to keep refreshing the markings.

I had better luck installing the rear window section into the 4th bow first. Just slide the plastic piece in then with the rear of the car covered properly I stapled the rear section over the tack strip. This gave me the ability to apply similar angled tension on the material that it would see installed. My rear window was real floppy when I was done with this, because the 4th bow was too far back. If the bows are in the right place this will be lose, but fit snugly if you test fir the tack strip into the car with a few nuts. I did this exercise many times trying to fix the layout until I realized it was the 4th bow in the wrong place.

Here you can see the rear section in and that I stapled the rear pad section to the tack strip. You can make out the tack strip laying on the rear of the trunk on a movers pad. I used about 4 staples between cut outs. I cut out a section of material so the bolt could go through the tack strip like it needs to. You will need to make the same cutout for the top. The stay pads shouldn't be very tight. The rear window section should have to tightness when you apply pressure forward to the 4th bow.



In this shot you can see the staples and the cutouts. The tack strip is lying on the trunk on the movers pad. Notice that my rear section had a extra flap to it. At first I tacked that down seperately, but later I just stapled both pieces down together.



Once I had those parts installed I moved to the top. I used the old top as a reference point and measure some triangular points to see where the new top should be stapled based on its edges. It seemed to be cut just right so i didn't need to trim anything. This may take a bit of trial fitting, but it was pretty easy. I installed the top here, completed the rest and later realized that the 4th bow was too far back. I then undid the tack strip and redid all the staples at least 20 times before I had it about right. I needed to fold back the top and get at the staples for the stay pads to adjust them and do things over. If your bows are in the correct place you won't bother with any of that. Trust me, take the time to make sure the bows are in the coorect place.

Here you can see that I threaded the cable through the top edge. There is a pocket where it goes. You can see this well when you take the old one off. I used a hanger to pull the cable through. Later I taped a large screw to it so it couldn't back into the hole while I was trying to correct my other fit problems.



In this pretty bad photo you can see that the top edge is nice a taught, but the window section is sagging and droopy. This is about the time I figured out the 4th bow was my problem, and I started redoing the above steps over and over.



Once you have the top installed you can basically go backwards installing brackets and screws. I used the same contact cement that Bart posted, and it worked well. It does give headaches if used in the garage. With gluing is pretty easy. You will see where the old glue was. Clean that off, best you can. I used a bunch of goo gone and elbow grease, but I don't know how important it is to get a super clean surface. You just need the glue to bite on most of the surface. Just test fit and know where you are going to glue. Test fit again, and then again, and then apply the glue to both surfaces. Wait about 2 minutes. It will start to turn hazy, and then stick it together. I used a ton of little clamps to make things easier.

I glued the sides of the top first, and the rear tack strip is no installed. Its just lose in the rear of the car. I let the glue set a bit before tightening that piece.



I used whatever I had lying around to help the clamps get a bigger surface area to hold down. You can also see that (after it was too late) I duct taped some rags to the sides. If you are putting the tack strip in and out of the car it will want to scracth up the side of the fenders pretty good. Don't use duct tape, but its all I had. painters masking tape would work fine.



I needed to trim the corners of the top over the fold of the front bow, but only so I could glue all the edges flat against something. Once you glue the top over the front bow you can install the front bow retainer and clamp it good.

If your 2nd and 3rd bow loops aren't over the bows, then you know you did the same mistake I did somewhere. Also, be careful when installing those little screws into the cloth. If you use a p0ker to get a hole started in the colth be sure you don't slip off and poke a hole through the top! Use something dull first to figure out where you want the hole. Or mark it with the whit marker, and take it out of the bow so you can work with it easily.

Once I had the 2nd and 3rd bows screwred through the cloth and attached the glue was dry enough to latch down the top, and apply all the rear tack strip retainer nuts. Check for fitment as you tighten down the nuts. If it sounds like a drum when you tap the top, its probably too tight. Find the error before continuing.

The headliner goes in backwards from the way you took it out. Snap on the 2nd and 3rd rail, then glue on the edge of the rear forth bow. My headliner had some slack in it when I took it out, so now I pulled that out when I installed it. So there was a little extra material sticking out of the retaining bracket that holds it on the forth bow. This was a pain to glue and to get to the screws now that I had a functional rear window. take your time so you don't scratch the rear window with the screwdriver for those screws.

I had a new vinyl drape made for the rear by an automotive upholstry guy. George's Upholstery at 949-285-9838. He did a great job, quickly. It was 65 bucks, but I needed to provide the material.

Here is the final shot. I want to thank Bart for the detailed write up so I could get through this. It wouldn't have been possible without it, and anyone else that contributed to this subject that I read on this board. Hopefully thes 4 million words will help someone out.


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Some history on other Convertible Tops I "replaced"

Postby mbartel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:23 pm

One more tidbit on why I was extrea nervous about doing a top. In the late 80s somewhere I had a Blue Nissan hardbody truck (that's what they were called then), and it was one of those lowered loud blingy things. One of my mods then, after I ran out of things to do, was to make it a convertible hardtop. This was a kit i bought using the original top and sawzalling everything to heck. Mounting crappily made plastic pieces and then latching the top on and off. It basically worked, but wasn't road worthy beyond 70mph. One summer I went to the River, CA pasttime for teens in the summer, and on the way needed to pass through palm springs. The wind tunnel of the west. Somewhere amid the windmill machines, I was suddenly top less at 75mph. I remember looking into the rear view mirror and seeing a blue triagular shape wizzing around in the air way up high until it smashed onto the freeway. Somehow the hurling piece of metal didn't cause a wreck and nobody was hurt, but I had to go back ONTO the freeway and drag that hulk out of the way. I then hid it in a drain pipe that ran under that freeway. Went on my way for the rest of trip. 1 days later on the way back stopped on the other side of the freeway, walked through the drain pipe to the other side, picked up the top, and took it home. I fixed it and bought a camper sheel to wedge the top into place. Never drove without the campershell! It was now a targa top at best.

So I had some flash backs when I decided to do this top. Luckily it came out great.M

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Postby Hijacker » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:10 am

The end product looks great!

Thanks for filling in some of my blanks. I'm glad someone covered replacing the staypads, because I didn't feel like pulling mine off since they were still in good shape.

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Re:

Postby 94_240sx » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:23 am



Amazing write up. Someone give him a custom title right now please. You really inspired me doing this by myself. Many people will feel that way too. One question though. Your top looks more like vinyl, not OEM cloth. Is that right?

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Re: Re: (94_240sx)

Postby Topless_92 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:11 am

94_240sx wrote:

Amazing write up. Someone give him a custom title right now please. You really inspired me doing this by myself. Many people will feel that way too. One question though. Your top looks more like vinyl, not OEM cloth. Is that right?
I just got this top in about a week ago and yes, its a vinyl material (not cloth like stock)

Its nice to see pictures of it installed, i wasn't sure how it was going to look. Also very nice writeup, ill be using this and tenkawa_akito's write up very soon

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Re: (Topless_92)

Postby 94_240sx » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:24 am

Topless_92 wrote:I just got this top in about a week ago and yes, its a vinyl material (not cloth like stock)
Cool. Final product looks amazing. I hope you get the same result, topless_92. I wonder which is better in a long run. Cloth or vinyl?

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(94_240sx)

Postby jamesblonde82 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:41 am

cloth is by far better in the long run. less tear-ability

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Re: (94_240sx) (jamesblonde82)

Postby cmkelly » Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:57 am

Awesome, awesome write-up. I hope I never have to do any of that

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Re: (94_240sx) (cmkelly)

Postby BiXLL » Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:35 am

I can't see pics, just red x boxes???? I clicked "show pic, and still no pics, and now no red boxes????

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Re: (94_240sx) (BiXLL)

Postby 94_240sx » Thu Nov 01, 2007 8:14 am

BiXLL wrote:I can't see pics, just red x boxes???? I clicked "show pic, and still no pics, and now no red boxes????
Can you see this pic? It's a final product.

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Re: (94_240sx) (94_240sx)

Postby 240_ESEX » Thu Nov 01, 2007 8:33 am

I want mine done. Outcome looks good

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Re: (94_240sx) (94_240sx)

Postby BiXLL » Thu Nov 01, 2007 10:26 am

94_240sx wrote:
Can you see this pic? It's a final product.
I don't know why, but now I can see all pics??? Anyway, absolutly GREAT write up and pics, Thanks!!!!

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Re: (94_240sx) (BiXLL)

Postby S13xCrazy » Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:52 pm

damn beautiful! This inspires me to go ahead and order one for my convertible!

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Re: (94_240sx) (BiXLL)

Postby 94_240sx » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:52 pm

BiXLL wrote:I don't know why, but now I can see all pics??? Anyway, absolutly GREAT write up and pics, Thanks!!!!
You must see these pics. They are very informative...

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Re: (94_240sx) (94_240sx)

Postby Topless_92 » Fri Nov 02, 2007 5:34 am

Can you get any more pics of the top, Maybe some from further away. Looks good...

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Re: (94_240sx) (Topless_92)

Postby mbartel » Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:00 pm

Here are a few photos from further away. The thing about photos too much further back, is that they look better and better, because the imperfections that do exist from the install are not visible. In short I had a very tight drivers side, and a medium tight passenger side. Just behind the passenger 'b' pilar there is a small wrinkle and the material over the passenger door window is slightly loser than the drivers side.

These are all parts of a jigsaw puzzle. As I took the rear tack strip in and out I could alter this result, and or couse by where you glue (fold over) on the front bow gives you the remaining materials taughtness. Afer about 20 times staples and unstapled (way too many) I settled with what I got. So, there is probably much more to improve, but at some point to need to move on and call it finished.

In the photos depending on the angle you may see what looks like a orange haze. That is not the top, that is the ash dust from all the fires in Silverado Canyon. I was not really close to the fires, but the ash dust was pretty bad, and I haven't cleaned it yet. I am still working on the quarter windows, (one of which doesn't go up without some manual assistance).

Thanks for the comments from all..... Some mentioned that the vinyl is not as good as cloth, and that may well be the truth, but the reason you stated made me wonder. The flexibility or stretchability. The vinyl is more synthetic and hopefully more resiliant against weather, but for sure it stretches like crazy, which is nice a forgiving during the install. This seems to help, because that stretching material gives some slack to the stitching strain. the canvas top is likely thicker and stronger, but wouldn't seem to stretch as much putting more stress on the stitching if you over stress the install tightness. There may be many reasons why cloth is better that i will find out over time, but my decision was purely based on price.















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