Convertible top help

Discussion in 'The ragtop shop' started by itswill, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    I recently bought a 64 Electra in Washington State. I am planning on driving the car back to Michigan in a couple weeks. Among other things I need to replace, the convertible top which is not there needs to be replaced. I bought a replacement top kit from The Convertible Top Guys. It looks like the kit came with pads, front part of the top, rear window part of the top, wire-on, staples, contact cement, tack strip and hold down cables. I also purchased a well liner since that was gone too. I don't think I have the wire-on end trim pieces or any screws at all.

    I have never done a top before, so this will be the first time, I'm hoping to get it done in a long day. Am I way off here? I anyone happens to be near Marysville Washington between the 2nd and 4th of July and knows anything about convertible top installation, help would be greatly appreciated.

    If anyone has any tips, tricks or advise regarding techniques or parts that may be needed I am all ears or eyes I guess.

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  2. 66wildcat

    66wildcat Well-Known Member

    Braver than me!
    I think you will find that big top is going to be pretty difficult to do by yourself. I'm in St. Louis right now thru the 1st week of July, or would offer up some help.
    When I get back to Washington, it's just to pack up and move back to St. Louis, so I won't have any time.
    Good luck. I think I would drive it without the top and stop at an underpass if you get caught in rain. Also, Washington to Michigan is a pretty good trek. You'll be at least 3 days, probably 4 days on the road, and that's if you don't have any unexpected problems.
    Have fun!
     
  3. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    Fortunately, I have a few friends that will be helping me. Unfortunately, they don't know anything about upholstery or convertible tops. I saw some guys whip one on in a 20 minute youtube video, how hard can it be ... I figure it will take some patience to get it right and worst case I can park under bridges and cover it with a tarp at night. I can only assume I will break down at some point, the car hasn't run in over 20 years. I'm replacing all the brakes, ignition, cooling system, fuel pump and all the rubber stuff and rebuilding the carb. So hopefully I will have a least reduced my chances of breaking down.
     
  4. Smokey15

    Smokey15 So old that I use AARP bolts.

    I can do a lot of things myself, but I have professionals do convertible tops. The top alone cost too much to mess up. It looks like you already have a lot of things to accomplish on the Buick before you make the long journey to Michigan. I would have your friend check on the price, with reputable shops, of an installed top. If you can, get a glass rear window.
    To play the devil's advocate here, have you looked into having the car shipped in an enclosed trailer? That way you run zero risk of a breakdown on the trip and you can take your time getting things done. The cost may be close to what the price of fuel, etc. may be...................unless you are dead set on driving.
     
  5. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    I may look into what it would cost to get someone to professionally install I before I leave. There are a few big concerns I have with this though. I am dead set on driving it back, I bought this car for road tips and what fun would paying someone to trailer it be. With that said timing could be an issue, I feel like I would be hard pressed to find someone who will guarantee it will be done within one specific day. Secondly, I have seen "professional" installations that clearly cut corners, It seems everything I hire out anymore is done substandard. And thirdly, if there is an issue with the quality of the installation I will be on my own as soon as leave Washington. This could all be a terrible plan but I have a good feeling that myself and the Electra will eventually make it back to Michigan!
     
  6. Smokey15

    Smokey15 So old that I use AARP bolts.

    I hope you have a trouble-free trip. If it were a different timeline, I may have offered to travel with you. I love road trips.
     
  7. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    Lining it up is about the most difficult; - the top frame has to be properly aligned otherwise things could break or rip. Too much stretch tension on the top and it'll snap when inflated on the highway. Like so many others, this is a job best suited to a professional, and yes, they are getting few and far between. Have you tried to find the convertible top manual for your car? I believe they have all the dimensions and stretch points for your car.

    Let's put it this way; top up driving is usually louder than top down. You are flying a tent. So like a tent, there is a lot of inherent road noise as the harmonics of the set up come into play. A perfectly stretched top will be reasonably quiet up until about 65-70. Then it starts to hum and vibrate. At 80, there's a full on drone going. If it isn't stretched enough, when it inflates it'll hum and flutter at highway speeds. If it's stretched too much it'll pull the header off and whistle and the hum will be high pitched. Either way, it's unpleasant.

    You're looking at driving a 3 or 4 day trip. Bring an iPod with ear buds and hope most of the trip is top down, the droning will drive you nuts otherwise. Don't ask me how I know...ok, ask...I've driven these cars for 20 years now; and have yet to see a quiet run at highway speeds. Good Luck!
     
  8. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    Marc, is that a 'big car' thing? My '68 GS is very pleasant on the highway. I somewhat regularly drive it on the interstate at +-75 and it's relatively quiet, but there is a lot less area over me than in a big car. The glass rear window (compared to my first vert, a plastic windowed '64) must help some, too.
    Patrick
     
  9. cobravii

    cobravii Well-Known Member

    I have a car that has a top but it has to be snapped on everytime I need it. On one of my road trips I drove it from northern Alberta (Canada) to Tijuana and back without ever having to put it on. If you are concerned, buy yourself one of those cheap car covers and throw it in the trunk for emergencies.

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  10. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    Thanks for warm wishes. Hopefully I will be driving top down the whole way completed top or not. With that said I will definately be bringing a tarp. A good friend of mine will be coming along with me to brave this adventure, so we should have a good time no matter the outcome.

    My friend in Washington is having a blast fixing the car up, so it's likely it will be road worthy once I get there. The plan is now to have 3 days to install the top. I sure hope with me and 4 other guys working on it we can make it happen in that time frame but I guess we will see here in a couple more weeks.
     
  11. Smokey15

    Smokey15 So old that I use AARP bolts.

    Our '65, with the soon-to-be-replaced original top is also "pleasant" at highway speeds. Replacement top will be lined with a glass window so it will be even better yet.
    BTW, Love that Cobra!
     
    cobravii likes this.
  12. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    I liked the idea of the glass rear window, but everything I saw for the 64 said that it had to be unzipped before putting the top down which I wasn't to keen on.
     
  13. Smokey15

    Smokey15 So old that I use AARP bolts.

    We have to unzip the plastic window in our '65, and lay it flat in the well, to avoid permanent creases. On our '68 Cutlass, with the glass window, we could leave it zipped in. It laid flat in the well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2016
  14. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    I'm not sure if it's a big car thing or not; - both of my convertibles have replacement tops and they make a heck of a racket. The Wildcat has a drone that starts at about 70-75, depending on wind direction, to correct it we ended up having to stuff a book in the header above the mirror. So that top isn't stretched right, and when they installed it the top motor wasn't hooked up, so the top wasn't properly "locked" in the up position. The Electra whistles at 75 +, and that's because the header isn't sealing against the windshield. I have one weak clamp. If I grab the top and pull it down, it stops. So I have to replace the clamps and realign the roof. A buddy had a full-size convert and it was loud at speed too. But both of them drone quite a bit when fully inflated at speed. It's very frustrating and will drive a guy nuts on a long trip.
     
  15. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    UPDATE:

    I never wound up installing the top since I wound up having to replace the transmission and cylinder heads. Fortunately it didn't rain a drop. The cold was different story. One night it was 40 degrees in Montana. We bought some blankets, wrapped up in those and survived the night!
     
  16. Smokey15

    Smokey15 So old that I use AARP bolts.

    Glad you made it home okay. Did you document the trip? Pics?
     
  17. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    We documented it. Mostly with videos but I have some pictures too. I'll post some pics in a bit.
     
  18. itswill

    itswill Well-Known Member

    Seattle

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    Trans problems (tried to clean the valve body, didn't work)

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    New transmission

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    going in

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    Had a head gasket leak and found a rusted out valve stem on number 2 intake. Couldn't find a new valve but me a new friend ( thank you Thor) who helped me out with some new heads.

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    First stop in Montana

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  19. My3Buicks

    My3Buicks Proud Liberal

    Have driven thousands of miles in big Buick converts and have never had an issue with top up noise, have always had high end replacement tops though so that might make the difference.

    I will tackle a lot of projects but conv too replacement I leave to the professionals.
     
  20. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    That's a great looking car. Kudos to you and your friend for being brave road trip warriors; some of my fondest car memories are from jaunts like that.
    Patrick
     

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