top insert stretching

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    In a couple days I will be installing the top insert and wondering about some aspects. I assume it is best to leave excess material past the nailstrip channel then trim it back with a knife (Xacto), before or after the nailstrip goes down? After the nailstrip goes down might be the most accurate – using the edge of the nailstrip as guide but am certain I will end up cutting the paint at the edge in the process. Some tape around the edge might provide a little protection, but probably not with my ham handed ways. Perhaps cutting it after tacking down but before the nail strip goes down with scissors or knife?

    I have found some cheap plastic alligator tarp clips that can grab the edge of the material very effectively with only abut a 1/16″ clamped at the edge. David’s advice to tack the top down under the hot sun to stretch isn’t going to be feasible in the northern Nevada winter, so the plan is to blow space heaters across the top before and during the process.

    I actually did this once 35 years ago but no longer have any recollection of it.



    You need to leave a good “tail” of material past the tack strip area, so that you have something to pull with to stretch material.

    Mark centerlines on top material (chalk is fine), mark centerline on top of car (I use the blue painter tape then mark on the tape, this tape will pull up from painted surface with no problem).

    Tack center of material at the front, in two or three places within 8-10 inches of center.  Go to back of car, line up centerline, pull snug and repeat at back of car.  Do the center of the sides the same way.  then, working a foot or two at a time, tack down the front, the rear, then move to each side, and repeat, pulling taut as you go.

    The best way to cut the excess material without harming paint is to:

    -with scissors, cut a slit in excess material up to the tack line

    -take a single edged razor blade, and pressing it down next to slit and in line with tack line (where you want the edge of material to end up), pull up on the excess material against the blade, cutting it.

    -Move blade and repeat.  It takes a few minutes to do it this way but you won’t harm paint.


    David Coco Winchester Va.


    David, this is a big help and answers the question, thanks!



    Wouldn’t this make a great demonstration class for the annual meet? Prepare a top, maybe from a parts car or simulate a top with something realistic, and fit the top right there. I admit I have been interested in this subject for several years.


    It would be great to see someone who knows what they are doing!

    Obviously not me, it took me 3 or 4 days.


    I have replaced 2 top inserts-on 36 1603 and 32 54 7 passenger. Best advice is to lay material outside on a driveway in the hot sun for several hours. This makes the material soft and pliable and easier to stretch. Leave at least 6 inches extra to be able to grip the material and a helper would be welcome. Mark the front and rear midlines and do this first as  tightly as you can reasonably do. Then do the sides at the halfway point. Then triangulate untacked areas symmetrically until tacks are about one half inch apart. ! would put a bead of silicone under the material and then a strip of masking tape after you have trimmed excess and before the hidem.  This can protect paint from needing cleanup. Ok to place a thin bead at edge of material but such that can be covered up by hidem. After hidem is tacked place a bead of silicone insied the hidem and covering the tacks. Both my inserts look good and I saved several thousand dollars doing it myself. Really not a difficult job but warm material a great help.


    I found some cheap plastic tarp clamps that I could grab the insert to stretch within a 1/4 inch of the edge of the channel. This was handy for being able to trim the insert very close to the edge to see where the tacks should go. I had tape at the outside edge previously marked to show where the tacks needed to go to avoid the sheet metal between oval holes and the previously pilot drilled nail strip holes. I did mine in the winter and I was very slow, so I hung an infrared heater above the car to keep the top warm continuously.

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