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Vinyl Top Restoration

First of all, forget about buying the vinyl and making your own top-only a glutton for punishment would take this route. Hustle sown to your nearest top shop, select the color and pattern you want and let the guys cut and stitch it together for you. This way, you'll get a perfect top to apply, cut exactly for your car and with professionally sewn seams. Incidentally, you'll have a choice of a ridged or flat seam-choose the one you think the car's personality is.

1. Vinyl top installation begins by establishing line where top will meet body. a straight edge and a felt tip marker do the job just fine.
2. Establishing the top line is easy where you can measure against a fixed point, but curves must be templated unless you're a free-hand artist.

3. Windows and trim are masked off. Tape covers pen line; area is masked. Late models have glue under the trim, so vinyl cannot be tucked underneath.

4. Scuff the finish with #40 grit paper and the blow the sanding debris off with a shot of compressed air. Top is now ready for adhesive application.

5. A pressure feed gun and 55lbs. of air puts the adhesive on evenly. If you try to brush it on, you'll wind up with lots of little lumps under the vinyl.

6. After top area has been sprayed, masking paper is removed and adhesive allowed to set. This coat won't lose adhesiveness for 24 hours.

7. A cup of adhesive and a small brush are used to coat the inside of gutter, as it's difficult to spray and we want top to stick perfectly.

8. Then measure the width of both top and windshield. Then decide where the top seams will look best. Ink marks are replaced with masking tape.

9. The vinyl top is laid out on the top and positioned. Masking tape from the ink guide marks help to line up the seams correctly.

10. Once seam lines are established, the vinyl is secured at both front and rear with tape to keep it from moving. Error like this could ruin everything.

11. One half of the vinyl is folded over, and masking tape is run along its seam line. This gives an edge in positioning the vinyl correctly.

12. Once the adhesive is no longer, tacky, unroll half of vinyl across car top, taking great pains to smooth out the seam line so it lies just right.

13. It takes a good deal of muscle to pull and stretch that vinyl so it's perfectly taut before you let the adhesive touch. This is the secret of a good installation.

14. Top overlap gives plenty of vinyl to work with. Tool is used to press vinyl sown tightly near chrome, and to provide a cutting guideline.

15. The excess vinyl is cut away with shears. You can see the value of the guideline-one wrong cut here and the entire top is spoiled.

16. After the excess is removed, the vinyl is then tucked into the gutter line for a completely waterproof fit. Extra cement applied here comes in handy.

17. The window trim is lifted up and the vinyl; material tucked underneath. If trim springs out too far, a rubber mallet is used to tap it back in place.

18. Now we're ready for the predrilled molding application. Bend the molding (which comes in two pieces) to general body curvature.

19. A power drill is used after the molding is conformed to body lines. This finishing touch sets top off from body and really makes it stand out.

20. A pneumatic pop-rivet gun makes the job of fastening the molding in place fast, easy and permanent; no mistakes are allowed here, either.

21. The molding end is cut exactly in the center of the window trim and its squared off for a good fit. A steady hand and a good file help here.

22. The exact body curvature of the trim molding is established with the help of a rubber mallet and several gentle taps on the aluminum molding.

23. Edging tool is run through molding channel so plastic insert can slide through. If channel is opened too much, it can be tapped back in place.

24. Molding insert is started at one end and pushed through the molding. Drill a small hole through insert at each end; screws will hold insert in place.