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Old 03-16-2014, 11:19 AM   #1
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Hard top without soft top. Possible?

My plastic rear window cracked the last time I used the soft top before winter set in. Now that we are getting close to soft top weather again I want to replace the top.

I want to keep driving with the hard top while I work on the soft top.

Does anybody know if it is possible to remove the top, frame and all, but still be able to lower the clamshell to put the hard top back on without too much fuss?
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Old 03-16-2014, 02:40 PM   #2
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Yes. Its easy.
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Old 03-16-2014, 09:58 PM   #3
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The soft top comes off by removing like four bolts. But you may have trouble doing a top replacement when it isn't attached to the car. From what I have read, it requires a lot of pulling, tugging, etc to get the old top off and the new top on.
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:21 PM   #4
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Getting the tension right in an unstressed situation is gonna be rough. Wander over to here and read up and you can walk yourself through and see what you think.
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Old 03-24-2014, 04:41 PM   #5
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At first, I thought kcpaz's answer was terse and a little too succinct. Turns out, no, he was right on. Thanks kcpaz, rick3000 and mikefocke for chiming in, it is much appreciated.

Top came off without an issue...at all...not even a hard-to-undo bolt or broken ball joint. I didn't realize that the post 2000 tops have no electronics/microswitches in the top, so it was stupid easy. The instructions I was reading that most frame removal posts point to only mention a couple caveats for 97-99 models for microswitch placement, but don't say anything specifically about 2000+, so I had no idea what I was going to find microswitch wise...apparently nothing.

The whole process didn't even take 45 minutes. I bet I can do it again in the future in less than 20. The clamshell works just as if the top was still there, so the dash light turned off and everything. I just had to press the close button as normal to close it all back up.

I'm not new to sewing/upholstering, and I've replaced tops on a miata and a vw cabriolet, so sewing in a new window isn't too intimidating to me.

I ordered a new sewing awl and DOT approved window vinyl from sailrite.com, $45 for the vinyl, $15 for the awl, and $7 for some canvas/sunbrella strength basting tape and I'm ready to go when that gets here on Friday. I'll post pictures of my results when I'm done.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:29 AM   #6
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^you got skill, man!
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Old 04-23-2014, 12:43 PM   #7
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Done! I finished this a couple weekends ago, but I am just now getting around to posting the results. It took a lot of time to sew the window in by hand (4-5 hours total), and I could definitely do better on a second run, but it looks pretty good. I was able to sew it in using the previous thread holes. Also, using the basting tape seems to have made it water tight even without re-sealing the top, which I need to do anyway.

Step 1: Remove top and frame from car

Step 2: Trace the shape of the existing window to a piece of paper while the top is open, but not under tension so the vinyl is not stretched to the closed position (no pic). I used the piece of paper that came with the new vinyl to keep it from sticking to itself. I put the piece of paper over the window, pressed the hem with my finger all the way around the window to transfer the indentation, then went over it with pencil to make it visible.

Step 3: Seam-rip the window out (no pic). Be careful not to damage the canvas, scratching the old window is of no consequence, so concentrate your force toward it. There's only one row of stitching, and some glue, holding the window to the canvas. There's also an inner trim piece of black vinyl. I reused this piece. I simply used the basting tape to stick it onto the new vinyl piece.

Step 4: Trace the outside of the removed window to the paper used earlier. This'll give you a template that has the hem line and the final outside shape of the vinyl.


Step 5: place the new vinyl over the template and trace the hem line and the final outside shape on it with a fine tip sharpie.


Step 6: Trim the vinyl to a manageable size, but DO NOT cut it to the final size line. You'll want enough material left that you can pull on it while sewing. I put a single layer of basting tape to the outside of the hem line all the way around. I also added several rows of basting tape on the extra margin of the vinyl to help hold the window in place while sewing (this turned out to be of little help)


Step 7: Set the top up and prop it open. I used the bed in our spare bedroom. The top went on the bed, the back went on the floor and rested on the frame. This was pretty ideal since I could flip up the back freely (as if accessing the engine) to have easy access to the inside and outside for sewing. The pic is before sliding the vinyl into the inside of the top. I failed to take any pictures during the sewing process, sorry.


Sewing Notes: Half way through sewing, after wrestling with the basting tape on the vinyl coming unstuck repeatedly, I figured out to use push-pins poked through the existing thread holes, through the vinyl, and into wine corks as clamps all the way around the window to hold the vinyl in the final position. This made the remainder of the sewing MUCH easier and made it easy to lay out the position of the window to the hem line and preemptively take out any wrinkles. The other thing that helped a great deal was a heat gun to soften the vinyl a little.

Step 8: Enjoy the new window, and save a bunch of money that doesn't have to come out of the IMSB/clutch/RMS/water pump 65k maintenance pot.


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Old 04-23-2014, 03:19 PM   #8
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Nice work !
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Old 04-25-2014, 01:34 PM   #9
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Excellent write-up and greatly appreciated! A new project! Yay!
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Old 04-25-2014, 02:02 PM   #10
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Wow, that is some really nice work! Great job. I can barely hem a pantleg.
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