Convertible Car Top

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Since the 1940s, automakers have been incorporating convertible car tops into their automobile designs. Naturally, convertibles have been a huge hit with consumers ever since. They allow for a tremendously free driving experience, and development of retractable tops, and later, power convertible tops, offer security in dubious weather.

One material that has been important in the manufacture of many American convertible car tops is vinyl. Vinyl convertible tops are generally much cheaper than their canvas counterparts. As well as being easier to clean and maintain than canvas, many kinds of vinyl tops are available in more colors than canvas tops are.

Despite the popularity of vinyl in the United States, many European manufacturers preferred canvas convertible car tops. Over time, canvas tops became somewhat associated with European styling, as different German, British, and Italian automakers honed their styles. For example, many Mercedes and BMW convertible tops incorporate a herringbone weave pattern, called a "dobby" weave, into the interior lining of their tops.

Attention to small details isn't the only distinguishing factor of European convertible car tops. German-made cloth, such as cloth made at the Sonnenland factory in Germany, has a wear rating that it much higher than both many American-made canvases and any vinyl available (with the possible exception of double strength vinyl). Sonnenland cloth is imitated be other manufacturers (The Haartz Corporation's Sonnendeck canvas is a good example), but it remains the most durable, widely available top cloth.

Aftermarket and Other Replacement Convertible Car Tops

Sooner or later, however, even the highest-quality convertible car tops will suffer from normal wear and tear. Specialty top manufacturers offer replacement and aftermarket tops, many of which are made to the factory specifications of the original tops. Occasionally, aftermarket producers will improve on older tops, offering both designs to consumers. Those who wish to restore classic cars to their original appearance can, and those who are looking for a little more luxury are served as well.

Some of the main improvements that some manufacturers offer are alternate rear window designs. Replacement tops for some older convertible car tops are available with either glass or plastic rear windows. Another common customization is to add a seam to a glass window design that allows the window to be partially opened.

Other options for those buying replacement convertible car tops are the myriad of material and color choices. Replacement tops are usually offered in either canvas or vinyl, and sometimes in multiple styles. For example, `60s-era MGBs used a type of British coated vinyl that may be cost-prohibitive to import. Instead, some manufactures offer three vinyl options for MGBs: a similar-looking black vinyl, the lighter texture of Crush Grain vinyl, and classic Pinpoint vinyl.

Installing Convertible Car Tops

Replacement convertible top installation varies in difficulty. For some cars with simple top attachment designs, replacing the top is just a matter of snapping it into place. For other cars, especially those with power tops, installation can be very difficult. Many manufacturers offer detailed installation instruction guides along with high-quality tops. Some convertible specialty shops may also be able to refer you to reliable installation technicians.


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