Problem/Solution: DIY Convertible Top Repair

Classic Motorsports Magazine, July/August 2017

DIY Convertible Top Repair — With Guidance From Automotive Restorations Inc., Stratford, CT

PROBLEM: “Blue skies smilin’ at me, Nothin’ but blue skies do I see,” croons Irving Berlin’s tune on the radio while you meander along open roads enjoying a top-down-kind-of-day. Boom! A storm approaches. Top up, off you go. Drip, drip, drip…the rain sneaks its way through a canvas tear worn from raising and lowering the top on your 1962 Buick Electra 225.

SOLUTION: A cinch with easily procured supplies and instructions from the crafts people at Automotive Restorations Inc.

  1. First up, move your car to the garage and away from sunlight. Thoroughly remove any surface dust surrounding the tear, both inside and out, and be sure the area is completely dry.
  2. Get ready, recommends Tony “Quid” Blankley, Automotive Restorations’ master upholsterer, by gathering your repair gear on a worktable covered with protective paper: scissors; marine canvas in a color matching your convertible top, which you can find at a local boat or awning supply store or at WestMarine.com; a paintbrush and contact adhesive such as Wilson 600 from Home Depot or Lowe’s. Lacking marine canvas, some top material can be used in the same way.
  3. Now you’re set to make your patch. Cut the canvas into a circular or oval shape large enough to cover the hole. On the interior of the convertible top, place your patch over the hole and lightly draw an outline just smaller than the patch, indicating where it will later be adhered.
  4. Lay the patch on your worktable. Evenly brush one coat of adhesive to one side of the patch and also to the area you outlined on the interior of the convertible top. Let the patch and convertible top set for about 10 minutes until completely dry.
  5. Reapply adhesive to the same side of the patch and your outlined area on the convertible top interior. Wait until those areas are slightly tacky but not damp. Touch the patch—it’s ready when it drops off, leaving no residue on your finger. Align the two edges of the convertible top fabric along the tear line and place your patch over the outlined interior spot.
  6. Apply pressure to both the interior patch and the corresponding exterior area until they have set. Ta da! Your top has renewed integrity and is now waterproof!
  7. Stage Two for vinyl tops as on that Electra: make the repair near invisible and even more waterproof. Get your tools handy, instructs Automotive Restorations’ quality control technician and glassman Craig Cronin: silicone sealant in color matching your convertible top, caulk gun, spray glass cleaner and rubber squeegee, all available at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Load your caulk gun with the sealant and sparingly apply an even line of sealant on the original tear line on the exterior of the convertible top.
  8. Stage Two for cloth tops of various materials: follow same steps as outlined for vinyl tops. Then edge trim a bit of your canvas or Stayfast top material and create a pile of short cut fibers. Using a modelers paint brush, purchased at a craft or paint store, apply a bit more sealant just at the exterior glued repair seam and insert your trimmed material “loose ends” to further hide the repair. This can also be done with a nicely applied bead of silicone clear adhesive sealant, then the fibers to cover.
  9. Spray the entire area with glass cleaner and wipe off the excess with a squeegee.
  10. Patience now….Leave the top up and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

Get back on the road! Rain is no bother, because regardless, you “Never saw the sun shinin’ so bright, Never saw things goin’ so right, Blue days, all of them gone, Nothin’ but blue skies from now on.”