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Convertible top question

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Well, I tried a google search, but I'm stumped.

On a 1932 Ford roadster, how is the back of the top attached to the body? It looks like it's attached by snaps along the edge, but all the photos of the car with the top removed don't show any snaps. So how (or where) was the top attached?

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I always thought they rolled back on a hinge..

1932-ford-models-b-and-18-13.jpg

0808sr_05_z+1932_Ford+convertible_top.jp

Edited by slusher

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Posted · Report post

I know there are plenty of people on this forum who know the exact answer, but I'll hazard a wild guess -- based on the aftermarket top in the link below, it looks like the snaps attach to a foldaway part of the top frame and not the body:

http://www.hotrodhotline.com/newslett/2011/july282011/

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Posted · Report post

I'll hazard another guess. From the pictures I've seen of a stock '32 roadster, I'm guessing there's a wooden structure (shaped to match the rear body curvature) that mounts just inside the upper rear body behind the seat, containing snaps. Finding a good image is difficult or impossible, as Harry can attest to.

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Posted · Report post

I'll hazard another guess. From the pictures I've seen of a stock '32 roadster, I'm guessing there's a wooden structure (shaped to match the rear body curvature) that mounts just inside the upper rear body behind the seat, containing snaps. Finding a good image is difficult or impossible, as Harry can attest to.

Dondi!

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Posted · Report post

Dondi!

That's what Thommy Geiger calls me, so I changed my profile pic.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

IF I remember correctly (most of the '32s I've worked on weren't at all stock...) on a STOCK '32, there is a wood "snap rail" that the top fabric is attached to, and then the rail is attached to the body. The rail remains attached as the top bows and irons are folded down. Snaps may or may not be present, and may be used hold down the top boot after the top is folded.

There are multiple ways to accomplish the same thing on hot-rods or customized cars, like the nice formed steel rail you have in the photo above. There are completely disappearing tops, take-apart and stow-in-the-trunk tops, etc.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted · Report post

The Gearz shows (season 4 ep 15 and season 5 ep 1) with the Rat Roaster's top have the answer. That's a chopped top, but it's made in the same fashion an original top was. Only mechanical connection to the car were the hinge points behind the doors and, IIRC, the top of the windshield frame. The tension from the unfolded frame and stretched fabric does the rest.

Linky to relevant videos - http://staceydavid.com/black-book/superior-car-parts

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Posted · Report post

The Gearz shows (season 4 ep 15 and season 5 ep 1) with the Rat Roaster's top have the answer. That's a chopped top, but it's made in the same fashion an original top was. Only mechanical connection to the car were the hinge points behind the doors and, IIRC, the top of the windshield frame. The tension from the unfolded frame and stretched fabric does the rest.

Linky to relevant videos - http://staceydavid.com/black-book/superior-car-parts

Good link. The wooden "snap rail" is clearly visible in the video...it's the rearmost "bow" that follows the contour of the rear body opening, and to which the rear lower edge of the top is attached. Its function is also clearly visible when the top is folded...i.e. the "snap-rail" stays in place as the top is folded down.

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Good link. The wooden "snap rail" is clearly visible in the video...it's the rearmost "bow" that follows the contour of the rear body opening, and to which the rear lower edge of the top is attached. Its function is also clearly visible when the top is folded...i.e. the "snap-rail" stays in place as the top is folded down.

Ok, I watched the video (thanks, Brett) and I see now how the fabric of the top is snapped to that "snap rail" at the back, and I see how all the top bows pivot at that one point on the body. But when the top is up, what holds that snap rail down tight against the body? Just gravity? It just sort of rests there on the body?

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On actual '32 Ford roadsters, as built by Ford (the same is also true of Model A's '28-'31, Model T's from the 'teens through '27, there is a row of snaps which are actually screwed to the body molding behind the seat/seats where the top material attaches to the body around the bottom of the rear panels. There is no top bow back there, at the bottom of the top framing itself on stock versions--the molding there (originally filled with wood inside/underneath the sheet metal body shell) serves that purpose. Starting in 1933 on most cars, with larger body shells, roadster tops (along with cabriolet tops) started being folded into a "well" behind the seat, which by 1935 allowed the folded top to stow almost completely below the beltline of the body--just like convertible tops of the 40's out through the 70's (European cars were an exception to this, due to the widespread, traditional use of padded folding tops which took a lot more space to fold).

On the top fabric itself, the other half of those snaps isn't seen on roadster tops, and nor do they show on later phaetons--they are shielded by an overlying "flap" of fabric, which served to protect the snaps, and at least delay the deterioration of the underlying fabric holding the snap. You generally would not see those snaps on the body surface there either, as seldom did original owners completely remove the top from their cars, even though roadster and touring car/phaeton tops generally were easily removable from the body. AMT engraved those snaps on top of the body molding around the back of passenger compartment of their '29 Model A roadster.

Top boots on cars such as the Deuce roadster were almost like slip covers on upholstery, very much a bag-like affair which didn't fasten to the body shell itself, but rather were slipped over the folded top, and snapped along their opening area around the base of the folded top AWAY from the surface of the body, or were "tied" snugly by leather or canvas belting, with an ordinary buckle, just like a belt buckle (not a Ford practice though).

As roadsters got bodies with larger built-in trunks that approached and equaled the height of the tops of the doors, Ford installed "rails" on the tulip panel behind the top, looking for all the world as if they were "grab handles" to aid rumble seat passenger's entry into that cramped compartment. These started with the Model A roadster in 1928, and continued at least through 1932 on all roadsters, whether they had a rumble seat or simply a trunk compartment back there. Those "rails" were for the primary purpose of supporting the folded top OFF of the painted body surface--their use as grab handles was secondary. Those grab handles are on the chrome parts tree of the AMT '29 A Roadster, and have been on AMT '32 Ford roadster kit chrome trees as well.

Another note: While modern street rod folding top frames generally work in the same way as those built by Ford, Ford's rearmost top bows were made from channel steel, with wood fillers added, to which the top material was attached by upholstery tacks. That wooden filler shows just below the edge of the top fabric at the upper rear corners of the side "window" openings on stock Model A's and '32 Fords.

Art

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Just the design of the hinge bracket and the weight of that oak bow and plate-glass rear window. Plus once the whole thing is opened up it's sorta like an opened umbrella, it's under tension and holds its shape. Plus it's not really a full-weather top, it doesn't form a weather-tight seal against the body, the originals didn't have side windows or even side curtains (but they were a popular accessory to add, either homemade or aftermarket). I've always though the old roadster tops were more about keeping the sun off you than keeping the rain out.

I'm sure the modern convertible-style tops that are designed to stay on the car under a boot or in a hide-away compartment are totally different. But the original top was big and bulky and was really designed to come off when it wasn't going to be needed, it's hard to see behind you with the top on and folded, it stands up so high it blocks your vision. They come off easy, IIRC you don't even need tools, but it's heavy, it's a two-man job for sure. My grandad had a Model A roadster when I was a small child I can remember him putting the top on before trips when it looked like there might be weather that day. If it rained any more than just a light sprinkle, you were getting wet...

Edited by Brett Barrow

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Posted · Report post

Just the design of the hinge bracket and the weight of that oak bow and plate-glass rear window. Plus once the whole thing is opened up it's sorta like an opened umbrella, it's under tension and holds its shape. Plus it's not really a full-weather top, it doesn't form a weather-tight seal against the body...

Thanks Brett. That answers it perfectly.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

....once the whole thing is opened up it's sorta like an opened umbrella, it's under tension and holds its shape. Plus it's not really a full-weather top, it doesn't form a weather-tight seal against the body..

Yes, if you look at the design of the bracket, there is a sort of "over-center" arrangement, with the second bow pushing down on the leg of the snap-rail, and the tension of the fabric is what keeps it down. Typically, a '32 Ford OEM-style top-bow set comes with only the 2 center bows and the header (goes over the windshield), like this...

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The rear snap-rail is not included with the OEM-style kits, but you can see it here, peeking out above the rear of this car...

HROY_release_2-650x431.jpg

LeBaron-Bonney is one company that manufactures the OEM-style WOODEN snap-rail (sometimes called a cockpit rail or a tacking strip). The part # is TP-330, on page 78 of the catalog, for anyone who wants to verify that wood is OEM.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted · Report post

I don't really remember snaps being involved, but it has been 30+ years. Or maybe my grandad's wasn't an exact OEM-style top or he had left parts of it out. I just remember the thing was heavy and took 2 adults to handle. It sat in our little-used paint room when it wasn't on the car.

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In the photo above, that "snap rail" can't possibly be the same sort of thing that we've been talking about, because it doesn't extend to the pivot point on the body side, just aft of the door. It almost looks like the snaps are attached to the seat upholstery in some way. Or that rail is a piece that attaches somehow to the body?

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Posted · Report post

BTW... the reason for this fairly arcane question in the first place is that I want to do a working top in 1/8 scale... and I want it to look correct.

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In the photo above, that "snap rail" can't possibly be the same sort of thing that we've been talking about, because it doesn't extend to the pivot point on the body side, just aft of the door. It almost looks like the snaps are attached to the seat upholstery in some way. Or that rail is a piece that attaches somehow to the body?

The ends of that one may have been cut off, but that's where it goes...outside the pinch weld on the car body, so that water won't flow down inside the rear of the shell and into the interior. You're just not going to find the whole OEM deal on most hot-rods, so look for a restored original car.

The Stacey David car is reputed to have OEM-style brackets, bows, linkage and function...just a minor chop...so study the video.

We have a reputedly OEM '32 roadster shell with a wooden cockpit rail in the shop for the James Hetfield build, but I haven't been in for a few weeks and I don't have any photos of that part of it.. Also study the LeBaron-Bonney downloadable catalog for the appearance of the OEM bows and irons.

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The Stacey David car is reputed to have OEM-style brackets, bows, linkage and function...just a minor chop...so study the video.

Will do, thanks!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I honestly do NOT recall if the hinged snap-rail as shown on the Stacey David car is the same rig as OEM. That top assembly doesn't fold as flat as a non-chopped stocker, and the whole assembly was made to be easily removable.

I can ask Josh Mills and Burt Litton next week for a truly definitive answer, as they are two of the most knowledgeable guys about this stuff on the planet. This is Burt's personal car, and he did the OEM-style top.

72656.jpg

72662.jpg

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted (edited) · Report post

For what it's worth, this is a shot of Litton's car, and it appears the snap-rail does NOT extend to the hinge brackets the way the Stacey David car does...which would imply it's solidly mounted to the rear of the cockpit at the pinch-weld...like the blue car in post 16.

LSR%20CRW_3391.jpg

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted · Report post

I honestly do NOT recall if the hinged snap-rail as shown on the Stacey David car is the same rig as OEM. That top assembly doesn't fold as flat as a non-chopped stocker, and the whole assembly was made to be easily removable.

I can ask Josh Mills and Burt Litton next week for a truly definitive answer, as they are two of the most knowledgeable guys about this stuff on the planet. This is Burt's personal car, and he did the OEM-style top.

That would be great! I appreciate it. There's no hurry... this is something that I want to do soon, but it's not as if it's some sort of priority. Next week would be great.

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