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CONVERTIBLE TOP ASSEMBLY-1959 & 1960 DISASSEMBLY, RESTORATION, AND ASSEMBLY, PART 2

CONVERTIBLE TOP ASSEMBLY-1959 & 1960 DISASSEMBLY, RESTORATION, AND ASSEMBLY, PART 2


In part I of this tech article, which ran in March 2006, we spoke about how difficult it was to find all of the parts you need for a convertible top frame restoration. It is no longer true with this great hardware kit from Eckler's Late Great Chevy, PIN 539004, that contains all of the hardware required to restore and install the 1959/1960 convertible top frame. Save time and money and end up with a great looking top frame!

In the first part of this article, we explained the disassembly of the 1959/1960 convertible top frame.

In this tech article we will pick up where we left off, with Step #19. Keep in mind the 12 main parts of the convertible top frame. The following was the list of those parts and what names they will be referred to in the article in Part I, March 2006.

  • a. Side Rails or Frame Rails - six pieces (there is a left and right side rail assembly with each side made up of three rails (forward, middle and rear).
  • b. Header or Header Bow - one piece (forward assembly at the windshield).
  • c. Forward Bow - one piece (flat bow with tacking material at the ends and felt material across the top).
  • d. Center Bow - one piece (the smallest bow is a tube-style bow which has a permanently attached arm assembly that bolts to the inn quarter).
  • e. Rear Bow - one piece (the largest bow has a large area of tacking material).
  • f. Folding Assembly- two pieces (right and left - each assembly attaches to all three rails on a side).

Parts List
1959-60 Convertible Top Hardware Kit
1959-60 Convertible Roofrail Weatherstrip Set
1958-64 Convertible Top Tack Strip Repair Kit

Tools Needed:
Phillips Screwdriver
Flat-blade Screwdriver
Assorted Wrenches
Assorted Allen (hex) Wrenches

Time Frame
6 hours to Disassemble and Re-assemble (Time to restore the various parts varies.)

Step 19 Yes, it has taken a while to disassemble everything, but all of the pieces are now ready for restoration. Do any repairs or straightening that is required. Do any metal work that is required to prepare the pieces for painting. Where possible, I suggest masking off the felting on the forward bow and the tacking material on all bows. The top assembly used for this article was very nice, but required a little work on the header. Also, the last bow was twisted a small amount and required some "muscling" with a couple of large adjustable wrenches.

Step 20 If you are trying to keep the top assembly original, all of the pieces should be painted semi-gloss black, otherwise paint them whatever you want. Try to keep the paint from building up on those areas of the side rails that will be put together. Let the pieces dry properly before starting to assemble the top frame. Before you start to assemble, clean the paint from the surfaces that go together and areas where bushings and bolts will be installed.

Step 21 Before you start to assemble the top frame assembly, here are some suggestions that will help you. The best way to assemble the frame is to first put each of the side rail assemblies together on the bench, preferably a bench that has a piece of carpet to protect your nicely painted rail pieces. Again, start with the left side since that is the side shown in the photos. Go through Steps #22-#29 for the left side and then repeat the steps for the right side. Next, install the frame rails onto the convertible and finally install the header and bows. By doing the assembly in this order it is easier to handle and easier to install onto the convertible. Also, this approach will help keep the top assembly from getting dinged up. Another important suggestion is to remove the hardware you need for one side out of a particular bag and leave the remaining hardware in the marked bag for the other side. It is pretty easy to get some of this hardware mixed up and waste time that you need to spend concentrating on getting all of the pieces correctly assembled. Also, remember this rule of thumb- all of the bolt heads will be seen from the inside of the convertible-never installed with the head towards the outside of the car

Image #24: Step 22. Select the left forward rail and the left center rail. (Refer back to Photo #10 from Part I, March 2006 iss ue). These two rails will be assembled with the hardware in Bag 1. Clean any paint required to slide the two rails together.

Image #25: Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the contact areas on the hinge for these rails. Install the brass bushing and then thread the bolt into the assembly. Tighten until the two rails bind at this hinge location and then back off 1/8-turn.

Image #26: Install the internal star washer and nut. Tighten the jam nut.

Image #27: Step 23. From Bag H, install one of the nuts onto the square-headed bolt and then slide a lock washer onto the bolt. Install into the center rail as seen in Photo. It would not thread this square-headed bolt very far. This is an adjustment/stop that will be dealt with when the top frame assembly is adjusted and secured into final position at the top shop.

Image #28, 29: Step 24. Now the rear rail will be attached to the center/forward rail assembly. The hardware that will be used is found in Bag M. Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the contact areas on the hinge for these rails Since you can easily put these two rails together incorrectly, carefully position the rear rail into the center rail. Look closely at Photo #28 for the correct orientation. Position the wave washer under the head of the bolt and begin to thread the bolt into place. Once the threads of the bolt exits, position the internal star washer and start threading the nut. (Because of the restricted space, you cannot thread the bolt all the way in and then install the washer and nut.) Continue to thread the bolt with a 3/4" wrench until the rails begin to bind and then back off 1/8-turn. Now, tighten the nut and lock was here.

Image #30: Step 25. The main mounting bracket will now be installed onto the back of the rear rail. The hardware that will be used is found in Bag P. Selecting the correct bracket (left) and getting everything orientated and secured is critical.

Image #31: Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the hinge for this assembly. The wave washer goes under the head of the plastic bushing and then is positioned into the bracket. Position the bracket into the lowest hole in the rear rail and then install the bolt and locking nut. The head of the bushing goes to the inside of the car (which is also the side for the bolt head) and the locking nut goes to the outside of the car. Tighten the bolt and locking nut until the bracket binds and then back off 1/8-turn.

Image #32: Step 26. The "folding" assembly will now be attached to the side rail assembly. The folding assembly is the part that was removed in Step #5. Remember, this assembly attaches to every one of the three side rails. Basically, it is attached to the forward rail with three screws and nuts (refer to Photo #3, from Part I, March 2006 issue), it is then attached to the center rail with a large screw (refer to Photo #5, from Part I, March 2006 issue) and finally is attached to the rear rail with a large screw and nut (refer to Photo #6, from Part I, March 2006 issue). Select the correct folding assembly for the left side and position it into the left side set of rails. Photo #32 shows the basic orientation of the parts. Notice that the arm in the photo is lined up with the incorrect hole. (See arrows.)

Image #33, 34: Step 27. Use the hardware from Bag G to secure the forward part of the folding assembly to the forward rail. Apply a small amount of sealer under the heads of the three flat-head screws (#10-24) that secure the bracket assembly to the forward rail. Install the lock washers and nuts. Use a wrench and Phillips screwdriver to tighten each of the nuts.

Image #35: Step 28. Use the hardware from Bag J to secure the forward part of the folding assembly to the center rail. Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the hardware and the contact areas on the rail and folding assembly. Place the wave washer onto the plastic bushing and then position the bushing into the folding assembly.

Image #36: The correct orientation of the pieces is the following: the bushing head is opposite of the screw head, the bushing head goes between the center rail and the folding assembly. Using a large flat-bladed screwdriver, tighten the screw until it binds and then back it off a small amount.

Image #37: Use an Allen wrench to install and tighten the locking setscrew.

Image #38: Step 29. Use the hardware from Bag K to secure the long rear arm of the folding assembly to the rear rail. The orientation of these pieces is the same as those in the previous step. Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the hardware and the contact areas on the rail and folding assembly. Place the wave washer onto the plastic bushing and then position the, bushing into the long arm of the folding assembly.

Image #39: The correct orientation of the pieces is the following: the bushing head is opposite of the screw head, the bushing head goes between the rear rail and the folding assembly. Install the internal star washer and nut. Using a large flat-bladed screw driver and wrench, tighten the screw until it binds and then back it off a small amount. I suggest folding the assembly up and wrapping it in a soft blanket for safekeeping.

Step 30. At this point the left side rail assembly is finished and ready for installation onto the car. Repeat Steps #22-#29 for the right side rail assembly. Everything is now ready for the final assembly. I suggest that this be done on the car. (You will need someone to assist you.) As mentioned in Step #21, now the basic procedure is to install the frame side rails onto the convertible and finally install the header and bows.

Image #40: Step 31. Lay a large towel or blanket, across the windshield and dash area of the convertible. The hardware to secure the rail assembly to the convertible quarter is in Bag Q. You will use three hex head bolts and large Belleville washers.

Image #41: Get a 9/16" socket and ratchet ready. Something that you can do to help make the installation a little easier is to "chase" the threads in the main mounting bracket with the correct-sized tap. Select the left side rail assembly and unfold it. While your assistant is holding it in place, install the bolts and washers that secure the rail assembly. Make sure that the high center of the Belleville washer is against the head of the bolt. Using a 9/16" tool, tighten at least one of the three bolts. When the car finally goes to the top shop, this bracket will be adjusted and all three bolts will be tightened.

Image #42: Step 32. The center rail has a long arm with bracket permanently attached. This arm/bracket will be secured to the inner quarter assembly just below and to the rear of the bracket you just installed. The hardware to secure the arm assembly to the convertible quarter is in Bag N. You will use two carriage-head bolts, flat washers, internal star washers and nuts. Get a 9/16" wrench ready. Position the bracket as seen in Photo #42 and install the carriage-head bolts. Secure with a flat washer star washer, and nut. Tighten at least one of the two nuts. When the car finally goes to the top shop, this bracket will be adjusted and both nuts will be tightened.

Step 33. At this point the left side rail assembly is finished and ready for installation of the header and bows. Repeat Steps #31 and #32 for the right side rail assembly. Both of the top rail assemblies are now ready for the header and bows. All of the photos will show the left side installation.

Image #43: Step 34. Get the header ready for installation. Re-install the latch mechanisms. (Remember that there is a left and right mechanism. Refer to Step #18 and Photos #22 and #23.) On each side, install and secure the latch cover with the Phillips head screws found in Bag A. Position the header assembly on top of the two side rails. Bag A has the hardware for securing the header. Each side will use two bolts and two Belleville washers. There are some small screws that will be used when the roofrail weatherstrip and header seal are installed. Leave those in the marked bag for later. While your assistant is holding the header install all four of the bolts and washers that secure the header. Again make sure that the high center of the Belleville washer is against the head of the bolt. Tighten the two bolts at each side of the header.

Image #44: Step 35. Position the forward bow (the one with the heavy belt) across the top of the two side rails. The correct orientation of this bow will have the ends of the bow sweep toward the back of the car. Bag E has the four Phillips head screws for securing the bow. Each side will take two screws with built-in washers. While your assistant is holding the bow, install the screws that secure the bow. Use a large Phillips screwdriver to tighten both screws at each end of the bow.

Image #45, 46: Step 36. Now the center bow will be installed to the front of the rear rail. The hardware to use for this bow is in Bag L and there is a bunch. I will go through the order of the hardware for the left side of the center bow Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the hardware and the contact areas on the rail and bow assembly. From the inside of the car install the large slotted bolt into the correct hole of the rear rail. (Photo #45 that was taken from the inside of the car.) Place the wave washer over the shouldered bushing and then install them over the threads of the bolt and into the hole in the rail. (Photo #46 was taken from the outside of the car.) Since this bow has threads, use a large flat-bladed screwdriver to screw the bolt into the threads of the bow while your assistant holds the bow in place. Repeat this procedure for the other end of the bow. Tighten both screws until the bow binds and then back off a little bit. Now install the internal star washers and nuts. For each end hold the screw in place and tighten the nut.

Image #47: Step 37. Now the rear bow will be installed to the rear of the rear rail. The hardware to use for this bow is in Bag O and again there is a bunch. I will go through the order of the hardware for the left side of the rear bow. Apply a small amount of lithium grease to the hardware and the contact areas on the rail and bow assembly. Place the wave washer over the shouldered bushing and then install them into the hole in the rail. (See arrow).

Image #48: Have your assistant position the rear bow into the rear rail and then from the inside of the car install the large slotted bolt into the correct hole of the real rail.

Image #49: On the outside of the frame rail install the internal star washer and nut.

Image #50: Step 38. The installation of the hydraulic cylinders will essentially finish the top frame assembly. New cylinders for the 1959 and 1960 convertibles are available and can be ordered as PIN 539014. (The cylinders can be installed onto the cylinder brackets and then installed into the convertible or the brackets can be installed first and then the cylinders.) Bag X has the hardware for securing the cylinders to the lower brackets. On each side of the cylinder install a rubber grommet. Position the cylinder into the bracket so that the lower hose connection will face the short side of the bracket and then secure with the pin and key. The lower hose connection will face the front of the car. Repeat this for the other cylinder.

Step 39. Position one of the cylinder/bracket assemblies into the convertible so that the long part of the bracket goes toward the rear of the car. Secure with four 5/16-24 x 3/4" bolts, flat washers and lock washers.

Step 40. Now the upper end of each cylinder will be secured to the top frame assembly. Each will be secured to the frame with hardware from Bag X. Install a bushing on each side of the cylinder and then position into the rear rail. (See arrow in Photo #48.) Secure with bolt and nut. Remember that the head of the bolt goes to the inside of the car. Repeat this procedure for the other cylinder.

Step 41. You cannot believe how great this top frame will look when you have finished. Having this great hardware kit, manufactured by Shafer 's Classic Reproductions and sold by Late Great Chevy makes a huge difference. You should have four bags of hardware left over. Bags B, C, D and Fa refilled with hardware for installing the roofrail weatherstrip. The top frame is now ready for the roofrail weatherstrip kit. (Order PIN 513030). Also , the top frame is ready to go to the top shop. Some information on adjusting the top assembly and installing the canvas material can be found in the Shop Manual, in the "Body" section and under the "Folding Top" subheading. Congratulations on a great job!

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