It takes a certain type of enthusiast, and certain climate conditions, to enjoy a convertible. Since we live in Florida, it just makes sense that we have at least one Mopar with a top that drops, and we satisfy our need for open air, sunlight, and starlight with our '69 Chrysler Newport. Owning a convertible, however, demands that a certain amount of maintenance be performed, as convertible tops will generally only last five to ten years before becoming sun-faded, brittle, and prone to leaks. Our Chrysler had been sitting in a barn for many years before we got it, and while the top appeared to be intact, close inspection revealed dry-rotted canvas, a discolored plastic rear window, and a top that cracked and literally fell apart at the seams each time we put it up or down. Our Chrysler was long overdue for a new top if we were going to enjoy the car, so we decided it was time to replace the top, hydraulic cylinders, and hoses, and upgrade to a new glass rear window.
Replacing a convertible top is somewhat of an art, and before a new top is installed on a convertible, there are some related areas of the car that need to be inspected and addressed. By design, convertible tops don't so much waterproof the car as they direct the water to a place where it can drain off the vehicle without causing damage, wet floors, or wet passengers. As rainwater flows across the top, it ends up at the rear area of the top where it meets the sheetmetal of the rear quarter-panels and Dutchman panel.
While most of the water in this area is shed off the car, a certain amount is expected to leak down the top and into the car, where a sheetmetal rain gutter of sorts directs the water to the inside of the quarter-panel in front of the wheels, where it can exit through the drain holes in the lower quarter-panel. Like most convertibles this age, the rain channel of our Newport was rusted through in some areas, so we took our car to JD's Paint and Body Shop for some metal repairs before we even considered installing the new top.
Replacing the top without addressing the rusty rain gutter will just result in leaks that can damage the car's floors and carpet, so this is an important first step in top replacement. Another important step is to make sure the top's frame is in good condition, as well as the metal around where the top meets the car's body. We weren't ready to put a paintjob on our car yet, but we did have a significant amount of rust at the top of the quarter-panels and Dutchman panel of our Newport. Since we didn't want to risk performing metal repairs in this area with the new top in place (welding could cause burn holes and other damage to the top and rear window) we decided to address these issues and have the top frame painted while our car was at JD's Paint and Body shop having the rain gutter repaired.
With our metal work performed and the patched areas treated and primed, we were now ready to order our new convertible top, pads, rear window, lines, and new hydraulic cylinders from Hydro-E-Lectric. Instead of just replacing the top with a similar canvas top and plastic rear window, we thought an upgrade for our Chrysler would be nice. Fortunately, Hydro-E-Lectric offers a premium vinyl top for most Mopar applications, as well as a rear window made of glass.
The Cash Outlay
|Convertible top with glass rear window and pads||$399|
|Hydraulic hose set||$100|
|Hydraulic Cylinders||$139 each|
Convertible tops aren't designed to last forever. Our '69 Newport convertible was long ove
1 We're not sure how old the convertible top is on our Newport, but one thing is certain:
2 Below the area where the top attaches to the body, there is a rain channel that directs
3 The only way to properly repair rusted metal is to cut out the affected area and weld n
4 New metal was also formed and welded into our car's rain channel wherever needed. We al
5 With our metal repairs complete, we rolled the Newport into the paint booth to refinish