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soft top installation

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soft top installation
  This topic is about my 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7
3000mk11 Robert Howie
Montrose, Angus, UK   GBR
I know this topic has been raised on numerous occasions but as much as i search i still cannot find the answers i need.
I have never had a soft top fitted to my can so have no old one to refer to.
Can someone please tell me how/where the soft top attaches to the wooden bow? ( I assume glued and stapled but how far over the bow, all the way over and secured on the underside)
How and where the Aluminium finishing strip attaches to the wooden bow? (I assume screwed to the underside of the bow covering the staples and glue but it appears longer than the bow so assume a sort of gutter is created at either end?)
Where the rubber sealing strip goes and again how it is attached (absolutely no idea on this one and it could throw all my other assumptions listed above into total disarray)
And finally how is everything positioned atop the windscreen prior to it being clamped as i cannot see what part of the wooden bow or Finishing strip or windscreen top is used to locates it?

Any help much appreciated and any photos showing all or part of would be a bonus

Many thanks in advance

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bluecatmodels Avatar
bluecatmodels Silver Member Dave W
Three Rivers, CA, USA   USA
You've got the finishing strip upside down. The strip hooks onto the window. Here are some pictures, hope they help.

The pictures were taken while the top was hanging over my fence.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018-04-11 12:35 PM by bluecatmodels.

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Rob Glasgow Avatar
Lompoc, CA, USA   USA
First, you've got the aluminum strip upside down. The gutter engages the lip on the front edge in the top of the windscreen frame. The rubber seal is glued to the underside of the aluminum piece after the top and wooden bow are screwed together. It acts as a seal between the top and the windscreen frame.
As I recall, the usual installation sequence is as follows:
1. Assemble the front bow by screwing the aluminum piece to the wooden bow and installing the clamps. Attach to the windscreen.
2. Position top on erected frame, centering the top to best fit around cockpit. Install the Tenex buttons, beginning in the center (middle of the boot lid). Work outward from there, installing the buttons from side to side as you move around to the rear of the doors. Pull the top enough to get the bottom edge to lie flat against the body, but don't overly stretch.
3. Once the rear edge is buttoned to the cockpit, pull the front of the top over the wooden bow and stretch to get a tight fit. Beginning in the middle of the front of the windscreen, staple the top to the lower edge of the wooden bow. There should be a piece of vinyl trim included that will be installed larger to cover the staples. Work from the middle outward, stretching the top forward and sideways to get a smooth fit, stapling as you go. You should have several inches of top material hanging over the wooden bow on to the top of the windscreen.
4. Once the top is stapled in place and fits well, remove the entire top and bow. Now unscrew The aluminum strip and wrap the excess material around the wooden bow and glue and staple on the bottom side of the bow. If I remember correct, the excess top material wraps completely around the wooden bow, in casing it on all sides.
5. Now reattach the aluminum piece to the bow with screws and then glue the rubber seal to the bottom.
6. Finally install the vinyl trim piece over the staples on the bottom front edge of the bow to conceal the staples. You should also have two arrowhead shaped metal pieces that screw over the ends of the concealing strip to finish it off.

It's a good idea to install the top in the warm sunshine so that it will be easier to stretch the material.

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3000mk11 Robert Howie
Montrose, Angus, UK   GBR
Thank you Dave,
Funnily enough things now seem to be a lot more obvious.
Thanks for responding, much appreciated
Kind regards

3000mk11 Robert Howie
Montrose, Angus, UK   GBR
Likewise Rob,
Thanks for your input and especially your methodology on how to install.
With the finishing strip the right way round things now seem a lot more straight forward.
Now all we need is that warm weather!
Kind regards

Rob Glasgow Avatar
Lompoc, CA, USA   USA
Robert, it was 74 degrees here today. Just send your top over and I will warm it up for you...

RCHertzy Richard H
Atlanta, GA, USA   USA
The initial step missing in Rob Glasgow's list is to wrap the wooden bow with same color fabric as the top. That helps waterproof the wood.
Then you screw in the aluminum strip and the other steps Rob Glasgow listed.
I did first modify my replacement bow. My original ('62 BT7) had the protruding lip hanging down the back of the bow that was supposed to help seal at the back of the bow. It did not, but did lead to early stress and cracking of the bow cover, which (in Seattle) led to rot of the bow. If you follow Glasgow's steps, the clamps and rubber seal strip should keep out the rain.
I never found good photos of that first step, however (wrapping the bow). It requires some folding and tucking in at the ends, kinda like wrapping a birthday present.

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Rob Glasgow Avatar
Lompoc, CA, USA   USA
Rick, you are correct about wrapping the wooden bow. I replaced my top about 30 years ago and forgot that I had purchesed a replacement NOS bow which was wrapped at the factory (Although in navy blue not the black to match my top). I haven't put my soft top up for 10 years since I purchased a hard top, so my memory has faded a bit.

petnatcar Avatar
petnatcar Silver Member Peter Carbone
Watertown, NY, USA   USA

I just discovered this and it appears that the front edge of the top DOES NOT curl under the wood bow.

There is a trim piece of pre-made vinyl that is stapled on to cover the staples in the top.

This piece then folds back on itself and covers it's own staples leaving a clean finish on the leading edge.


1 - Mark the centers on the Aluminum lip, the wood bow and the top.

2 - Screw the bow to the aluminum and clamp it to the windscreen.

Now here's the rub:
The top needs to secured to the car at the back edge so you can pull the material towards the front to tension the top.
- Start in the center to install the snaps.
- Pull the bottom edge to the outside then mark the next snap.
- Keep tension on that edge when marking the snap locations.
- Leave the ones on the side until the top is stretched then pull the sides down and towards the front and mark the snaps.

3 - Get some good Contact Cement and coat the underside of the front edge of the top (a 2" wide strip across the leading edge)
and the entire face of the wood bow.
Depending on the excess material at the front you may need to adjust the width of the glue across the front.
Don't go to wide with the glue or you'll see it inside when the top is up. Not good.
Clean excess glue with gasoline only on vinyl tops and lacquer thinner or lighter fluid for canvas.

4 - Apply 2 liberal coats and wait until in dries completely (5-10 minutes).

5 - Starting in the center pull the top forward as tight as you can and stick it onto the bow, then add a few staples
close to the bottom edge of the bow. These staples will be covered by the trim piece I mentioned above.
Work your way across the bow pulling forward and outwards so you stretch it equally.

The attached photo makes more sense of this.

Depending on the material of the top (canvas or vinyl) you can use a heat gun to soften it up and allow it to stretch.

Doing all this in the sunshine makes it much easier.

I've been installing convertible tops for 10 years and it's an acquired discipline.

Good luck and contact me if you have any questions.


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2018-04-20 12:02 PM by petnatcar.

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Big Ed Avatar
Big Ed Ed Brorein

I do not see any mention of the webbing. Somewhere I read the BT7 has the webbing straps already attached to the soft top. Is that indeed the case, or does it have to be added on separately, or it is not needed on the BT7 models?


Rob Glasgow Avatar
Lompoc, CA, USA   USA
Yes, the BT7 soft tops come with webbing attached to the seam of the rear most lateral panel . The webs needs to be attached to the from wooden bow during the installation process. It should be glued and stapled to the bow along with the front of the top. I'm not sure why the webs were installed. They do cover the two side seams so maybe they absorb some water if the seams weep. That's not much of a reason but maybe someone else knows.
On another forum, I just found out the purpose for the cotter pin installed in the drain hole of the bell housing so there's probably a logical explanation for the webs.

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