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FFR soft top - cloth vs. vinyl

557 Views 14 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Bob Lennon
Last spring I bought and installed an EM soft top on my FFR. It is black cloth vs. vinyl. Someone once told me it is called Hartz cloth and is similar to that used on Mercedes. I think it looks great. Very finished and high quality looking when on the car. I also like the zippered side curtains.

It sounds like EM might not be an option going forward if they cannot or choose not to reorganize their company. I can tell you there were a couple of aspects (although relatively small) about the EM top that did not lend themselves to the FFR body and required some additional work.

Having said all of that I wonder if those of you looking for an alternative to the FFR top might consider trying to convince FFR to change to or at least offer cloth material as an option. It seems that changing material would be simple given whoever is making the top must already have a pattern for cutting.

Just a thought...

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When I was in college I worked for a high-end auto upholstery business. Fun job in college as I was restoring and working on BMWs and Mercedes on a regular basis and even (among many other interior jobs) did an entire Jaguar XK12 interior & top on my own and an entire top restoration for a Shelby 500KR.

For our shop, convertible tops were a mainstream of the business. There were rare instances where we even had to make tops (Model Ts). There are indeed 2 types of cloth (actually it is canvas) top materials. The vinyl materials comes in various weights as well (ounces). The German canvas Hartz material is the absolute best and is standard issue on Mercedes and BMW. The vinyl tops are made by a multitude of manufacturers with Robbins being one of the better US outfits.

My suggestion would be to get a group of FFR owners to commit to buying a top and talk to someone either at:
- a great auto upholstery shop (i.e. award winning restorations)
- a shop that fabricates tops for boats (these folks work with canvas and the clear vinyl windows all the time)
- speak directly with someone at Robbins or another convertible top company to manufacture a top (perhaps FFR could just sub this out)

The top frame would likely not be fabricated by any of the above suggestions. So, another source for constructing a solid frame would need to be found.

Getting FFR to convert to a canvas option would be the easiest solution, but I would imagine that there are alot of other higher-priority projects on their minds.

The vinyl top may be accurate for the original Shelby, but canvas tops were produced for cars long before the 60's. The canvas tops, in my opinion, just looks SO much better than vinyl. They require more care and proper cleaning, but look great. The EM tops look great but do require modifications from the one I've seen installed on an FFR.

Since I won't be driving my FFR daily (once it's complete), there's no need for me to rush out and purchase a top. But, if a good canvas top were available, I'd likely be much more interested the canvas than the vinyl.


[ October 20, 2002, 09:55 PM: Message edited by: DrewFFRCobra ]
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Bill: it was my understanding that FFR only offered a vinyl top. I could be wrong, but the FFR tops I've seen were vinyl with hard plastic sliding window side curtains and the EM top was certainly canvas with zippered clear flexible plastic side curtains. Would be interested to know if other versions of the FFR top exists.

CRZN427: I'm not familiar with the product you mention of bonded rubber/cloth/canvas. It sounds like a very thick (thus weather resistant) product, but I would be concerned that such a thick product would be bulky and difficult to fold either by itself (i.e., put in the trunk) or would cause the top bows to bind and not fold down very flat. The canvas tops I've seen were a thick layer of canvas with a lighter weight backing material such as cotton to provide a finished look on the interior of the cars.

In my experience, the older 1980's BMW 3 Series had the simplest of tops as they were canvas and clear plastic windows and not much else - we did so many of these as they were usually victims of vandalism. The VW Cabriolets from the '80's & '90s were actually the more complex tops as they incorporated a vinyl (or sometimes canvas) exterior top, a layer of "horse hair" padding (which we usually replaced with dense foam), an interior headliner made of white vinyl, and a complex series of cables & latches with an all glass rear window with defroster. The Porsche 911 tops were always canvas but with a headliner and were a pain to install as one wrong move during installation and RRRIIIPPPP went the top (about $2000 for the canvas alone.) On an interesting note, the old Fox body Mustang convertible tops ('80s - '93) used a very durable and thick vinyl top, but we all hated to install them as the Mustang chassis was not very good at keeping the entire body from twisting over time so that nearly all of the top frames were usually bent and the tops never fit right (read: leaked badly and lots of wind noise).

Anyway, the automotive materials may have changed since it's been over 10 years since I was in college. But, if the the material you mention (CRZN427) is thin enough and is used as a convertible top by other manufacturers, then it would be a good solution. But, to me, it sounds like the material you're speaking about is a heavier duty marine grade material for use on boats that must endure extreme conditions.

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Looks great! Did you also bend the top bows? How did you attach the bows to the car? What did you use to latches to the front winshield?

Again, it looks great Bob! It appears to sit lower that the FFR top, right? I would agree that the hard plastic side windows provide better visibility.

Hmmm...I sense an side-business opportunity here for you! Have you given thought to producing these tops and selling them via the forum? Do you have top templates for the material you cut out? I would bet that ALOT of us would be interested in either purchasing a completed top (less than the FFR $1300+ obviously) or at least a set of templates for the top and the bows, as we could sub-out the top sewing to a local upholstery shop or boat shop and the bows could be fabricated with a pipe bender and basic fastening hardware.

Others interested?

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