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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:19 PM   #1
southbound
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Jeep YJ hard top restoration (write-up with lots of pics!)

I had a Supertop on my YJ since the day I got it (I replaced the old one on it the week after I bought it). I liked the soft top, but I'm in the Army and carry gear in the back of my Jeep all the time; I cover it up, but still all someone had to do was cut the top and walk off with the $300+ Kevlar helmet I signed for. I also do a lot of highway driving and the soft top flapping gets annoying after a few hours (even after padding the frame with additional foam).

Needless to say, I've always thought a hardtop would be a good fit for my situation. My Jeep came from the factory with one, so I already had the wiring, switches, relay, full doors, etc... However, every time I went to look at on Craigslist I usually found a beat up tub that required more repairs then I felt like doing (or had time to do). A couple months back, while trolling CL, I found a nice one about 2.5 hours away that looked like it was in pretty good shape. And the best part was the current owner wanted a Supertop for a YJ he was fixing up, so it was a straight up trade. This was good, because I figured it would cost me some cash to restore one anyway (and I wouldn't have to store the unused soft top in my two bedroom condo).

I went and checked out the top one weekend while I was in Columbia. It was in good shape. Some rust on the metal parts, but the fiberglass was almost perfect. And it had a rear wiper and defrost wiring (a defroster grid on the window would have been perfect, but this one was pretty much what I was looking for). I can add a defroster grid later on if I need to. I came back the next weekend and we swapped out tops. It took about two hours. I was only able to get four bolts in the rear tub and one in the windshield, but it held up well on the ride home (though it whistled like crazy).

The condition when I got it-







The next week I took the top to my father-in-law's house and stored it in his storage building. I spent a few weeks cleaning it, drilling out rivets, breaking rusted out screws/bolts, repairing fiberglass, prepping for paint and accumulating supplies. It is a two hour drive to his house, so I made the most of my days there. It's the closest decent workspace I had available for a project like this. Take your time, and a couple of rolls of painters tape, to mask off the windows and rubber trim. The more time your spend masking, the better the final product will be.

Some of the work done (MEK'd and taped to prevent over spray)-





Make sure you tape off the small fiberglass "lip" that the metal header bar rivets into (only if you're planning on lining the inside with something thick drying (like a bed liner - what I did)). Other wise the liner will keep the header bar from mounting nice and flat against the fiberglass after it's riveted down.



I removed the wire loom/washer hose mounting plate in the rear drivers side corner of the top. Mine was a little rusty and the washer tube was pushed through it and no where to be seen.

So I drilled out rivets and removed the plate-



The original metal header bar (thin piece of sheet metal that attaches the front top lip to the windshield) was rusted pretty bad. The metal was rotted away really thin around the screw holes. I went to the stealership to buy a replacement (I figured it would be around $50, but none of the sheet metal shops were able to make me a replacement at a reasonable price). The header bar has some weird bends and shapes to it (if you look at it from the end it actually bows to match the curve of the hardtop). Needless to say the stealership didn't stock it (it's completely discontinued) and there were none in stock anywhere in the U.S.

- Some shots of the rusty header bar (bad, but salvageable)-





I decided to strip it to bare metal with my Dremel's sanding attachment and reinforce the mounting holes with some thick grade 8 washers I had in my stash of nuts and bolts.

Here's some pics of what I'm talking about-



I bonded the washers to the bar with Marine Tex. It's a cold weld product similar to JB weld, but I think it hardens better from previous experience with both (you can pick it up at any marine supply store like West Marine). Once the two tubes are mixed you have about five minutes before it hardens.

Here are some shots of the washers permanently bonded to the bar. I sanded the Marine Tex and washers down a little to give it a nice smooth finish (I also sanded the back of the bar and filled it in with Marine Tex and sanded it flat and smooth to fill in the pitting)-





Then cleaned it with MEK and hit it with two coats of Valspar primer and 2 coats of Valspar flat black rattle can-







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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:21 PM   #2
southbound
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Despite the header bar, the fiberglass support at the bottom of the window was the easily the worst part on the top. It consists of three separate parts:

1) The outer fiberglass plate.
2) The inner fiberglass frame.
3) The inner shroud/cover.

The outer plate is for looks and it helps the inner frame "sandwich" the window via six fiberglass "lag style" bolts. Each one of the bolts in mine were completely rotted with rust and decay. I soaked them with PB Blaster for several days and managed to remove three, the other three disintegrated when I put the wrench to them... The bolts thread into six tube-like fiberglass "pillars" (for lack of a better word) on the outer plate. They are a b**** to clean out and half of mine were cracking and chipping apart. I managed to clean them up pretty well and remove all the rusted pieces of the old bolts.

I repaired them by forming and shaping new "tubes" around the old pillars out of some metal repair putty. You can find the stuff at any Autozone. It comes in a small tube. You break off a pinch and knead it to mix the black and gray putties together. Then you have about 10 minutes before it begins to harden. After 24 hours it's pretty much as hard as steel. You can even drill it out and tap it- perfect for what I needed to do. I made the new holes slightly smaller than the old ones to make the new bolts "bite" better. I made it a point to replace all the hardware with stainless bolts and screws to prevent this kind of decay again (not just here, but one the whole top).

The new tubes/pillars-





I also cleaned up the inner fiberglass six hole frame and the shroud/cover with MEK and painted it with Valspar primer and two coats of their flat black paint-

The shroud cover (had to Superglue and sand one corner that was slightly cracked)-



The outer plate, not painted yet (and shroud in the first pic)-







I left the back side unpainted because it presses against the glass and can't be seen anyway. Here is a shot (this is where the threaded rectangular shock base plate goes- I'll talk about that piece next)-



I then got to work on the gas strut mounting plates. They looked like someone had thrown them in the salt marsh for a few years... I had to drill out the four bolts that hold each set together because they were so far gone. They consist of two steel plates. One is a funky shape that has a small spur coming off of it. The ball joint for each gas shock mounts on each respective plate through the hole on this spur. The other plate is a rectangular plate that mounts on the inside of the fiberglass frame. The plate is threaded all the way through and is about a 1/4" thick. The strut plates mount to them with four Phillips head bolts. These two plates sandwich the frame and give the gas struts solid mounting points on the window frame by spreading out the force. Without the base plate the mounting plate would simply rip through the fiberglass and crack it. They were a mess and not salvageable whatsoever.

The plates-



Those severely rusted protrusions at each corner of the threaded plate are actually the old bolts that threaded into it. They had decayed to the point of being permanently bonded to the plate; no threads were left at all, just rust... I drilled the heads off of them and knocked the two plates apart with a punch.

However, I was able to use them as templates for new plates. I bought a strip of 4"x 1/4"x 3' flat steel to cut the new plates out of. I spent more time dissembling/repair these two fiberglass pieces than prepping/painting the entire top itself.

Here are some pictures of what I'm talking about-



While I was doing this I went ahead and painted the two small ball mounts that bolt onto the strut plates.



I will have to wait until I go home for Christmas to cut out the plates (I'll have access to a machine shop then). So my lift gate will need some elbow grease to raise it for now (no gas struts).
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:23 PM   #3
southbound
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I had a spare weekend, so I decided to finally paint the top. My Monstaliner kit came in that Friday, so the timing was perfect-

http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f43/i...-liner-875162/

The hard top primed with two coats of Valspar gray primer-



I searched for awhile for some paint that matched the spice colored trim of my YJ's Sahara trim package (I didn't want to go with the typical flat tan paint, but wanted the more light brown color of the CJ style hard tops). I priced some color matched paint, but it was expensive and required a clear coat... Not what I wanted at all. But I founded a near match at Walmart, of all places. The name of the shade is "Brown Boots" and it's made by Krylon. The best part is it's $3ish a can! The stuff is about two shades lighter than spice. The paint also has a satin finish, but I found with a little experimenting that this finish wears off in about a week in the sun. It cures to a nice flat color.

Six cans of "Brown Boots"-



The paint going on one coat at a time (nice and slow, nice and even)-





Here's the outer fiberglass plate painted as well (with the other two lift gate fiberglass parts). I also snapped a new lift gate weatherstrip seal on the lower frame-



Once I had three coats of it on the top I let it sit for a couple hours, then got to work rolling on the two coats of Monstaliner on the inside-



I chose Monstaliner because I really like the final visual appearance of the product and the texture as well. I hated the bright white interior of the top (it gave me a headache). And the liner would also act like a sound deadener to help block out some of the road noise from the highway. I am really satisfied with the final product. It looks great and really helps to block out noise. I applied it while the top was sitting flat in it's normal position. If I could have done this project again, I would have flipped the top upside down and coated the inside first and then painted it. Rolling on Monstaliner over my head wasn't very comfortable and it left me with a few uneven drip spots, but despite this, it still looks great.

What the inside of the top used to look like (the white just looks cheesy and cheap in my opinion)-





Now here it is Monstalined!-





Once I had all this done I let the top sit for a week. I wanted the paint and Monstaliner to completely cure before reinstalling it on the Jeep.

Ready to go on the Jeep!-

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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:24 PM   #4
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I came back a week later and spent a couple hours weatherstripping the top (I used 1" x 1/8" rubberized foam weatherstrip tape from Autozone), installing seals and drilling out my windshield for the hardtop reinforcement kit from Quadratec-

Rnventions JO100 - Hard Top Reinforcement Kit for 87-95 Jeep® Wrangler YJ - Quadratec

This is a great product that allows the header bar to attach to the windshield with seven machine screws, instead of the factory installed sheet metal screws (which strip out over time). The machine screws turn into the threaded plates and fasten the lip down really well to the windshield. A little light duty thread locker (to keep them from backing out over time) and you're good to go.

I ran foam weatherstripping along the underside of the front lip to ensure no rain or wind would work it's way through while on the highway. The rear overhead light was reassembled and installed and the top was ready to go on the tub.

I picked up a seal kit from an eBay seller. These corner seals were unmarked and are made of a much softer rubber that forms to the top and windshield frame much better than the OMIX-ADA brand replacements (which are made of a much stiffer compound). The header seal was just some tubed weatherstripping, but it fit and worked really well-



I also ran a couple strips of foam weather stripping along the lip to make sure the top doesn't whistle at high speeds.

New gas struts (with metal defroster tabs/electrodes) from Quadratec-



I bought all new stainless steel hardware for the reinstall and got some large flat stainless washers to help spread out the load on the eight bolts on either side. I reused the old rectangular OEM anchor nuts for these bolts as well.

A stock photo of the anchor nuts-



The bolts and washers I used (installed and torqued down on the anchor nut, don't over tighten, or you'll crack the inside lip of fiberglass)-





I also pop riveted the header bar back on the hardtop and managed to get only three of the seven machine screws in the windshield frame when I sat the top down on the tub. Two on the far drivers side and one on the far passengers side. It looks like the lip on the front of the top is bowed down a little from sitting off of a Jeep for so long. I'm going to let it settle for a month or two, then try it again, hopefully the holes will line up with some minor coaxing.



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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:25 PM   #5
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Then I reassembled the rear window/hatch and reinstalled it with the help of my wife. I held it in place while she tightened the bolts down. I had to shift it a little to the drivers side to clear the tailgate (luckily the hinges in the lift gate, like most parts on a YJ, are adjustable to some degree. Here are some pictures with the lift gate back on (I know I need a full size spare- my next project is a Tailgate Reinforcement Kit). I also painted the hinges, wiper arm, and metal trim piece along the rim of the rear window with some Valspar primer and satin black.

Stainless steel 1" lag bolts used to "sandwich" the two fiberglass plates together (six are required, one for each hole in the bottom of the glass). I believe they were 5/16"-



Liftgate shot from the inside (with the wiper motor cover and rear dome light installed as well)-



More liftgate pics-





I ran foam weatherstripping on the back side of the outer fiberglass plate to seal it against the glass and prevent any water from leaking in. I also put some "silly putty-like" moldable weather sealing putty around the base of the six pillars to fill in the small gap between the hole in the glass and the pillar diameter.



Wiper motor cleaned and reinstalled-



Upper strut plates reinstalled with three stainless steel hex head bolts and washers-



I riveted the rear wire loom plate in before I put the hard top back on the Jeep, but here's a pic of it with the wire looms attached and the wiper hoses mated together once the top was bolted down to the tub-





I used a brass 3/16" tube splice from Lowes. Warm the two tubes slightly with a lighter and lube the splice fitting with a little water to get it to slide on over all the barbs.
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:26 PM   #6
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Finally, here are some shots of the restored hard top on my YJ. It looks brand new-







And I know... the stock sized spare has to go. I'm waiting to get a tailgate reinforcement kit and spare tire/3rd brake light relocator bracket for a 31" BFG spare. Work is keeping me busy enough now...




In conclusion this was a pretty good project that really fits my needs. My YJ is much more quiet on the highway and my it's a lot more secure than it was before with the soft top. I now have a hardtop that's in excellent condition and have restored my YJ back to the way it rolled off the assembly line (to a certain extent).

I wanted to detail some of the work I did so hopefully it can help some fellow JF guys out in the future if they decide to take on a little side project like this. It wasn't too hard, but it took awhile to fix all the little issues and wait for paint to dry. You also want to make sure you have a large workspace available, because a hard top is big, cumbersome and awkward to work on. I also apologize for some of the grainy photos; I had to snap them with my cell phone, so the quality is not the best.

Take care and please feel free to post up and questions you have.


,
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:39 PM   #7
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Great job! I did the same thing with the interior of my hardtop except with the rubberized sound proofing paint. It looks so much better black. Did you order the outer seals for the side windows or just go pick up some generic stripping from an parts store? I need some new ones
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:43 PM   #8
glenn-91YJ
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EXCELLENT job!!!

I plan on doing mine this spring when it gets pulled for the summer. This will prove to be helpful. THANKS!
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:49 PM   #9
southbound
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Quote:
Originally Posted by youngYJ95 View Post
Great job! I did the same thing with the interior of my hardtop except with the rubberized sound proofing paint. It looks so much better black. Did you order the outer seals for the side windows or just go pick up some generic stripping from an parts store? I need some new ones
Thanks! I didn't remove them at all. They were in great shape, so I just left them in. I may end up painting the small metal clip that joins the two ends later on down the road, we'll see. I just took my time taping them off perfectly before painting the top.

As for getting new ones... I've seen them for sale online before (when I was trying to find other parts for this hard top). I remember them being around $20 each, if memory serves me correctly. I wish I could remember where I saw them. Try Google for awhile and I'm sure you'll have some luck.
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Unread 12-09-2010, 07:55 PM   #10
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Your top looks awesome. I just got a black top that came from a CJ-7. My Supertop ripped going down the highway and I found a hardtop at a good deal. Since I have a sahara as well I'd like to paint mine that tan color as well.
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Unread 12-09-2010, 08:01 PM   #11
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Nice job...Think I'll repaint my Hardtop next year when it comes off..

May I make a recomendation...Tint your windows...Adds a great look, and your items are a bit more secure...Out of site -out of mind..

I often keep my bunker gear in the back seat...

I use the commercial window vinyl tint, moldable (with in reason), no adheasive! Just wet with soapy water, squeege and set...Easily removable if needed too!!!
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Unread 12-09-2010, 08:08 PM   #12
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i really like it, great ideas, when you said you were "RESTORING" it you really "RESTORED" it, i couldnt do it, mine is a banger anyways, i scratch it up, dent stuff, i slopped on some penetrol, it worked, i got a busted out rear window, i slapped some plexi-glass in there and it does fine for me, it leaks, but i don't care, it keeps me dry. great job though...
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Unread 12-09-2010, 08:10 PM   #13
southbound
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NHfireYJ View Post
Nice job...Think I'll repaint my Hardtop next year when it comes off..

May I make a recomendation...Tint your windows...Adds a great look, and your items are a bit more secure...Out of site -out of mind..

I often keep my bunker gear in the back seat...

I use the commercial window vinyl tint, moldable (with in reason), no adheasive! Just wet with soapy water, squeege and set...Easily removable if needed too!!!
I've been rolling that idea around in the back of my head for awhile. I've hesitated for two reasons:

1) I have the original Chrysler Safeguard glass in the top and I do not want to mess it up with a bad tint job.

2) I'm planning on adding an aftermarket window defroster on the back glass and I'm worried the tint will not adhere well against the glass due to the heating element strips.

But what you're talking about sounds like a good alternative since it is removable. And I like the idea of having the back area a little less visible (my soft top had tinted windows and I loved it).

Where did you find the tint that you used? And how much did it cost? Thanks man,
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Unread 12-09-2010, 08:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glenn-91YJ View Post
EXCELLENT job!!!

I plan on doing mine this spring when it gets pulled for the summer. This will prove to be helpful. THANKS!
Thanks glenn . Let me know if you have any questions along the way.
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Unread 12-09-2010, 09:03 PM   #15
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That looks GREAT!

I hope to do this sometime this weekend, its pretty cold though...gonna have to heat up the garage quite a bit so my paint sticks .

I bought my jeep without mounting plates or gas shocks (or the little ball joints to connect them). I know i can find the shocks, do you think i'm SOL on the other parts or have you seen them available anywhere to buy?
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