The Full Spread: Greta's Half Top and Hard Deck - Completed.
It's been in the works since last spring, which was when the deck and top projects were first conceived; finally, they're done.
Pictured: Allen "This Ain't A Problem" Carswell, that same Cobra, and at least three rolls of fabric.
When you come up with crazy-a** projects like I often do and you don't have the tools or skills to pull off portions of the build, you might have to turn to someone else...and sometimes you can only be hopeful that the someone else in question is capable of doing what you need to get done. Well, I can categorically state that Allen is one of those guys that can get it done. If it's upholstery- or interior-related, Allen is a man worth seeking-out.
It's no secret that I was frustrated beyond all measure by the time I happened across Allen's website
- that's what dealing with a bunch of un-pre-killed monkeys will do to you, incidentally - so I was still skeptical when I took Greta up to his shop a week and a half ago. After talking to him for an hour or so, I felt better. When I started seeing the photos of what he was doing, I felt a lot better. When I walked in to see Greta with her new top for the first time, I just said "I gotta sit down" and promptly did exactly that...and the following pictures might give you an idea of why.
Pictured: The hard deck, shown clearly with the full spare and the soft half cab.
Now, personally...I think that's pretty f****** sexy. The tire is in an easily-deployed position, the cam straps are very quick to take off or re-tension, and the bright red color of the strapping makes them easy to see in my rearview mirror, should I want to check the tension while on the road or on the trail. For those of you that think the tire blocks vision: it doesn't. AT ALL. When I look in the mirror my view is as un-occluded as it was with nothing behind me at all. Also, the sizing of the rear window is evident, as was its careful positioning; over-the-left-shoulder checks are possible while changing lanes. The deck still has cargo room to either side of the tire and - amazingly enough - it's clear that I could accommodate a 37- or 38-inch piece of rubber in the same location. The upper rear part of the top - right above the window - is ABS-backed and composed of two separate layers; that's how Allen got the rear portion of the upper panel to lie so crisply and cleanly over the window curtain. He'll be making some C-pillar covers for me in the future, after I add a C-to-C bar. Here's a view from the other corner...
Pictured: Yep...looks b****** from this side, too.
You can see, here, that there are five waterproof trim screws that secure that upper panel to the rear curtain; with that double layer of ABS backing, I could mount cargo lights or a third brake light up here...it's that sturdy. I really like the way he contoured it around the C-pillar pocket/cuffs. Let's take a better look at that area...
Pictured: Nicely done, Allen.
The inspiration for these was found in the pocket/cuffs that are seen in conventional tonneau covers; once I saw that, I figured that the same method could be used to great effect in a horizontal configuration. These were constructed with a bit of adjustment built-in, so that they can still be tightened up and kept secure in the event that the overall diameter of the padded roll bar changes. They were waterproof and windproof once cinched down tightly; the car wash proved that. And for those of you that think I might not be entirely truthful about taking Great through a car wash:
Pictured: Seriously...I wouldn't lie to you about this.
As I said, earlier...there was minimal water intrusion and that was only due to a high-pressure spray being aimed DIRECTLY at the only partially-open seam; the upper skirt. I'm going to add a touch of weatherstripping to that area, which will stop the few drops that came through. The door seals were 100% tight...which is to be expected, considering how cleanly the corners and top panel were fitted to the factory door surrounds.
Pictured: This is what the original sketches looked like...so, again, nicely done.
The drape and stretch over those twin top bows is really nice...
Pictured: Inspired by the old military 2.5-ton canvas tops.
The ripples that you see are a result of the layers being stretched over round-head snaps on the rear bow, which is what tensions the back panel. Because of those slight protrusions, the entire "flat" section that spans the top bows is a double layer of fabric that's secured by doubled velcro or snap closures. The redundant fastening and thickness should help minimize any potential wear; the assembly should last a good ten years. I'm really not exaggerating, there; Allen's comment on the durability factor was "I want it to be as tough as the vehicle itself." Thus, there are more snaps, screws, reinforcements and layers than would normally be needed. Here's a view of the upper corner, taken from the inside, showing yet another protective layer fabric and the two-sided velcro closures.
Pictured: It even looks factory on the inside.
The fabric from Electron is a really good match to standard Jeep sailcloth; I could have gone heavier or with a different material, but this one just looked "right" both on the inside and out. Here's a shot of the interior, from somewhere around the driver's window area:
Pictured: See? The spare tire really isn't in the way.
The glass being right behind my head doesn't bother me at all; the only time I realize that it's even present is when I turn my head to look behind the Jeep when I'm backing up, or at night when a headlight reflection catches it just right and makes it show up in the rearview mirror. Aside from that, it's as if it isn't there. Greta definitely doesn't feel like a truck, and the fitment of the fabric is such that it doesn't make a lot of noise. The worst problems I had were with cross-winds, but the overall noise level is diminishing as I drive her. I think that by the time the fabric really draws in, it'll be pretty quiet, overall.
Pictured: Speaking of "overall"...here's an overall shot that shows some sheet metal...
Pictured: ...and another, from closer-in. As usual: "That's hot" in the Paris Hilton voice.
I think that the real innovation, here, is that the top was completed with the factory hardware; all it required was a few simple modifications to the existent rear bow and the half-cab basically fell right into place. The deck itself - specifically the upper deck skirt - was also a crucial part, and one that will be somewhat-repeated on the future LJ conversion. All in all, I'd say it turned out pretty f****** well; I'm warm and dry and Greta is starting to get pretty unmistakable, I've got a LOT of weather-protected storage space and an uber-convenient multi-use cargo/spare-tire carrier, and at long last I've got one more layer of protection between myself and whatever The Wasteland has to throw at me.
Orson Welles once said that a great cast deserves another mention...and in all seriousness, I'd like to thank those that helped make the hard deck and the half-cab possible. They are, in no particular order:
- JeepForum Readers; for their constant support, attention and invaluable advice. You guys - and girls - keep me on-point. Well-done.
- Mom; for the abuse of her garage and patience. I'll build my own, soon, I promise.
- Dad; for having been there and done that, and consequently having a better way to do whatever I'm trying to do at the time. It wouldn't have gotten done without you.
- Annabelle and Her Wonderful Rack; none of the pictures would have turned out as well without her/those.
- Ryan Fortin; for thinking way outside the box when needed.
- Blaine Johnson; for lessons in geometry, metallurgy, and commiseration.
- Nurse Jen; for NOT dropping the deck or the cage on me at the Exact Wrong Moment.
- G.W. Gibson and Mark Lamb; for material and fabrication skills that I wish I possessed.
- Allen Carswell; for literally sewing up the last missing pieces.
- NomNom The Affable Crocodile; for on-site therapy.
- The Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, Texas; for further on-site therapy.
Stay tuned: that tailgate won't look the same for much longer...