'69 Convertible Top Install--Tips

After watching the WCCC video on installing a convertible top several times, I dove head first into my own top install.
WCCC Video

It was very time consuming and I discovered a few things the video didn’t show that I wish it had:

  1. Have the right stapler and staples. My electric staple gun with T-50 staples just didn’t cut the mustard and was not powerful enough to drive the staples deep enough into the tack strips. Ensure you have an air powered stapler with 3/8” long staples—I found these worked the best for me.
  2. The measurements given in the video might not be right for your top. There are two different models of EZ on top (228 and 2281). They both have different measurements for the rear bow height. To get the measurements for between the bows, flip your new top skin over and measure between the listing rod flaps and between the last listing rod flap and slits in the rear of the top.
  3. According to the instructions—(Shown in the video, but not specifically stated)—the rear tack strip at that the bottom of the top staples to (one on each side) must be marked 1 ¼” from the rear (or window side). This is where you are supposed to start stapling the window side of the bottom of the top. If you start there, you might not be able to completely cover the tack strip at the front end. You must start at the front end and ensure it is covered or the top will be too far back and not cover the main roof support . (You guessed it, I had to un-staple one side because I did not get it far enough forward)
  4. When wrapping the top over the front header, you will get very frustrated at the number of times you have to un-stick it and re-wrap it to get the tension just right or to get wrinkles out of the sides. Patience and persistence is key here. I used a welders soap stone to mark the front edge of the top when I had it wrapped so I could tell how far I was moving it forward or backward in relation to the front edge when I needed to move it again. That worked really well for me. Also, don’t forget to keep the two front sides out from under the header as they wrap around the top edges. (I actually had to un-staple one side of mine because I missed that)
  5. Don’t tighten the bolts all the way down in the metal rear tack strips until you have the top in place and locked down. This will allow you to latch it easier and makes the top tighter when you tighten the bolts down.
  6. Do not cut the excess material from either the top of the window zipper or the bow pads until you have the actual top on and the two slits line up in the center of the rear bow. I actually had to take mine back off and adjust my bow pads further back and my window zipper further down when mine did not line up correctly. (Taking out a butt load of staples is not fun!)
  7. Just like the video shows, the rear bow welting starts 7” from the seam and ends 7” from the seam on the other side of the car. Ensure you staple parallel with, and closer to the small bead side as you go across, or when you fold the welting over your staples will show! (Yet another butt load of staples had to be removed…)

Staples in rear welting

They show if done wrong

  1. I have yet to figure out where the two smaller pads that came with the top go. They didn’t get installed and are now extra. I did not see them being put on in the video either and when I talked with Javier, he didn’t know where they went either.

The video was is an absolute quality product and you can’t beat the price (Free). I just found a few things not covered by the video that you will likely run into as well. Would I do it again? You bet! The upholstery shop I talked with wanted $600 just to install the top after I did all the prep work. I personally think that’s highway robbery, but I guess that could be the going rate. Thanks to Don and his crew though, I gained just enough knowledge to think I could tackle it myself. I think it turned out great. :beerchug:

Completed 1

Completed 2

Hi Daryl,

First off, NICE job!

You made it sound much easier/nicer than I found the job to be! I can’t tell you how many times I stapled and restapled to get the top to fit “just right”.

Now, about the pieces you found to be “extra” and are uninstalled, are they trapezoid shaped? If yes, these are part of the pad set and are meant to go from the rear bows down to the rear tacking strip in the quarter sail areas. They basically complete the pad set and make it so the positioning and tension of the top frame and bows are independent of the top itself. Without the pad set being complete, the top is going to be pulled at more than it should which could shorten its life. The down side about these pad pieces is it becomes even harder to get the sail area of the top to properly stretch (and wrinkles out, etc) when there is the pad pieces behind the top sail area which need to properly tension at the same time the top tensions.

In short, I would NEVER do another top! Still, good on 'ya for having the guts to do it. For me it was a painful experience and a memory that won’t soon fade.



After doing the top on copycatvert myself, I don’t begrudge the shop owners who quoted me $500 plus to install the top. Maybe after you do a couple or three it gets easier, but I had a nasty time with mine. I had a coffee can on my bench where I put all the staples I had to pull out and by the time I was done, it was almost a third full!

As for those sail panel pads, I agree with Bob, you do need them. I left them off on mine and am regretting it as they would have helped the corners hold their shape. Another thing I learned is that next time (hopefully a long way off) I am going to install studs on the drip rail instead of using the bolts for the tack sticks. I think that would make installation a LOT easier because you could just slide the sticks on and not have to try to line up and start bolt threads while pulling things tight.

I tip my hat to all three of you. I tried and gave up. Used my wallet tool.

Does Harbor Freight sell those wallet tools?

Thanks Daryl for the feedback on the video! I’m the guy that produces the videos. None of us here really knew much about convertible top installation, so we were kind of observing and learning as we watched the installer do his thing. I’m glad we didn’t leave too much info out, or get too many things wrong! On those two thin pad / strips, we didn’t install them either. I was wondering what the heck they were for. Guess the installer didn’t know either.

If you have an account on YouTube, would you be so kind as to post your feedback as a comment on the video? You could probably just copy and paste what you posted here. I think a lot of other people could benefit from your firsthand experience.

Also, I’m really glad that it gave you the motivation and enough info to tackle the job yourself. That’s what it’s all about. The end result looks really good from what I can tell.

To be honest, I don’t know if I’d ever want to attempt a convertible top myself after watching this process. But clearly some are braver than others. :ylsuper:

Wow! This is exactly what we hoped would transpire! I personally have never been brave enough to tackle one myself and can identify with these statements, “In short, I would NEVER do another top! Still, good on 'ya for having the guts to do it. For me it was a painful experience and a memory that won’t soon fade.” and… “I tip my hat to all three of you. I tried and gave up. Used my wallet tool.” I am going to put a link to this thread on our site and youtube as I am sure others will be able to chime in with their unique experiences. Kudos to Andrew for being able to produce a helpful video with a guy that has never even driven a convertible and a guy who does not speak English.

Good info and vid’s guys! I am suddenly inspired to attempt it myself when the time comes…I was having major doubts on that one! I didn’t figure it was easy.

Bob, yes they are trapezoid shaped, and what you say makes a lot of sense! I guess I will have to go back and install them afterall. Besides, I do have a few small wrinkles in the sail panel areas on both sides that I was going to have to unstaple from the rear tack strips to fix anyway.

Yorgle, you are spot on with the studs comment. One of the most time consuming and frustrating parts was trying to get those bolts through the rear tack strips. Putting studs there first would be much easier! I actually had a 4 or 5 of the bolt holes stripped out and had to tap them from 1/4 20 to 5/16-18 threads which seemed to be stronger anyway.

Blitz, Again–great video–it was timed just right for me at my stage of this restoration and it provided me with the critical visual knowledge I needed to just GO FOR IT!

2BADCATS, You can do it as well. Just be patient, flexible, and don’t try to do it all at once. I took 2 1/2 days from start to finish with sanity breaks in between sessions. If I had not done that, I would have either gotten mad and ruined it or just gotten frustrated and gave up. Of course now I have to go back and put in the two trapezoid shaped pads at some point, but it won’t be anytime soon. I am PCSing to FT Knox in January and have to have the Cougar on the road before then, so I must press on.

ALL, I need to add one additional “must have” tool besides the air staple gun. Just like the video states, an ice pick or awl is a must for putting screw holes in and for the eventual staple removal that so many of us have had to do on our installs.

I’m just glad I was able to add a little value to our Cougar community knowledge base and help the next guy make their decision on self top installation somewhat easier because they are more informed about the process few ever see.

Don, No, KUDOS to you and your team at WCCC for providing the customer oriented service and knowledge base for all us out in Cougarland. I know I certainly appreciate it.

This is a common problem. On Isabel, I put in nutserts (like are used on side view mirrors only 1/4-20) to solve the stripped threads.

Good attitude Daryl, better than mine was or would be. I HATED taking the sail panel tack strips back loose again and again, but I did get them to be smooth and without wrinkles in the end. It was more because I was so far down that road than it was because I wanted to, I saw no other alternative and so resigned myself to it. That and the pressure I had myself under to finish for show season in 2011.

On the sail panel pads being left out, I am surprised the installer would have not known about these.

Lastly, at least on my top (not sure which of the two numbers it was that Andrew mentioned - it was an EZ-On top as well), there were two lines struck across the rear bottom of the top, one is for Mustang and one is for Cougar. The other thing that I don’t think was mentioned was the measurement from the top well edge center to the rear of the rear bow. This measurement is also different Mustang to Cougar and is something like 19.5" Cougar 20.5" Mustang, it was on an instruction sheet that came with the top.

Just stumbled across this post! We’re are about half way through the top install on our ‘69. We aren’t sure about how those extra bow pads are supposed to fit. Do they staple to the rear bow and sandwich between the top and side tack strips? Any tips? It’s looking pretty wrinkled in the sails now!


Thanks for the reply. Does the edge of the bow pad line up even with the window oppening? Or away from the window to hide it? Also the tack strip bolts are a major PIA! We tapped then out to 5/16 24 but are having a really tough time getting them started. Any advise? BTW your looks great!

I think the edge of the pads are away from the edge of the rear window opening - going by memory. By how much, I am not sure. I want to say that there are small V-grooves in the bow edge of the pads to line up with same on the other pads? I am away from home on vacation so I cannot physically check for you on the positioning. On the tack strip bolts, I’m sure the larger size is making it harder, did you open the tack strip holes too? I used rivnut inserts to repair the 1/4-20 threads so I was able to keep and use the original bolts.

Hope this helps.

Oh, and thanks for the kind words on my _____?, LOL.



Hey I really appreciate the tips. Did the pencil lines on the new top line up pretty well with the tack strips? Our sails look really baggy but we haven’t stretched the top or attached it to the bows yet. There is so much material with the retangular bow pads underneath that the staples aren’t holding it too well. I’m thinking about gluing them to the tack strip in addition to hold them in place. Did you have to move the strips away from the pencil lines to ge rid of the slack?

Well, this was back in 2011 or even before that so going by memory.

Yes, had to use longer staples where the sail panel pads met the long rectangular pads.

I believe the Cougar line on the bottom of the sail panels lined up well with the tack strips.

The slack in the sail panels was mainly taken up by properly tensioning the top at the front bow (make it tight, so it will relax over time to be proper tension).

In general installing the top was a total beotch and I will never do it again! I stapled and restapled the sail panels more times than I care to remember in order to get everything fitting and looking just so.

Thanks again. I’ve done a couple VW tops so I thought this would be easier. Nope! I’m only going to do it once. I saw the V cuts but I can’t tell where they line up. Just going to place the bow pad a little inside the window edge and hope it looks good!