A couple of old pictures to the right....................

I had the rear window frame media blasted. It is now primered, painted, and ready for installation.

Half of the top parts I ordered arrived in the mail today, so I'm guessing the rest will be following soon. If that is the case, I'll begin the top installation next week!

The headliner is in! Well, mostly. I still have to glue it underneath the carpet behind the rear seat. The bows are labeled above, and here's the glue that I am using.

Next, I secured the front inside corners to the existing holes in the frame with screws and finishing washers. The headliner came fitted here - it was double-thickness and sewn to fit into the angle as the frame meets the header bow. It's nice because it makes a good starting point for the job.

Select "The Top 2" for the rest of the job ...

Just having a few minutes today, I got some "busy work" done... I got the screw holes plugged in the inner facing pieces. I got some flat wooden plugs, painted them Pearl White L87, and stuck 'em snugly in the holes. Looks OK! Then the dome light frame was stripped, primered, painted Pearl White, and the dome light was mounted inside. It was an aftermarket dome light, so I had to shave some of the plastic off it's under-side to make it fit in the housing.

I've just about got all the parts for the top installation now, but am still waiting on the header bow, the hinge covers, and the rear well pieces.

In the mean time, I've started with the rear window insert. (I've gone with a synthetic insert rather than wood.) The insert is glued and clamped to sit overnight. Tomorrow, the clamps will come off and all of the screws will be inserted through the frame into the insert. Then, the window will be installed temporarily to make sure everything fits. I decided to apply some water seal onto the wood pieces, too, while I'm waiting for the rest of the parts.

The several different sources of instruction that I am using showed a slightly different order in which to hang the thing. I went with this... header bow, rear bow, rear body base tack strip, main bow, no.2 bow, no.1 bow, and it seemed to work fine. It gets stapled to the header bow, rear bow, and rear body base tack strip. It gets glued to the main bow, the no.1 bow, and the no.2 bow.

The header bow is now mounted. It came coated in some kind of black paint/varnish/protector stuff. It can be difficult to install if you try to rush it. This bow did not come with holes pre-drilled for the bolt mounts, so new counter-sunk holes had to be drilled. It was simple enough getting them drilled in the correct spot, but you need to take care in getting the <i>angle</i> of the new hole to match up with the angle of the threaded hole in the frame. If it's off just a bit, the bolt will not go in or will try to cross-thread itself. I got the first one drilled correctly, but screwed up the second. I just had to make the hole bigger vertically until it reached the correct angle. Three wood screws are also part of the mounting process on each side. There are three holes in the frame around where the latch goes - you can't miss 'em. They go in from inside-out. The one on top needs to be a shorter screw than the bottom two, as the bow is thinner towards the top and you don't want it punching through. Again, I used brass fasteners here. There was also some tension to the bow (as there should be).... After I got one side mounted, I had to muscle the other side down a bit to make it meet the frame properly. Make sure everything's lined up, mark the wood, make pilot holes, and screw 'em in. Getting back to the bolt holes - it's not 100% necessary, but I filled the holes and sanded them smooth. I used some left over POR 15 steering wheel epoxy-putty.

As you can see by the pictures below... the frame is pretty good shape.  However, the front header bow just kind of fell apart as I was removing the top.  The rear top bow also needs replacing, but wasn't as bad as the header bow.  Check out the 3rd and 4th pictures above - all the splintered wood lying around on the ground.  Yuck.

While I'm waiting on some other stuff, I decided to start into the top...

Here was just before I glued the listing (flap of material attaching the headliner to the frame) to the no.2 bow...When I glued the listing to the main bow, I layed it out and sprayed it with glue. However, while it sat there getting tacky, some of the glue absorbed <i>through</i> the listing and onto the headliner itself. Rats (red arrow). Luckily, it dried pretty clear and doesn't show on the inside. So, not wanting to do that again, I cut a piece of drop cloth and slipped it between the listing and the headliner while I applied the glue on the next one (blue arrows). The listings always get pulled and glued over the bows from front to back. They do not get pulled under and then wrapped back over front back to front. Apply the glue to both the listings AND the metal bows.

For added strength, I chose to overlap the end of the strap over the rear bow...Now, my different sources of instruction all say to cut it off flush, and yes, I am not following the instructions exactly this particular time. I believe the reason they want you to cut them off flush is to prevent a possible bump in that area when it's all finished - they're trying to keep the top of the rear bow as flat as possible.  However, these straps are not very thick in the first place, and the top padding should even out any subtle high spots.

A shot of the front. Nice and smooth and flat.

The first picture (left) probably won't be found in any instruction manual.  I was just eyeballing the thing by clamping it to the frame before I got started.

I've recently had the entire frame sandblasted...it turned out great.  The front header bow mounts were really rusted, but I knew that already.  I had tried to remove the front bow mounting bolts before with no luck. Today, I decided to crank on them one more time just to see. (I was already reserved to the fact that I was going to have to cut them off, and drill and tap new holes.)  With all the rust and crud removed, I thought they deserved another chance.  Sure enough...with a loud "CRACK", the first one came loose!...(the liquid there is WD-40, first picture above) followed by the other (with a little more effort).

I've since used naval jelly on the holes and threads, and can now easily spin a bolt down through both of them with my fingers. That little bit of luck saved me quite a bit of time.

Second picture is the frame itself after the blasting - clean and free of rust.

The rust-factor isn't going to be a super big deal on this convertible top as it most likely won't be driven in the rain very often - if at all. However, I've heard that rust can still form from the inside-out...on the screws that are driven into the wood pieces - they pick up moisture from inside the wood. So, I went with all brass and stainless-steel screws for the wood pieces. So far, the pieces have fit up pretty well. I'm am still waiting on the header bow, the hinge covers, and the rear well pieces. Once all the wood is in place, I can start with the material.

I've got the straps mounted...stretched securely and anchored first at the no.1 bow with sheet metal screws (pilot holes drilled first obviously), then the main bow again with screws, then just riding across the no.2 bow, and stapled into the rear bow. There is a subtle indentation in the rear bow where they should be mounted. As far as where they should be mounted on the no.1 and main bows... VW has "correct" measurements for them, too. On the main bow, they say the correct placement is 9.8" from the outer edge of the strap to the outer edge of the frame.  I don't think a person needs to be that precise here - just eyeball it.

OK, my first significant mistake of the job...The listing that attaches to the rear bow was not over the bow far enough. Long story made short: I mis-read the instructions and screwed up. The listing should mount on the bow such that the seam of the headliner is approx. 1/2" below the bow. As you can see two pictures above, I had mine hanging down about 1 3/4".  That was causing a large gap between the rear window frame and the headliner. Not good. A little gap is expected. I spent my garage time today fixing that mistake - results in the picture above.

The 1st picture above is the right header bow mount area.  The bolt here has rusted and become one with the top.  I did make an attempt to remove the bolt, but gave up before I broke it off.  The 2nd picture I thought would turn out better... it was a few minutes after I had heated it with a torch, then sprayed some WD-40 on it - which caused a lot of smoke.  If you look closely you can see a little bit of it.  I guess what I'll do is cut off the bolt flush with the frame, drill a hole, and tap some new threads through the existing metal. (There's basically just a nut welded to the backside of the frame there.) Unfortunately, the left side is exactly the same.

The 3rd and 4th pictures reveal a mostly clean frame - in good shape.  The rear window isn't bad - neither is its frame.  My oldest boy was helping me work... every time he "helps" me work on the car, he asks, "Are we almost ready to go for a ride in the Volkswagen yet, Daddy?"  After a sigh, I tell him, "Not yet son, but soon", and he smiles.

I still haven't decided if I'm going to install the new top myself or not...but I won't be finishing it for a while anyway.

This picture again shows the center line on the headliner meeting up with the center line I created on the rear body base tack strip. Also, note the nylon string tied to the side of the rear bow. It's purpose is to pull the headliner just slightly horizontally - this will remove small puckering and wrinkling that might be going on back there. It runs through a sewn-in channel in the seam of the headliner and ties off to the side of the main bow.

The Convertible Top

​Teardown, restoration, installation, and information.

My faithful dingos were checking things out...


I set the canvas top on just to find the front and back for later. Thankfully, the headliner comes with the center already marked, so I marked the center points on the frame to get it lined up as close as possible. I guess if the headliner is not perfectly centered from front to back it will cause lots of wrinkles. The headliner goes in next...............

Disclaimer: It really goes without saying, but I wanted to put this in anyway... The convertible top installation is a difficult task. I am NOT a professional. This is my FIRST attempt at a complete installation. Although I will be following instructions written by professionals from several different sources, my application may differ from yours. This job will be specific to an early 1964 model and may not work with other years. I sincerely hope the information and pictures that I will post during this installation will help somebody out there, but just realize, anything you attempt to duplicate will be 100% at your own risk. I claim no responsibility for the accuracy of information, technique, or application. That goes for anything else on the site, too, but this job in particular. Cool? Cool.

I took this picture after I was done, but it shows the center line on the headliner material...matching up with the center line I had previously created on the header bow. I put a couple of staples (stainless steel) in at the center and worked my way out to the sides. At this point, I only used a few staples - saving the rest for later in case I needed to pull it or adjust it all at. I stapled it to the rear top edge of the bow along the groove where it is indented. Afterwards, the excess material was trimmed off.

A second piece of strapping is then stapled to the rear bow again, and then angled down and stapled to the rear body base tack strip. They are angled so that the outside edge of the straps line up with the channel on the deck lid and car.

The straps, rear window frame, and padding are next...

Next, a shot of the inside rear.  Not too bad.

I found this drop cloth stuff at Home Depot, and am using it to cover the interior and windshield during the job. It's soft on one side and saran-wrap like on the other.

The sandblasted frame got two coats of etching primer (black - that was good stuff!) and then some regular primer after that... Followed by some Pearl White to match the car. The true color doesn't really stand out in the 4th picture - poor lighting in my garage.