Ever since the first one came flaking down on its owner's head, people have searched for the ideal replacement for the soft top insert in '30s-era cars. And honestly, we've come up with some pretty good ones over the years. Among other things, we've welded later-model top skins over the holes, and one company, Juliano's Hot Rod Parts, even offers a kit that rethinks the design altogether, replacing the antiquated cotton batting and chicken wire with modern materials. But we have to admit we're a little bit taken with this latest one.
Builder Bill Ross revealed it to us when we shot John Cherry's black five-window, the Deuce that appeared on the April '08 cover. It has a vinyl top insert, but it's not what you think: it's actually a durable steel panel that's just been padded and covered with vinyl to look as if it were a soft insert. It actually bolts to the car as if it were another body panel.
"I tried it first on my '35 coupe. That car had a white insert and I was afraid that I'd eventually screw it up," Bill said. "Changing a stock-type insert is a lot of work, so I thought it would be nice if I could just remove it if I ever did screw it up-or if I just wanted to change colors."
In the years since, Bill had the opportunity to try it on several more cars: his own Deuce sedan, John's Deuce coupe, Rich Greiner's '33 three-window, and his latest project, a '36 three-window. Though they're basically the same idea, the latter two cars' top-insert channel required Bill to rethink the design. Once he finished those, he said he'd tell us how he did it.
Well that time is now.