March 20, 2003
Top of the Pops

Because I wanted to write about something else

What I learned while installing a new convertible top on my 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider:

  • If the book tells you to use a 1/8th drill bit to remove rivets, you will generally have the best results using a 1/8th drill bit
  • Failing that, a much larger drill bit will do.
  • Eventually.
  • Large drill bits make rivet heads spin round and round and round and round without actually removing them, but with a bit of skill (pushing), they break off anyway.
  • Looking into your tool box and finding a 1/8th drill bit two weeks later can lead to learning colorful new combinations of swear words.
  • Ziplock bags are your friends.
  • Drain holes are not.
  • When given the chance, all small, unbelievably rare fasteners will always seek out said drain holes.
  • A magnetic wand will not reach down a drain hole to rescue a fastener.
  • No matter how many times you use "f*ck" in a sentence, cursing will not levitate a fastener out of a drain hole.
  • When you plug the drain holes with foil, the fasteners will hop and dance around it trying to get in (see "glue solvent", below).
  • RIT dye will correctly dye the cloth trim of a 33 year old Italian convertible.
  • After seven coats.
  • Cats enjoy stepping in fresh dye.
  • Cats enjoy laying on freshly dyed cloth even more.
  • Dye will stain tile. And cats. And fingers. And carpet.
  • If you run from the kitchen to the garage very fast you will only drip dye on the carpet once.
  • This does not impress your wife.
  • If you use glue solvent in a small closed garage, you will not pass out.
  • If you use glue solvent in a small closed garage, you will see the walls turn interesting colors.
  • Always open the garage door before using glue solvent.
  • Having the Euro gain against the dollar just before you order parts sucks.
  • It takes two people to put a front bow gasket on correctly.
  • You learn several new and colorful ways to construct a sentence when one of those people is a short Italian yankee who is busy with her own project.
  • An awl (used to line up holes & punch through vinyl) is the most useful tool on the planet.
  • It's a bad sign when you have to pull the front of the top up at least half a foot to connect it to the rear of the car.
  • Cheap tops are cheap because they leave out about 6 inches of material over the length of the top.
  • Two small, skinny people are not enough to close a new cheap top the first time.
  • Even when one of them creates new swear words on the spot.
  • No matter how many times you use "f*ck" in a sentence, cursing will not telekinetically close a top.
  • There's a certain kind of oil filter wrench that can actually double as a top-closing tool.
  • Almost...
  • Two people, a filter wrench, colorful swear words, and about an hour of labor is barely enough to close a new, cheap top.
  • The glue used to cement portions of a convertible top is the cartoon glue Wiley Coyote tried to use to stop the road runner. Gooey, color of butterscotch, foul smell, sticks to everything? Yup, ACME glue-all (aka "pliobond").
  • A small pint-sized paint can full of ACME glue-all is awkward to use inside a car.
  • A plastic cup is much easier to manage.
  • ACME glue-all dissolves plastic cups.
  • Alfa probably didn't make the interior of this car vinyl specifically to resist giant oil-slick-like glue spills, but it did so anyway.
  • Using ACME glue-all in a tight, enclosed space will not make you pass out.
  • Using ACME glue-all in a tight, enclosed space will not make you see funny colors.
  • Using ACME glue-all in a tight, enclosed space will make you wish you hadn't eaten that big greasy burger so quickly.
  • I have an amazing ability to resist nausea.
  • Ellen does not.
  • Only wimps sketch how things are put together before they take them apart. Real men squint at diagrams and spend two days puzzling it out themselves.
  • Just because one obscurely routed, impossible-to-get-at cable is hard to pull tight doesn't mean the other one will be.
  • It is always better to check that an obscurely routed, impossible-to-get-at cable is actually attached to something before pulling it tight.
  • A very small screwdriver is very useful for rerouting cables pulled half-way out of their pockets.
  • Ziplock bags are your friend
  • There's nothing quite as satisfying as the crystal-clear back glass of a top you put on yourself.

Even if it did take three weeks.

Posted by scott at March 20, 2003 03:22 PM

eMail this entry!

errmmm you forgot how it took another person to show you how to stick a rivet through several layers of fabric one layer at a time..and then set the rivet :)

That top was a bitch to put time you and D do it. :)

Posted by: Ellen on March 20, 2003 06:50 PM

Well.. I would have helped, IF I were asked, but no, guess I'm not good enough to work on said Alfa... Prolly has something to do with my past joy of burnination, and my offers to straighten bent frame with large hammers, a 2x4 and a spare tire scissor jack.

Trogdor would be sad.

Posted by: Damion on March 20, 2003 11:05 PM


Posted by: Pam on March 20, 2003 11:19 PM

D: Nah, it was mostly 'cos you were gone the weekend I did work, and a lot of it I did on the weekdays after work. Not to worry, when the next big project comes around I will know who to call :)

Posted by: scott on March 21, 2003 08:03 AM
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