Fiberglass Top Restore - Defender Source
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  #1  
Old November 4th, 2014, 08:43 PM
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James Wallace
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Fiberglass Top Restore

So we got our first snow here this weekend. I needed to finish my winter car prep. I had traded a bumper for a kind or wretched fiberglass top. It had several cracks and some dufus had painted it with bedliner that was flaking off all over. So I kind of had to do some restoration before it was useable. I actually flacked off a lot of the bedliner with a razorblade. The rest I got off with a product called lift off graffiti remover, a citrus product safe for plastics. It was tedious. Once it was clean I could roughen the back side and lay some fiberglass/carbon fiber material. This material has carbon fibre in one direction and glass in the other so it will conform to shapes easier. Most of the cracks where at the corners of the windows and the alpine windows along with the area the roll cage passed through. After the carbon material I layed up a couple of layers of fine glass to smooth the surface and add some more strength. I had to grind a groove on the outside on some cracks to fill it with chop to keep it from cracking on the outer surface, then some ares needed some fiberglass tape to make it have some strength.

once this was done, you had smooth frankenstein like areas all over the top. it showed quite starkly on the textured leather like surface texture. So to make it match, I used Saran wrap . You paint a thinned layer of resin over the repaired area and put the scan wrap over it kind of wrinkled up to match the texture. Let the resin set and peel off the Saran wrap before it was completely hard. This left a texture very similar to the original. A light sanding took off the ridges and it looks just fine.

After the repairs where done, I needed to paint the top. I used a single stage poly urethane paint with a flexing agent added at mix. Sprayed the top in and out with a color matched as close as they could. If you don’t use a flexing agent, the paint will tend to flake and crack on fiberglass as it flexes.

I had a lot of fun with hardware, since i got almost none with the top, I had to scour the wall of many small drawers at the hardware store to find stuff that would do the job of the original nylon step washers. I used nylon spacers, a neoprene washer and a stainless fender water on top to make the top to tub joints. The top to window attach point need a rectangular piece to fit in the top slot and one below to spread out the load so it doesn’t crack the top. These I had to fab from aluminum bar stock with a band saw, a belt sander and a file. The forward leading edge of the top had a different requirement that needed a rounded piece of aluminum and it needed to extend a bit further as a rectangle, again bar stock and a sander. I also needed to find weather strip to match, which was camper top seal, some window seal and neoprene tape for the top. Lastly was the lift struts, which I found a pair that worked quite well on eBay, for cheap.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Qty-2-10mm-N...d9851f&vxp=mtr








Anyhow, it now is fitted and seals up nicely. I looks great and you really can’t tell its been repaired (actually it is stronger than original). Putting the windows back in was a real PIA. Yes, KY jelly is the answer to getting it all to slide in place, albeit it makes the Defender smell a bit like a whorehouse for a day or two. All in all happy with how it came out, it was too much work, but you should only have to do it once. Last item was the Nokian Rotivia AT snow tires.



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  #2  
Old November 4th, 2014, 09:42 PM
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nicely done
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no thanks whatever I tell you, you will low ball me
I would rather keep the parts in storage
good luck with your search
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  #3  
Old November 4th, 2014, 09:48 PM
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Well done
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"Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place"

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  #4  
Old November 4th, 2014, 10:20 PM
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Joe
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Nice

Thanks for the write-up. I'm trying to repair/restore Gustavo's old top that I bought from him this summer. Great tips.
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  #5  
Old November 4th, 2014, 11:19 PM
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David Frank
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Awesome techniques! It looks amazing! Very helpful write up. I went so far as to buy a second top to experiment on, but thanks to you, I now know what to do! Oh, how do you like your front bumper end caps? I'm thinking about getting some for my '95 to keep my walking one year old from putting an eye out! ;-[...
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Old November 4th, 2014, 11:44 PM
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James Wallace
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A couple of small tips to help. Some of the cracks do not want to join up well. Drill holes on either side of the crack an inch from it. Put two screws, about 2" long in each with fender washers. Use a furniture clamp on the screws to pull the two sides together and do the fiberglass over the crack a couple of inches at a time and it will join up smoothly. Once done, remove the screws, and fill the holes with a small amount of resin and chop. Put a piece of tape on the top side and fill from the back. when you remove the tape the hole will be seamless on the top. Sand it smooth and use the Saran wrap to texture it. I had one crack from one of the alpine windows over 20" long and it is gone now.

Some cracks need to be clamped on the end to align the material, glass it and then remove the clamp and glass the ends. All in all I used anywhere from 3 to 6 layers of material, sanding in-between. I used a very light modeling glass in the multiple layers. Get it and the fiberglass tape at hobby shops that sell RC kits. Remember, matix poor, i.e. not a lot of resin, brush it on, and press the mat in with a slightly wetted acid brush, just enough to wet the glass. Resin has no strength, it is the glass or carbon that is the key to a strong patch.

I personally can't believe they made these tops entirely out of chop with no woven component. It is a wonder they have lasted as long as they do. I think my next step is to make a headliner for it out of ABS sheet and some foam & headliner material. Will be warmer and quieter. Or I'll just put an active noise dampening system in it and be done with it. Then again, I could use my ENC headsets from the aircraft, but then you look like a geek or fireman driving around.
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  #7  
Old November 4th, 2014, 11:56 PM
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David Frank
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I'm that geek! ;-) I've got my DC's wired up for Vox in the defender. Set to intercom, phone, and music. NO Noise Issues there! ;-)
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  #8  
Old November 21st, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Mark Miller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogpilot View Post
A couple of small tips to help. Some of the cracks do not want to join up well. Drill holes on either side of the crack an inch from it. Put two screws, about 2" long in each with fender washers. Use a furniture clamp on the screws to pull the two sides together and do the fiberglass over the crack a couple of inches at a time and it will join up smoothly. Once done, remove the screws, and fill the holes with a small amount of resin and chop. Put a piece of tape on the top side and fill from the back. when you remove the tape the hole will be seamless on the top. Sand it smooth and use the Saran wrap to texture it. I had one crack from one of the alpine windows over 20" long and it is gone now.

Some cracks need to be clamped on the end to align the material, glass it and then remove the clamp and glass the ends. All in all I used anywhere from 3 to 6 layers of material, sanding in-between. I used a very light modeling glass in the multiple layers. Get it and the fiberglass tape at hobby shops that sell RC kits. Remember, matix poor, i.e. not a lot of resin, brush it on, and press the mat in with a slightly wetted acid brush, just enough to wet the glass. Resin has no strength, it is the glass or carbon that is the key to a strong patch.

I personally can't believe they made these tops entirely out of chop with no woven component. It is a wonder they have lasted as long as they do. I think my next step is to make a headliner for it out of ABS sheet and some foam & headliner material. Will be warmer and quieter. Or I'll just put an active noise dampening system in it and be done with it. Then again, I could use my ENC headsets from the aircraft, but then you look like a geek or fireman driving around.
Super write up, and looks great. Still working on mine. Probably get it painted professionally, as I don't want to screw with the ky jelly and those windows!
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  #9  
Old November 24th, 2014, 12:21 AM
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Dr. Gonzo
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Looks great, were you able to source new window gaskets?
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  #10  
Old November 24th, 2014, 12:51 AM
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James Wallace
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No, couldn't get new ones, used Xylene to clean them and some mineral oil to soften them a bit.
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  #11  
Old December 21st, 2014, 08:27 PM
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Joe
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Fiberglass top refurbishment

So I checked with James to see if he didn't mind if I hijacked his fiberglass hardtop post. I had been working on refurbishing Gustavo's old top and thought about starting my own thread. James and I thought I should add my experiences to his thread so future searches would lead to one post.

Well as far as fiberglass application/repairs I really don't have any more to add. James' skill set far outshines my fiberglass abilities. For the most part I followed his tips. Where we differed is in the finish. Where James wanted to keep the original/existing texture and color of the top, I wanted to paint the color black. I also knew that my glassing abilities were limited and would need a new textured finish to hide my mistakes.

On my TJ I applied a urethane spray-in bed liner, U-Pol Raptor, to the interior of my tub. I really liked the finish and color, knew it would flex well, add some structure on top of the glass and chose to spray the top with U-Pol. I know most wouldn't like the change, but it's my truck and I prefer this look. I also feel like I was playing with house money as I didn't have a lot invested monetarily in the top, so if mistakes were made, I could absorb it. Regardless I planned for success, took my time, prepped well and followed James insight above.

Before

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  #12  
Old December 21st, 2014, 08:59 PM
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Joe
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More Before
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  #13  
Old December 21st, 2014, 09:16 PM
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Joe
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As my 94 Soft top did not have the rivnuts installed yet, I purchased one of these kits off ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/LAND-ROVER-D...-/271175406145

Looks like this
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Included are great instructions for installing the rivnuts
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  #14  
Old December 21st, 2014, 09:18 PM
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Sorry Jeff. Documenting this was more of an afterthought. Plus, if you would have seen the fiber and resin I had all over the place - my iPad would have been a show.
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  #15  
Old April 23rd, 2015, 02:34 PM
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I was asked the hardware size. I don't have counts of each, you will have to count the holes. they are all M6 for each, they are 10mm heads with 1.0 pitch All hardware I used was stainless, unless you want to go for the rusty look. For the top to sides the shank length is 20mm, for sides to the tub the shank length is also 20mm, which is strangely the same length for the roof to windscreen.

I made the rectangular washers for the top to side from 1/8 aluminum bar stock from Ace Hardware and cut them to fit the inset size in the rain gutter, which is 32mm x 12mm, I made the lower ones larger, 15mm x 38mm. These where also paired with a 10mm M6 stainless nylock nut. For the sides to tub I used a 1" x " stainless fender washer, underlain with a neoprene washer of same or similar size, I put a nylon bushing in the hole to keep the washer from crushing the fiberglass " x " x 1/8" deep. For the windscreen bushing, I made them from the same bar stock 1.5" x 1" with one side rounded off (belt sander clamped in a vice, use a quarter to put the approximate round in sharpie on the metal) It gets really hot when you sand, so let them cool between grindings. I also used a stainless normal washer on top of the fabbed washer, aluminum is soft.

There is a need for additional 10mm M6 nuts on the sides to assemble the two parts and some longer bolts to attach the front of the top to the windscreen side and just above the aft side of the door, they need to be longer and need a washer on the inside and outside. I used a 1" fender washer on the outside on the rear one and a normal sized and a slightly oversized one under that on the front. Both front and rear have a neoprene fender washer under them. You need to use oversize washers where you can and cushion them with the neoprene washers to spread the load and lower the possibility of stress cracking around the bolts. These where M6 nuts and bolts as well, but I need to remove them to give you a size, but it seems you may need to vary the length depending on your top, since some may cinch up tighter than others.

I got the windscreen to the top and the tub to the sides weatherstripping at Home Despot. The top to the sides I got some neoprene 1/8" x 3/4" material in a roll, a really big roll, from somebody in Europe off ebay. Since then, I have found numerous uses for it, great, but pricey stuff. Be careful on attaching the top to the sides, the flange may not be entirely parallel t the top, so you may need a spacer or two in weird places. If you don't you may crack the flange when you tighten it down (don't ask how I know).

You can replace the hardware on the gas strut brackets with stainless and the nuts that hold the hinges for the hatch as well. Many trips to the wall of drawers at the hardware store. Avoid Home Despot for the hardware, they have a poor selection of inferior stainless bolts & nuts. Ace or True Value Hardware have better material in a wider selection.

I am going back to the soft top tomorrow, spring is here (although it may snow tomorrow, only truly guaranteed to snow if I switch tops). When you do take off the top, get some ziplock bags, and bag them by category and then put all the bags in one bag and tie them to part of the top, or next season you will be looking for more hardware (mice, fairies, gremlins and wandering black holes gobble up loose hardware).
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  #16  
Old April 23rd, 2015, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for write up. I'm about to take off my hardtop too.....but as this is the first time I'll be taking it off, I'm struggling with the best way to store the top. I'll most likely construct a crate and line it with some shag carpet or something.
If anyone's got any tips, I'm all ears.
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  #17  
Old April 23rd, 2015, 05:34 PM
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Storing it is problematic. The top, when attached to nothing, is a bit of an eggshell. So I have cut two 1x4's to fit inside the gutter flange, side to side and run a screw through the wood and top to give it some stiffness and two from front to rear. I then store it standing on end secured to the side of the hanger, which you probably don't have. The sides and hatch just go on a shelf with some towels between them. If I had a way to just pull it straight up, tall garage. I would just suspend it. As it is my hanger is way to tall to do that, almost 40' and my garage is too low. I would still put some stiffeners on it to keep it from flexing at any rate.
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  #18  
Old April 23rd, 2015, 06:11 PM
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Michael
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Excellent advise. While I had been worried about flexing, I hadn't thought about using a 1x4 frame inside to keep the top from flexing. I'm thinking now, I'll still make a carpet lined crate just larger than the top section. I'll use the new framing idea to give the top some rigidity to gently slide into the crate from the top. Then use some shipping blankets to wrap the sides and back and gently fit the pieces into the top of the crate. Slide the whole mess all the way into the crate and screw it shut. Then I can at least stand it up for storage.
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