It was a sad day for many drop-top Corvette owners when GM dropped the convertible option from their lineup in 1976. Many Corvette owners feel a convertible is the only way to go. There's just something magical about the wind in the cockpit and that open-road feel.
When GM reintroduced the Corvette convertible in 1986, there had been huge strides in convertible technology. You could now hear yourself think for the first time with the top up and the windows closed. GM's addition of a headliner helped abate a lot of the road noise and lessened the heating and cooling tasks tremendously. The headliner added a much needed finished look to the interior. There were now no more steel top bows to look at, just a nice, smooth, finished look. For the first time you could also wash the exterior without worrying about water intrusion. You could even direct the water hose at the top of the windows and not be concerned.
It took a while but finally the '94 Corvette was fitted with a glass back window to finish off an already stellar convertible top that was simple to use. The top material would deteriorate long before the back window glass would become cloudy or crack on a cold winter morning. All of the '86-'93 Corvettes can be retrofitted with the glass back window with only a few additional holes to drill and some rivets to clinch. The retrofit kit utilizes a few springs, cables, and glass stops to keep the glass back window in place and is available from Corvette Central if you decide to go with the improved top.
The very first Corvette convertible tops were a bear to install, even when you had a precut top ready for installation. More tools and patience were required to install those early tops, even for experienced top installers that did them everyday. If you ever get the chance to watch an experienced early Corvette convertible-top installer in action, take a few moments to watch their talented hands at work. They make the install look easy because they have the experience and know where to move the material to make those significant changes to make things fit just right.
Our edict in this article is to allow you to feel more comfortable installing the '86-'96 convertible tops yourself. on a scale of 1-10, the early top would be 10 as the most difficult and the '86-and-later Corvettes registering as a 1 on our scale. There really is that much difference in the installation difficulty and patience required from early to late tops.
Things You'll Need
- Black Stafast cloth top (glued-in rear window) PN 134607-63: $449
- Rear bow weatherstrip PN 634552: $55
- Weatherstrip kit (complete top kit) PN 634560: $289
- Side tension cables PN 544465: $29.95 (For those not needing the entire kit)
- 3M Adhesive (black) PN 8001: $6.99
- Armacell closed-cell insulating foam: $16.97
- Xylene solvent (1 quart): $8.99
1: If this is your first...
1: If this is your first convertible top or your fiftieth, organization always saves time and aggravation. We use a compartmentalized container to place the various screws into and lay each weatherstrip retainer out on the cardboard in their respective right and left positions during disassembly. It may seem impossible, but I've found the weatherstrip retainers switched from side to side.
2: Removing the antisqueak...
2: Removing the antisqueak pads from the front bow takes some tugging, but they usually can be removed intact. If necessary, the soft side of some Velcro works for a replacement pad. These things stick to everything, so be careful where you set them if you plan on reusing them.
3: While we're at the front...
3: While we're at the front bow, we remove the convertible-top material front-bow retainer. These screws are longer thread-cutting screws. This is where you can get in trouble with screw length. Keeping the screws in the correct compartment saves heartache later. Through the ten years of production we've found different combinations of screws used, so just watch the length and their replacement during the install.