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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2007/3/14 16:01
From New Jersey
Posts: 16072
A while back I performed some routine preventative maintenance on the folding top mechanism of my 1956 Caribbean convertible. I did this by removing the rear seat and side panels. I see absolutely no way that the complete hydraulic assembly could be serviced thru the trunk.

Posted on: 5/24 7:27:00
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2008/10/28 6:22
From Simi Valley, CA
Posts: 667
I agree that the only way to work on the rams is from inside the car after the panels have been removed and not from inside the trunk. Before posting the question (see #8) and looking at the rams, hoses, and the pump, logic told me that the hoses needed to be disconnected and the rams removed separate from the pump. The pump with the hoses connected to it would be removed as a unit.

What prompted my question was nowhere in the manual does it mention disconnecting the hoses from the rams and the last step states “Remove the bolts and clevis pins that retain the power cylinders. See figure 86. Lift out the entire assembly.”

I should get the pump and rams on Friday and hope to install them this weekend.

I want to thank everyone for their assistance and things to watch out for.

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jpg  Hydraulic 1.JPG (82.04 KB)
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jpg  Hydraulic 2.JPG (56.31 KB)
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Posted on: 5/26 0:53:11
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2008/10/28 6:22
From Simi Valley, CA
Posts: 667
I had some time this afternoon and decided to try and remove the system. I had already removed the panels, unbolted the pump, and disconnected the electrical. All that was left was to unbolt the yoke and remove the pin at the bottom of the rams. I was able to slip the ram through the hole where the hoses were routed. I climbed in the trunk and pulled out the entire system as a unit.

Once I get the parts, hopefully on Friday, I will be able to fill the system and test it before installing in the car. The beauty of doing it this way is that there little worry of getting hydraulic fluid on the car's carpet in the back seat area or on that in the trunk.

Attach file:



jpg  Right Side Ram.jpg (720.34 KB)
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jpg  Left Side Ram Being Placed iInto Trunk.jpg (353.29 KB)
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jpg  Entire Unit in Trunk.jpg (580.46 KB)
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Posted on: 5/26 16:29:46
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2009/1/24 9:59
From Davis, CA
Posts: 708
Quote:

Marston wrote:
I had some time this afternoon and decided to try and remove the system. I had already removed the panels, unbolted the pump, and disconnected the electrical. All that was left was to unbolt the yoke and remove the pin at the bottom of the rams. I was able to slip the ram through the hole where the hoses were routed. I climbed in the trunk and pulled out the entire system as a unit.

Once I get the parts, hopefully on Friday, I will be able to fill the system and test it before installing in the car. The beauty of doing it this way is that there little worry of getting hydraulic fluid on the car's carpet in the back seat area or on that in the trunk.


Everyone today has their own idea of how to go about DIY. Some DIYs are quite good. However...

A pro trimmer and trim shop would have never gone to such lengths to get the system out of this Caribbean–and that's IF there was even a compelling reason to remove the entire hydro-electric system. And it is far better to test the system while installed so you can see what is and isn't functioning and if anything is leaking.

Also from a trim shop's perspective (unlike DIY) there is the issue of labor time and costs. And a customer-oriented shop would try to look for ways to save the customer money as well. These practices should be considered models for DIY.

Very first thing a trim shop would have done (and ours did all the time on convertibles) before AND after removing the rear seat and quarter trim is this>>>

• install a packing blanket and or drop cloth over the rear carpet and lower crossmember for under the rear seat cushion. No self-respecting pro trim shop would dare touch this area without this first step. And, regardless of all the goings-on in the trunk, you've still got to get in the vehicle interior and unbolt several points. This just can't be done via the trunk. You're already there. AND... once you've got everything already loose, it would seem just added time and labor now to extract all of this via the trunk. And a work area cover negates soiling of carpet by anything.

• Check the level and condition of fluid in the top motor reservoir. Unless this step is cleared, you may just be wasting money on new parts.

• Check for evidence of leaking fluid, binding rams, dirty rams, rusty ram rods, broken or otherwise damaged hoses and fittings. Bent components, loose components, broken components. Wet seals and /or fittings. Inspect rubber hoses for evidence of dry rotting (common in Caribbeans). Hoses on Caribbeans also get crushed easily by over-zealous installation, improper positioning and SOMEtimes merely just something heavy placed in the top well. Some systems don't show obvious evidence of malfunction when removed from the vehicle. For instance dry-rotted rubber lines in Caribbeans have been known to leak or suck outside air only during times of top operation–cycling up or down. Just enough so that the leaks are not empirically obvious. The time to check for this stuff and other maladies is while the system is still in the vehicle.

• Of course if there was ANY leaking fluid present, extracting all this out of the trunk would only compound problems and result in smelly brake fluid (if that is what is in the system) and stains in numerous places (including the trunk) instead of localized. And old-fashioned brake fluid would often attack painted surfaces–something else to consider (like Ford, I switched to ATF long, long ago). Carpet may be tough to replace, but trunk liner can be even tougher so? Of course, if anything IS leaking, it is best repaired in place–with proper tools and precautions. And you still have to cover your work areas–one way or another.

• Testing the electro-hydraulic system with no mechanical pressure (weight or load) against it is also fraught with possible problems. Not a recommended way to do it. Especially so on an old car like a Packard Caribbean.

Something to think about...

Posted on: 5/27 19:36:58
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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2008/10/28 6:22
From Simi Valley, CA
Posts: 667
Leeedy points out a lot of good things to watch out for. My earlier posts on this issue don’t reflect everything that I did. It appears that some thought I was thinking about disconnecting the hardware located in the passenger compartment while inside the trunk. This was not what I meant. It would have been better for me to say that once everything is disconnected inside the passenger compartment is it possible to feed the hydraulic cylinders (HCs) with hoses still connected through the openings into the trunk. Below are the major steps I took in evaluating the system before ordering parts:
• I looked on this site for info
• Read the Body Section on servicing the tops mechanism
• Got advise form site members on where to get parts if necessary
• Removed the main carpet section from the trunk as it was on a piece of cardboard. Covered the area under the pump with cardboard and placed a drip pan below the pump and checked fluid level noting that it was hydraulic fluid and not brake fluid (the level was OK and appeared to be clean).
• Opened the top noting that it operated without much effort and that the pump sounded OK. Also, that both sides were working in unison with each other.
• Removed the back seats and panels with the top opened
• Examine the hoses for kinks and soundness and the hydraulic cylinders (HCs) for any leakage (everything looked good with no signs of leakage
• Disconnected the yokes on both HCs and fully extended the piston rods (All shiny and straight with no visible struggle). Ran them back down and reconnected the yokes.
• Raised the top noting that it struggled to move once it was about 20% up. It needed an assist to get it to make it all the way and that the pump would make a rattling sound off and on.
• With the top raised all the hinge points were examined and the pins were tested for looseness. Also, by reaching behind each pin I checked that the pin could be rotated and did not bind.

At this point, according to the manual, the next stop should have been to perform a pressure check on the pump, which requires the system to be removed from the car in order to disconnect the lines and install a pressure gauge. Removing the lines inside the car would have almost certainly led to oil being leaked into the passenger compartment and plastic sheeting would have been installed and covered with an absorbent drop cloth. However, had been necessary to remove the lines from the HCs, I had fittings to cap off the lines and fittings on the cylinders.

Since the HCs were oil free, I felt comfortable feeding them through the openings onto the cardboard. If they had been oily, I hand planned on using plastic sheeting covered with an absorbent drop cloth.

Following all of the testing above and noting what I observed, I was almost certain the problem was the pump and the HCs were probably fine. I opted for not measuring the pumps pressures and ordered a pump. I also decided to spend an extra ~$200 and get two new cylinders.

When the parts get here, I’ll flush the hoses with hydraulic fluid, fill the HCs, attach them to the pump and fill the pump. I’ll then run the piston rods through 3 or 4 cycles to ensure everything works correctly and to help flush air from the system. Then add fluid to the pump as required and reinstall.

Posted on: 5/29 0:47:42
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2008/10/28 6:22
From Simi Valley, CA
Posts: 667
Last weekend the with the parts in hand the whole ensemble of hydraulic cylinders (HC) and pump/reservoir was assembled on a bench. The cylinders were filled with hydraulic fluid before being connected to the pump. Fluid was added to the pump. With a battery charger as a 12V power supply the system was cycled about 6 or 7 times to remove any entrained air. Once it was leak checked, the system was placed in the trunk and HCs passed through into the rear seat compartment. It was connected to the top and everything worked great.

Posted on: 6/11 0:13:35
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2008/8/16 11:01
From The Motor City, Baby!
Posts: 172
Not to hijack this thread or anything, but I’d like to ask if anyone has a line on an authentic reproduction of the 1955 Caribbean top material. There are a few of us 1955 owners that are getting ready to replace our tops, and the last place that I saw offering reproduction tops is, I believe, no longer in business. I am hoping that Leeedy will chime in here.

Posted on: 6/15 20:37:09
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2012/7/24 13:04
From New Jersey
Posts: 643
The original top material for '55 was woven orlon which hasn't been available since about 1960. It was not very long lasting . As a replacement top, Packard offered it the material originally used for 1956. That was vinyl in Colonial grain, a leather grain look.


Thanks
James From
Kanter Auto Products

Posted on: 6/16 4:10:29
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2008/8/16 11:01
From The Motor City, Baby!
Posts: 172
Thanks James. Does anyone know if someone makes these tops nowadays? If not, is this grain of vinyl commonly available? And for the color headliner, is it a separate piece of material, or does the underside of the vinyl need to be dyed?

Posted on: 6/16 6:23:34
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Re: Convertible Top on a ’55 Caribbean
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Joined:
2007/3/14 16:01
From New Jersey
Posts: 16072
Others will have more complete information, this is a thoroughly and frequently discussed topic but I'm a little out of date on it. I believe both the pin or diamond point pattern (1955) and the leather grain (1956) are available as kits from E-Z Tops in electrically welded white vinyl with either black or brown underside, I bought mine with black underside thru Bill Hirsch - a totally satisfactory top. Elektron may still have them as well. Nothing available with the correct colored underside that I'm aware of. Dyeing has not proven particularly successful as I understand the color tends to bleed thru to the white. A separate colored underlayer has proven problematic for some as the extra bulk can restrict the folding of the top into the well, it's perhaps an option to consider if you're willing to accept that you might never fully lower the top.

To my knowledge there has never been an entirely successful and correct replacement top for the factory original. There was something with a separate piece underside in color available from Kepich for a while though I heard decidedly mixed comments about it and it has since been discontinued.

Leeedy's response will probably give a better past history and summary of the options currently available.

Posted on: 6/16 7:09:10
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