Re: 1955 Caribbean top material

Posted by Leeedy on 2021/2/2 0:34:30

Kevin wrote:
I just picked up a 1955 Caribbean that needs a new top, so I’ll be following this thread with interest. From what I can tell, no one makes the 1955 original top material, and I believe that even in 1956, replace 1955 tops were make of the 1956 diamond pinpoint vinyl material. No one is offering 1956 tops with the color pads and headliner, so the two Caribbean owners in our PAC region have simply bought the raw materials and had the top and liners made from scratch. Prohibitively expensive, but they look stunning!

No. Original 1955 Caribbean tops were made of Orlon–a very tightly woven, slightly silky material. NOT vinyl and certainly not "diamond pinpoint"...

"Diamond pinpoint" vinyl is not a material so much as it is a convertible top grain. It is the fabric that I have always suggested comes closest to the appearance of the original Orlon. But diamond pinpoint grain vinyl is certainly NOT the factory-installed original stuff. Diamond pinpoint grain was the most commonly used convertible topping for most (not all, but most) American post-1940s convertibles.

I also recommended (and Mazda adopted) a diamond pinpoint grain vinyl convertible top fabric for RX-7 convertibles during development in the 1980s. I also did a re-design of the clock and warning light unit atop the instrument panel on the same car. RX-7 production convertibles used the diamond-pinpoint grain fabric I specified in black with a headliner. Finally, I had a prototype built using color-keyed canvas supplied to me by Robbins Auto Top Company, who I knew well. I have photos.

And as far as I know, it is still possible to buy American-made vinyl convertible top fabric in diamond pinpoint grain. But almost always this stuff is going to come with a black inner facing. Almost impossible to dye.

Back when it was possible to get white vinyl in diamond pinpoint grain AND light tan inner facing, I used a couple of these to simulate 1955 Caribbean tops. I used to have a very good dye specialist in Long Beach, California. Unfortunately he passed away many years ago.

Now. As for 1956 convertible topping... very different stuff again. The originals were made of Hypalon– a kind of rubberized vinyl, for lack of a better description. The Hypalon tops had a kind of leathery grain commonly known in the industry as "crush grain." Some people use other terms. I made perhaps 20 of these tops with colored insides back in the 1970s, using two companies located in Southern California.

At one time I owned the original factory patterns for 1955 and 1956 Caribbean tops, but I gave these to one of the companies doing work for me in the 1970s. No idea what ever happened to them.

I was able to substitute a vinyl used on Rolls Royce Corniche tops for Hypalon and this worked put very well in both operation and appearance. One of these tops complete with colored pads was folded new in the box IN my 1956 Caribbean when it was stolen out of my barn years ago.

No such thing as "liners" for Caribbean convertible tops. This is a myth. A popular one, but a myth anyway. A friend and I had a liner made as a desperate and VERY expensive solution in the early 1970s (as I recall, It was over $1200 THEN–which was more than some of the cars were bringing in those days). All Caribbeans had whatever color or shade you saw on the inside as the integral inner layer of the outer fabric.

I still have my binder books of convertible top fabrics that once were my lifetime reference source. But most of the fabrics and a lot of the companies are now long gone...

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