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SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to
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nlorntson Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:05 pm    Post subject: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

I couldn't find a single post that had detailed instructions on how to change out the canvas portion of the poptop in an SO42 or SO44 westy so when I did mine I tried to take pictures with this how-to in mind.

I bought my canvas from Helmut Szydlik ([email protected]) because I wanted to match the color of the big top tent I also got from him, and I wanted the white screen in the windows. The quality of both the poptop canvas and tent were outstanding as was the service and communication from Helmut. The ones available from other vendors seem to have fitment problems and have black screens

http://www.wolfsburgwest.com/cart/DetailsList.cfm?ID=231067983Y

I got the wide lower seal from Wolfsburg West. http://www.wolfsburgwest.com/cart/DetailsList.cfm?ID=231068001

Until I actually got the fiberglass shell and original canvas off the top of the bus, I didn't know there was a narrower plastic tack strip all the way around the top too. GoWesty sells this piece apparently, http://www.gowesty.com/product-details.php?v=&id=23811

I didn't want to wait and I was using a pneumatic stapler which apparently can break the GoWesty strip. After hunting through my local home improvement store I stumbled across vinyl baseboard molding strips that were the perfect color and thickness and pliable enough to bend around the corners. I cut several strips 3/4" wide out of two pieces of the molding which was enough for the whole top.

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THE REMOVAL

My top was in darn good shape except for the screens being torn out and a couple of smaller tears in the canvas. It was clearly original to the bus.

First thing I did was raise the top and take a bunch of pictures of where the screws were in the wide seal around the bottom, and where the hooks for the hold downs were.

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Next, I used a drill with a straight slot bit to remove all the oval headed wood screws (36 total). The gray trim was super cracked and came off in chunks.

Next I used a small screw driver and side cutter to remove the 500+ staples that held the lower canvas to the wood in the roof of the bus.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Here you can see how the slack of the canvas is covered by the gray trim piece.
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Now that the canvas was loose all the way around the bottom, I rolled up all four sides towards the inside of the roof. It took a couple of times to go around rolling up, but it stayed there with no tape. I guess some masking tape to attach the rolled up canvas to the poptop roof might help if your canvas is not old and stiff.

I lowered the poptop until it was easy to reach the tops of each crossed arm where they connected to the poptop rail. I used a pair of vice grips on each of the three bottom rails to keep them from moving while I removed the screws, rollers and washers.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Here is where you can tension the spring on the mechanism.
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There are three combinations of bolt, washer, brass roller, washer and nylon locknut where the slots in the rails are, and just a bolt, washer and nylon lock nut on the other pivot points. I opted to remove the six top connections rather than anything that connected to wood so as to preserve the strength of that joint. The bolts have an 8mm head and nut.

Once the top with the rolled up canvas was freed, it was pretty light weight and I lifted it off the roof and upside down onto a workbench I had covered with a packing blanket.

This view gave me a great look at how the original canvas was attached with another 500+ staples. The original plastic strip was also pulling out from the corners and had cracked in several places so it was easy to remove with the staples still in place.

You can see how I rolled up the canvas to take it off.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Once the narrow plastic piece was removed, I worked my way around the canvas with a small screwdriver and side cutter to remove all those staples. Staple removal probably used up half the total install time.

INSTALLATION

All the wood in my top, and the fiberglass top itself were in great shape, but it's worth checking to be sure where the different parts bold through the roof are in good shape and not cracked as now would be a good time to do a new gel coat if needed.

With the top laying upside down, I folded the canvas so the bottom outsides of the windows were facing up and towards the center. I got the front window (middle window ) generally centered first, then I measured between the back edges of the side windows to determine the center of the back. I also measured to find the center of the back on the wood and lined both points up so the center of each was known.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Next, I pulled about 1" of the canvas up against the wood and used a pneumatic staple gun to put one staple through the canvas only into the wood to keep that center piece lined up.

I then worked my way to the left and right of that center staple towards each of the back corners, I pulled the canvas up an inch and put a staple in every 5 inches or so. The staples are going through the outside side of the canvas into the wood.

I kept the tension even as I worked my way around each rear corner and down the sides. I did some on the left side and then switched to the right side until I got to about the middle of the sides.

At this point I rechecked to see that there would be no big bunch in a spot nor a tight corner. If there was, I would have pulled staples to back track until I gained or lost what was needed.

Since all looked good, I kept going until I had stapled it into the wood all the way around. I went back and added staples to the corners about a half inch apart, and two more between each of the first batch all the way around.

Next I took the 3/4" wide strips of baseboard molding and stapled them over the staples I j ust put intp the canvas. It's this piece that needs to be firmly against the fiberglass top and as straight as possible since the canvas pulls down from this top edge.

Now that the top was firmly attached via another 500 staples, I rolled up the new canvas on all four sides and taped it to the roof. I needed to do this to keep it out of the way while I reattached the fiberglass top to the bars.

Reattaching was the reverse of removal. I did the sliding ones on the sides first and loosely wound on the nut. Then I added the pivoting bolts on the three arms and tightened all once they were in place. I also used some HHS silicone spray lubricant at each location to help with the sliding.

Once all six arms were reattached, I checked the fit. The top went up and down as expected.

I raised the top all the way up and used the vice grips on the sliding brackets to hold it in place. I unrolled the canvas and let it hang. I again tried to position the canvas so it hung straight down and put a staple in the middle of each side. It's important NOT to pull the canvas down too tight because the wide gray trim hooks over the canvas and the metal roof lip causing the canvas to tighten up. Go for an even tension all the way around and know that the max height on the poptop will be slightly less because of this trim piece. When the piece goes on it tightens up the canvas.

In the corners it's important to be sure the canvas can easily be hooked over the lip or getting the gray trim piece on properly in the corners will be very difficult. Work from the center towards the corners and staple the corners last. Do not pull down tight while stapling!

The unfinished edge on my poptop was a bit long so I folded it up and stapled through the two layers of canvas. You could also just trim it off.

The last piece to go on is the wide gray trim piece. This gets screwed into the wood and hooks onto the metal lip of the bus roof on top and the wood ceiling panels on the bottom. I placed the seam in the center of the back so I started there and worked in to the corner. This trim is very stiff and may benefit from unrolling and warming a bit prior to installation.

Also, if your canvas is too tight in the corner, it is a difficult to get the seal hooked on the edge all the way around the corner. if it is too tight, you may benefit by having someone on the outside of the bus pulling the seal over the edge while you push from the inside. You must get it completely hooked over the edge for the canvas to be pulled tight and sealed. Once you think you have it, step outside and have a look at all four corners to be sure.

Once the trim is in place, install the four metal hold downs first. These get two screws. All screws go in the middle rib of the trim. I used a sharp awl to poke a starter hole for each screw

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Next do the corners. Each corner gets three screws.

Lastly do the sides with the remaining 16 screws. I chose to measure each side and evenly divide them. For the back seam, I trimmed the extra off and put the last two screws on either side of the seam.

DONE!

I do need to retension the spring to make the top stay in a slightly taller position with this new canvas.

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Col_Forbin
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:55 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement Reply with quote

great write up, huge thanks for documenting this in such detail! going to come in handy for me as well as many others
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:26 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

X2, thanks for documenting the process so well.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:07 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Here's a comparison of a scrap of the fabric on my new pop top to that of the faded old one, and the original color I found inside some of the folded up areas of the original one.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:07 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Color is definitely off a bit but still the best repro out there. You should send that piece of un-faded canvas to Helmut, maybe he can find a closer match.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:56 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

srfndoc wrote:
Color is definitely off a bit but still the best repro out there. You should send that piece of un-faded canvas to Helmut, maybe he can find a closer match.


Some of that difference in material color might be attributed to 50 years of age fading. I think that Helmut got pretty close. I bought a new canvas from him less than a year ago, and will be grafting an entire pop-top roof assembly onto my tin-top '67 Camper someday. Thanks Nancy for so well documenting your process, it will be very helpful!

Bill Bowman
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:48 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Great thread thanks! It's the only thread I can find that also shows the position and construction of the lifting struts - mine came in pieces so this was very helpful. I hadn't seen adjustable springs before - mine are simply fixed at each end with no adjusting threaded bar.

I have one of the earliest SO42 Westies (early 65) and the canvas is stapled at the top with hundreds of staples, then the plastic strip is nailed on with small nails about every 4". My top was pretty rough so I had to replace all the wooden frame, including the corner braces that have some interesting angles on them.
Thanks again for an excellent how to Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:27 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

BJ1 wrote:
Great thread thanks! It's the only thread I can find that also shows the position and construction of the lifting struts - mine came in pieces so this was very helpful. I hadn't seen adjustable springs before - mine are simply fixed at each end with no adjusting threaded bar.

I have one of the earliest SO42 Westies (early 65) and the canvas is stapled at the top with hundreds of staples, then the plastic strip is nailed on with small nails about every 4". My top was pretty rough so I had to replace all the wooden frame, including the corner braces that have some interesting angles on them.
Thanks again for an excellent how to Smile


Thanks, I'm glad it helped someone.

Mine only had the one adjustment spring and it was on the left side. The right a back did not have the adjuster.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 6:38 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Great write-up indeed.

Just wanted to add one small tip for anyone having trouble fitting the grey trim at the end: a heat-gun is a really good way of making it easier to work with when needed - you can just point it at the bits you're working with and heat them up as needed to make the trim more flexible / pliable for the hard parts (like the corners).
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:52 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Another Helmut canvas installed:

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A couple things I noted when installing this canvas:

1. It needs to be stretched quite a bit to get it stapled in the top
2. Be sure when you staple the tack strip it is touching the top of the poptop (I used the Go Westy strip which is a bit wider than the OG strip)
3. Definitely use heat to soften the grey trim strip before trying to get it on the corners (as Jamiekp mentions)
4. Mine does not have an adjustment spring, not sure if mine was replaced or if yours was a dealer replacement
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:26 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Looks like it turned out great! Good job.

I don't recall any extra stretching was needed on my canvas, but maybe there is enough deviation in size from Helmut.

As for the spring, I've chatted with the guy who originally ordered and purchased the bus, and the second owner that bought it from him, and there was never anything done by either of them related to the poptop so I believe the spring to be original.

Ours is a 1966 German delivered SO44 so maybe that has some bearing?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:34 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

nlorntson wrote:
Looks like it turned out great! Good job.

I don't recall any extra stretching was needed on my canvas, but maybe there is enough deviation in size from Helmut.

As for the spring, I've chatted with the guy who originally ordered and purchased the bus, and the second owner that bought it from him, and there was never anything done by either of them related to the poptop so I believe the spring to be original.

Ours is a 1966 German delivered SO44 so maybe that has some bearing?


Could definitely be a German delivered thing or specific to the SO44.

As for the stretching, I actually have a second canvas from Helmut and they both measured the same. I bought them long ago when he first started making them so no idea if he tweaked his dimensions a bit. In the end it worked fine but I thought it could have been easier if it was about 1/2" longer in the front-back dimension. Stapling the last corner a the top definitely took some stretching to get there.

I'm thankful that he's doing these (especially with the white screens) so definitely nothing bad to say about them.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:25 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Those look great! I LOVE that they are a near perfect match and have white screens.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:23 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

Hi Nancy (and Dick),

Great to see you at the BNNTA camping weekend. I only wish I had more time to visit with you and of course check out your handiwork on the pop-top install. I'm about to install the pop-top section onto my tin-top SO42, and this great write-up of yours will be the install guide for installing my roof assembly onto my '67 Campmobile. Friends in PHX will be cutting the hole in my roof, bending up the metal lip around the roof edge and then dis-assembling the roof section that I have provided and transplanting everything from the roof section onto my Camper. I have one of Helmut's new canvas tent tops (bought last year), a new WW grey molding, new WW rubber tie-downs. I have three wooden ceiling bows. I haven't ordered a new fiberglass top to roof rubber seal yet and I'll need to determine who makes the best seal available (any hints?). While apart, a talented PHX wood-worker and friend will be installing all new birch wall and ceiling panels, and once the roof install is finished, my Westy camper interior will be re-installed, and then I'll hop in and drive it back home to St. Louis.

The roof section we are using that I've had squirreled away in my basement for the past 25 years:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Just as a side note, I noticed that you installed the seam of your grey molding in the center of your rear edge. I had planned to do exactly the same. But this morning as the roof assembly was placed into a PHX bound enclosed trailer I noticed that the original grey molding in the roof section had it's seam placed in the center of the passenger (right) side. If you look closely at the middle photo you can see the right side seam in the grey molding. I'm wondering why the boys and girls at Westfalia did that, and if other original Campmobiles had their grey molding seam on the right, or arbitrarily placed elsewhere. Just curious, where is your "original" seam location everyone?

Thanks again for an excellent guide to replacing the tent material Nancy!

Bill Bowman
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I'm looking for these license plate frames for my fleet:
Coeur D'Alene - Lake Shore Volkswagen
Mission VW - San Fernando
Thornton VW - Stockton

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:11 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

My original seam was at the rear. Also, the WW rubber hold downs are not great. They seem to be made of a much stiffer material and will be really difficult to stretch. I mentioned this to Rich from WW and they are going to take a look but nothing new at this point. You might be better off using your old ones.
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RPM=(MPH*336* (R&P*4th*1.26))/Tire Diameter in inches
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:12 am    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

srfndoc wrote:
My original seam was at the rear. Also, the WW rubber hold downs are not great. They seem to be made of a much stiffer material and will be really difficult to stretch. I mentioned this to Rich from WW and they are going to take a look but nothing new at this point. You might be better off using your old ones.


What I don't like is that the black ones can stain the canvas.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:49 pm    Post subject: Re: SO42/SO44 poptop canvas replacement how-to Reply with quote

The four rubber pop-top tie-downs that I bought from Wolfsburg West a year or two ago have a gray-ish color, not the black ones. I'll have to open a bag and trial stretch them to see if they are an improvement over the previous "stiffer" version.

Bill Bowman
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I'm looking for these license plate frames for my fleet:
Coeur D'Alene - Lake Shore Volkswagen
Mission VW - San Fernando
Thornton VW - Stockton

Thanks for any help!
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