Having used the bikini header before, I knew how to install it (it isn't hard). The only problem was that I couldn't get the header to fit squarely on the windshield frame and snug down into position (against the rubber windshield seal). What the heck was going on here?
It didn't take long to realize why things were not lining up as expected.....I had a clearance issue with the sPOD mounting panel/bracket. The header was not being allowed to clamp down as far as needed in order to align itself to the top of the windshield channel. What to do?
Some blue painters tape, a right angle grinder, and a 4" flapper disc was all that was needed. The blue tape was used as a guide on the header to help me grind a straight line. I ended up doing a couple of test fits and when all was said and done, I removed a 1/4" of metal from the header. You only have to remove the metal from the area between the two clamping brackets. Since the header is made from aluminum, it doesn't take that long to grind down to the taped line. Obviously, if you don't have a sPOD, you won't have to make this adjustment.
Speaking of adjustments.....get use to them. What I mean
is that once you start to modify your TJ, you will find that as time goes on,
your existing mods can very likely interfere with a new mod. The sPOD
covers the footman loop on the windshield frame and the Fast Back top uses the
footman loop (as do other tops). The sPOD has an opening in the top of the
switch panel that would allow you access to the loop, but after looking at it, I
didn't see it being all that easy to get to. So I opted to use my TBT roll
bar to secure the top (more on that later). My point....mods will
eventually interfere with mods (yeah, my radio was something in the way
too) and you just need to improvise a bit and work around the problems. It
can be done....take your time and come up with a workable solution.
Welcome to modifying the best 4x4 vehicle that ever had tires on the ground!
With the header ground down to a good fit, I bolted it into position. This time it clamped properly into place and I was ready to proceed with getting the top in place.
I put the top on top of the roll bar and let it heat up a bit in the warm July Arizona sun. OK....that took 97 seconds and I was ready to proceed with getting the top's plastic rail tucked into the lip of the header. Be sure you have the top centered properly. If you have someone standing in the back of the TJ (which I did not), they can keep tension on the top as you slip the plastic rail into the header groove.
I kept an eye on the top as I worked my way across the front of
the windshield to make sure there were no seams that looked troublesome
(improperly stiched). I'm happy to report that the sewing looked very
good. My tugging and pulling on the top yielded no weak seams. Note,
I'm not advocating that you should stress test your top....just saying that as I
was fitting the top to the header and door surrounds, the top saw a fair amount
of tension and everything looked very good.
With the front plastic rail inserted into the header, it was
time to get the center strap in place. Slip it down around the back side
of the center roll bar. It is designed to hook to the footman loop
(mentioned earlier). By adjusting the tension on the strap, you can adjust
the top's tension. I hooked mine to my TBT front roll bar which worked
just fine. There was enough adjustment in the strap to accommodate my need
to make this change.
Things were starting to take shape. Next it was time to snug up the ceiling panel straps (one on each corner). I grimaced when I read the next step of the instructions...."Gently pull the strap over the roll bar, and around the seatbelt stud....". Seatbelt stud! What #!@&$* seatbelt stud? My TJ had not seen a rear seat nor rear seatbelts since the 3rd day of ownership, which was now over 9 years ago. (See what I said about mods interfering with mods!)
I broke out my box of TJ nuts and bolts....you know, the box you
throw the factory "junk" in as you do each new mod and take factory pieces and
parts off of the TJ. Pay dirt! I found a couple of bolts that would
pass for "seat belt studs".
Next up where the side windows. They zip into place pretty....pretty easy to do. I cheated a bit and used a step stool to climb up and down onto the TJ's tires (good place to stand while you work), the rocker guard rails (another good place to stand while you work), and the rear bumper. I was up and down that thing a bunch and it was certainly easier than jumping up and down for an hour (my old bones don't take kindly to all that jumping around).
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