Time to fit the roof, as Danny gets tugging and hammering
Talk to any RM restoration veteran and the subject of the vinyl roof will produce a knowing look. Fitting a new roof covering and the drip moulding (guttering) to an RM Riley looks like a difficult task and guess what, it is! But it’s not impossible. The avoidance of creases and wobbly seams, combined with the threat that a badly-fitted roof will ‘balloon’ at speed, focuses the mind. It is the proof of the resto pudding, the badge of honour is worn proudly on top of the car… or not.
There are many different theories as to the most effective method. Most agree however – use quality materials and do it on a hot day. Beware cheap kits – I bought mine from the RM club. Riley used Everflex Topping as it was almost impossible to stretch. This is why stretchy furniture covering-type vinyl is a no-no. It will end up looking awful as it stretches in use, too; after a while, especially on hot days, it will resemble a Bull Mastiff’s face.
The vinyl roof is attached to the body around the edges and the back window aperture. Stupidly, I removed the original roof covering ages ago. I say stupidly but actually it wasn’t a bad idea… I needed to see if the wood under the metal honeycomb was sound. It was, but I lost the ability to use the original vinyl as a template. The book says that the seams should both be 20 inches from the centre line of the car. In the real world, I used my judgement by standing away from the car and squinting a bit.
First the wadding was cut to shape, glued on and then trimmed. Then we spread a bedsheet over the top. This serves as a barrier between the wadding and the vinyl, helping the vinyl slide more easily as we pulled it tight and adjusted the fit. We had already prepared
the roof (see previous Staff Car Sagas) so we knew we were working over a sound base.
We cut the wadding just above the line of nail holes which held the old outer cover on. By the time we had finished on day one, the blanket/ wadding was smooth with no lumps, bumps or dips, neatly glued to the roof and finally covered in a bedsheet.
Next day it was hot… we laid the new cover over the roof and got it into position – then we carefully rolled the RMA outside to ‘bake’ in the sun. We tacked it loosely in place with a few nails half knocked in and the seams as close to perfect as we could manage. The heat in the material made it ever so slightly pliable, which meant we could pull it and get most of the wrinkles out.
The hardest place to get crease-free was around the rear quarter curves especially along the creases (imaging a bathing cap with a seam… that is where the wrinkles happen).
David Gough’s suggestion that we clamp the vinyl with two pieces of wood at each seam end worked wonders. We could pull hard enough to take the crinkles out. But this made the wrinkles worse at the rear edges.
I could say we got it right first time but we didn’t. Even the second attempt ended up with too many wrinkles around the trafficator area and towards the rear scuttle. Third time lucky? I was on my own, the sun was out and I pushed the RM out into the yard. With the vinyl almost too hot to touch I managed to pull and cajole it into an obedient trim. After two hours it was tacked down and almost wrinkle-free. I was happy. The roof was on… now we needed to cut the rear aperture and get the gutter to play ball.
The next morning we made a horizontal cut in the fabric in the centre of the rear window. Then we cut from the ends of this cut into the four corners of the window, stopping well short of the edge of the frame. Four flaps resulted which we pulled through the window aperture into the car and moulded around the window frame. Then we tacked them into place.
Then we began the almost impossible task of fitting the new drip moulding (or gutter) that came in three sections. Two U sections (where one arm of the ‘U’ catches the rain water while the other has to be closed down over the nail heads) and a third section that is an ‘L’ shape for the rear of the roof where it meets the body. We started in the centre of the car above the
‘The corners were tough, leaving me with semi-arthritic finger pains…’
front windscreen, lined up the moulding and off we went, covering all the lined-up nail heads. I can’t lie, the corners were tough, leaving me with semi-arthritic fingers and thumbs. With two sides done, the third piece of moulding was fitted across the back of the roof under the rear window. The following hours were spent masking, sealing and paint the sections… at the end of which, we had a watertight RMA ready for the NEC – well, at least the roof was.
In other news the engine is finally machined and ready at Bromsgrove Engine Services. It has taken so long because Greg and Keith have kindly allowed me to come and use their kit. They have also instructed me in that use. Which basically means I have been introduced to my own limitations. I can say I have polished, reground and linished the engine. It’s all my own work. But the truth is I have done so under the extremely diligent eye of two master craftsmen. Thanks chaps. The engine will now come back to the workshop where I will attempt to put it back together with the help of Theo Gillam. He’s a master at this sort of thing and will, no doubt, tell me I am doing it well, before completely redoing it to his own extremely high standards. Top man.
This man has just spent three hours pulling vinyl.
Danny’s third attempt to get the back end right.
Starting in the right place is essential.
Modern foam wadding underneath.
Meanwhile, in Bromsgrove.
Clive and Matt’s hilarious disguises. Danny has gone home…