Ri­ley RMA

Time to fit the roof, as Danny gets tug­ging and ham­mer­ing

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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.

Wrin­kled frowns

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.

Eng­i­nu­ity ad­ven­tures

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.

danny.hop­kins@prac­ti­cal­clas­sics.co.uk

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…

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