TAKE COVER: RALLY TOPS
RALLY TOPS KEEPS the WEATHER out of PROJECT ZUK
Project Zuk is running, and with the Samurai finally becoming drivable, it’s time to start piecing the body back together into a road-worthy vehicle. First issue, the rotting mess of a hardtop that the Samurai came with from the previous owner. It was riddled with cracks, mould and other biological entities. To throw this top onto the new Aqualu body would be an insult to the good folks who built Project Zuk’s shiny aluminum body.
The simplest and cheapest fix would be to go out and grab a ragtop. Call me a princess, but I want a hardtop. I don’t plan to stop wheeling when the white stuff begins to fall, so sealing in as much heat as possible and keeping out the rain are top priorities. I also dig the hardtop look. I was hoping to score a tin top Samurai when looking for candidates for this build, but they are becoming tougher and tougher to find in decent condition for a realistic price.
My best option was a company called Rally Tops based out of California. They build fiberglass hardtops designed specifically to fit Jeep Wranglers, Chevy/ Geo Trackers, Suzuki Sidekicks and Samurais. The Rally Tops unit most closely matched the lines of the tin top and would provide a weather tight fit. They offer several different designs that include a sport top that drops straight down behind the rollbar and angles into a tonneau cover, a two-piece hard top that allows you to remove the targa panel, or in my case, the one-piece hardtop. This was an all new design and we had one of the first units to pop out of the mould.
Getting one of these is not the easiest proposition, as Rally Tops doesn’t ship with the usual couriers, so we found ourselves with a very large truck in our driveway with a large smelly man dropping off a very large box on a pallet. The box looked like it had been towed up from California dangling on a towrope, so we kept the smelly man onsite until we could peer in to ensure the top itself had no damage.
Our one-piece top is a sturdy fibreglass shell fully insulated inside with carpeting. The list of options for these
tops are quite extensive. We didn’t opt for the sunroof or opening side glass, but we did get the third rear brake light, interior dome light and roof rack (good for an extra 150 lb of cargo).
The kit comes with all the hardware and instructions needed. Rally Tops has done a good job making use of all the captive nuts already in the Samurai’s body… only… we didn’t have a stock Samurai body. No worry, the hardware got tossed into the spares bin and we would simply drill and bolt the hardtop into place on our Aqualu body.
As the upper Samurai body consists of nine body panels bolted together, the Rally Tops kit comes with a tube of high quality silicone seal to fill in all the gaps and weather proof the metal before installing the canopy. With the help of editor Irons, we lifted the Rally Tops into position. The top sank softly over the rollover hoop and aligned itself beautifully in the windshield seam for a snug fit. Catches are mounted to the visor mounts where latches on the under side of the top will grab hold for a good tight fit. In the rear, we had a bit of a problem.
As we are not using a stock Samurai body, somewhere in the equation a 6 mm (1/4-in) gap was left between the bottom of the canopy and the rear tub gunnels. Adapting to the situation, we grabbed
some ¼-in rubber mat, trimmed out the shape of the top of the body gunnels and created a ¼-in thick gasket to shim the canopy to the body. We then drilled four holes, two on either side and sucked the canopy down onto the body with some stainless nuts, bolts and washers.
Another little issue that came up with the fitment to the Aqualu body was the fact we now had a tailgate that dropped rather than swung open. The rear glass on the Rally Tops’ canopy is designed to close in behind the tailgate, creating a weather-tight seal. For this we had to get creative with the grinder and fabricate the lower base of the window to sit just on top of the Aqualu tailgate, with two tabs that reach in behind to lock it down when the tailgate is latched shut. It took a little longer and required a little more fabrication and design than we planned, but the result was well worth the extra bit of blood, sweat and tears.
A test drive into the wilderness during a winter blast yielded an interior that was well-insulated, both in terms of warmth and sound-deadening, and produced the boxy look I was looking for. After nearly a year on the Samurai, the Rally Tops looks just as good today as it did when it came out of the box. UV has had little to no effect on the finish, the glass still looks clean, and the whole unit still sits solidly on the body. After a couple removals, the foam liner along the outside of the contact points did pull itself apart and a couple of the silicone seals are starting to separate from the canopy, however the Rally Tops has held up very well.
I’m quite happy with the Rally Tops hard top; it has proved weather resistant, sits solid on the body, gives the Samurai a great look and increases interior security. It’s not a cheap investment when you consider the cost of some of the canvas tops you can buy, but the added comforts and conveniences are well worth the investment.
Rally Tops One Piece Samurai Hardtop - $985.00 www.rallytops.com