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      This page contains information on repairing the retractable top operation on my 58 Ford.From the information I received the top has been hidden in the trunk the past 15 years.This car is a good candiate to be restored as the body has little rust damage.

Warning: The information on this page is not provided for a concours show car and does not necessarily pertain to the correct finish, parts or hardware found on a factory restored car. The first thing I do when restoring a car is join it's club for the vast amount of information and help they provide. For further information click on their web site, www.skyliner.org This is my first experience with a retractable and I will document all the frustrations experienced on my journey to have the top operate as designed.

For any comments or helpful sugestions e-mail Comments@57Thunderbirds.com


Pic #1
Click on the pic to enlarge

      When I purchased the car this was my first problem to overcome.There was a switch and wire running to each motor. I purchased another selonoid and wiring harness and started over to re-wire the top which I now can operate with one switch as orginal. The problem I now have is to get the switches and locks to operate together.

Pic # 2

  •      I got the switches to unlock the trunk but it would't raise the deck lid.There is a bolt in the upper left corner to unhook and lets you raise the lid manually.From the picture it looks like the under side is a mess but it really isn't.This is the only place where some patch work has been done and very crudely.The floor bracket to raise the roof were welded here and seem to be solid.After I get the roof to operate smoothly I will do some cosmetic work.The question is are there any mesurments to check if the bracket is welded at the correct position?I have ran the top up and down and the length of the roof lift jacks seem to be right.

Pic #3

         I was told the rear roof corners become weak from stress and rust and Dave Dudt,Technical Adviser of IFRC has agreed to let me publish information from his article on this repair.Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Pic # 4

        This is a list of the tools and instructions to complete this repair.I will post pictures as I proceed to have my top operate properly.

Pic # 5

                                          The procedure to reinforce the package tray:
      (1)   Remove the rear garnish moldings including the sub-plate to which the moldings fasten.

Pic # 6

     A picture of the sub-plate.After taking it off,drill out the two sheet metal screw holes on the right side with a 3/8" bit.I also cut the rear window seal on the outside and removed the window.This had to be done to insert the stainless trim which was missing from the car.The corner repair can be done with the window in or out.

Pic # 7

       I raised the roof into show position and supported the front of the roof with a 2X4 (60"),from the center of the transmission hump to the center of the roof to relieve the weight of the roof from the rear corners.

Pic # 8

          I placed a bottle jack on the floor to force the package tray back into it's proper position.With the window out I cut 2 lengths of wood 13,1/2" and placed them on end on the pinch weld flange.I cut a piece 14-1/2" and seems 1/4" to long from the bottom of the gasket land to the top.When taking the window out it seemed to have good clearence as it came out easy. The lengths of wood are a guide to get the proper clearence to reinstall the window, seal and  square  the roof.

Pic # 9

       I have drilled out the 2 holes to spot weld the flat steel.The left corner has been repaired in the past by welding,I'm not sure about this side.Both corners seem secure and solid.I'm not sure how to determine the proper position and if any force is needed or to just reinforce the package tray as is. In talking with Dave the proper position is when the window fits squarely in the window channel with the proper frame clearence as discribed above.
      I  also learned from the top clinic at the Dayton convention when the corners get weak the window frame area sages in the center.

Pic # 10
Pic # 12

       This is a reply from Dave Dudt concerning the window fit to determine if the package tray is in the proper position.The bottom of the window sits straight in the channel and everything looks right except the fit on the right upper corner has a 3/8" gap.When I jack on this corner to adjust this gap there is no give and it just takes the presure off the R S jack.The corners have been welded and are solid.Is the window gap acceptable and should I go ahead with my procedure to reinforce the package tray?
       After looking at my pictures Dave suggests I should replace the bushings in the lift assembly before proceding with the corner repair.

Pic # 13

        To replace the bushings (Ford used 18 bronze bushing but it is much better to use 4 bushings in each floor pivots instead of 2 as Ford did ). This gives maximum stability to the roof action.  I used 3-4 X 4's to block up the top, two on the rear corners and one taped on the windshield header.I ran the top down on the blocks to relieve the pressure for removal  of the lifting arms.

Pic # 14

       It is important to keep the lifting arms seperate so I'm starting with the left side first.While doing this repair it would be nice to detail the trunk compartment.The problem is there is a lot of under coating and the only way to do this is to scrap and blast.It is more practable to do this with a body off restoration.I started to scrap the fender humps and will paint them and cover the rest with trunk panels.

Pic # 15

      After removing all the lifting arms and jacks I sand blasted and removed the brass bushings using a deep well 1/2" socket and a mallet to drive them out ,with a larger socket underneath to catch the bushing.I use a vise to push the new bushing in and before priming and painting I use tape and a bolt and nut to keep any paint from the bushing surface.Do not sand blast the jacks or other mechanical moving parts.

Pic # 16

       The floor pivot bushings are harder to remove.I used a drift punch on one end and a slide hammer on the other. I used  3/4" bar stock fashioned  with a 1/4" hole drilled and tapped as pictured with the slide hammer.You can used a bolt and washers to pull the new ones in. I happened to have a shaft the size of the outer surface of the bushing and tapped them in. Instead of using 2 bushings we're installing 4 in each of the floor pivots to give maximum stability to the roof action.

Pic # 17

        The parts are painted with urethane and they turned out nice.I'm now ready to install them back into the car.

Pic # 18

     The roof linkage is installed.To accomplish this you need the retractable hardtop shop manual and follow the instructions on pg. 30-31. If you did not take your linkage out this is good information to make sure the roof is adjusted properly.

Pic # 19

      This is the control link adjusting screw. Make sure all adjusting screws are easy to turn and coated with a little never seize.

Pic # 20

      This is called the power link adjusting screw. The hardest to adjust because of the location. I now have the top linkage adjusted enough to finish the roof repair.

Pic # 20A

       A tip from Dave to adjust the adjustment screws. Take a quarter inch ratchet driver and two 5/16 sockets,insert a 5/16 hex head allen bit between them and tape the two sockets together face to face. This will give you two square 1/4 inch driver surfaces,one end in the ratchet and the other on the adjustment scew which makes adjusting the roof simple. Before installing the power link pivot bracket make sure the 1/4 inch end of the adjusting screw is not over painted and the end is not abused or the socket will not fit. A great suggestion.

Pic # 21

     This is the metal strip I'm going to weld in to finish the roof repair. I inserted it into the slot and marked the top hole and removed and drilled and tapped for a # 10 bolt. I also marked and ground a bevel edge to fit the contour at the bottom.

Pic # 22

       Inserting the metal strip into the roof frame.

Pic # 22

     I put a washer behind the bolt and drew the metal plate and shell together to make a good weld and hold the plate in position.

Pic #23

     The holes and bottom slit are welded shut and the roof repair is complete. Phase 2 will be the final adjustment on the roof and than the switch adjustments and electrical problems. I'll have to do more reading and call upon Dave if I get stuck.

Pic #24

  •      More adjustment on the roof alienment. Using a jump wire and the erect relay I raised the roof almost to the point of contact on the front header.The front roof needs to be raised to set on the header.To do this adjust the control link adjusting screw (pic.# 19).

Pic # 25

         To futher alien the roof I adjusted the power link adjusting screws to move the roof forward-reverse,left-right as needed (pic #20). To fine tune I adjusted the header  and the rear quarter locks (pg.8,fig 6&7 in the hardtop shop manual). Having replaced the bushings and reinforced the corners I feel the roof movement will be constant.

Pic #26

        I recently went to a Ford swap meet and found this service forum sent to dealers with a slidefilm to inform mechanics on adjusting the retractable top. I don't have the film but I like the switch ID and location found on the cover.

Pic# 27

     I'm having trouble getting the front locks to fully engage so when they are locked they rachet. The screw engages the nut but runs out of power 1/3 of the way through the process. I believe this happens because of misallainment causing binding. I can power the front roof locks with a jumper wire from the selonoid directly to the motor.

Pic# 28

      This picture shows the locks lined up to engage. When I have all the wires hooked up the front and rear locks run forward and reverse as required.The battery is charged and the meter reads 12.56V, but when engaged the rear locks rachet, but the front locks barley engage and stall. If I jump the selonoid to the front locks only I can get them to the point of rachet before they stall. When I hook it up to unlock the front and rear locks, only the right rear lock fully unlocks.

Pic# 30

     I have redone the mechanical adjustments several times to get the proper alignment as stated on pages 30,31 and 32 of the hardtop shop manual with no avail. The rear locks are not a problem, just the front. It seems the front locks have to be micro adjusted to fix the binding problem. I know about all the adjustments on the front locks and looking for a way to micro adjust them to fix the bind. Also the hardtop rubber slides across the windshield header before the locks engage.Is this normal or should the front top come down without rubbing? I believe I have the top adjusted properly execpt for the front locks. I will appreciate any helpful advice to my problem. At the top of this page is a link to e-mail any comments.

Pic# 31

      The front top slides sideways as it comes in contact with the windshield header. The right jack lines it back as it slides over the header. Two things appear to be wrong. The left roof jack has too much play letting it slide sideways on the header, and the roof adjustment not correct letting the front roof rub over the header. I have to address the play in the left roof jack first to have the front roof line up properly. I'm going to disassemble the left jack, check for wear, clean and lub .

Pic #32

     I disassembled the transmission from the bottom of the roof jack and the bearing had wear so I proceded to remove it. I found out I could-n't beat it out because it is cupped in with a press. I've been told the housing can be shipped out to get it replaced but I decided to get a replacment. Since I figued out how to get it apart ,I'm cleaning and greasing the replacment pictured above. The bearing and the bushing going into this unit was tight as the old one was worn. 
     Reverse the tear down to assemble after putting the screw into it's housing,(Pic# 34).

Pic# 33

     The replacment unit looks rough but it cleaned up nicely. To remove the screw from the housing remove the 2 screws, the plate and the bearing tunnel in the picture. Be careful not to lose the bearings in the tunnel cover. Take the unit out of the vise, carefully turn it over and let the bearings fall into a can. Turn the screw and all 67 bearings will fall into the can. The screw can now be removed from the housing and these parts cleaned.

Pic# 34

      After cleaning and painting the parts I'm putting the screw into the jack and assembling. I put the bearings one at a time into the hole as I turn the screw. It is very important when beginning, to make sure the grove the bearings go into is lined up and not get one wedged as this will bind the screw. A little WD-40 will help but NO grease because it will let the bearingd stick and not roll around the grove. Fill up the grove in the tunnel with bearings,put a little grease on them,squeze the top cover and insert it into the top holes. Finish by putting the cover on.

Pic# 35

      Since I learned how to disassemble the jack screw I cleaned and lubed the other side, repainted the orginal color and put new dust cover on. I'm now ready to assemble them back in the car and hope this helps my problem.

Pic# 36

      I received an e-mail that was very helpful I'm passing along which solved the header rubbing and alienment problem: Hi this is Ron from Michigan and I've been looking at your web site,nice by the way. I think you need to do a total reset of your top and no one wants to do this so we just keep making one more adjustment in hope it will fix things,but it almost never does. So here goes:
     Set your roof on the lock screws but do not lock down. Loosen everything in the trunk, the power link has 4 nuts holding the bracket, loosen and back off both adjusting screws,loosen the adjusting screws on the control link, and disconnect the roof jacks on both ends. The roof will now be resting on the roof locks. Shake the roof around letting the roof locks line up with the receivers.
        Message continued on the next picture.

Pic# 37

       Push the power link arms down and forward at the base. Position the adjusters to contact and tighten one half turn leaving the height one alone. Next lock down the four lock nuts. Turn the control link to contact and one turn more. Adjust each jack so you can drop in the bolts at both ends with no force. Now your ready to use the service manual minor adjustments as needed.
      I followed Ron's advice and the top is aligned with the windshield and the locks perfectly. When hooking up the jacks there is a little movement on the roof lift arms so I hook each side the same keeping the length equal.

Pic # 38

     I still have the roof lock down problem.If I raise the roof two inches off the header and jump the selonoids the locks rotate both ways as they should.When I engage the locks they start but some stop engaging, I don't think it's a mechanical problem anymore but an electrical one. The battery is fully charged. Could it be a loose ground on the circuit breaker causing this problem when under load? The motors seem strong when taken out and tested.Should I have them disassembled and the brushes checked out? Anyone have a suggestion to my next step.

Pic# 39

         After the circuit breaker checked out ok  located on the right rear quarter, I decided to disassemble the front gear boxes, clean and lubricate them. The grease was hard and dry. I used a gear and white lithium grease mixture.

Pic# 40

       Before putting the assemble back in the header I'm adjusting the switch per the shop manual using a spare receiver (nut) and volt meter. I was under the impression when the front locks were fully locked  the switch would engage the next operation and they should ratchet, so this is what I've been trying to achieve. After operating the top again this does not happen. I've spent a lot of time on this top and I'm going to let it set awhile to work on another car for a June show. Since than I've talked to Wayne and Ron and they tell me the front locks don't have to ratchet to complete the top operation. When I get back to the top problems I'm going to adjust the rest of the switches and see what happens when operating the top from the actuating switch instead of jumping the relays.

Pic# 41

    As you can see this is my first experience with the mechanics of a retractable and I'm struggling as I move forward. To continue on this subject click back to the side bar and on restoration web sites click on pg.2 of the 58 retractable picture. 

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