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Old 01-06-2017, 09:22 AM
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LJ Hardtop: OEM vs Rally vs GR8TOPS

My 05 LJ soft top is currently injured so I am considering a hardtop replacement. There seems to be only three options (please chime in if you know others) so I wanted to see if people had opinions on which way to go.

OEM: The current market price is astronomical, between $1k and $2k for a 10-12 year-old used top. Obviously fitment is spot on, but these puppies are old and most likely dinged/dented and a myriad of other things could be present.

Rallytops has a 1 piece top for about $2.2k. I have read positive reviews about a 2 piece top but there is not a 2 piece listed on their website. Does anyone have direct experience with this 1 piece? Fitment, look and quality?

GR8TOPS: This thing is a beast but the cost is about $4k plus a 14 hour round trip drive to South Carolina for an install. For this price what are you really getting. I could buy a high mileage rough LJ, with hardtop, for that price. I would love to find a used one but I cant recall seeing one for sale, ever.

Or do I stuck it out with my soft top and pay a few hundred to buy replacement parts.

any thoughts are appreciated!
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Old 01-06-2017, 10:05 AM   #2
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I can't speak for an LJ but for the TJ most people are going to say stick with the factory hardtop. I have seen a few LJ hardtops out there but they are definitely harder to come by. As long as you don't mind the soft top I would just buy a new one or fix the parts needed to fix it.

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Old 01-06-2017, 12:48 PM   #3
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I have a Rally top for my LJ. Its not terrible but I do have some problems with it. Seems to leak in the rear near the window and a pillar. They use foam weather stripping to seal it which doesn't work too great and comes off easily. I didn't know they still offered OEM tops when i bought mine. Last I checked OEM was the same price as Rally Tops as well. I paid $1800 for a 2 piece hard top with no features (defrost, wiper, light, rack, etc..)
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Old 01-06-2017, 05:19 PM   #4
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You might try Camper King in Chula Vista CA. (Camper King USA | Camper King USA >>Click<<┬* for Webstore┬*). I just got one of their tops for a TJ - seems pretty solid. No frills, one piece.
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Old 01-06-2017, 05:31 PM   #5
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LJ hardtop

+1 on Camper King USA in Chula Vista CA. I live in Phoenix and they shipped for $99. Top was only $1500 and fits very well, I like that the rear glass has locking handles and that the top is dark gray fabric inside. Plus its brand new.

If you're willing to wait it out and can do a day of driving, search craigslist in your area and surrounding areas, every now and then someone is letting an OEM top go for $1500 with seemingly no problems.
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:11 PM
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thanks jayelldoubleu and Clifford! Clifford since you are now an owner of the Camper King hardtop, are you saying that you would hold out for a 10 year old OEM for any reasons? If given a do-over would yo hold out for an OEM?

I have been looking for an OEM, even making offers to people selling their entire jeeps but I have had no luck so that's why I am looking for an aftermarket.
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Old 01-11-2017, 12:44 PM   #7
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The only reason I would hold out for an OEM top is because of the white interior and that the OEM top has latches, whereas the top from camperking requires a wrench/socket. Also, there is no wiper on the camperking top, but living in Phoenix its not a concern.

That being said, I actually like the darker interior as it matches the carpet. And it doesn't take that much longer to take the hardtop off. This is the first aftermarket top I've owned and as far as road noise, etc., I can't tell a difference. Very happy with the purchase and would recommend for any LJ.
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Old 01-12-2017, 09:20 AM
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Thanks Clifford. You sold me on CamperKing. I would rather have a darker interior color and although the latches are preferred, that reason is not enough to me, to pay the same price for a used OEM top that was made over a decade ago. Just too much wear and tear on the OEMs.

Assuming the shipping price isn't terrible I will be posting a review shortly.
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Old 01-12-2017, 07:23 PM   #9
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Buddy has this hardtop for his Jeep and loves it. Its built well and has quite a few options.
Fastback Hardtop for TJU
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Old 03-07-2017, 08:43 AM
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That Wild Boar fastback was another option as well, but the fastback is not for me. I was close to buying an OEM hardtop but someone beat me to the purchase. I find it difficult to justify paying over a grand for a 10-12 year old used hardtop, but this was in mint condition for the age.

I really wanted to get that camper king but shipping from them is too difficult. I would have to drive about 2 hours(each direction) to get to their nearest shipping location. That means I would have to rent a truck or put the top on at the delivery pickup site.

Gr8tops is having a sale so I reached out to them am in the process of getting a full quote. I love how this top transforms the car, and even gives you a full size back door. Install requires a little work but the supplied instructions simplify it.

I'll post a follow-up in the coming weeks to give an update if I pulled the trigger and how the process went.
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Old 03-07-2017, 08:53 AM   #11
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I recommend OEM if you can find a good one. They fit the rig best. I had a Gr8top halftop and it took some adjustment.
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Old 03-07-2017, 09:31 AM   #12
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I'd go OEM, but only if you can find a good one for a decent price. They pop up on craigslist from time to time for about $1800.

For me, I prefer OEM, in case a windows gets broken or you need some small parts (windshield washer parts, wiring, etc.).

I was recently looking for a hardtop for my LJ. Everyone wanted $1800 or more around Dallas (one guy had his listed for $4K, get real). And since I am what some people would call cheap, I went a different route.

I was able to find an OEM hardtop in good condition about an hour away that just needed windows and a wiper motor. I paid $500 for it, even though it needed parts. But all in, I only spent $1300 on a factory LJ top with all new windows and new wiper motor.
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Old 03-07-2017, 12:54 PM   #13
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When I bought my LJ in June '16, it had a 1 piece RallyTop on it. I have a small leak at the bottom corner of the drivers side rear window that I'm slowly eliminating with silicone. Another small leak on passengers side A pillar. Again, slowly eliminating. Over all I'm happy with it. I like the sliding side windows and the dark carpeted interior roof. It's a little faded, but I can take care of that with some paint.

An OEM top would be great, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me.

Now I'm just trying to decide on which soft top I want.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:34 AM
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thanks for the feedback. Personally I wanted to go OEM but I have been looking for a while and as Clutch said some people are asking $2.5k and up. Just not worth the money at that price.

each time I find a reasonable priced one it is either sold by the time i inquire, or there is something wrong with it. There is currently a to for sale in the classifieds, but it has a gash through it.

since I cannot find a good condition top I had to explore other options. Then the gr8tops top has a sale going on so makes sense to go for that. Still waiting on a price quote though.
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Old 05-06-2017, 03:17 PM
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I ended up going with the GR8TOPS hardtop because as I previously mentioned I wanted OEM but couldn't find one that was in good shape, by my definition of good shape. There were a few out there in the $1k - $1.5k that require a bunch of work, touch up paint, new wiper, broken glass or it just looked "ratty" looking. Didn't want to end up paying $2.5k-$3k for a 12 year old hardtop.

I explored CamperKing and was ready to pull the trigger but they have an awful shipping policy that would have required me to drive 2 hours (each way assuming no NYC traffic) to JFK airport in NYC. No thanks!

Install took about 5 hours with two other guys helping out. The main panels were not difficult to install, but require patience to make sure all seems are in place. The rear door was the most difficult to install, mainly because it requires a special tool - nutsert tool. We opted to use bolts instead which were difficult to install because we didn't want to drill through the rear gate. So we had to balance a nut inside of a wrench and then stick inside the vent opening, while trying to get those bolts to thread. It took time but we did it. I'm happy with the results!
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Old 05-06-2017, 06:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skrelnik View Post
I ended up going with the GR8TOPS hardtop because as I previously mentioned I wanted OEM but couldn't find one that was in good shape, by my definition of good shape. There were a few out there in the $1k - $1.5k that require a bunch of work, touch up paint, new wiper, broken glass or it just looked "ratty" looking. Didn't want to end up paying $2.5k-$3k for a 12 year old hardtop.



I explored CamperKing and was ready to pull the trigger but they have an awful shipping policy that would have required me to drive 2 hours (each way assuming no NYC traffic) to JFK airport in NYC. No thanks!



Install took about 5 hours with two other guys helping out. The main panels were not difficult to install, but require patience to make sure all seems are in place. The rear door was the most difficult to install, mainly because it requires a special tool - nutsert tool. We opted to use bolts instead which were difficult to install because we didn't want to drill through the rear gate. So we had to balance a nut inside of a wrench and then stick inside the vent opening, while trying to get those bolts to thread. It took time but we did it. I'm happy with the results!


That looks awesome!
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Old 05-06-2017, 10:56 PM   #17
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What the WHAT?!?! I'm typically not a fan of LJs, but you may have just changed my mind! That is beautiful! Great stuff, enjoy it.
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Old 05-07-2017, 08:47 AM   #18
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That GR8TOPS top looks really cool!! Could you post more pics?

Thanks
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Old 05-07-2017, 04:18 PM   #19
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Want!!
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Old 05-07-2017, 06:29 PM   #20
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A few trail photos of my LJ Safari Cab (don't be fooled by the CJ grille, it's a 2006 LJ ).







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Old 05-07-2017, 10:06 PM   #21
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That settles the matter. I want the Gr8top safari.

Now, do I sell my 86 Tula AKS-74U, or my SAN StG-553??????
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Old 05-08-2017, 08:36 AM
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Jeff's is similar but different than the gr8tops top. After doing endless diligence I found out that Jeff is the designer of this top but licensed out to Matt at gr8tops. Jeff's has different features like those roll up sides. The gr8tops version cannot do that without some sort of modification.

I actually tried to get in touch with Jeff to see if he had any other designs like his black Jeep, but all of his forum inboxes are full. Jeff does some great work.

I'll post some more pics shortly but my favorite part is the rear gate converting to a full size door.

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A few trail photos of my LJ Safari Cab (don't be fooled by the CJ grille, it's a 2006 LJ ).







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Old 05-08-2017, 11:13 AM   #23
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Jeff's is similar but different than the gr8tops top. After doing endless diligence I found out that Jeff is the designer of this top but licensed out to Matt at gr8tops. Jeff's has different features like those roll up sides. The gr8tops version cannot do that without some sort of modification.
That's correct. Think of my Safari Cab as the "concept car version", it has a lot of features that Gr8Tops decided not to put into the production version, such as the roll-up soft sides. If someone buys a Gr8Tops version and wants to implement some of the features that are part of my version I can provide info on how to do any of the features.

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I actually tried to get in touch with Jeff to see if he had any other designs like his black Jeep, but all of his forum inboxes are full. Jeff does some great work.
My forum inboxes fill up too fast for me to manage them so I just leave them full. Best way to communicate with me is by posting in one of my threads. Some forums offer the option of sending an email, but unfortunately this one doesn't.

Other designs like my black Jeep? Yes, I've done a JK version of the hardtop, it looks quite a bit different but has all the same features and more. I've also done a half cab version of it for the TJ/LJ and built two pickups with it.

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I'll post some more pics shortly but my favorite part is the rear gate converting to a full size door.
It's one of my favorite features too . Makes access to the cargo area more convenient.

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Old 05-08-2017, 11:26 AM
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[QUOTE=jscherb;30051833]That's correct. Think of my Safari Cab as the "concept car version", it has a lot of features that Gr8Tops decided not to put into the production version, such as the roll-up soft sides. If someone buys a Gr8Tops version and wants to implement some of the features that are part of my version I can provide info on how to do any of the features.

Since I now have the Top I would love to hear any feedback on how to implement the soft roll-up sides and any other ideas you may have.

I would also love to know how you attached the rear window to the gate. I did not use a nutsert and instead used a bolt that goes through the back part of the gate - not all the way through the gate. I was thinking about going all the way through the gate to make it easier to take off, but I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:40 PM   #25
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I would also love to know how you attached the rear window to the gate. I did not use a nutsert and instead used a bolt that goes through the back part of the gate - not all the way through the gate. I was thinking about going all the way through the gate to make it easier to take off, but I would love to hear your thoughts.
Since the beginning Gr8Tops attached the barn door differently than it is on my Safari Cab. Originally they used two z-shaped brackets (kind of like stake pockets) that attached to the tailgate with longer bolts throug the four bolt holes in the side of the spare carrier (all the way through the tailgate). The stakes for the upper door slid into the brackets and clamped in place. They may have changed that in later versions, since that version didn't use/need the nutserts you mentioned.

My stakes have holes in them for bolts that go into threaded inserts in the tailgate. My threaded inserts are welded in place - I never intended this technique for production, only for mine. There were several options for production and Gr8Tops chose the z-brackets. But as I said, they may have changed those since the early tops, I don't know.

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Since I now have the Top I would love to hear any feedback on how to implement the soft roll-up sides and any other ideas you may have.
I'm writing at a rest stop on the road, I'll answer the roll-up soft sides question in detail later when I'm not on the go, hopefully this evening.
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:12 PM
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Since the beginning Gr8Tops attached the barn door differently than it is on my Safari Cab. Originally they used two z-shaped brackets (kind of like stake pockets) that attached to the tailgate with longer bolts throug the four bolt holes in the side of the spare carrier (all the way through the tailgate). The stakes for the upper door slid into the brackets and clamped in place. They may have changed that in later versions, since that version didn't use/need the nutserts you mentioned.

My stakes have holes in them for bolts that go into threaded inserts in the tailgate. My threaded inserts are welded in place - I never intended this technique for production, only for mine. There were several options for production and Gr8Tops chose the z-brackets. But as I said, they may have changed those since the early tops, I don't know.



I'm writing at a rest stop on the road, I'll answer the roll-up soft sides question in detail later when I'm not on the go, hopefully this evening.
I appreciate you taking the time to reply to these topics and really look forward to hearing what you have to say about any mods that can be done, especially the soft top roll-up.

I basically copied you on the rear gate install except I didn't have threaded inserts so we taped/placed a nut inside a wrench, and then "jimmy'ed" the wrench into the rear gate. We pre-drilled the appropriate holes in the rear gate and then we were able to line up that bolt with that hole and also the hole in the stake and screw into the wrench-nut.
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Old 05-08-2017, 07:08 PM   #27
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Since I now have the Top I would love to hear any feedback on how to implement the soft roll-up sides and any other ideas you may have.
I've done two different designs of roll-up soft sides for the Safari Cab. The set I use the most is pictured below. With this set the rear corners of the hardtop stay in place so I can have the roll-up sides but still use the barn door in the back:



Or alternatively, I can install a soft barn door, which is just like a soft upper half door. What's nice about that is that it uninstalls quickly with just 4 wing nuts and stores above the roll bars in the extra height of the Safari Cab, so I can remove it on the road or trail and store it out of the way.



Recently I did step-by-step instructions for converting a JK factory hardtop to modular assembly, and in that thread I documented how the soft sides are sewn, the soft sides start here: Converting a factory JK/JKU hardtop to modular - Page 5 - Expedition Portal

I documented the soft barn door elsewhere, I can point you to that if you want to build one of those too.

I posted the set above because the link shows the details of them, but unfortunately those don't work with the stock Gr8Tops Safari Cab because the hard sides and rear corners are molded as one piece. For the Gr8Tops version, you need support brackets for the back of the hardtop, they're shown in these photos:





About 2 months ago a group of Safari Cab owners on JeepForum asked about those brackets so I arranged a group by with the hardware company that's set up to manufacture them. Sorry you missed out on that. A simple set of brackets wouldn't be too hard to build though.

Also for the Gr8Tops version you need soft sides that go all the way around the back. The two photos above show the Gr8Tops version rolled up; here's a photo of one of those sets rolled down, it's a rainy day and this photo was taken on the way to a trail in Colorado - I've got everything rolled down to keep the inside dry.



This version is constructed very similarly to the first version in the link above, except that the side panels zip to the back panel, and there's a bar across the tailgate opening cut down from a factory tailgate bar. The bar is supported on each end by the roof brackets mentioned above.

Check out the link to the first set above; it's a fairly straightforward sewing job for anyone with just a little bit of experience sewing tents or automotive fabric like convertible tops. I sewed the first set above myself; the sets I have for the Gr8Tops version were sewn by an automotive upholstery manufacturer I was arranging to do them in production.

Happy to answer any other questions you might have.

There are a bunch of other differences between the Gr8Tops version and mine, most are fairly small. Two other notable ones are that mine has a wiper/washer for the rear barn door window, and my roof rack is supported by brackets to the roll bars so no weight is borne by the fiberglass roof - that's how I can support a roof-top tent plus occupants up there, even with the hard sides removed.
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Old 05-08-2017, 07:16 PM   #28
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OP: since you have no location in your Profile it's impossible to tell where you are located but there is a guy here in Arizona that has not one but TWO LJ hard tops for sale:

https://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/pts/6067968440.html
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Old 05-08-2017, 08:13 PM
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OP: since you have no location in your Profile it's impossible to tell where you are located but there is a guy here in Arizona that has not one but TWO LJ hard tops for sale:

https://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/pts/6067968440.html
Thanks but I'm in the northeast so Zona is not possible. I looked for an OEM hardtop for 2 years with no luck, all I could find were abused ones and people wanted $2k for them. I have no regrets with the gr8tops top, it is a sick top that Jeff designed and I'm glad to have it.
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Old 05-08-2017, 08:24 PM
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Since I now have the Top I would love to hear any feedback on how to implement the soft roll-up sides and any other ideas you may have.
I've done two different designs of roll-up soft sides for the Safari Cab. The set I use the most is pictured below. With this set the rear corners of the hardtop stay in place so I can have the roll-up sides but still use the barn door in the back:



Or alternatively, I can install a soft barn door, which is just like a soft upper half door. What's nice about that is that it uninstalls quickly with just 4 wing nuts and stores above the roll bars in the extra height of the Safari Cab, so I can remove it on the road or trail and store it out of the way.



Recently I did step-by-step instructions for converting a JK factory hardtop to modular assembly, and in that thread I documented how the soft sides are sewn, the soft sides start here: Converting a factory JK/JKU hardtop to modular - Page 5 - Expedition Portal

I documented the soft barn door elsewhere, I can point you to that if you want to build one of those too.

I posted the set above because the link shows the details of them, but unfortunately those don't work with the stock Gr8Tops Safari Cab because the hard sides and rear corners are molded as one piece. For the Gr8Tops version, you need support brackets for the back of the hardtop, they're shown in these photos:





About 2 months ago a group of Safari Cab owners on JeepForum asked about those brackets so I arranged a group by with the hardware company that's set up to manufacture them. Sorry you missed out on that. A simple set of brackets wouldn't be too hard to build though.

Also for the Gr8Tops version you need soft sides that go all the way around the back. The two photos above show the Gr8Tops version rolled up; here's a photo of one of those sets rolled down, it's a rainy day and this photo was taken on the way to a trail in Colorado - I've got everything rolled down to keep the inside dry.



This version is constructed very similarly to the first version in the link above, except that the side panels zip to the back panel, and there's a bar across the tailgate opening cut down from a factory tailgate bar. The bar is supported on each end by the roof brackets mentioned above.

Check out the link to the first set above; it's a fairly straightforward sewing job for anyone with just a little bit of experience sewing tents or automotive fabric like convertible tops. I sewed the first set above myself; the sets I have for the Gr8Tops version were sewn by an automotive upholstery manufacturer I was arranging to do them in production.

Happy to answer any other questions you might have.

There are a bunch of other differences between the Gr8Tops version and mine, most are fairly small. Two other notable ones are that mine has a wiper/washer for the rear barn door window, and my roof rack is supported by brackets to the roll bars so no weight is borne by the fiberglass roof - that's how I can support a roof-top tent plus occupants up there, even with the hard sides removed.
I am lost for words on how awesome your designs are. As you noted the gr8tops rear corners are connected to the side panels so you would need those brackets. I don't even know if those brackets would support the roof since we now have different designs, nor would I even know where to begin to have them properly fabricated.

If you do run a group buy, or decide to mod any tops on the side please keep me in mind. I'd love to to be able to remove the sides while keeping the roof in place and utilize the soft sides or no sides....Im in the northeast if you ever make a run into New England.

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