- Article/photo's courtesy of:
- Eric Hummel, AKA Grim-ReaperWell here comes summer again, I enjoy those nice days where it's just right to be driving around in no more than my CK5 hooded sweat shirt. Nice evenings rolling through the countryside and being able to look up and see the stars. I love it! I am so happy to have a Roadster K5, as nice as the wife's 79 is with A/C and power windows I still like driving my 75 better when I can have the top off. I just grin ear to ear every time we get one of those perfect days for a convertible.
Specialty Top's Fasttrac Soft Top
Well call me a wimp but after 3 years of nothing more than a home brew bikini top on my old 75 I needed something to better deal with those spring showers that also come with those nice spring day's. My bikini top was "water resistant" but not "water proof", it didn't have sides so if the rain was going sideways, you were wet. I have been caught in more than one down pour that was hitting the canvas so hard it was misting in the truck and I had to wear a ball cap to keep my glasses dry. Then there was my wife and kids giving me an earful about being wet, yeah call me a wimp but I was ready for something better and so was the family.
Well I decided to call up Specialty Top Co. and order a Fasttrac top, after talking to the folks at STC I decided that I wanted my top to be Spice in color. My old 75 doesn't have A/C so I thought the lighter color would mean less transmitted heat in these hot Georgia summers. Ohhhhhh I can hear it now, "Spice? STC only makes tops in Black and White", not true, they have several colors available. In addition to the traditional Black Crush and white they also have Spice, Red, and Denim blue. On a limited availability they also have Almond, Charcoal (medium gray) and a very nice Black Denim.
Shot with no top
Shot of hard top in Yard
"Fasttrac" may have also caught a few eyes also, Kayline made the Fasttrac but as we all know they went out of business a couple years back. Well Specialty Top acquired the patterns and tooling from Kayline and is still producing the Fasttrac. Not only do they have the patterns they also have many of the old employee's so your getting the same Fasttrac top, made by the same people. Specialty top, as a company, is new but they have all the top making experience that Kayline had acquired in it's 45 years of business.
Photo of color samples
Well the day finally arrived and I had a nice big box waiting for me when I came home, unfortunately I don't get home till dark on Day light savings time and my truck doesn't fit in the garage. I had to wait till the weekend and hope it didn't rain. Seems old Mother Nature has been plotting against me this spring and giving nice days when I'm stuck at work and then raining all weekend when I was off. The weekend arrived and old Mother Nature was being nice, after breaking my back removing the hard top, quite possibly for the last time, I was ready to start to install the new STC soft-top.
Before you start you want to check your bed rails for any problems and take care of them, some of the bolt holes on my bed rails were a little boogered up. A little quality time with a hammer to knock down the high spots and some touch up paint took care of the issues.
I opened the box from STC and pulled out the top and hardware, I read the instructions to see what I needed for the install, One thing of note is that STC recommends above 70 degrees for the initial installation. I decided to lay the top in the sun while I installed the brackets and bows on the truck. This will let the fabric soften up some. I was borderline on the recommended temperature and the truck was parked in the shade. The instructions warn you it will stretch some and settle in, installing it in colder weather might lead to an improper fit since the top will be constricting. The colder the temperature the harder time you will have installing it on the truck.
Picture of boogered up bolthole
I went about reading the rest of the instructions and collecting tools I would need to install the top. The instructions are a little hard to follow till your actually doing the install. The top is not that complicated but do take the time to read the instructions a few times before you begin, as you are in the process of the installation and have the parts in your hands it will make sense.
Shot of top on tarp
Shot of installation hardware
The first part is to attach the Fasttrac rails to the bed rails on the truck, these use the existing holes for the hard top, simple enough (the rails are four pieces). You need to pay attention to the locating holes for the brackets that the bows attach to the truck with. When they are in the correct location the holes lined up well. It took just a few minutes with a ratchet to have them bolted down.
Shot of the rails from above
Shot of the rails from the side
The next step is to install the windshield header track, the instructions are a little vague here, it tells you to locate the center of the windshield header and mark the centerline in some way, I used a piece of masking tape and marked it with a pen. The instructions I had are wrong here, they reference the 69-72 trucks because it talks of using a rain gutter to reference the position. On the 73-75 I feel the correct way to locate this part is center the track side to side and leave about a 1/4- 3/8's inch gap between the track and the windshield rubber, I went 1/8 of an inch and it's a little tight.I reported the problem with the instructions on this part to Specialty top and they are correcting them. They did agree that it seemed that this section of the instructions sounded like they were for the older trucks and this top does share a few parts with the first generation trucks. If you get one of these tops you should get the new instructions and won't run into this problem.
Once you find center, use a little masking tape to hold the track in the correct location, use the holes in the track as your template where you will want to drill the 1/8th inch pilot holes for the screws. I would recommend a little silicone sealant on the screw threads to seal the hole and help prevent any rust forming.
Next thing to install is the bow brackets, you will have to drill a couple holes and install the supplied sheet metal screws to secure the bow mounting brackets. You will use the tracks as your template for where the holes need to be drilled, the Screws for these locations have hex heads so use a ratchet. On the long bracket you want to use the holes that will put the bracket away from the outside edge of the bed rail. This is to keep the bows clear of the windows as they might cause a wear mark if they rubbed. The front bracket has slots. Again slide it away from the outside edge. Silicon sealant like the other screws is again a good idea.
Shot of windshield header track
The bows come in two halves to make it easier to ship, in the center is a sleeve, just locate the mate and slide them together. The bows are bent a little wider than the brackets are spaced, this will keep the sleeve pressed together so no screws are needed where the bow halves meet. Find yourself a helper to install the bows into the brackets, otherwise it's a little bit of a fight to hold the bow and install the bolt used for the pivot and not bounce the other end of the bow off the body on the other side of the truck. Make sure you reference the instructions on what bow goes where, all three are different and if they don't end up where they belong, you're not going to get the top on.
The track for the tailgate is very similar to the windshield header, the tailgates will vary a little and some have a rib like the truck pictured below. If you have the rib like this truck, You pretty well can only put the track in one place. If you happen to be running a conventional truck tailgate instead of a window gate or a window gate without the rib, you need to install the track just below the curve at the top.
Shot of truck with bows being installed with helper
The most difficult part of the install is the side window tracks, our trucks are old and with age, body sag, worn hinges, not all trucks are identical. The body will be off some, windows will be adjusted different and doors will be out of alignment. I would recommend that you take the time to fix those sagging doors before mounting these parts because once these parts are installed there is no turning back. You can get hinge repair kits at most parts stores that carry the "Help" products, they are cheap and relatively easy to install. The #2 position body mounts (right behind the front seats) really crush down over the years, mine were recently replaced with Polly mounts. The old rubber mounts had crushed down close to an inch and caused numerous problems with alignment of the doors, fenders and top. It will effect the distance the top of the windshield is to the front edge of the bed rail, this will make a difference of where the holes for the window brackets will need to be drilled. If your body mounts are shot I would recommend replacing them before installing this top. If you replaced them after the top was installed you may get alignment problems with door glass where the top forms a seal.
Tail gate location
The window tracks require you to drill a 3/8s inch hole in the corner of the windshield header and another in the top edge of the bed rail right behind the door. The hard top will hide both of these holes if you plan to swap it back on in the winter months. The first step is remove the Philips head screw that retains the header seal corner and move it out of the way. Locate the horizontal bar for the side your working on and put the rod into the locating hole on the first bow. A helper to steady the bow is nice but if your helper has lost interest, like mine did and went down the street to play with the neighbor kid, you can take a bungy cord and put some tension on the first bow to help steady the parts.
With the window up, locate where the 3/8's inch hole will need to be drilled. You want to locate the hole in such a way that the foam can contact the window the full length of the horizontal track, it doesn't need to be crushed flat just touching (Be careful to make sure this track is rotated correctly). The front side has a slight bend that follows the bend in the top of the door frame that you can use to see if you have it right. You might even want to attach the vertical track loosely so you can see if the angle is correct. You only have one shot at this hole and if it is wrong the window will not seal so double, triple, quadruple check that the hole is going to be in the correct location.
Once your positive you have the correct place located for the hole, center punch the location to keep the drill bit from walking. It would be a good idea to take a 1/8" drill bit and drill a pilot hole before getting the 3/8"s bit out to drill to the correct diameter. Be very careful to hold the drill at the same angle that the pin on the track is angled. There is an inner panel that you will drill into so I stress how important it is to get the drill lined up the same way as the pin on the end of the track. There is a possibility that if you were at the wrong angle that the pin my not seat correctly.
You may need to trim the weather stripping edge some to allow clearance for the track. There is a piece of metal backing in the weather stripping and I found the easiest way to trim this was with some metal shears.
Shot of drill in hole
Check how well you lined up the parts by closing the door and checking to see if the foam strip is in contact with the window, if it's a little off you should be able to "tweak" the horizontal track for a minor adjustment.
Weather striping cut with horizontal track installed
The horizontal rod is much easier to line up, just keep in mind the foam strip needs to again touch the window. The top will already line up if the horizontal bar lined up, just need to figure out where the hole in the bed rail needs to be and mark it. Double check you are in the right spot before you drill the hole. Install the vertical track and check the fit against the window.
Window up with track parallel
After you have the holes where they need to be you might want to take a small modeling brush and some paint and dress where you drilled to help prevent rust. Periodically you may want to do this since this will be a metal on metal wear spot, rust could form so keep an eye out for it. Well that's the hard parts of the install, the rest is easy, if you installed everything correctly in about ten minutes you will have the top on.
First step is to install the leading edge into the track on the windshield header, to do this you need to roll the seam under and insert seam first into the track, the tracks around the side glass works the same way.
Center the leading edge of the top on the windshield header, next get inside and pull the 1st bow into place and snap the flap on the top to the corresponding snaps on the bow. Repeat for the second bow.
Track with top partly installed
The side curtains use a "K-Lock" track that is sewn to the bottom edge of the side curtain, the K-Lock simply slides into the track on the bed rails. Towards the center of the bed rail you might have to pull them back a little to hook the track. Once you have installed these a couple times you will know what to expect and it's no big deal. The rear corner of the top also has some of this track that needs to be hooked into the bed rail track.
Shot of snaps
The third bow also acts as the tensioner for the top, with the locking mechanism folded, attach the top to the bow with the same process as the first two bows. Install the bottom edge of the rear curtain/window into the track on the gate. Unzip the rear window a little on the sides so you can reach in and grab the third bow. While standing to the rear of the vehicle, pull the bow towards you until the locking mechanism pops into place.
Picture of K-Lock
The last part of the installation process is to install the four snaps on the corner of the windshield frame. I put down a few strips of masking tape to allow a place to mark the location of the snaps. Pull the corner of the top forward to put some tension on the corner. This should cause the rain gutter along the edge of the top to pull up. Take a pen and trace around the bottom of the snap onto the masking tape, this will help you locate the correct spot to drill the hole for the snap to be screwed down.
That's it! You're ready to go, you might want to park the truck in the sun for a couple days to help soften the tops and let it form to the bows.
Shot of snaps
Stowing your top.
I'm going to go in depth here, there are several options and I wanted to hit on the pros and cons of each, if you have a full roll cage it also will effect the way you stow the top.
First thing is releasing the tension on the top buy unlocking the third bow, the third bow also tensions the rear curtain/window. Anytime you need access to the rear you need to unzip the sides of the rear window and reach in and unlock the rear bow.
Next item is releasing the side curtains from the bed track, the windows are easily scratched, so take care to not rub them when any dirt that may be on them as I can guarantee you will scratch the window. You have a couple of options on what do with the windows. If it's going to be a nice day then take them off and just put them someplace safe. It only takes a minute to unzip them and leaving them at home is the safest thing to do to make them last a long time. You can leave the windows attached and just unzip the corners, then flip them onto the roof. Problem is a there is a very good chance that you will scratch them up, it can be done that way though but I don't recommend it.
The last thing you can do is unzip them and carefully pack them into the supplied bag. If your going to put them in the bag I recommend you hit the local discount store and pick up 3 BIG beach towels. When you fold the windows, have the towel between anywhere the windows could touch themselves to help prevent scratching the window. Try not to crease the windows when you fold them because repetitive creases in the same spot could lead the windows to tear. If it's cold out DO NOT remove the windows and top, the windows become easier to damage the colder it gets, STC does not recommend removing the top under 55 degrees for this reason. STC can make replacement side curtains if yours get damaged but with care they should last as long as the rest of the top.
Once you have figured out what you want to do to store the windows you can remove the rest of the top. On a stock vehicle all you need to do is unhook the windshield header snaps and pull the retaining strip out of the track. Remove the window tracks and pack them in the supplied bag then neatly fold the top towards the rear. The bows will not interfere with the rear seat and the top will drop into the cargo area, if the top is still snapped to the bows not much is needed to worry about, just take it easy the first ride and make sure there is no chance of the wind catching the top and pulling it out of the truck. If you have some problems then find a way to secure the top so it can't be damaged by the wind pulling it out of the truck.
Putting it up when it has been stowed this way is a breeze, if you have somebody to help then each person simply needs to grab the corner of the top where it joins the windshield. Lift the bows out of the stowed position and pull it upright. Install the strip on the front of the top into the header track. Put the side curtains and window tracks back on if they had been removed and lock the third bow.
Now if your running a full cage like I am, the center two bows may hit the cage when you try to fold them back into their stowed position, this is not a big deal. The top secures to the bows with high quality snaps so you the just unsnap the top when you want to enjoy the sun and bungy the bows to the cage, I also came up with two other alternatives.
One is to find some pins that are easily removed, I located some at my local hardware store that were just perfect. If you go the pin route and plan to just lay the bows in the back then you might want to drill and tap a screw into the sleeve to keep the bow from separating. Just make sure the screw is on the same side as the snaps so you don't wear a hole in the top. You could also let them come apart and stow them behind the back seat.
The third alternative is to hit your local fabric store and get some nylon webbing and make a strap or use a couple bungee straps. If you strap the first and second bow the roll bar then they can be left in place, it doesn't look that bad and for me it was a pretty good option. If you get caught in a sudden rain it will make putting the top up go much faster if you had to separate the top from the bows. Just make sure to strap the top down when it's folded since it doesn't have the bow keeping it from blowing out of the truck.
The down side is if your running tight trails where branches may catch the bows then you might want to go with the pin option so they can be stowed out of harms way. The bows retain the side window channels and spacer bar. A branch catching the bow would cause all these parts to come loose.
Pictures of bows bungee
What do I think of the top?
It's great! Does exactly what it is suppose to, I stay dry going down the road and I don't have to tarp the truck when I'm not driving it. The wife and kids are happy because they know if we get caught out in an afternoon rainstorm, we have a full top to keep them dry.
Does it leak?
It seals so well it's almost not worth mentioning the very minor leak I have observed, I must stress that it's such a small amount it is not really a problem, it's where the door glass and the top meet. In a fairly heavy rain, while parked, a few drops will eventually work down the seam where the side curtain and the flap for the top meet at the corner of the door glass. It doesn't pour in, it's just a couple of drops every once in a while that make it past. The drops cling to the window and follow it down and drain out the bottom of the door, it doesn't even hit the floor if the truck is parked level.
I tried to figure out an economical way that the problem could be solved to seal better in that area short of making some sort of frame with a seal, like the hard top has, that it could not be sealed any better. It would drive the cost of the product up to engineer anything better than what they have.
Is it loud going down the road?
No, not at all, the top has plenty of support and tension on it, so there is no flapping with the windows up. With the windows down you might get a little pop of the top hitting either the roll cage or a bow. What happens with the windows down at hwy speeds you form suction and the top sucks in, it's kind of like sticking a comforter in a garbage bag and sucking the air out with a vacuum cleaner, the reason is the top makes a fairly good seal. After a little thinking I came up with a simple solution that makes the problem much better, unzip the sides of the rear window, this allows a place for air to come in to equalize the air pressure and pretty well stopped the problem.
NOW A WARNING about unzipping the rear window, If your tail pipes exit at the rear bumper then this may not be a solution. As you probably noticed with the hard top, if the exhaust exits from the rear of your truck and the rear window is open, it will suck the exhaust right into the truck. My exhaust exits at the stock location from the side. I have not smelled any exhaust entering the truck with them in the stock location. Be safe and if you smell exhaust then seal that rear window back up.
Windows up I really feel it's quieter in the cabin than the hard top is, the fabric seems to absorb some of the noise that the hard top would bounce around. Wind noise is no worse than the hard top, yeah you hear somebody blowing a horn better but again, its fabric, not glass and fiberglass so that is too be expected, also strong crosswinds might pop the side curtains against the bows or a full cage.
Did you have any problems?
Yes but it was minor and STC is correcting the issue so that you don't have the same problem, seems STC had a production problem involving the bends in the support bows. It wasn't so bad that with some creativity, involving 3 sheet metal screws, I was able to install the top but it wasn't the way it was designed to work. Some how after making this top for years something changed, I'm told it was human error and a problem with the in house notes on what angles the bows were supposed to be bent at. It effected two tops I am told, mine was the second, I tracked down a few others that have this top and none of them said they had the issue. The folks at STC have been very up front and I have no reason to think that this problem extended beyond my top and the one produced before mine.
What really impressed me is that STC called me and asked me if I had a problem before I even had the top installed, they explained what the other customer was reporting and asked me to let them know if I had a problem, I did indeed have the same problem and STC bent over backwards to figure out what went wrong.
I was able to put STC in touch with a CK5 member that lived in the area, they ran their truck by STC's facility, STC measured the truck and did some test fitting to figure out what happened to their tooling. They corrected the problem and overnight expressed me replacement parts after test fitting the top on the local truck. The replacement parts did indeed correct the problem I experienced with the bows, I feel confident that no other customers will have the problem. I would not have even mentioned this other than I wanted people to know STC took care of me when there was a problem.
Here is an unconventional option for the tailgate, anybody that has hung around CK5 for a while probably knows a little about my old truck "Dollar". A few of them caught why I had a truck double when I was showing about the gate track (my truck is Tan and the picture shows my wife's Black 79). Dollar is the worlds first and possibly only K5 with a barn door tailgate. Well I thought that those of you who are running a Truck tailgate might like to know what I did because it may work for you, since the handle for the truck gate is on the outside that you can open the gate without having to mess with the top at all.
Well I had to come up with a work around to make this top fit my unique issue, the answer came to me at a traffic light while I was behind a relatively new Jeep. They have a track across the top of the tailgate opening that the top attaches too and the gate can be opened without touching the top. I had to figure out a way to do that with "Dollar". This was really simple for the most part, I took some 1x2 stock and made a cross bar for the rear, I had to put a couple long tabs of Quarter inch plate to jump the bed brace at the rear of the truck to a point where I could get to place a bolt. You need it spaced up that quarter inch to allow enough room that the gate is not going to touch the top, I then attached the track to the bottom side of the cross bar, I then took a piece of foam weather-stripping to make a seal to the gate.
Pictures of "Dollar's" tailgate
The only problem that this set up causes me is it pulls tight at the bottom where the rear curtain meets the corner of the top at the ends of the zipper. Not a big problem since you only need to use the zippers when your removing the rear window since you now have access to the rear of the vehicle.
Care and feeding.
This top does require some extra work so don't kid yourself, skipping on this means the top will not last as long. Sun is not a soft tops friend, when possible, park the truck in the shade, the less UV the top is exposed to the longer it will last. The windows in particular are the first to show signs of UV damage, STC recommends "303 Protectant" for their tops, they even sent a little sample. The stuff seems pretty good. Now finding this was a chore! Not a car parts place in town had it, I did find it at www.westmarine.com this is a national chain of Marine stores, pretty good chance you have one in your town. I have spoken with a few people in the detailing business about this product and all of those that were familiar with the product recommended it, this is to be used on both the top and the windows, it has UV inhibitor to help prevent sun damage.
Regular treatment should take no more than washing the top like you would a car you care about, just watch the harsh chemicals at car wash places. Plenty of water and a terry cloth towel for the window and a regular treatment of 303 Protectant. If you're going to be getting into a lot of mud I would recommend treating the top before you go, this will give it a layer of protection that will let the mud will rinse off easily, well I'm going to go enjoy a drive with the top off!
- Specialty Top Company **Out of business**