Our homemade striped fabric and homemade top and seat covers. You CAN do it to.
For our finished Surrey we relied on this press photo from 1959 Jeep Gala Rental Plan Booklet as our guide for the finished look we were wanting to obtain.
It was not so easy to start working on top as our jeep came with out a stitch of fabric on it. Seats had been sold from the Surrey before I found it. So finding replacement front & rear seats was a priority. We were able to track down a nice set of correct 70/30 front seats from out west. When we got them they were covered with a bluish/greenish flowery material that looked to be from the 60s. When we received the rear seat we bought from Florida we couldn’t believe what we pulled out of the box. Rear seat was in great shape but was covered with same bluish/greenish flowery material as on the front seats. After talking to both sellers again we determined the seats had more than likely came out of same donor jeep from out west.You can see the fabric that was on both front & rear seats that came from each end of the country. Certainly there couldn’t be two individuals picking this fabric for their seats. Could there?
Front seats did need reconditioned with few new ‘used’ coils springs, new edge wire, BD clips and helicoil springs. Now they should be good for another 50-60 years.
Before we could start measuring for fabric we needed to do some top frame work. The two main 3pc bows had been assembled & welded. The ‘S’ bends had been cut off each side of front bow and then the shortened bow was welded to rear bow to form a ‘L’ shape. After getting the bows separated and getting help from another jeeper creating the ‘S’ bend pieces,they were welded to bow uprights and front bow were now full length. We only found a couple of the rods to top frame and those we used to make the rods needed to finish top frame.
Thanks to S. Marx for his diagram with measurements of frame that helped get everything squared up, especially the condition my bows came in. Having no patterns we needed to be as close to original as we could be with the frame. Surprising how solid it felt with all rods in place and snugged up. Getting the frame on the DJ was great but I had concerns about making sure it would slide right on the Surrey tub. I would have to continue using the DJ as the Surrey tub still needed some work before being able to use it for top work.
Not finding the correct blue/white striped fabric or not wanting to pay extreme costs for what little we would need we opted for creating our own material/fabric. Knowing that all pieces were made from standard 54″ material we just needed to try and figure out how much material we would need to make our top, side/door/rear curtains, valance panels, spare tire cover, wheel well pads and sun visors. Because we have never attempted anything like this, we felt a little overwhelmed, but that soon faded.
Researching for spray dyes we found a business called Parasol located in Canada
They carry a product called Varikote which is a Vinyl Dye/Paint.
We sent the company original blue color swatch to ensure correct shade of dye. After getting dye we tested it on 2-3 types of fabric to be sure dye would adhere to material. Once tested we purchased several yards of a white ‘pinpoint’ textured material as close to original as could be found. We stretched fabric out over working table of plywood. approx 20ft. Once fabric was stretched out it was measured & taped off as seen here.
What worked best was the 3/4″ blue vinyl body tape along each inside and regular masking tape covering the center. Wanting to get the best results we could from this dye job we purchased the recommended HPLV spray gun from Parasol to use to shoot dye with and used same gun to paint jeep. Besides the striped fabric we also dyed solid blue fabric and the fringe.
Having all our material we reached out to a couple businesses that made military tops to see if maybe they could help with sewing up fabric. We made arraignments with Mona who said she would try and help us with our top if we could get the fabric to her. We boxed up the large roll of finished fabric, fringe and lots of pictures and what measurements we were able to get from tub and top frame and sent it to Mona. We were waiting to hear that she had got started or maybe was finished or something from her. 6-8 months went by when we received our large box with all our material and a note. It said the business had been sold and they were no longer able to assist us with making anything for our Surrey.
By the time we got the material returned we had the Surrey tub further along to where we were able to use it to fit the top.
With this setback we were back to square one so we decided to try and make ourselves. A pattern would make this challenge a little easier so we worked to create a pattern and a top at same time. The green striped side curtains seen here were borrowed from S. Marx’s and his Surrey.
Not long after receiving Steve’s curtains in mail I found an original full set of curtains plus a used top.
The curtains we found and kept included door, rear side, and back panel. Finding the original curtains saved me from having to make a set and having now I would be able to get snaps and turnbuckles placed in correct position on new top.
Not having to make the curtains we started on valance panels
Fabrication was easy enough as we just had to determine height and length needed from front bow to rear bow and distance between rear bow inside edge side to side. Pieces were cut and welded together making a rectangular frame that could be secured to inside bows. Material was then wrapped around frame and we used snaps to secure fabric to frame.
These panels were not part of all production Surrey Galas and we are not sure if they were standard equipment or something that became a ordered option. Surrey/Gala parts list show these as being included as part of the new production vehicle. Changes made during production were not documented very well. One example would be the color of fringe. Jeep parts list clearly show fringe as matching body color, either green/blue/pink. If a change to white was made it is not shown in later parts list or by special bulletin. White fringe is an acceptable replacement and on most all Surrey Galas you see today they have the white fringe and most owners continue to use white when they have new tops made. When we tried to obtain help in making our top we requested the fringe to be dyed blue to match body color. We were told it couldn’t happen as fringe wouldn’t hold color. That may have been true with yesterdays dyes but today they have dyes that adhere and don’t fade or scratch off.
In trying to create a usable pattern we used some cardboard secured up against top frame in order to get straight line all the way around. This was a must for us to get both sides even with front and rear fabric panel.
We also added two flaps that wrap around front bow and hold top securely with two turnbuckles. This idea was borrowed from the M38 top construction.
Once we had main body of top we started to pin fringe to fabric all the way around, we marked location of all turnbuckles and flaps that are used to hold top on frame. On the side flaps that go around the side rods we used the double shaft turnbuckles for space to attach the side curtains and flaps to rods. We added single shaft turnbuckles in rear panel for curtain. Rope cord across top was done a couple times to get it just right. Had purchased one large run of fringe so that was pretty simple to do.
We also added extra material inside top where it rode over the bows and rods. Center rod that runs from windshield frame to front bow was covered with sleeve to help protect fabric. We also made covers for sun visors, My wife who did all sewing really wanted the striped material for visors, she liked that look. Knowing visors were originally same solid color as body I went ahead and used the striped material for visors. I did set aside enough solid blue material to re-cover the visors again. Also the visor mounting hardware is incorrect, at the time we installed them the original style mounting brackets were not available, Since then Jeepsterman http://www.thejeepsterman.com now sells correct original style brackets, so those also will be changed when new solid colored visors are finished.
Wheel well pads also made incorrectly but again I have enough material to make another set of wheel well pads. Didn’t know they came forward of and fit around front bow pocket. They also had flaps with snaps to secure to wheel well.
We have been in some real heavy winds while driving down highway and haven’t experienced any problems or noticed any areas of concern with our DIY top and seat covers.
We would not hesitate in making another top over again. It provided my entire family a chance to get involved with this project. They have all helped get it to this condition and now we all feel a sense of accomplishment from it.