Converting a factory JK/JKU hardtop to modular

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Repairing the second Freedom panel requires a little more work than the first one because of its more extensive damage. I posted these photos before, they show the crack all along the center edge of the panel.



The crack goes all the way through, in this photo I'm bending the broken section up at the crack.



The only way to really fix this is to break the crack completely, remove the broken section and put it back, fixing the crack in the process. So I broke the crack the rest of the way and pulled the broken part off:



To repair the crack requires some sort of backing surface to bond to, so in this next photo I've got strips of scrap fiberglass clamped along the crack area. I've got two pieces stacked to build up some thickness to form a "ledge" to bond the broken piece to when I put it back in place. Whenever I make a fiberglass part, I save whatever useful bits of fiberglass I might have trimmed off the part after I took it out of the mold, so that's where these strips came from.



This next shot is a closeup of one end of the broken part. You can better see the strips I added along the edge, also more visible is a backing piece I put behind the short crack.



This will cure overnight, and tomorrow I'll epoxy the removed piece back in place, bonding it to the edge and the strips I added. Once that's in place, the patch panel I molded the other day can be spliced in just like on the other Freedom panel I did this morning.

Stay tuned. more steps to come.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Your work never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for sharing posts like this.
Thanks. A big part of why I'm repairing these is to be able to post the repair steps so hopefully people with broken fiberglass parts will learn a little about how to do fiberglass repair. But I've also got a custom project in mind for these, once they're repaired I'll be modifying them and I'll post a how-to about the modifications too.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
The broken piece is now epoxied back on to the main panel.



The outside surface of the panel is better than it looks in this next photo, there's a lot of dust and tape residue on it but only a few small scratches to fix. The main repair to the outside will be along the top in this photo where the crack was and I broke the part off so I could reattach it.



I'll let this epoxy cure overnight and then I'll fit the patch panel I made into the broken out section just like I did with the first panel.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
After sanding the epoxy, doing a little filler work and a quick coat of paint, this is what the broken joint looks like on the outside surface of the panel. It needs a little more finishing work which I'll do when I fix the rest of the scratches in the surface of the panel, but this is a good start that won't be visible when the panel repair is complete. Compare this to the second photo in my last post on this subject and you'll see where the crack repair was.



The next step in the repair of this panel was splicing in the patch section. Procedure was the same as I did for the patch on the first panel.

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Repairs basically done. I've got a little fine sanding to do on the joints and some touch-up of scratches on the outer surfaces but the real work is done and these panels are now usable.



Still a little touch-up necessary on the outside:



A reminder of what I started with...



 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I took the time to fix these panels for several reasons, not the least of which was to to demonstrate and post how-to steps to help people fix their own fiberglass problems. But I also wanted them to try another custom modification.

A while back I modified a pair of panels to have tilt-up skylights. A few photos:





Another idea I've got is to install fixed skylights. These wouldn't hinge or tilt-up, they'd be fixed in place and permanently sealed. I'll do a step-by-step on that mod in case people want to modify a set of Freedom panels for their own Jeep, but I may not get to it for a while because I've got a bunch of other higher priority projects and some travel.

I'll probably prototype the fixed skylights with tinted acrylic, but if they were to really be used I'd go with tempered tinted glass, which wouldn't scratch and would be impervious to UV damage.
 

Zeep

Adventurer
So, did you paint the inside of the panel?
Also refresh my memory on what you use to paint the exterior.
 

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jscherb

Expedition Leader
So, did you paint the inside of the panel?
Also refresh my memory on what you use to paint the exterior.
I did a little bit of touch-up with white rattle can semi-gloss, but only around the joints of the repairs. Before the touch-up, I washed the inside of the panel with a foaming spray bathroom cleaner with bleach. That cleans and whitens the dirty and stained white surface.

For the exterior I use MOPAR rattle can hardtop touch-up paint, it's a perfect match and blends very nicely.
 
Hi Jeff - question for you. After nearly a year of waiting for a 'decent' deal on a JKU hard top, I was finally able to score one that is a good candidate for this project. Being in Florida, I suppose the market for hard tops is less than saturated.

After reviewing your instructions a few times, I am a little hung up on the cut lines for the C pillar side panels. Being a JKU, it seems the panels don't terminate as cleanly as they do on the JK. Pics for reference below:

C pillar






Proposed Cut Line - A








Proposed Cut Line - B









Initially, A seemed to make the most sense, but then thinking of when the side panels are out, that would leave an awkward 'triangle' protruding down from the roof line. For this reason, B might be the better option.

I'd like to get your thoughts on which route you would go and if you foresee any issues with creating the flanges.

Thanks!
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Hi Jeff - question for you. After nearly a year of waiting for a 'decent' deal on a JKU hard top, I was finally able to score one that is a good candidate for this project. Being in Florida, I suppose the market for hard tops is less than saturated.

After reviewing your instructions a few times, I am a little hung up on the cut lines for the C pillar side panels. Being a JKU, it seems the panels don't terminate as cleanly as they do on the JK. Pics for reference below:

C pillar






Proposed Cut Line - A








Proposed Cut Line - B









Initially, A seemed to make the most sense, but then thinking of when the side panels are out, that would leave an awkward 'triangle' protruding down from the roof line. For this reason, B might be the better option.

I'd like to get your thoughts on which route you would go and if you foresee any issues with creating the flanges.

Thanks!
I faced the same question when I made the JKU Safari Cab hardtop and I did what looks like your "B" option. It worked out great.

 
I faced the same question when I made the JKU Safari Cab hardtop and I did what looks like your "B" option. It worked out great.
Thanks for the quick reply! Makes sense. Did you do any flange work in the "l-shaped" area or some work to seal the panels? I wouldn't expect any clamping hardware, but perhaps a flange and gasket. A picture from the backside of this would be awesome if you're able to snap one easily.





And I assume with the factor top you would follow the line below?

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Thanks for the quick reply! Makes sense. Did you do any flange work in the "l-shaped" area or some work to seal the panels? I wouldn't expect any clamping hardware, but perhaps a flange and gasket. A picture from the backside of this would be awesome if you're able to snap one easily.





And I assume with the factor top you would follow the line below?

There are flanges along the joint and weatherstrip between the flanges. The Safari Cab parts are made in custom molds, not modified from factory hardtop parts, so they're quite different inside than the factory hardtop and an inside photo probably wouldn't help much. This is a photo of the top part of the Safari Cab C pillar, which is used when the roll-up soft sides are in place. The top of the hard side panels are shaped the same. These are different than what you'll be doing but maybe this will give you some idea of how the flange might look.

 
There are flanges along the joint and weatherstrip between the flanges. The Safari Cab parts are made in custom molds, not modified from factory hardtop parts, so they're quite different inside than the factory hardtop and an inside photo probably wouldn't help much. This is a photo of the top part of the Safari Cab C pillar, which is used when the roll-up soft sides are in place. The top of the hard side panels are shaped the same. These are different than what you'll be doing but maybe this will give you some idea of how the flange might look.
Thanks, that makes sense and I can visualize what you've done with your custom top on the factory top. I'll be working on this project slowly, but will report back my progress/questions as I can. Thanks again!
 
I was able to get the panels cut - pretty easy process. Thanks again for your instructions! I will probably have to put this project on hold for a few weeks, but something I have been pondering, and I would appreciate your thoughts... did you consider going with a tool-less quick release mounting/attachment option for the panels? Being in Florida we get a lot of rain, often times unexpectedly, so having the ability to quickly replace the panels would be appealing. The idea on unbolting like 20+ bolts sounds cumbersome. My concern with this, however, is ensuring the panels are secure so they don't fly off while driving down the highway. Any thoughts on this, Jeff?

Also, before I sell my 'good condition' hard top (I already have my soft top back on), do you suggest that I make fiberglass copies of the side and rear windows, so when I go to build the barn door and side window panels, I already have the shape (convex curvature). This seems like a no brainer, but wasn't sure if you had any other methods to recreate the complex curving of the windows.


 
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