One-hour Ragtop

Though I’ve spent plenty of time in Jeeps, vintage Ford Broncos, and Land Rovers, I have always owned a pickup. Though seating is limited to two or three people, there is something about the versatility of a truck that fits my needs. When empty I can fill it will landscape supplies or lumber, haul a motorcycle, or take a load to the dump. Though I have a Leer canopy and a pop-up camper, which provide security when traveling (in Mexico for example) and a comfortable, dry abode when the weather turns ugly, my day-to-day duties (I live on acreage in California’s Sierra Nevada) require hoisting the canopy off quite often. This is where Bestop’s Supertop comes into play.

Known for quality canvas Jeep tops for over six decades, a few years ago Bestop introduced a new line of convertible canvas canopies for trucks. Built with the same quality as the original Jeep tops, their truck ragtop provides durability, easy removal, and one-of-a-kind styling. Also like their Jeep tops, the rear and side windows can be conveniently removed or rolled up for quick access to your gear, and all windows sport a 31-percent tint that meets U.S. and European vehicle regulations.

 

 

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Earlier this year I mounted the Supertop on Overland Journal’s long-term 2002 Tacoma. Installation took about 90 minutes and required only basic hand tools. Since that time I’ve enjoyed being able to fold the top forward (about a three-minute job) for the aforementioned tasks. It has been to Moab, Utah, for the Easter Jeep Safari, the Nevada deserts with our KLR 650 in the back, and through the American Southwest. Though it is not entirely sealed (a small amount of dust does seep in around the tailgate) I’ve found it to be very watertight—even during torrential Sierra Nevada thunderstorms. When I need to put the popup camper or canopy on, I fold up the Supertop, slip it back in the original box, and store it in my garage. And (from a simply egotistical standpoint), it looks really cool—rarely have I been stopped so often to ask about a product.

Bestop has an application for most full- and mid-sized trucks ranging from the Tacoma to the Ram 2500, and it will set you back about half the cost of a conventional canopy. In short, I like it. bestop.com, 800-845-3567

 

Installation difficulty: If you can change your oil, you’re in!

 

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Folding the Supertop forward to load a motorcycle for a trip to the desert is a five-minute task.

 

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Out of the box, the kit came complete with everything: Bestop’s Belt-rail mounting system, canvas top, tinted windows, hardware, foam tape, and “legible” instructions (I appreciated that part). Within about 90 minutes I was out on the road for a spin in my new ragtop. 

 

The Belt-rails go together first. Two clevis pins must be installed into a notched slot in the bow mount bracket from the outboard side. This will be used to affix the bow-mount framing to the rail. The two tailgate brackets attach with a cap-nut and face the inside of the bed. The top of the tab will eventually be the attachment point for the rear window.

 

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Apply the provided foam tape to the bottom of the mounting rail and place on the top of the bed rail.

 

Rather that drilling holes in your bed, Bestop provides conventional canopy clamps. Because I often use my camper shell clamps as tiedowns for a motorcycle, I decided to use the slightly heavier duty units that I already had. 

 

The main framing assembly is made up of three crossover hoops (or bows), each consisting of two slip-together sections that accept snap-together sleeves in the canvass top. At this point you are ready to fit the top to the truck.

 

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Pre-drilled holes accept the pins installed earlier.

 

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The top can now be unfolded and pulled into place. The front corners have heavy-duty plastic guards to protect the canvass corners.

 

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A Velcro strip across the front bed rail secures the window and provides a good seal against the elements. 

 

A plastic strip on the exterior edge of the top, along with a corner plate, slips into an adjoining groove on the mounting plate. 

 

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Ready for windows.

 

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A J-hook strip on the canvas accepts its counterpart on the window, creating an excellent bond. An additional strip of canvas, attached with Velcro, conceals the joint and keeps water out.

 

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The base of the window hooks onto the bed rail with a pressure-fit 

 

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Attached to the lower section of the rear window is a tailgate bar, which slides on to a rubber track and secures the window to the mounting rail plates. This also allows the tailgate and window to be opened independently from the other.

 

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Although Bestop claims that it folds away in “seconds,” by the time we removed the windows and stowed them, folded the frame and canvas forward, and tied it off with the provided buckle straps, we found it actually took about three minutes. In reality, it did take “only seconds,” 180 of them. Not bad for an instant convertible.

Chris spent his formative years riding dirt bikes with his dad in the deserts of Southern California and Baja, Mexico, which led to a lifelong quest for adventure. He is handy behind a viewfinder and at the keyboard, and brings four decades of international travel experience to Overland Journal as Editor-in-Chief. His career, which includes work for National Geographic Adventure, Four Wheeler, Hot Rod, and Autoweek, has taken him through 50-plus countries and to every continent. He has also served as correspondent to magazines in a dozen countries and in as many languages. In 2013 he was part of the Expeditions7 team that crossed Antarctica and he has recently been inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame as a pioneering journalist. When not behind the camera Chris can be found on The Office (his sailboat), or undertaking meticulous “research” for upcoming articles in locales such as Tequila, Mexico.