Tooling along taking in the bouquet of the landscape, the wind coursing through your hair, nothing beats a roadster for the full experience. But sometimes the experience can be just a little bit too...full. Like when the overnight cloudburst fills your car with water. Or when someone takes a criminal liking to something they just happened to see as they were checking out your car. Sometimes it helps to have just a little bit of protection.
As luck would have it, there's a solution as affordable as it is time-honored: the tonneau cover. Land-speed racers employed them as a means to improve a roadster's aerodynamics, but a tonneau serves an even greater functional purpose: it's a swatch of material that covers up tender bits. A bikini for your car, if you will.
But just because bikinis and tonneau covers look simple doesn't mean there's nothing to them. True, a tonneau cover is probably one of the most straight-forward trimming jobs out there, but they do require a few tricks. Paul Reichlin knows those tricks. What's more, he's willing to reveal them.
The tonneau he created for this '29 Ford is about as simple as it gets: it's two pieces of vinyl linked down the middle with a simple zipper, doubled and bound along the edges, and attached to the car by run-of-the-mill snaps. Leave it off for full exposure, attach the passenger side for partial shelter for solo runs, or zip it up for full cockpit protection.
Exceptions exist but Paul said he prefers one of two materials: Stayfast canvas or pinpoint-type vinyl. "A tonneau isn't much different from the top on a car and those are top-grade materials," he explained. "Some people like using upholstery vinyl because it stretches and is more forgiving, but that's not good. A tonneau made from stretchy material will flap. It will also stretch and collect water if it rains," he added. "Yeah, a tonneau made with a top material is a little harder to build, but it's worth it."
Given its simplicity, a tonneau cover is an ideal project for a novice trimmer. Given its functionality, it's pretty much a required accessory for any roadster that actually sees use.
Prior to our arrival, Paul installed snap bases in the body. Their placement isn't absolut
After 30-plus years trimming cars, Paul has found some neat tricks. One trick is called a
Paul creates his templates from press-polished vinyl (Plastipane brand). It pierces easily
Despite their convenience, Paul doesn't rely exclusively on the pin sockets. He marks some
As mentioned earlier, the vinyl template would ordinarily tail over the snaps by a few inc
The rear of the cockpit presented a bit of a challenge: there aren't enough snaps to relia