Back when I still owned my '28 A roadster in England, I'd drive it without the roof whenever the chance arose. I never understood why the majority of roadsters I'd see in magazines and on the road in the western United States had the roof "up". Then I moved here and drove my 1946 Ford roadster pickup to Bonneville without a roof, and immediately "got it"! Man, the sun was brutal. I was used to the wind battering me, but the heat and necessity to keep bare skin covered gave me a rude awakening.
So when I planned on taking the truck to the Lone Star Round Up in Texas, I figured it was time to fabricate a roof. The forecast of rain was admittedly a factor, but crossing the SoCal and Arizona deserts in 104-degree heat was my prime motivation to get undercover.
Now, I've done my fair share of sheetmetal fabrication-I formed the rear cab panel on this truck using VW Microbus rear corners and English-wheeled steel-but had never welded with aluminum, so while I did the sheetmetal work myself, I entrusted the welding to a couple of good friends, Jimmy White at Circle City Hot Rods and "Kiwi" Steve Davies at Kiwi Steve's Hot Rod Shop. I chose aluminum for its light weight, as I wanted to be able to remove and fit the top on my own. The roof became a real work in progress, with me driving it to and from the office and between rod shops, as the roof frame and then the skin progressed.
It'll eventually get covered in the same material used to cover a folding roof, the idea behind the pronounced top bows being that it'll look like it folds when finished, yet offer the security of a closed car, as it'll have roll-up windows too.
Apart from the ability to weld aluminum, and the use of a shrinker/stretcher, there were no special tools used in the construction either. The heavy-gauge aluminum was rolled using nothing more elaborate than a gas bottle laid on the floor, while the bows were bent using a simple pipe bender of the type available at hardware stores for bending plumbing pipes. In fact, I first tried using a proper tubing bender at Walden Speed Shop, and the aluminum tube kept collapsing!
I mention all this to illustrate that if you fancy a lift-off roof for your roadster, there's really nothing to stop you having a go. Do what I did; get it to a point where it requires welding, and drive the car to a qualified welder for that part of the job. Oh, and all the materials used came from a reclaimed metal yard; I have less than $120 in this whole thing. And that's a small price to pay for staying dry or avoiding sunstroke!
The first order of business...
The first order of business was to fabricate a perimeter framework, so I cut some patterns from 1/4-inch MDF with a jigsaw to go around the back of the cockpit and across the windshield header.
The patterns were then traced...
The patterns were then traced onto a sheet of 3/16-inch aluminum and cut out using a bandsaw. Not the oxidation on the aluminum; all the materials were sourced cheaply at a local metal reclamation yard.
The rough-cut sections were...
The rough-cut sections were labeled in accordance with their intended positions on the truck, and then the edges dressed with a file.