American Peerless Roadster, top up.

Street Rodder, April, 2006.

Dynamic Duo: two great ways to go topless.

By Ron Ceridono, Photography by Brian Brennan & Daniel Ingham

In all of street roddingdom, nothing beats seat time in an open car. Driving a topless road duster is a sensory fest; you see, feel and hear things that coupe and sedan owners are insulated from. But as Bitchin' as topless cars are, there are times when even the most dedicated roadster devotee sees, feels, and hears too much and would in fact welcome insulation of some sort. If you've ever had a windshield covered with rain on both sides and couldn't see past the grill shell, had your noggin baked by the sun one minute only to be pelted with hail the next, or gone to sleep at the end of a long day of traveling with the sound of the wind still whistling in your ears, you know what we mean.

American Peerless Roadster, top down.

Randy inspects the cabriolet's Rod Top

There are a number of options when it comes to shelter for roadster pilots. Lift-off tops are one way to go; of course the real problem with that style is that you need some place to put them when you decide to go sans lid. And when that top is hanging from the rafters in the garage, it doesn't do you much good if you're on the road and the heavens open up. On the other hand, stock-style folding tops can go up when you need them and be dropped when you don't. But in many cases, the modernized interior of a street rod can't accommodate that big pile of original equipment canvas when you want to fold up the tent.

American Peerless convertible top.

The ideal solution for devotees of open-air rods is a compact top that can he hauled along without taking up all the available space, and that is easy to put up and take down. If that sounds appealing to you, Randy Clark at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff is about to become your new best friend. He has not one, but two options for those who want the best of open-air rod running with the option of a roof to keep the elements from nailing you.

Convertible top mechanism

Convertible top front attachment points.

If you're looking for the ultimate combination of open and closed motoring, take a look at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff's '32 American Peerless cabriolet body. Built by JB Donaldson, this high-quality reproduction is sort of the unibody of fiberglass cars. Rather than attaching the floor to separate side panels, this body is one piece, which provides unparalled strength and rigidity. Coupled with sturdy construction, the cabriolet body style provides the best of both open and closed car worlds. When the skies are blue, drop the top and it's out of sight, tucked behind the seats. But when Mother Nature comes calling, you've got a roof and roll-up windows. Thanks to the engineering expertise of the guys at Time Machines Unlimited, the cabriolet's top goes up or down in a matter of minutes.

Securing convertible top to rear of body.

Convertible top deployed.

Of course some of you may already be roadster owners and are just looking for a good looking, easy-to-operate folding top. Hot Rods & Custom Stuff has that covered, too. A roadster fanatic himself, Randy rolls around the country in one of the coolest Flathead-powered '32's around. Stashed away in the rumble compartment of his roadster is a Time Machines Unlimited Rod Top. Randy likes them so much he's now the West Coast distributor.

Layout of Rod Tops kit.

Rod Tops kit stored in rumble seat. Installing the Rod Tops kit.

There's a long list of features that make Rod Tops so desireable. First off they're user friendly. Thanks to the ingenious framework, these tops fold up and fit easily in the trunk or rumble compartment of a roadster, and when it's time to be under cover, they can be installed in a matter of minutes. Again thanks to the clever design, the top only attaches to the body at two points, so no extra snaps, brackets, or screws are required. Along with being easy to live with, the form and function of a top are important factors. From a functional standpoint, the Rod Top does exactly what you would expect a top to do; it keeps the elements out as well as can be expected on a car without windows. The top material also stays tight at speed and doesn't flap like the canvas on a Conestoga wagon in a high wind. And finally there's the form; the Rod Top looks like a roadster top should. Nothing can ruin the appearance of a righteous roadster like a poorly executed top, but a Rod Top has the shape that looks right from any angle.

Rod Tops side assemblies. rod Tops Framework attachment point.

Retrofit attachment tabs. Retrofit tab next to stock tab.

Anyone who has ever ridden in a roadster will probably agree they're about the most fun you can have on wheels, however, battling the elements can certainly take some of the joy out of the experience. But wouldn't it be cool to have an open car when you want one and a closed car when you need one? Here's two ways Hot Rods & Custom Stuff can make that happen. SR.

Rod Tops framework.

Canvas stays. Top frames.

Rod Tops stays. rod Tops headroom.

Securing header to windshield frame. Spreading top canvas.

Interior view of convertible top.

Rod Tops final installation.

Rod Tops installed on stock 1932 Ford.

Click here for more information on the American Peerless!

Click here for more information on Rod Tops!


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Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, 2324 Auto Park Way, Escondido, CA., 1-800-HOT-ROD-5.

Hot Rods & Custom Stuff - builds, restores, paints, services and sells parts for classic autos, cars, trucks and street rods.