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Soft top

This component is part of Tops.

Definition

The Soft Top (German: Verdeck or Stoff verdeck) changed a number of times over the lifetime of the W113 series. There were three distinct top mechanisms. They were probably attempting to fix some of the problems associated with the shortcomings of the first and second generation folding top frames. The earliest 230 SL had an aluminium frame with a wooden bow, and a chrome strip over the soft top material and a cylinder and wire setup. Starting in October 1964 with chassis number 06833 the chrome strip over the corner bow was eliminated when the wooden bow was replaced by a metal bow on some cars but not all. The transition was finished in November 1964 and starting with chassis number 07641 all cars came without the chrome strip. Those chassis numbers that were manufactured without the trim piece during the transition period are listed here:

Sometime during the 230 SL series the aluminium frame was replaced with a steel frame, regrettably adding ~34 kg (~75 lbs) of weight to the car. The 230SL top works well, in terms of being able to collapse it and keep in folded inside the soft top compartment.

However, it is suspected that it was more prone to chafing the edge of the soft top on the sides near the well weatherstrip. The 250's and perhaps early 280's did away with the cylinder and wire arrangement and used rollers installed on the lower frame arms to lock into place. These wear, as a result the lower bow may drop into the well, when attempting to unfold the top. This is where some hamfisted owners and mechanics bend the top arms. The last iteration as used on most, if not all 280's, used a spring loaded locking arm that is located near the mounting brackets. These are less prone to the earlier problems of chafing and not being able to stay locked in the folded postion.

Frequently, the springs break and these are not always replaced.

There are supposed to be rubber pads to protect the underside of the soft top cover from the tips of the top holddown levers. The cover has small depressions where the holddown lever points are situated when the top is folded. These rubber pieces are very durable black rubber about 30mm square (?) and about 2mm thick, glued to the cover with epoxy glue. Alternatively, small square felt pads, about 1 1/4" square and about 3/16" thick can be glued to to areas directly over the soft top mounting studs to protect the soft top compartment lid from dents from the soft top studs.

Sonnenland Cloth

Mercedes uses a high quality fabric for its soft top roofs: Sonnenland. These roofs are still available from Mercedes Dealers, as well as third party vendors, in a variety of colours and versions.

The Mercedes - Benz Part number for the soft top cloth is 113 770 0282, or 113 770 0382. The Mercedes-Benz listprice €803,25 incl. VAT. (Source: Mercedes-Benz pricelist, January 2009). Other vendors prices are typically around €500 for similar quality material.

Characteristic of the original Mercedes - Benz quality of Sonnenland is the bright waffle-weave of the inner skin of the top. The exterior consists of three layers of material, which is light- and weather-resistant, as well as stable in shape. The outer layer is ligh-resistant polyacrylonitrile, known under the brand name "Dralon". The waterproof middle layer is made from synthetic rubber, the third, textile inner layer has the already-mentioned waffle pattern.

"Sonnenland" quality ensures a long life, good thermal insulation, little discoloration due to sunlight, resistance from weathering and elasticity of other roof materials, which can look very similar, but are simpler and cheaper.

The manufacturer of Sonnenland-Classic is the Haartz company: http://www.haartz.com/products/sonnenland-classic

Check this list of Soft Top Colour Codes.

Function

The following is the official procedure for opening and closing the soft top.

Putting the Soft Top up

This the factory manual procedure. Keep in mind that 3 condition factors may affect this:

  • if the soft top has shrunk.
  • the bow springs are broken.
  • the tonneau cover cable release is broken or out of adjustment.

Any of these problems will affect the operation, obviously.

From the user manual:

  1. Wind down the windows or open the doors a little
  2. Pull handle of top compartment lid forward. Raise lid
  3. Pull top out and forward to windshield so that guide pins at front of the top enter the aligning holes (on windshield header). Ensure that the rear bow is pulled out with the rest of the roof.
  4. Close soft top compartment lid.
  5. Pull back of top down and make it snap into position (the pin must click as it enters the lock hole in the center of the car body). If the top has shrunk a bit it may not click unless you slam it.
  6. Lock the top at the windshield by turning handles outward.

Steps 5 and 6 are frequently reversed. After locking the front of the top, you can use the technique shown in the first video on this page http://www.sl113.org/index.php/Video.html shows an original way of flicking the rear-bow of the soft top down from vertical position into the lock hole of the soft top lid. The force and gravity ensure that the softtop locks even if the fabric is tight.

The rear soft top latch is in a black box in the storage compartment. The box is held by a few bolts. The bolts can be loosened and the box moved up to the highest position to get the hook nearer to the soft top. Moving the box up allows a tight or slightly short top to latch more easily.

Putting the Soft Top away

  1. Wind down the windows or open the doors a little
  2. Unlock the top at the windshield by turning the two handles until the top can be pushed up
  3. Pull handle of top compartment lid forward. Raise rear bow of soft top to near vertical position
  4. Raise lid of soft top compartment
  5. Push the front of the soft top up and rearward, hold the rear bow with your right hand so that it does not drop into the soft top compartment
  6. Slowly lower the entire soft top into the compartment
  7. Snap top-case down using crossed two-handed CPR move.... both sides!

If you have locking levers attached to the soft-top, don't forget to place the locking levers in the closed position when lowering the top. If you accidentally leave the levers in the open position with the top down you may cut 2 small holes in my top where the drivers side lever hit the hatch and the top.

Make sure the edges do not get cought on the tension springs or the sides and that the folds are neat. Some people will place a rolled towel were the rear plastic window folds, to prevent it from cracking... for instance when the top stowed for a long time. Fold the rear edges of the soft top underneath the frame to prevent them from curling up.

It is extremely unadvisable to put the softtop up, or put it away, when temperatures are below 5ºC... the cloth is very prone to damaging at these temperatures. Never put the softtop away when it is wet!

Protecting the soft top material


Soft top storage ritual

The compartment into which the soft top is stores is very tight. If you have a new top, or if you have new seals applied to your soft top compartment lid, you may find that it seems to interfere with the top right at the corners or hinges or end of the seal. If you store the top it will tear the new rubber in this area.

A W113 soft top reaches over the edge of the storage box when in use. As you fold it in, the frame retracts it forward, but not inward on the sides. That's why the soft top drags across the seal (and box) on both sides. Mercedes originally installed a felt strip at these ridges but on many cars this has disappeared.

To prevent the cloth from damaging you can keep keep two plastic sleeves in the soft top box. These can be transparent sleeves used for filing loose paper sheets -- although some people have had success with heavy-duty zip-lock bags or pieces cut out of a plastic bottle. The plastic is very slippery. When folding the roof down, out come the sleeves and you slide them next to where the roof-frame is bolted onto the box bottom (as much forward as you can). Instead of canvas rubbing rubber, you will from now on see plastic sliding ever so smoothly along plastic. Pushing in that final inch of roof before closing the lid, is smooth action too. Push in the plastic far enough to prevent it from fluttering during rides. When you pull the roof out, out will come the sleeves, rendering the same service.

To keep a plastic window crystal clear, hang a black flannel cloth across the edge which may scratch your plastic window during opening and closing. The glued-in felt tends to fray at the top, exposing hardened glue. Even this is more or less prevented now. The flannel sort of double-serves as a linercloth for your softtop (or window if you so prefer) as you have to fold away excess cloth before closing the lid anyway.

If you store your top for a long time, you may want to put a "noodle" (insulation for water pipes) covered with felt or flannel into the inner folded section of the window (this would be the exterior of the window when the top is up). Some people use folded towels for this.

Finally, prevent canvas wear by the lid hinges by laying two small black flannel cloths on the related softtop sections before folding. The hinges can do their rubbing on them, rather than against the canvas. It sounds like a lot to do, but it's no trouble at all, plenty of space for throwing all the pieces in the soft top compartment, and after 5 yrs my roof and window are still like brand new.

Care, maintenance and repairs

Rear Window

Maintain the plastic rear window with Meguiar's (http://www.meguiars.com/) PLASTX™ Clear Plastic Cleaner and Polish. It removes scratches, swirls and clears up your plastic window again.

Alternatively, use a combination of (in this order):

  • Meguiars #17 Clear Plastic Cleaner, to safely cleans discoloration and removes fine hairline scratches from all clear acrylic or polycarbonate plastics, and then:
  • Meguiars #10 Clear Plastic Polish, designed to be the second step (after Meguiar #17) in the two step restoration process for clear plastic with minor defects.

Soft Top Cloth Maintenance

As for the cloth, some people recommend just using a shampoo and water. Any bird bomb hits on your top should be removed as soon as possible, as they are highly acidic and will quickly damage your top. Keep a bottle of no-salt seltzer water (mineral water with gas, or Perrier for the posh users -- available in any food store) in your car. If you are lucky enough to receive bird presents, take out your bottle of fizzy water, remove the top, place your thumb over the top and shake. You now have a little fire hydrant to quickly wash off the bird gift. The water is nothing more than water and carbon dioxide, so it will not harm the top or paint. Once you get home, you may then properly clean the top.

Any product used to clean should be gentle and any product chosen to protect your top should be specifically designed for your style of top. If the top is dirty, then use a gentle, pH neutral car wash and rinse thoroughly with lots of water and allow to air dry. You do not have to use car wash on a fabric top every time you wash the rest of the car. Plain water will usually suffice. A sticky paper tape style clothing lint roller is an invaluable tool to help maintain your fabric top. It is great to remove dust and lint from the fabric and clean the plastic window without scratching.

Others use specialty fabric cleaners for soft tops. Porsche sell a Porsche Cabrio Top Cleaner & Wash Shampoo and a second stage Porsche Cabrio Top Protectant - 400 ml Aerosol. For more detailed tips, visit: http://www.carcareonline.com, especially their How-To articles.

Other brands mentioned are 303 fabric protectant and cleaner (http://www.303-products.com). Also Wolfsteins RaggTopp (http://www.wolfsteins.com) protectant endorsed by Harts who make the convertible top material for many of the OEM suppliers. Both are excellent products to maintain your convertible top year round from the Sun's UV light to winter’s harsh conditions.

Soft Top Mechanism Lubrication

Lubricate the hinges so they don't seize up. A more common problem that you might think. 107 cars are really bad for this as the brackets will bend and things start snapping off. Use a light oil and work it into the joint by folding up and down and then clean off any extra. You might be surprised at how easy it moves after you do.

Dan Caron (Dr Benz) recommends stuff that's made by AMSOIL called MP (metal protector) which dries after a while and leaves go oily residue. You can use it just like spray and wash on greasy clothes. You want something that will stay put and not run out or stain the fabric. A few drops per hinge is all you need.

Soft Top Frame Adjustment

Proper adjustment of the soft top frame is not very difficult, but it does take a little time and patience. The following is based on adjusting the frame on my 71 280sl (your year or model may be slightly different).

  • First, raise your top, but do not latch it. Disconnect the 2 large springs in the storage boot that attach to the base of the frame. There are 2 hex head bolts on either side of the frame base, holding the frame to the car. Loosening these bolts allows you to adjust the frame forward or rearward.
  • Placing shims between frame and car storage boot allows you to adjust the frame upwards or downwards. Next, latch the front frame to the windsheild and roll up the door windows. Look closely at how the frame lines up against the side windows. (Of course, it is important that your windows are straight in the window guides before you try to align the top).
  • You should be able to use shims to line your windows up perfectly. The shims can be easily made from scrap sheet metal. The problem in which the “elbow” above the window will not straighten, is usually caused by the driver’s side of the frame being too far forward.

Removing the Soft Top and Frame

To remove the Soft Top and Frame as one piece without the help of a second person.

  1. With the top up and the windows down, release the rear latch and lift the rear of the soft top to the vertical position, with a pad or felt roll to protect the rear plastic window.
  2. Remove the two soft top springs. (Not easy, even with the help of Archimedes and a block of wood. Further down is a photo that shows how the spring can be removed even by a 50kg weakling).
  3. With appropriate screwdrivers (maybe three different ones), remove the two large chromed hinge covers that contain the slots for the folding top frame and the holes for the hardtop lockdown pins.
  4. Release the soft top front latches and start folding the soft top a few inches to "bend" the elbow above the side glass a few degrees.
  5. With a 13 mm wrench or socket, remove the four bolts, two on each side, attaching the soft top frame to the car.
  6. Open one of the doors and climb into the area behind the seats (where the Kinder Seat would be). Stand facing forward between the open soft top compartment cover and the rear of the soft top.
  7. Leaning lightly against the rear of the soft top to keep it in its vertical position, reach forward, grip the front of the soft top from behind, and completely fold the soft top against your body.
  8. Scooping it up with both arms, lift the entire folded soft top assembly off the car and walk out of the open door, carrying the folded soft top like you carried your wife across the threshhold on your wedding night. They probably weigh about the same. Don't bang the end of the soft top frame against the car as you exit.
  9. Take it all to the storage place. Lay it flat and wrap it in a blanket.

Replacing the soft top

Don Czapski writes: the following information on the replacement and installation of a new soft top is mainly credited to Joe Alexander. I will add my experience to the information and hope that others will achieve the satisfaction that I did in doing this restoration job. As in many jobs, this one is probably 75% preparation.

  • If your soft top frame is in need of adjustment, now would be a good time to do this job. (I added shims where the frame meets the body of the car and this helped the mouldings to line up perfectly with the roll up windows) Dave M. (Anogoodnick) has written on this topic.
  • Before starting, decide if you are going to replace the rubber seals and order them. The front seal above the windshield will most likely be destroyed during removal. The rear seal is easily removable but check for cracks and fraying ends. I used Weldwood contact cement with excellent results. It holds strong when dry, it's easy to work with and allows for just enough working time and repositioning if necessary. You can get everything you need at your local Home Depot.
  • Get one or two cheap 1" paint brushes and one 1/2" paint brush, some rags, contact cement thinner or lacquer thinner, some 2" masking tape, and a small container of adhesive remover especially for contact cement. Some heavy duty large garbage bags work well to protect your car (cut them open to make larger sheets).
  • The first step is to remove the rubber seals and metal strips. You will need a small phillips screwdriver for this. Be sure to label everything you take off (use the masking tape to make labels). Keep the screws to each metal strip together, you'll forget where things go later. Make notes; for example, one of the screws for the side window moldings goes under the metal strip and must be screwed in prior to reinstalling the metal strip when the time comes.
  • Remove your old top. Loosen the nuts holding the side wires above the roll up windows. Measure the distance between the rearmost frame bar (the free floating one) and the (stable) frame bar foreward to it. Remove the old inner cloth strips and drill out the pop rivets to the front bar. I'm not sure what the function of the little elastic strips are, but replacements are available at any large fabric store.
  • Use the plastic garbage bags and masking tape to protect your car. Use the 1/2" brush and lightly dab on adhesive remover to remove the old glue. It takes only a couple of minutes to soften the old glue. Wipe off the old glue with rags. Use plastic gloves if you have sensitive skin. The important thing is to go very slow with this process. The old glue comes off very easily so take your time. Do not allow the adhesive remover to come in contact with any painted surface. You're now ready to get started with the installation.
  • Install the inner cloth strips, using your measurement for the rear frame bar. Compare this measurement to the corresponding inner seams of the top. Pop rivet the front bar in place. Lay your new canvas top on the opened, but unfastened, frame. Start at the front.
  • Slide the side wires into the new top but leave them loose for now. The front wire fastener will be positioned right at the front hole with all of it hidden except the part where the screw goes through. Be sure to center the top from side to side.
  • Apply glue to both surfaces with your 1" brush, working from the center outward. Pull the front beading forward and down so it is just at the lower edge of the front frame. Pull snuggly to the sides until the bead rounds the corner of the front. Don't be afraid to pull the top loose and reglue if necessary until you have it right.
  • Use an awl to punch a hole for the first chrome screw which will goe through the fastener for the side wire and into the frame. Repeat the other side. The glue holds the fabric in position until the metal strips are installed. When you're happy with the front fit, install the metal strip along the front.
  • Use an awl or ice pick to locate the screw holes in the frame. Don't install any rubber mouldings until the very end of the job. Fasten the front frame down to the car. Do the rear bow next, using the same procedure as the front. Start in the center and work your way outward. Pull the bead down so the top will lay nicely against the car. Allow for some slight stretching back later.
  • Install the metal strip. Fasten the rear bow to the car. If the top is too tight, loosen the front fasteners, attach the rear first and then fasten the front. Have an assistant help pull the frame forward so it can be fastened. Take a break.
  • Next, do the sides. Roll the windows up and down from time to time to check alignment. You may want to glue the side rubber liners to the top now (the thin weather seals between the frame sides and top). I installed mine at the very end, but it was a little tight. These weather seals are installed with the large end fitting into a pocket in the front bow.
  • The thin flat edge of the seals lays against the top of the frame acting as a "weather strip." The flat side of the strip is glued to the top along the inside edge of the black canvas. Pull the side wires snug and fasten the nut to hold the sides down tight. Disengage the rear bow from the car. Apply glue and pull the sides down tight and forward.
  • Install the metal strips. Fasten front and back frame bows to the car. Check window alignment. Next, glue the inner fabric strips to the frame. Protect the inside of the car with plastic sheets. Start with the front bar. Glue the flap furthest to the front of the car first, gluing it towards you, then glue the flap closer to you overlapping the other flap. This will hide the glue edge and look nice.
  • Do the opposite for those flaps behind you so that you don’t see the glue edge. Glue the flap furthest from you first, and then overlap with the flap closer to you, and, therefore, the visible flap. Trim excess canvas material and install the rubber mouldings. I didn’t use any glue on the rubber mouldings except the front. Now, stand back and be proud.
  • Keep in mind that: The fabric will stretch during the first few weeks of usage. Do not be afraid to pull things apart and reglue. Lacquer thinner will remove minor glue accidents from the fabric. If you have questions, please contact me or Joe Alexander. I hope that I didn't forget anything.

What if your softtop is stuck


Soft top L-brackets

If you put the soft top down incorrectly, your softtop may become stuck. On a Pagoda the rear bow of the soft top needs to be up, completely against the rest of the frame, before lowering the entire hood in the compartment. If the rear bow is dropped into the compartment it will be stuck in the compartment, whilst the rest of the soft top is stuck almost completely up, but not far enough to reach the front wind-screen.

It requires two people, two large flat-head screwdrivers, and the following instructions. It doesn't appear obvious and probably quite a few people have been there, completely at a loss what to do, yet once you know it, it is not too hard. So here goes:

You cannot get the rear bow out of the compartment, unless it is snug against the rest of the soft top. The soft top needs to go completely down into the compartment in order to achieve this. In the current position of the roof, there are a couple of L-shaped brackets (red in the picture) that are preventing the soft top from folding.

  1. The upside down L-shaped brackets on the outermost part of the hinge are spring-loaded. Use a sturdy flat-head screwdriver to lever the short part of the L upwards. The brackets on each side of the car need to be pulled back at the same time (hence the need for two people). I have found that slipping a 1/2" deep well socket over the L-shaped lever, with a 6" extension attached, makes levering the bracket fairly easy.
  2. As you lever them upwards, push hard on each side of the frame up-right (at 2 in the picture) forcing the soft top past the spring loaded catch. You probably find you need to push much harder than you think. When the frame clicks past the bracket catch, you can drop the rest of the top down into its compartment.
  3. Now reach under the cloth in the compartment, making sure that you lift the entire roof out by the rear bow. Now you can set-up your top properly again.

And, remember, in future: always move the rear bow up completely against the rest of the frame, before lowering it into its compartment.

Instead of levering the brackets upwards others report: In order to fully lower the soft-top into its well both upside-down L-shaped springloaded brackets need to be pushed to the outside of the car to allow the linkage to pass the brackets and lower themselves.


Sof Top Lever

RBouch8828 writes: Brad Shore at Bud's Benz was able to point out that in the 1970 and 71 280SL's there is a lever on each side that you can use to release the locked soft top. By wedging a screw driver, or handle of a wrench into the lever on one side and opening it manually on the other, the top will then move back down and into the case.

I have a 1968 280SL and as far as I know the original top frame. This Bud's Benz method worked for me. The previously described method with the "L" shaped brackets did not. Thanks to the poster. A photo showing the lever is attached.


What if your release handle does nothing anymore?


If the release handle behind the drivers seat does not release the soft top compartment lid anymore the cable between the release handle and the back pin and passenger side bracket might be broken, or the two compression nuts on the cable might be slipping, or the release handle might be rotating freely.

There is an access hole to the center mechanism through the trunk. The hole is directly under the center pin lock. The attached picture shows what it looks like from inside the storage area. There is a rectangular cover with a wide slot at the bottom revealing a 10mm nut head that is fixed to the cable. When the cable is pulled to the left (driver side) this nut head moves a pivoting lever and the hook on the top of the lever releases the pin. This will release all three latches. Using one of the two tools shown slide it from the trunk through the access hole and move its 90 degree tip from underneath up behind the cover and to the right (passenger side) of the 10mm nut and when it catches the nut head move it to the left to release the pin.

Soft top hook seal

The hook that latches the soft top to the chassis enters the soft top compartment lid though a hole in a chrome escutcheon. To prevent water entering the compartment when the soft top is up that it is important to that the seal around the hook is in place as shown here:


Escutcheon seals

Soft top springs


Two springs

The soft top frame / mechanism has four springs (two on either side) that help in operating the mechanism during opening and closing, and possibly hold the front and rear bow of the frame close together when the soft top is in the compartment. They are located at the main pivot point behind the door and stretch out in the top boot toward the trunk. One is a large, heavy duty coil spring that is easily visible. The other is a small spring similar to one found on snap ring pliers. This spring is somewhere in the mechanism that is bolted to the cars body with two 8mm bolts on each side.

These springs exert a lot of stress on the small metal arms which they attach to. Frequently they break and come off, and as their presence is not really required for operation, many previous owners do not actually replace them. If you take a close look at the frame parts around both hinges, you might find where the arms have broken off.

Large Spring Removal

The two large springs need to be removed to get the soft top out completely or to adjust its position inside the compartment. A strong person using a hooking tool can stretch the spring far enough to unhook it on one end but it helps if another person keeps the top at a 45 degree angle to relax the spring. If no help is available one can insert deck screws into the space between each turn while the top is fully upright. Depending on the screw thickness about 15 may be necessary to lengthen the spring so it unhooks easily when tiled 45 degrees.


An expert on these soft top frames claims he can rebuild them to like-new condition, including the restoration of the spring connection points. The job requires replacement of the canvas, no matter how good the condition. It's a very labor-intensive job. Add round-trip freight to/from his shop, and you're talking about a wheelbarrow-full of money. New soft top frames are NOT available. Good used ones are hard to find.

With one spring missing on a car, the soft top is really not that hard to operate.

The springs (all 4-2 large, 2 small) are still available from the dealer. About $30 each.

Seals, trim etc

On the underside of the heavy chrome mouldings that trim the back of the soft top compartment cover there is a groove or slot that contains a strip of rubber "gasket" like a weatherstrip. According to Caliber, Star Quality, and SL Tech, this rubber strip is NLA, and there are no after market replacements. Anyone have ideas for a substitute?

Electrical tape works well.

You can order all the weatherstrip seals from pagodenteile.de--all the ones you need for the soft top replacement job cost about 200 Euros..

Stretching a soft top

Your Mileage May Vary using the techniques below. If your soft top cloth is old, it may rip or tear as a result of employing these procedures. You use these methods entirely at your own risk!

Softtops that may have been stored away for extended periods of time, or where the frame is not adjusted correctly anymore, may be very tight. The following procedure from the now defunct Pagoda 113 group is a simple way of stretching your soft top:

  1. Wait for a warm, sunny day.
  2. Get the soft top to latch front and back. Ask a strong person to help if you need it.
  3. Move your SL into the sun with doors and windows closed.
  4. Wait 20 minutes for the top to get very warm.
  5. Open the doors.
  6. Stand up on a door jamb.
  7. Pick a spot between two bows.
  8. Push and lean into the fabric several times.
  9. Pick another spot and repeat steps 7 & 8 until you've done it to the entire top.
  10. Don't forget the inch or so of fabric above the plastic rear window
  11. Keep at it until the soft top is easy enough for one person to close.

An alternative technique is this: First, open your frame and latch the rear latch first. Then, while sitting in the car, reach back with one hand grabbing the vertical part of the frame that is just behind your head and pull forward until one of the soft top frame front turn pins reaches into its recepticle at the top of the windshield. Tighten down the first latch and then repeat procedure for the other side. If the above technique doesn't work, wait for a warm sunny day. Wet the top, let it sit in the sun for a while and then use the above technique.

For very extreme cases, page 38 of Vintage Reprint #1 from the MB Club of America, there is a short article from the July/August 1987 issue of StarTech Question and Answer about one member's solution to a severe version of this problem. Daniel Kelly from the Pennsylvania section of MBCA bought a 280sl that had its soft top in the storage boot for six years. He couldn't even straighten it, let alone latch it. He removed the entire top assembly and made a rack to gradually stretch it back in place. It is made of 2x4 lumber, 3 urnbuckles, some pieces of flat steel and some eye bolts. Every day or two he made a few turns on the turnbuckles until it stretched back into shape.

Although impractical when using the hard-top, experts recommend that you do not leave the soft top stored away for extensive periods of time. They recommend leaving the soft top up when you store the car away for more than one week.

Soft Top Suppliers

Gernold Nisius (from SL Tech in Maine, US, http://www.sltechw113.com/) is the acclaimed 113 soft top guru. The following is a short, but not exhaustive list of softtop suppliers and specialists. Also check our general Suppliers List.

and countless others.

GAHH (and some other vendors) offer multiple types of cloth at different price levels:

  1. German canvas GER - Daimler supplier
  2. Sonnendeck canvas SDK - Haartz "twillfast" with German backs to simulate original German canvas
  3. Stayfast canvas STF"- Haartz superior quality

German canvas will get you genuine MB material (Sonnenland). Identical stitching and fit. The only way you can tell their top from an original is that they have their company logo embossed in the back plastic window. You can put a factory window in their top before you install it on the frame. Nobody will ever know.

Old Yahoo content

The following is the content from the old Yahoo documents on the site. It needs to be structured and edited in the correct sections of the entire document. After moving particular content to its correct place in the manual, please delete it here.


Will Samples says: I cannot avoid advertsing my own wares. I sell Mercedes convertible tops. The material is the original German canvas brought into the US in huge containers by the German maker. The material is then cut/sewn by Electron Top of NY city. Electron has been in business since about 1946 and is still family owned. The tops they make are made just like the originals, the fit and finish is just like original, assuming it is installed correctly. With the tops comes their 800 number and a warranty card. They stand behind the product 100%. If you want to call them to ask questions, 1-800-221-4476. Instructions DO NOT come with the tops, no one has instructions since the factory never published any. I would not suggest doing the installation yourself. In this market (Dallas) the average cost for a pro to install is $300-350. If you find someone whose work you think acceptable (interview several installers and look at their finished product) ask it they would reduce the price by coming to your house and working there with you as the assistant. The colors I have are the basic Black, Tan, Navy, Chocolate. Price is $395 and includes UPS to you. As to the tops in Hemmings, I gave up on Hemmings years ago.

I would not recommend doing the soft top on one's own without experience. I can't help much with the suppliers as I live in Germany, but after watching my local installer struggle to get everything looking good, the $350 I paid him was more than worth the effort. Apparently the toughest part is getting the top to hang straight at the sides behind the side windows. Too tight and the top won't fold, too loose and the wrinkles never go away. As for the material, go with the original cloth type. There are cheaper solutions out there, but they just don't do the car justice.

I just put a new top on my car. I purchased it from Bill Hirsch, a Hemmings advertiser. I chose them because they supplied directions with the top. The directions weren't perfect but I was able to fill in the blanks. I am happy with the installation. All I want a top for is cover when the sun isn't out. It is a one day job for a professional. My records show I spent about 20 hours labor, that included removing the top bows for cleaning and repair. It is not an easy job but it is do-able by a competent home mechanic/craftsman. If you decide to do it, I recomend taking lots of pictures during dismantle, unless you have a photographic memory.

I recently replaced the soft top with a factory soft top instead of the readily available (and far more economical) "clone" out there. My reasoning was that I HATE that "cal glass" logo in the corner of the rear window. Well, I recently found an interior shop that not only makes the aforementioned "clones" but will put in plain plastic without the logo if you specify. (For anyone wants to know the name of the shop, it's Richmond Hill Auto in NY: 718-526-2191. Good folks to know.)

The options list MB Classic Center sent me showed that my car was ordered with the hard top but no "roadster" top. Was the soft top frame changed over the life of this car? Mine fits poorly as follows: The leading edge of both side windows fit properly against the rubber along the windshield post (A pillar). The top edge of the windows have a gap near the windshield, but fit tight at the rear of the top edge. The rear edge of the windows have a gap at the top, but fit tight at the bottom. It's like the vertical part of the frame that sits against the rear edge of the windows is too short and hits the top rear corner of the windows. Were these top frames redesigned over the years? I haven't had my hard top on for some time to remember how that fits. I believe my windows are fine as they fit OK against the windshield. Is the top frame adjustable? Do I have the wrong frame? Any ideas?

Will Samples: just had the 230 SL top installed about 2 months ago and the 1/4" gap you speak of is on our car on the driver's side. The installer put some extra material under the chrome rail holding the rubber seal, trying to fill the gap.

Why don't you take it to a machine or body shop and let them advise you - I'm certainly no expert on welding etc but I would be surprised if this metal could not be welded, it seems to be how it was put together in the first place (and then chromed to some extent). By the way a month or so ago I took to polishing my frame, which had some surface rust and grime on it, and to my surprise with a little bit of chrome polish and steel wool it came out looking like new.

A friend had a broken top frame piece that went around the rear against the body. I MIG welded it and it came out beautiful. I tapered the broken ends and made a couple of passes with the welder and painted it with gray paint and it almost looked original. It can be stick welded or gas welded also. DON"T buy another one.

Anybody know how to install those two coiled wires that protect the soft top when it's lowered ? Mine keep bending and coming out of the slot in the frame. Should the coils be on top or on the bottom ?

Thanks to the help and guidance of Joe Alexander, I installed my new soft top. The job is not really difficult, it just takes a lot of time and patience. It probably took me a lot longer than it should because I wanted it to be perfect. Since the top is glued down, I was nervous at first. But the "pro" who put on the previous top didn’t do such a great job, so I figured I could do better.

Is there, or is there not, a cover for the joint between the two pieces of heavy moulding around the back of the top case cover (where they meet at the top lock escutcheon)? I have encountered conflicting information. Looks like there should be something there similar to the joint covers on the windshield moulding.

Walter Klatt: there is a cap like you said for the windshield that covers the joint between the two pieces. The two trim pieces have a cut out provided to allow the small softtop hook trim to fit in nicely.

Achim: Yes, there is from all pagoda SLs after 230 SL serial no. 008000 something.

Naj:

 113 758 0141 clip
 304032 003001 nut
 113 987 0041 rubber?
 all models after 230 chassis #008116


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