T-Tops, Air Shocks, The Brat

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The other day, someone reminded me about T-tops. If you’re younger than 30 or so, you probably don’t remember T-tops. But if you’re older, no doubt you do.

For about 10 years – beginning in the mid-’70s and through the mid’-80s – T-tops (or T-roofs) were very popular. Camaros and Firebirds, Mustang IIs and 280Zs of that era – and several others, too – often had them.

It was a pretty cool idea.

The trouble was, these T-tops weren’t (usually) very well-engineered. In many cases, they were installed at the dealer level (Hurst was a major supplier at first). And what the dealer did was – basically – take a Sawzall and “rough in” the holes, then trim it up – loosely and kind-sorta – with chrome surrounds and weatherstripping.

Because the roof is a structural member of the car’s body, cutting away much of the roof’s structure did a number on the car’s body integrity. The remaining – and not as stiff anymore – roof would flex. And the tops would invariably leak. Then, the seats – and carpets – would get wet.

Mold – and floorpan rust – ensued.

The factory-installed T-roofs were better because the roof section was reinforced and also because they weren’t dealer Sawzall jobs. But they still leaked – and squeaked. I had one of each – a ’78 Camaro with the dealer-done Hurst tops (which can be ID’d by their smaller size and shiny chrome trim) and later an ’80 Camaro with the factory Fisher tops (which were larger and typically had “black out” trim) … so I speak from bitter personal experience. The only way to keep the water out was by RTV’ing the things in place. And they still leaked because the frameless door glass these cars had didn’t seal tight enough against the tops.

Anyone who had one of these cars had the same experience.The only way to keep the water out was to make sure the car never got wet.

Which is why you don’t see T-tops much anymore.

Here’s another: air shocks on muscle cars.

You know how today the big thing is to mount the biggest possible wheels on a car? Back in the day, the big thing was to get the ass end of your muscle car as high up in the air as possible. The idea was to emulate the look of a dragster – you know, get the nose in the weeds. It it was also a cheap way to correct for saggy leafs – and fix tire scrub.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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