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Capote Elastic Bands Replacement

Virtually every Ferrari 360 and 430 has failing elastic bands in the capote, or soft top. The only cars that don't have these items failed right now have had them replaced in the last five years. My car is no exception and my original 20 year old elastic bands are well past the time they should be replaced.

The top has a number of elastic bands that help control how it folds up and how things move. These bands are the same type of material as appears in underwear and stretch pants. As these things age, they wear out. So just like your old underwear, the elastic on the 360/430 top loses it's stretch.

One of the things these elastic bands do is control a bar that shapes the headliner and roof line. This bar has to be pulled back and lie flat so the rest of the machinery that constitutes the top can fit into the tiny little space in the back of the car. When the elastic bands give out, the bar doesn't move to the right spot and the frame can impact on that bar as the top folds up, jamming the top and preventing it from closing fully.

What was confusing about my particular car is that the top folded normally most of the time and once in a while, would freak out and jam. I didn't figure out exactly why until I took it apart.

When my top had been up for a while, folding it back always failed. If the top had been down for a while, put up for a day or two, and then retracted, it folded back great. The elastic had a memory. That's what was causing my problem. If the top was up for a while, just like your old, worn out underwear at the end of the day, the elastic had memorized its stretched state and had no zing left. That's when it failed.

If the top had been closed, the elastic bands were relaxed and had plenty of stretch when the top was opened and could maintain their gumption for a few days before becoming beat.

Caution:

Before attempting this type of repair on your Ferrari 360 or 430, check the condition of the canvas and rubber trim and especially the trim piece (part #66459200) that mounts under the metal bar (part #66459400)  in the front. If that piece is torn or in poor shape, you may destroy it removing it from the car. The cost to replace that single piece of rubber is about $750 if you can find it.

If the trim piece is torn during removal or tears already exist, Loctite 495 is an excellent adhesive to repair the trim. It's fast, permanent and flexible. Use it sparingly.

If the canvas is in poor shape and has wear through spots and holes, it's probably time to replace the canvas itself. Replacing the bands will likely do nothing but cost effort and expense. These things have a limited life and when the time's up, it's up.

Things required to replace the elastic bands:

  1. New 1" elastic - I shopped extensively for elastic, looking for the most robust and stretchy version and found there really is only one type, probably all made in the same factory in China. I bought several rolls from different vendors and they were all the exact same product. I ended up using this product: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06ZZL5KMM
  2. Optionally, 1/2" elastic is required to replace two bands that attach to the flaps on the wings. 
  3. Double sided tape - To reattach the canvas after completing the repair, the front of the canvas, where it mounts to the frame of the top has to be glued back on. The original material appears to be a form of thick double sided tape that just peels off intact. To replace, I found that the Gorilla brand of double sided tape has the same properties. This is what I used: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MG65C24
  4. Rubber cement - A couple of tabs have to be solidly glued back in place using rubber cement. I had a can of DAP Weldwood gel. Here's a link for that: https://www.amazon.com/25312-Original-Contact-Building-Material/dp/B0006MUPXY/
  5. Strong nylon thread - Standard thread is too weak and will fail so take the time to get a spool of high strength nylon thread. Here's an example of the right product: https://www.amazon.com/COATS-Strong-Upholstery-Thread-150-Yard/dp/B004BP43JE
  6. Heavy duty sewing needle - Here's an example of that product: https://www.amazon.com/Sewing-Needles-Upholstery-Leather-Vitoki/dp/B01M9FVP06
  7. Measuring tape - any will do.
  8. Very sharp scissors - Cutting the elastic is not trivial. Using extremely sharp scissors will make the cuts less prone to unraveling. I have a pair of scissors for fiberglass that worked extremely well. These are really great scissors: https://www.amazon.com/5-1-inch-Carbon-Steel-Shears/dp/B0184KGOR0
  9. Masking tape - After removing the gasket, cover up the areas that have black gunk on them with 2" masking tape to avoid getting the stuff all over yourself and your car. It's quite messy.
  10. Plastic sheeting - The interior of the car should be draped off with plastic to keep the little bits of metal shavings and pieces of whatnot from falling into the interior. I like the ultra thin (0.31 mil) stuff.
  11. Rivet gun - A number of rivets are used throughout the project. The 4mm rivets seem to be the right size. I had one of these in stock already and it worked just fine: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0788545VK
  12. 4mm rivets - I used the rivets that came with the rivet gun linked above.
  13. Power drill - I recommend a small battery operated unit. It's pretty tight in a couple areas and the smaller and lighter the better. Hardly any power is required so if it spins, it should work.
  14. 1/16" drill bit - Use this to drill the tiny holes in the plastic bar.
  15. 4mm or 5/32" drill bit - Use this to drill out the rivets.
  16. Exacto knife (#11) with new blade for cutting threads.
  17. Torx 15 and 25 bits - Both of these bits are used throughout the car. Odds are you already have them.
  18. Stubby driver for the Torx bits. Some of the reach is limited and having a stubby will make this problem go away. The stubby is used in replacing the elastic that runs frame to frame.
  19. Torch - The ends of the elastic should be melted slightly to prevent them from unravelling. Brushing the end with the torch fire will do this nicely. 
  20. Marking pen that shows up on black. I used a silver sharpie. 
  21. Small awl or large nail - Holes have to be punched into the elastic for mounting. Heating a small awl or large nail to just under red temperature provides the perfect drill.
  22. Loctite 495 - This stuff is the most amazing adhesive. It's like flexible super glue. Use this glue to form quality ends on the elastic bands that are riveted. Here's a link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00065UAH2
  23. Long nose locking pliers - Use these to temporarily clamp the ends of the elastic while sewing. Be careful with locking pliers as they can suddenly release and fling themselves down the side of your car. Just sayin.
  24. 3M Super Weatherstrip Adhesive - Use this to reattach loose rubber trim. This stuff is like rubber cement on steroids. It's super easy to use, dispenses nicely from a long snouted tube and is black. I bought a tube a while ago from Steele Rubber: https://www.steelerubber.com/super-weatherstrip-adhesive-black-5-oz-96-8008-96.

A Note on Sewing

The primary means of attaching the elastic bands to the car is by sewing. Some bands are riveted, others have screws but most are sewed. Experience with sewing is a big plus in this job. I used a locking back stitch for securing the bands together and to the canvas. The locking back stitch may not exist in reality as I learned it from my grandmother many years ago. Essentially, the idea is to move maybe 3/16" over, then back half that while looping the needle through the previous stitch to make a knot. It works pretty fast and if the thread ever breaks, the seam won't unravel. The important thing is to make the seam tight and across the entire width of the elastic. I did two rows for the longer pieces and one row shorter ones. Look at how the original was stitched to get an idea of how it should be done.

Disassembly

The begin the procedure, the top should be opened to the point that the locks are deployed. Right after that, the secondary cylinders (part # 66454000 and #66454100) kick in to move the front piece into position. Stop the top at this point and turn off the key. This is the position the top should stay throughout the elastic repair. The front frame can be moved manually at this point. When moving the frame manually, always grip it in the center and give a little assistance to the wings in the back as they move. Never force anything. If it has a restriction, figure out what that is and fix it. Forcing the top to move will cause irreparable damage. 

To properly expose the elastic and replace it, the top canvas has to be peeled back. The idea is quite daunting at first as the top itself is a very expensive piece of cloth. Even buying a cheap Chinese knockoff is thousands of dollars. Just ripping off the front of the canvas to replace some strips of elastic seems extreme. Doing this job without peeling back the canvas will be much harder and should only even considered if the front rubber strip is in poor condition. Trying to drill out a rivet in the blind? Well, the difficulty is self explanatory.

It's not a hard job. It's not technically difficult. Hardly any fasteners are involved and everything except the rivets and old elastic are reusable. The trick is to take pictures of everything as it is taken apart. When the process is documented, putting it back together is a lot simpler.

Pictures like this can be invaluable.
The canvas is held in place at the front by a metal bar with six Torx 25 screws and the rubber trim piece which is held in by two Torx 25 screws. The trim piece has this gooey black stuff holding it in place. Be careful not to get any on you. It spreads like a disease. Remove it from your skin with mineral spirits. I suggest covering all areas that have this black goo with masking tape to prevent contaminating the rest of your car, house, pets and children with the stuff.

The canvas literally has to be peeled away from the frame. The front is held on by double sided tape. It peels up without damage if done slowly and carefully. Two rivets that hold cable ends also have to be drilled out. Before drilling out the rivets, document the position of the cable. After pulling up the canvas, remove the old glue from the frame. It took me about five minutes to pull out the old double sided tape. Very satisfying.

After peeling the canvas from the front and drilling out the rivet that holds the cable, a long and critical tab on the canvas has to be peeled from the metal bar that resides in the plastic bar. Removing the metal bar from the plastic is simple and just requires a bit of careful effort. Once the metal bar is free, the tab can be pulled off the bar. 

BEFORE removing the tab from the bar, carefully mark the position of the tab on the bar with a marker pen (I used a silver sharpie) so that it can be replaced EXACTLY where it was before. I can see failures in this job by not properly placing this critical tab. Take pictures. Mark with a pen. Do it twice.
This picture shows the plastic bar and the metal one with the canvas tab wrapped around it. Careful marking of the positions of these things will really help reassembly.

A trim strip (part #66459500) that keeps the rubber in place is removed next. It's held in by three Torx 15 screws and has washers behind the strip. Keep track of how many washers are behind each screw as these appear to be used as spacers. Take a picture of the orientation of the trim strip so there's no question as to how it goes back in. If you mix up the left and right side, you could easily mount them upside down. 

After removing the trim strip, two canvas tabs (on each side) have to be peeled away from the frame. These are held in with rubber cement. 

A second cable, this one held by a Torx 15 screw, is exposed once the tabs are peeled back. This screw is easily reached by dropping the frame that covers the screw. It's held by a single Torx 25 screw. Again, be careful to note the number and position of the washers. Some are doubled up, others not.

Once these parts are freed, the canvas should be easily folded back to allow access to the back frame of the top where the rivets are located. The canvas won't go all the way back and stops about eight inches or so from the back frame. There's plenty of play at that point so the canvas can be lifted out of the way when drilling out the rivets or installing new ones.

Band Replacement

I suppose my biggest concern before I started this job was how to correctly size the elastic bands. I couldn't simply measure the relaxed old bands as they were totally shot. The only valid measurement left in these old worn out bits is their maximum stretched length. That's what I used. Be sure to take into account the amount of material required for sewing and riveting when measuring the length. I think it's better to make the pieces a little short than a little long and it's also better to have the two sides as close to being equal as possible to prevent an imbalance of force.

Before I cut out an old band, one end was closely cut and the band stretched to maximum length and measured. This seems to be a reliable and repeatable measurement. 

To prepare the elastic band for riveting, the end quarter inch was folded and glued with Loctite 495 then holes drilled using a heated (right before red) awl. The smoke is quite toxic from this process so I recommend standing to the side rather than looking down at the work. I should probably say do this with adequate ventilation. My shop stank for a couple hours of burned rubber.

Have a rivet on hand when drilling the ends to be sure you have right sized the hole. Make the hole just slightly smaller than the rivet so that the rivet (and washer) is held snugly in the base. It's a bit tricky to get the rivets, the washer and the elastic lined up just right at the back of the frame so having the rivets securely mounted in the elastic base makes this a lot easier. 

Several bands have to be replaced to allow the top to function properly. The most commonly replaced are the headliner bands. These four bands (there appear to be two but there really are four) run from the back of the headliner and are riveted in place, to the plastic bar and from the bar to the front of the headliner. The original band runs under the bar, is sewn in place and continues to the front of the headliner where it is sewn to the plastic edge that locks into the top frame.

I watched a number of videos showing replacement of the bands that made a major error. A slot was cut into the plastic bar and the elastic was run through that slot without securing it. This is an error because the band could slide forward or back through that slot and either cause the tension in the band to shift front to back or even worse, one side could shift and the other remain stationary, causing an out of balance condition between the sides. 

Instead of carving a slot, I drilled a number of holes in the bottom edge of the plastic bar and sewed the elastic band to the bar like a button. During the drilling and sewing process, I wedged a pair of rubber handled dikes into the plastic bar slot and used the weight of the tool to tip the bar over, making access to the bottom of the bar a lot easier.
Doing it this way assures that the band is fixed in place, the correct length for that part of the band can be accurately determined and the plastic bar suffers only a few holes drilled into it, rather than the far more invasive slot. Additionally, using power tools so close to the $750 headliner is rather risky. I used a 1/16" drill bit for the task.

Attach to the front of the frame by sewing the elastic to the old piece. I used a pair of long nose locking pliers to hold the two pieces together close to the frame. Then after sewing the seam, folded the "tab" over and sewed it to the new elastic. How the two pieces are attached isn't as important as getting the new piece as close to the frame as possible.

In the videos I watched, the secondary elastic bands that control the folding of the canvas and cause it to retract like a foreskin when the top goes down are ignored. I found these four bands (two bands in two parts) are critical to the proper operation of the top. 
The attachment point for the secondary bands are located to the right in this picture. They are riveted to the back frame of the top just like the headliner bands. The secondary bands are sewn to tabs on the canvas. The picture above is an "after". The original rivets are black.
This picture shows the secondary band sewn to tabs in the canvas along with my replacement band.

To form the secondary band, the old band was removed by cutting the threads that secured the band to the tab in the canvas. I wanted an intact band so I could measure it. Removing the old band completely from the canvas tab also made for a much cleaner installation. I could have just chopped the old band off and sewed the new one directly to it but that just seemed messy and potentially could cause a problem as there would be a knot of material that wasn't intended to be there.

The secondary band is two bands. One runs from the back frame to the second band which is the one actually sewn to the canvas. Using the maximum stretch method worked quite well in positioning the two bands and sewing them together. 

Note the end of the new band has a prepared rivet bed like the headliner band. The fold for the base is opposite that of the headliner as the headliner band runs flush against the headliner and the secondary band runs flush against the canvas. Take care when assembling to keep the direction of the base properly set.

Here's the top with the four headliner bands and the secondary bands replaced.
Note how tightly the canvas is rolled up from the secondary bands. Before, the canvas was sort of bunched up in this area. Now, it's a nicely bound bit. I can see that the secondary bands are probably more critical to causing the bar to shift properly during the opening and closing sequence. Failure to replace these bands while addressing the headliner bands may lead to unsatisfactory results.

Cylinder Visual Check

Be sure to check the condition of the secondary cylinders. Look at the ram itself. Does it look wet or have a lot of grime on it? Put your finger down below where the ram exists the cylinder and feel the frame metal below it. Is it wet with hydraulic fluid? If so, you need to replace those parts now. 

Four counterweight elastic bands help the cylinders and when these bands give out, the secondary cylinders have to take up the slack and that may just strain them past their breaking point. Mine were leaking and I sent them off to have them rebuilt by Top Hydraulics in Oregon. Sent them out on a Saturday FedEx and got them back the following Friday. Cost was about a third of buying new components. The actual removal and replacement of these cylinders was simple and low risk.
The picture above (the underside of the wing from the rear looking forward) shows the two counterweight bands and in the background, the half inch elastic band that appears to help with the upper flap tension on the wing.

The front locking cylinder should also be checked but it is very likely that if this cylinder is leaking, it would be annoyingly obvious as hydraulic fluid drips from the top into the seat. Hard to ignore.

Reassembly

Before starting the reassembly, everything should be cleaned carefully. I found no need to lubricate any of the joints as they were clean and looked to be in fair order. Adding globs of grease to the system in my opinion would only add areas where dirt and grit could accumulate. 

Reassembly is pretty straight forward. For the bar, I reused the existing glue by cleaning it up with acetone. After doing this, it was pretty sticky and plenty enough to hold the tab to the bar and clip it into place. Be sure to line up the marks made before disassembly to get the spacing between the top and the bar exactly right.

I used Gorilla Mounting tape to reattach the canvas to the front of the frame. The mounting tape is clear, sticky as all heck and is completely removable. If the top ever has to be peeled back, using this mounting tape will make the job just as easy as it was the first time. The canvas is held in place by the rubber trim piece and the metal bar so it doesn't need to be permanently mounted. It should be able to be removed without destroying anything.

Finishing up

A final check before powering up the top should be made by manually moving the forward top piece to the open and closed position while observing the travel of the bar. Here's a short video showing how mine looks after the repair.
Note how the secondary elastic bands do so much to pull the canvas out of the way and fold it nicely.

I found a piece of loose rubber trim around the right wing. It wasn't bad but could have been sucked out of place in a 100 MPH wind and perhaps destroyed. I glued it back in place with 3M Super Weatherstrip Adhesive.

I replaced a total of fourteen bands. Eight bands tied to the bar and canvas, another four act as counterweights to the rear wing. Replacing these bands seems to reduce the load on the pump and make the action smoother and faster. They take some of the weight off during the initial "heft" of the wings. Two more use a half inch elastic material and appear to help keep the flaps on top of the wings tight.

This is the "view looking back." The top folds nicely into the tray. 

Elastic Bands as a PM Item

One final note. These elastic bands have a very limited life. I suggest they be put on a five to seven year replacement schedule. When the tires are ready to be replaced, the elastic bands should also be replaced. Rubber has a finite life and like tires, the bands can actually look good but be beyond their specification and fail in their important task. Replacement of these bands at regular intervals will allow the capote to operate properly every time.

Measurements:

Fully stretched elastic band measurements include the ends and folded 1/4" for riveted prep where applicable. Please use these measurements ONLY if your existing bands are not original or otherwise cannot be measured.
  • Headliner: Front - 20.5", Rear (riveted) - 21.5"
  • Secondary: Canvas loop - 13", Rear (riveted) - 16", Rear attached - 5" from the rearward
  • Counterweight: Protected (by a plastic sleeve) - 18", Short - 9.5"
  • Half inch material: 9"
Here's the layout of the secondary band.



More resources:

Video of the canvas being replaced:


https://youtu.be/2mEcTPnTP6g


Video (in Spanish) of the elastic being replaced:


https://youtu.be/ylaC4DzQijI


Epilogue...

A few days ago I took a ride to the store and did something I've never been able to do before. When I got to the store, I closed the top. When I came out, I opened it back up. Took a lot of nerve to get to this point as it was always a roll of the dice before I understood the top. Knowledge washes away fear.



Comments

  1. Brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to document this repair. I will follow suit during this upcoming winter. This is what makes ownership of this vehicle not as worrisome.

    Again, Many thanks.
    Fred
    Canada

    ReplyDelete

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