The Cutlass Supreme convertible top is a standard two-piece design. According to convertibletopguys.com:
â€œAlmost all Ford, GM and Chrysler convertible tops install as two separate units. They are the main top and the rear window section. This is the original design since the thirties and the design is fundamentally unchanged until much laterâ€¦The rear window section is often called the â€˜curtain.â€™â€
The original top on Cutlass Supreme convertibles was double texture pinpoint vinyl. When replacing the top, though, you have several options when it comes to materials (the following material explanations are excerpted in large part from 1aauto.com with some notes added and irrelevant material removed):
Single Texture Pinpoint vinyl: This is the most common replacement material used for Cutlass Supreme convertibles. This is a good, durable vinyl that matches the grain of many original tops from the 40's to the 80's. This material weighs 36 ounces per square yard. The outside is a pinpoint vinyl while the inside is lined with cloth. Less expensive convertibles have been known to use this material. MOST aftermarket top seller's tout single texture vinyl as "the material the original OEM manufacturer used," when in fact most used double texture. To the untrained eye and hand it looks and may feel the same, but most cars that had a pinpoint vinyl top, built from the 40's to the 90's, used the double texture vinyl (Listed next). Although not the same, Single Texture Vinyl is still a good and commonly used replacement. It looks and feels nearly identical, will last almost as long, and for many restored vehicles that are garaged and covered, a single texture top could last 20 years or more if cared for properly.
Double Texture Pinpoint vinyl (sometimes called Euro vinyl): 80% of Muscle cars and 40's - early 90's convertibles used double texture vinyl as the OEM material. The outside is a pinpoint vinyl while the inside is lined with cloth. Double texture vinyl weighs 38 ounces per square yard. The texture is a pinpoint texture nearly identical to single texture pinpoint vinyl. Double texture pinpoint costs a little more than the single texture pinpoint, however it is a more durable top and will last a few years longer.
Single Texture Sailcloth vinyl: Many 90's convertibles such as Sebrings and Mustangs started using Sailcloth vinyl in place of pinpoint vinyl due to the fantastic texture. Standard interior color is black, gray interior cloth is available with some colors at an extra cost. The weight of Sailcloth vinyl is 36 ounces per square yard. Sailcloth vinyl material has a woven texture that resembles a "richer" cloth top. Color choices in Sailcloth vinyl are more limited than those in pinpoint vinyl.
Stayfast Cloth: Stayfast is a tightly woven cloth canvas. The yarn is solution dyed BEFORE it is woven, creating a uniform color throughout. Domestic made or converted vehicles that came with a cloth top most likely used Stayfast cloth. Stayfast holds strong in both extremely hot and cold climates. Due to its richer look, Stayfast tops are more expensive. Stayfast color choices are limited and white is unavailable. Cutlass owners who want to give their car a more upscale appearance (and do not need or want a white top) have upgraded to a Stayfast top, and are almost universally pleased with its improved appearance/texture as compared to the original-style vinyl tops.
When replacing the top, the window is almost always replaced as well. It is generally not recommended that you attempt to detach your existing glass window and try to re-use it.
According to 1aauto.com:
â€œGlass windows are bonded or heat sealed in to the vinyl or cloth surrounding them. It is very difficult to install just the glass in to a vinyl curtain and it will cost you about as much to have this done as it is for a brand new window and curtain. If your window and the attached fabric are in good condition, you can re-use them, but the vinyl may not match the new top.â€
It is possible to replace the top with one containing a plastic window, but this is not recommended, as plastic windows looks cheap, are very flimsy, and scratch easily. Please allow the Cutlass â€˜vert to retain its dignity by using a glass-windowed top, and leave the plastic windows to the Geo and Cavalier â€˜verts. When selecting a glass window with your new top, you will have the option of choosing one with or without a defroster.
The headliner is usually re-used if still in acceptable condition. Same with the top pads and cables, though there is some difference of advice here. Some websites recommend new pads and side cables with every new top, and new rear cables with every other top, while other sites and installers say that the side cables and pads only need to be replaced when their condition warrants it. Itâ€™s up to you.
Most convertible manuals indicate that the complete top install takes about 10 hours, 7 for the main top piece, and 3 for the â€œcurtainâ€ (the secondary piece that holds the window). Labor costs can range from $400 to $1000, depending on the installerâ€™s hourly rate. Some shops may allow you to buy the top and bring it to them, but be aware that some will inflate their labor a bit to compensate for the lost profit from selling you the top through them, and also may not warranty the installation, since they canâ€™t verify the quality of a top brought to them by a customer. This means that you would have to make sure it looked right before leaving the shop.
Convertibletopguys.com give some excellent advice:
â€œIf you decide to "hire out" the job:
* Go to your yellow pages. Look under "automobile seat covers, upholstery and tops." Select a couple of shops and visit or call them. You want to determine that is their policy to provide installation service on tops that are not purchased from the shop.
* Many shops are dealers themselves and represent a top manufacturer and will not want to sacrifice this re-sale aspect of their profit. Be wary of any shop that disparages a product that it does not carry. Although it is true that quality can vary, no company should use "scare tactics" to get your business.â€
While it is highly recommended that you have the top installed by a professional, it is possible, with patience and the correct tools, to install the top yourself. Be aware that it will likely take an inexperienced installer several times longer than a professional. Convertibletopguys.com sells a universal two-piece top manual, and it is also possible to acquire an original GM instructional video for the Cutlass â€˜Vert top that several have said was a real help when installing the top themselves.
If you will be buying a top to take to an installer, or will be attempting the install yourself, you will need to decide where to get a top from. Here are just a few sources (that also represent a range of the brands available) that sell Cutlass â€˜vert tops:
Topsonline.comâ€”They have the best prices found to this point, though their selection is a bit limited (for example, they don't offer sailcloth texture option). The tops they sell for the Cutlass 'Verts are EZ-on, the most widely sold brand. Their quality is considered to be good.
Convertibletopguys.comâ€”They sell tops as part of a kit that includes side cables and pads. Their tops are Kee Tops, supposedly a pretty premium brand (though one installer I contacted said that â€œthey think a lot of their tops [because of the higher price] but Iâ€™ve never noticed that they were any better than EZ-onâ€). This site is well-known for their knowledge and customer service. Several have commented that they were pleased with their transaction. Kee tops are also sold on sears.comâ€™s website here: http://auto.sears.com/Oldsmobile-Cutlass-Convertible-Tops/600025340-200743174-1994-10623.htm.
1aauto.comâ€”Their tops are made by Acme Headliner, and are supposed to be pretty good quality. These tops, at present (3/09) are the ones most commonly seen on Ebay.
EZsofttops.comâ€”They also carry EZ-on tops. Their prices are higher than topsonline.com, but they have a wider selection, offering sailcloth tops in various colors, including the â€œBrite Whiteâ€ that is the correct color white color for Cutlass â€˜verts.
JC Whitneyâ€”They have historically carried Electron tops. Some sources say that this is the economy brand of convertible tops, though one installer I contacted did actually say they were is favorite because of how easy they are to install. Electron tops are also available through Electrontop.com and topsdown.com.
Robbins Topsâ€”arguably the highest end brand, they only sell the main top piece, not the curtain. Their tops are sold through regional distributors.
Wherever you buy your top from, make sure it comes with a 5-year warranty. This is pretty much standard. If they donâ€™t offer this, their tops are probably of lesser quality than average.
Cylinders and pumps are still available from a few sources. One is http://www.hydroe.com/Oldsmobile_Cutlass.html.
If anyone can think of anything else that is needed, let me know and Iâ€™ll modify this thread.