We just had the 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider S4 out for a 4th of July parade.

We hadn’t had the fancy tonneau cover that goes over the folded top on the car in a couple of years. Consequently, we had to stretch it to fit and consequently pulled a couple of snaps loose. Once it got some heat from the sun into it, it settled down.

As we got ready to put it away, I wondered if I should leave the tonneau on the car, stretched and snapped into place, or fold it in half and put it back into the trunk.

In the same vein, are we better off storing the car with the top up, or folding it and tucking it away?

And finally, is there any kind of chemical or treatment you recommend putting on the top, up or down before long term storage?

If you’d like to have 150 pages of Sports Car Market delivered to your mailbox each month, go to www.sportscarmarket.com/scmfriend for a special offer.  

12 Comments

  1. B. Mitchell Carlson

    I had THE convertible top specialist in my area install the new vinyl top on my ’62 Corvair Monza 33 years ago, and it still looks and fits great. His sage advice regarding storage was: 1. Do not raise or lower the top below 70 degrees F.; 2. Store it for longer than a week, let alone all winter, with the top UP; and 3., to quote him, “if you F*** up my top by not following these directions and bring it back to me to fix it, I’ll charge you double for being an idiot”. He’s been dead for over 2 decades now, and I still fear and adamantly follow his advice.

  2. Jay Mackro

    Hang on Mitch – did your guy say: “DON’T store it for longer than a week, let alone all winter, with the top UP”? But wouldn’t that result in the same sort of shrinkage that Keith experienced with his tonneau cover? And do you believe that his rule applies to fabric tops, as well as vinyl?

    I get the “Do not raise or lower the top below 70 degrees” rule; that probably applies more to the plastic window than to the top itself (especially with a fabric top). But I don’t see what harm would be done by leaving a top – or a tonneau – in place. Was your guy saying that leaving the top up would result in it becoming over-stretched? In all my years of maintaining fabric tops, I’ve always stored them up and have never had problems.

    ps – tip #3: If you don’t store your car covered, then at least lay a towel over the rear window. Otherwise the window will gather a layer of dust and cleaning those windows without leaving scratches or a film can be difficult.

  3. D L David

    I subscribe to the advice of leaving a convertible top up whenever the car is not in use – whether it is a vinyl top or a fabric top, and whether the car stays put for a day or four months. That creates a quandary if the car also comes with a removable hardtop. The hardtop might be great for winter driving but the convertible top has to remain folded during the whole period when the hardtop is in place. That also means no opportunity, weather permitting, to raise and lower the convertible top and exercise the hydraulics if it is a powered unit. Once upon a time I owned a 2-top C2 Corvette and the only time I could bring myself to put the hardtop on was the day I sold the car. That car had no hydraulics but the rear window on the convertible top was plastic. It looked as good as it did on the day I bought it.

  4. Mitch, I love your top guy’s #3 advice! Top up is the way to go. Fewer wrinkles, fewer issues with shrinkage.

  5. Gary Brush

    Agreed. Top up, as it better ensures the material has the least short term stress placed on it if you try to put it up after being stored for a while. Also, great advice about only lowering/raising the top above 70 DEGF, as the plasticizers leach out of vinyl tops over time, leaving them more brittle.

  6. John Hoshstrasser

    Store it with the top up. I’ve inspected hundreds of cars where it’s painfully obvious they were stored with the top down. Wrinkled fabric and creased plastic rear windows, and keeps the top stretched correctly. Top up also keeps the interior cleaner when stored.

  7. Art Reilly

    After leaving my L-78 COPO Camaro stored all winter with the top down, it took 3 months before the wrinkles in both rear quarter side panels disappeared.
    Always top UP, even if it’s for a week.
    I learned the hard way.

  8. David Hedderly-Smith

    I’ll agree with the top up for storage. If I never put it up or down until it was 70 degrees out, I’d rarely get it up. I live in western Washington, not LA. Regarding the tonneau, I’d bring it inside (the house, not just the garage) for the winter and then not stretch it overly if the temps are at all low when I put it back on. And great idea on putting a towel over the rear window for winter storage, Jay.

    All that said, isn’t it great to have “top down” weather again!

  9. Truman McGhee

    Looks likens have a general agreement that the top is best fully secured in the up position for long term storage.

    The service manager at the local R-R/Bentley dealership tells us that problems with convertible tops are by far the most service complaints.

    Then there was a time when I owned a Ferrari F355 Spider with the infamous automatic top. Too complicated to get into here, but this is an example of AI gone amuck.

  10. Frank Barrett

    Keith, my best advice to you is to not only leave the top up during storage but also to completely cover its outside surface with a generous layer of mayonnaise. This helps the top stay waterproof and pliable but after it soaks into the fabric will help stifle any odors within the car, even bad breath and mild flatulence. Use Hellman’s or another real mayo, not that Miracle Whip crap. When spring comes, wash off the mayonnaise with a 50:50 mixture of Guinness stout and vinegar, but only in ambient temperatures above 70 degrees F. If you have any other car care queries, just let me know, and I will do my best to help.

  11. Ralf Berthiez

    Interesting reading. I agree with the top up approach during storage. However I also believe that putting to top up and down brings wear to the top and plastic window. Cloth tops are easier. When lowering the top I make sure the plastic window is free of debris, always leaving a soft thin cotton towel between the folds. I also believe that the car should be enjoyed with the top down. If the weather doesn’t cooperate then I drive something else. I placed the hard top on my car for the first time in 26 years to ship it overseas. Knowing I would be in a colder wet climate I felt it would ship better with the hard top. Almost a year later I removed the hard top but continue to drive it with the top down. The fabric top has now been down for 1.5 years. I know it’s there if I get caught in foul weather. It will remain down until late November!

  12. Piling on here but storing with the top up is the correct option. Having owned several roadsters I was informed years ago the bending of fabric in the down position hastens the wear and tear. And while the 70-degree rule might be a bit too stringent, avoid dropping the top in temps anywhere approaching freezing. PS Keith: I test drove that 1988 Spider Graduate and while it was a blast I think I’ll wait for a S3 Quad or S4 to come around. Thank you for your guidance. Scott

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.