Nowadays all you whippersnappers are spoiled by your Jeeps with tops. Sailcloth this and vinyl top that. Back in the dim ages, Jeeps didn’t come standard with tops and if you were feeling rich and bought one, there was no fancy buzzword for it. You got a canvas top. And, you counted yourself lucky to be able to keep the rain and snow off your head or the heat inside the Jeep.
There is just something about a canvas top on an old Jeep that is right. It looks right, it smells right, and it’s just the way an old Jeep was supposed to be. The problem is that canvas is old-school and not many manufacturers want to mess with it anymore. So today we are much more apt to see a new-fangled top on an old Jeep than something that keeps that old-Jeep vibe going.
As you read this you might be getting ready to put a new top on your old workhorse for the winter. Rather than feature the latest and greatest thing, we decided to strap on the way-back machine and bring you a bunch of old top tech.
Dan Janquitto is an old Jeep nut from way back, and when he couldn’t find what he needed to rebuild his ’42 MB, he made it. That was way back in 1973, and by 1977 there was such a demand for the parts and canvas that Dan was reproducing that he quit his full-time job at GM and opened Beachwood Canvas. In the 35 years since, he has amassed a ton of information on all kinds of Jeeps, jeeps, and other military vehicles. He even got a government security clearance so he could pore through old dusty archives and learn more about this stuff.
So, when the time came for us to replace the top on our M-715, we went to Island Heights, New Jersey, to learn just a small portion of what is rattling around in Janquitto’s head. We learned how the company builds its tops and why canvas tops are built the way they are; we learned about colorblind military quartermaster troops, top fasteners, how to maintain your canvas top, and more.