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DIY Bikini Top for Willys Jeep

A tarp, some grommets, and a little time.

Riding with the top down and the window folded forward in an open-top Jeep, early Land Cruiser, Land Rover, Suzuki Samurai, and a few others is a feeling that just can't be equaled. It's an instantaneous surefire way to earn a perma-smile, but the sunburn that can come from more than a few hours in the sun can also make memories, and not in a good way. Last year we drove our 1946 CJ-2a on the first inaugural Go Devil Run, starting just north of Phoenix, Arizona (here and here). The run was a blast, but by the end we had just about enough time in the direct sun to last a few years. So, with the second Go Devil Run right around the corner, we decided we needed more top, more shade, less Arizona sun. Ideally we'd love to run some factory-style soft top bows for our CJ-2a, but sadly they are backordered. We'd love to run an original-style summer top, but we didn't get that ordered early enough, so we did what we do and backed up and punted. Specifically, what we did was order a 4-by-4-foot canvas tarp from the internet. Add to that a grommet installation tool from the hardware store, a handful of self-tapping screws, and some flat washers, and we were in business well, really, in the shade. This is very similar to what we did for Ultimate Adventure for the UA Long Range Jeep last summer in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. The fact is, this is a pretty easy start and a good way to make a fairly period-correct bikini top for any old Jeep.

After the 4-foot by 4-foot tarp arrived, we placed it on the Jeep to get an idea of what would need to happen. The front edge of the windshield has 10 holes in it where turnbuckles are supposed to be for attaching an original-style summer top. Our windshield had these holes already in it. We marked their location on the tarp with the exception of the two grommets already in the corners of the tarp. The grommet installation kit we got from the local hardware store had this block of wood and a small tube with a sharp end for cutting the holes in the tarp.
Just use the sharp tube that's the correct size for the grommets you are using (our kit had one for -inch grommets and -inch grommets; we used the -inch grommets). Then use a hammer to tap the tube and make nice, clean cuts in the fabric.
These are the tools and parts that came in the kit that you will need to install the grommet into your freshly cut holes. There is a little mandrel that goes under the tarp and holds the larger half of the grommet through the fabric, a smaller half of the grommet, and a die that you hit with the hammer to round the edges of the grommet down over the top of the hole.
Here's the setup with half of the grommet in place on the mandrel.
Then fold the tarp over and pass the nib of the grommet through the hole in the tarp.
Next, put the other half of the grommet over the nib of the lower half of the grommet. Insert the die into the nib and give it a few whacks with the hammer. The die has a rounded edge that forms the nib into what is basically a rivet head.
Here you can see what came in our kit from the hardware store. It cost less than $11 and had enough grommet parts in it to do about eight grommets in the tarp. Luckily the hardware store also had a box of extra grommet parts.
We then installed the top using some sheetmetal, some self-tapping screws, and some small fender washers.
This should hold the top securely in place even when we approach warp speed...which is about 50 mph...downhill...with a stiff tailwind.
With the top in place, we added two more grommets just over the roll bar in the Jeep. These will help keep the back of the tarp/bikini top in place when we're flapping down the road or trail.
Our buddy Mike has a much nicer (albeit dirtier) bikini top on his CJ-2a Flatulence that he got from our friend and fellow Willys Jeep fan Jeff Petrowich, who makes and sells custom and vintage tops at Classicjeeptops.com.
Jeff does an amazing job, but it's a side job and a hobby for Jeff, so customers have to be patient and understanding when waiting for a quality product.