By Stu Brennan in the January 2001 RootesReview:
If you use your hard top, you are no doubt aware of the dreaded Hard Top Footprint, the marks left in your paint by the gaskets on the bottom of the removable hard top. It is possible to buff out the marks with polishing compound, but how many times can you do that before you get down to the primer. There are some folks in Colorado (Ed. note, the Colorado Area Tigers Owners club) who are sell some clear stick-on
plastic cut to the right shape and it’s supposed to be easily removable. However, I’ve got multiple layers of paint on my car and I’m not about to go pulling on any of it, even with an allegedly removable adhesive.
After noticing how hard it was to re position those giant SUNI refrigerator magnets, I suddenly realized that it might be possible to use this material for body protectors. The magnetism would hold it in place and it would easily come off when not needed. Arts and crafts stores carry 1 ft x 2 ft. sheets of this material with a white coating for about $6 each. I located a commercial source, Bunting Magnetic, which will sell you industrial quantities in several colors.
Thinking it might be fun to start a small business selling these, I talked Bunting out of a sample and made up a set of protectors for my Tiger. My design was for a four-piece protector, with no piece long than 2 ft. They are shaped to match the gasket outline, so they’re almost unnoticeable when installed. The bunting sample had a layer of white vinyl bonded to the brown base material, but I used Duplicolor fabric and vinyl spray to color it black. I compounded the old marks out of my paint and tried the new protectors for a few months.
Here’s what I found when I pulled the hard top off. The white vinyl had started to separate from the base material, probably because of the hard top gaskets continually pushing on it. Bunting also sells uncoated magnetic sheets, so this might be the way to go.
I could see some traces of the hard top footprint in my paint. I know the polishing compound I used had wax in it, so I may not have completely polished the old footprint out. The magnetic sheets are rather thin and probably don’t do a very good job of distributing the force of the gasket edges.
Also the protectors did not stay in place as well as I had hoped when the hard top was being installed. My hard top gaskets are new and really tight and the body did have a fresh coat of wax. Maybe they would stay in place better if they were wider, rather than trimmed to match the gaskets, but then they would be quite noticeable.
The protectors get rather stiff when cold and don’t conform to the body shape as well as they do when warm. Since most hard tops don’t see a lot of action until the weather gets chilly, this makes it even more difficult to get them to stay in place during top installation. I’m also not sure what the long term effects of
water wicking under the protectors would be. In any event, my experiment only turned up more problems, so I’m not about to start selling anything I can’t stand behind 100 percent. Feel free to take my idea and develop it. Even though I can’t point to a successful experiment, intuitively it seems right and I’m going to use mine for another year and see what happens. I also made up a set to match my tonneau cover outline. I like to drive with the tonneau in place, half open when I’m alone in the car, and it does flap around at speed. The stitch patterns have buffed their way into the paint