1997 Station Wagon to Soft Top Conversion

chuckc4

Well-known member
Hopefully this thread will generate enough info so it is tagged in Jim C's FAQ Topic Thread: https://nas-row.com/index.php?threads/faq-topic-thread.3291/ , answering this question:

Q: How do I convert my soft top to a station wagon or vice versa?

I am considering doing this as my very favorite configuration of any Defender I have owned has been the soft top cage with a Badger Surrey Top. The aluminum hardtop is nice to have, especially for northeastern winters and long trips with a roof basket though. The flexibility of having an aluminum top and an open top Defender is the cat's pajamas!

Having had a 1994 POE, taking the aluminum hardtop off was very easy -- the POE aluminum top was set up like earlier series tops and I am guessing ROW tops. The 1995 and 1997 NAS station wagons are not set up like this however and seem much more difficult to remove cleanly. There is also the issue of the full roll cage being dramatically different between Soft Tops and Station Wagons.

Anyone who has removed a 1995 or 1997 NAS Station Wagon top care to comment?

I am guessing I would need to make a custom roll cage if it was to be permanent for both hard top and soft top use, at the least...

Thanks,

Chuck
 
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Angus

Well-known member
Chuck,

I too have a 94 POE, and switch back and forth between hard and soft tops. You need a complete soft top cage. I found one used, but they are rare and not cheap. I also found a SW roll bar so I have more than a tin foil roll cage with the hard top. You will also need a soft top, a header bar, and belt strips. The whole conversion takes about 3 hours once you have done it a few times. Not sure how much more involved the 95 and 97s are, but you will also need a front and rear doors for them since they don't have the 2 piece doors.
 

Angus

Well-known member
Oh, and I forgot door rubbers. You will need the correct ones for the configuration you are running.
 

ionfender

Well-known member
The other option is to buy a FG top from D90Tops.com
Keep the same roll cage on both...
I like this as it keeps things original.

You could always paint the FG top to make it look like the traditional hardtop color scheme - white roof, color matched side panels.
 

D901560

Member
I'm currently working on a ST to SW conversion. I originally intended to make the SW semi-permanent and acquired a full Safety Devices SW cage, full rear door and interior trim. However, during the COVID lockdown, taking the Defender out topless around the neighborhood and lake became a welcome escape to get some fresh air so I decided I wanted the flexibility to easily convert back to a ST. I’ve owned the plastic OEM LR top in the past (about 10 years ago) and while it did the job, I was always worried if it was going to survive the seasonal installation as the cracks were gradually growing and new ones were developing every year. I’ve heard good things about the d90tops version, but I prefer the look and the durability of the aluminum top. My new goal is a top that looks like a NAS SW and can be switched back to a ST in a couple of hours. Kind of a ST to POE+ conversion. I’m using the front hoop and sides rails from the Safety Devices SW cage. It bolts up to the where the ST cage attaches to the wings with no issues. This fits the roof way better than the original POE design that uses the ST front hoop. I also was either going to have to fabricate the roof attachment points to use the ST front cage section or cut the SW rails make it fit so this was also the path of least resistance since I already had the parts. I had to cut the ROW roof sides to allow the top of the lower ST B-hoop cage through the side panels. I have a friend from college that has a custom fabrication off road shop and his specialty is building custom cages. I am having him fab a custom hoop to attach to the existing ST lower cage and tie into the SW roll bar at the roof for a bit more rollover protection. In the back I started with SW full rear door setup and was fabricating a mount so I could use the NAS spare tire carrier, but I decided to switch to a Series liftgate so I would not have to bother with moving the door striker and aligning everything.

If all goes according to plan, the procedure to switch back to a ST will be:
  • Remove front SW hoop
  • Detach roof sides from tub capping
  • Lift entire roof with sides still attached off of the truck
  • Remove custom interior roll bar
  • Reinstall ST cage
Once I get the custom rear hoop back and test fitted, I’ll disassemble everything, reinstall the ST cage for summer, prep and paint the panels to body colored sides and a white roof and install the glass so everything will be ready to install this fall.
 

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chuckc4

Well-known member
Thanks for all of the thoughtful replies. Can anyone comment on the revers -- converting a 1995 or 1997 NAS Station Wagon (SW) to a soft top (ST).

I have a'97 SW now but have not taken the trim off to see what roll cage parts I can or can't use for a ST. Basically, I am afraid of doing any damage to the interior trim, in case anything I damage is unobtanium. I feel dumb not even knowing if the '95 or '97 hardtop attaches to the tub with the "special bolts" like the POE aluminum top or series tops use.

I know the SW cage is different (it has to be to fit under all of the interior trim of a SW) and I imagine the whole interior cage may need to be replaced when converting to a ST from a SW, and possibly the underside bits that attache the cage to the frame will need to be sourced as well. I saw mention somewhere that the exterior rails above the doors are longer on Soft Top Defenders also -- is that the case for all years of the NAS Defenders?

When I had my POE, getting the rear hoop was a pain in the @$$, as the POE did not come with a rear hoop. I imagine it is even more difficult to find a hoop now.

Best case scenario for me would be to keep my SW aluminum top and be able to convert to a surrey or full soft top and also go with two piece front doors. While I am glad there is an option for a fiberglass replacement top, I like the aluminum top better.
 

D901560

Member
It's way easier converting from a ST to a SW than the other way around because the SW parts are much easier to find. I have both the ST and SW cages right now and the good news is the pieces under the body that mount to the frame appear to be the same. At least from the windscreen to behind the seats. The front hoop can be swapped back and forth using the existing mounting points. I can also install the SW middle cage section behind the front seats where the ST cage mounted and have not changed any pieces that mount to the frame under the body. However, both the top and bottom middle cage pieces need to be swapped. You can't mount the ST top cage piece to the lower SW or vice versa. Another issue is there isn't a seat belt mount on the SW cage as it is mounted to the roof sides. You'll also need a tailgate of some sort and possibly a tire carrier if you want to carry a spare. There are also some specific ST trim pieces around the windscreen for the dome light, sun visors etc. If you can source all of the ST parts it's possible and you shouldn't have to mess with the cage under the truck. Its just going to be super expensive to get everything and time consuming to change back and forth if you going to install the full SW interior trim each time you switch.
 

Angus

Well-known member
Once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast. With W2KBruner's help, I can switch back and forth in about 3 hours. It took me about a year to gather all the parts, but it was not cheap. I am probably into this for about $3-4k, including the new soft top. Good luck!
 

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rlynch356

Well-known member
Mine goes from ST to SW using a D90 fiberglass top.. no cage change (they are very different).. the rear door is like a POE, but I suppose I could also run a standard SW rear door - something to try at some point.. I am using SW full doors (and a badger 2 GK top which is about 14 years old now..takes a couple of hours to swap it over but not bad.
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rlynch356

Well-known member
Another thought would be to have Chris @ Badger make a top for you that goes on the SW cage.. no idea how it would look or what would need to change (belt rails, and a header bar for sure) but could be possible. that way you would strip the top and interior bits from the truck and put on the soft top.. Since you have an SW, your limited in a way to what you can do.. FWIW the ST last cage for sale that I saw was $7k, used as well but in good shape.. if they ever get reproduced it could be an option. down the road.
 

KGH

Active member
I belive Andy at D90tops/Voyager is changing directions on the fiberglass tops. Impression I got during a phone call. You may want to check with him.
 
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