After 15 years, the soft top on the Jeep was getting a bit (actually more than a bit) ratty, so I began to look for a replacement. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on the top, but I did want something that would look nice and would keep out the weather. My first inclination was toward a Bestop Sailcloth Replacement Top, as I’d heard good things about them, but alas, they were way out of my price range at $500 plus. So I started poking around on Amazon to see what I could find (I find the free shipping that comes with the Amazon Prime account can make a huge difference on bulky stuff). What I found was the Rampage 99515 Soft Top with Upper Door Skins for a mere $320. The reviews on Amazon looked good so I hit the one-click button and purchased the top.
The top arrived two days later as per the usual Amazon Prime shipping, It was nicely rolled in a reasonably small package with tissue paper separating the window plastic. As I had nice weather, I went ahead and started the installation despite the temperature being a bit low (mid 60s). The top itself and the rear windows went on without a hitch, there’s a bunch of small screws that secure the top to the windshield mount, those needed to be saved and reused. All in all, replacing the top and rear windows took about half an hour and it would have been quicker if I hadn’t needed to drill out some of the mounting screws. The fit was good, the top looks great and it’s much easier to put up and down than the original top ever was.
And now we get to the hard part, the upper door skins. I knew before I started that they would be trouble and they were. The first step was to cut the old skins off the frames and clean the frames up a bit. No problem there, a bit of work with a pocket knife and the frames were naked. The next step, though, was a lot harder; you have to stretch the new skins over the frames, so that they fit tightly. It helps a great deal to warm the skins up first, a few minutes in a clothes dryer at low heat does the trick nicely. However, try as I might, I could not get the skins on the frames. And when I finally did, I ripped the skins slightly! This was a problem, although the skins were still weather tight, they didn’t look right and I was pretty sure they shouldn’t rip going on.
I called Rampage about the problem and told them the model year, etc of the Jeep. They asked where I purchased the top, I told them Amazon and they grumbled a bit. Apparently, the upper door frames on a ’97 Wrangler are slightly larger than those on a ’98+ Wrangler and they ship a different set of door skins for ’97s. However, as the order went through Amazon, they didn’t see it and so I got the wrong skins. After a little back and forth with some emailed pictures and a copy of my receipt, they shipped me out a new set of the properly sized door skins. When I received them I compared them to the original skins I received and yes, they are ever so slightly larger, but it’s just enough. I threw them in the dryer for a couple of minutes and was able to get them on with minimal fuss. They still weren’t easy to get on, but at least I didn’t rip them and didn’t have to resort to profanity. I’m thinking Rampage really needs to create a separate part number for ’97 Wranglers so others don’t have the same problem.
All in all I’m quite happy with the top. There are still some minor issues with the way the doors close, but I think that’s a misadjustment on my part. Rampage was very good about getting me the correct door skins in a timely manner. The top itself went on very easily and looks great. There are a couple of zippered pockets in the inside front corners that are pretty handy and you can’t really beat the price (especially with Amazon Prime). I can highly recommend the top, just make sure you get the correct door skins!