Every once in a while a new product comes along that is a real game-changer for the 4WD community. It may not be flashy, but the product fills a void. Such is the case with the hinged side windows in the new hardtop for my Jeep Wrangler. Whatâ€™s just as amazing is the story behind this tremendous find.
I was working on the Jeep one afternoon when this couple walks by. I know them vaguely, haven spoken a few times over the years. Jerry Mancini and his wife live about a block from me.Â Jerry owns Rally Tops, www.rallytops.com, located in nearby Gardena, Calif. They make hardtops for a variety of off-road vehicles, as well as tonneaus and bed covers for pickups.
At the time my Wrangler had an old, zipper challenged, yellowing windows soft top. As he approached Jerry said, â€œDid you ever think of putting a hardtop on that vehicle?â€ Coincidentally, that thought had crossed my mind every time I tried to unzip the rear window. â€œI have a top that will fit,â€ he said.
During a conversation, as I toured his factory, I outlined what I wanted. Jerry said heâ€™d kick around the idea. He called me one day to say he had a solution, and asked me to bring in the Jeep. After he described what he had in mind, I agreed and thought, â€œThatâ€™s nice.â€
But after I got the Jeep back â€œniceâ€™ just wasnâ€™t descriptive enough. I couldnâ€™t stop thinking that this is a really fantastic solution.
Jerry solved an issue that has been bugging the heck out of me for years. Because my Wrangler is a two-door, packing gear and retrieving supplies can be a challenge. Itâ€™s really tough to find all those small spaces in the back. Iâ€™d have to reach over the back seat or climb in through the tailgate while packing and retrieving.
Pop-up side windows are a godsend
These side windows are just what I needed. Each swings up like a tailgate window. Two small struts hold the windows up and out of the way; the keyed handles keep your gear secure. Those handles recess when in closed position so they donâ€™t get caught on brush or other material.
The hardtop is made of fiberglass and inlaid with mildew-resistant carpet. When installed, youâ€™d swear itâ€™s a stock hardtop: Itâ€™s designed that well. I ordered black, but I believe he also offers white and tan.
Itâ€™s amazing the difference these windows make. Loading up is much more efficient. I can reach all those pockets and holes that previously were nearly inaccessible. I find I can pack more into the Wrangler because I can access from the sides.
Retrieving stuff is equally slick. No more having to climb over the back seat or in past the tailgate. Just pop a window, and reach in. In the past I had to unload most of the vehicle to reach certain gear. Again, no more. Everything in the back of the Jeep is within armâ€™s reach. And I can reach it from the outside of the vehicle.
New windows pass an important test
Hinged windows may seem great on paper, but they must stand up to the rigors of four wheeling. If not, theyâ€™re of little value.
Soon after installing my new topper, I headed out on my annual Rubicon expedition. If youâ€™ve done the Rubicon, you know how demanding it is â€“ on humans and machines.
The route is dusty. It can â€“ and did â€“ rain, and rain heavily. And, of course, I got jostled about as only the Rubicon can do to you.
The new windows passed with flying colors. The locks never let go. The windows never popped open. There wasnâ€™t a smidgen of dust or water in the cab. To say I was amazed is an understatement. In fact, I was flat out impressed.
Even though this was a one-off production, Jerry and his crew put their almost 3 decades of experience into it. The top fits like a glove, and the windows and window frames are of high quality. Jerry tells me that the top is a bit lighter than a stock hardtop, but itâ€™s just as sturdy. I know I can count on years of worry-free use.
A couple quibbles with the new hardtop
Only two issues have come to light so far. For some reason, the locks on the driver side are keyed separately from the passenger side. My guess is that itâ€™s a simple oversight. This was, after all, essentially a prototype.
Iâ€™d also like to see thicker bolt protectors on the undersides of the locks. Those bolt ends protrude quite a bit. If your vehicle is leaning toward you (causing the window edge to drop), you can bang your forehead on a bolt end. The bolt ends come covered with a small covering (see the image); a thicker and softer piece would be nice. I like the orange color. Itâ€™s easier to see them from a distance.
Considering what a difference these windows make, Iâ€™m really surprised that more hardtops arenâ€™t made this way. Whether Rally Tops will introduce the product I donâ€™t know. I sense that if he were to begin production, Jerry would limit the install to only his hardtop Jeep models since he can control the strength of top to hold the windows.
Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s open to hearing from other 4WD enthusiasts. If you own a Jeep and are interested in learning more about the hardtop with the hinged windows, contact Jerry Mancini. He can be reached at 800-664-8677, or by email to email@example.com .
If Jerry realizes there is sufficient demand in the 4WD community for this type of hardtop, he might begin producing some models.
This is new window configuration is the perfect solution for a two-door Jeep Wrangler. The side windows make such a difference in being able to pack and retrieve your gear. Iâ€™m even more excited now to go four-wheeling. This new hard top has added a whole new dimension to my adventures. Perhaps one day you, too, will be able to enjoy the added benefits of this type of hardtop.
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Did you miss the previous article?
- 2017-09-11Â Amateur International 4WD Event â€“ the Penultimate Bucket ListÂ
- 2017-08-10 2m Hamming Off-Road
- 2017-07-14 Are You a Roads Scholar?
- 2017-06-15 San Rafael A Swell of aÂ Drive
- 2017-05-11 How to Properly Abandon A Vehicle
- 2017-04-26 Wilderness First Aid Training Valuable On And Off The Trails
- 2017-03-17 Complicated Issue? â€“ Trail Spacing!
- 2017-02-18 Driving Off (road) into the Sunset
- 2017-01-11 Resolve To Cook With a Dutch Oven
I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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