by John Pfanstiehl
Some parts break. Others just slowly degrade year by year. That is the case with top latches. They seldom break but at some point, the owner realizes they look pretty shabby. Fortunately Zip Corvette offers new reproduction latches with beautiful chrome finishes to replace old latches that have become dingy over time. Below are photos illustrating the replacement and adjustment of convertible top front latches. This task is easy and straightforward. Only two bolts attach the outer latches and one bolt is used for their adjustment. Replacement of the center latch requires removal of the header trim panel but that only involves 11 screws. All the fasteners are easy to reach and your hands won’t even get dirty.
01: Corrosion and pits mar the appearance of the chrome top latches after more than 40 years of use. No amount of cleaning or polishing can make these look good again.
02: The finish on the new reproduction 1968-1975 Convertible Top Front Latch Assemblies from Zip Corvette is as good as show chrome and is a striking improvement over the old latch. The cost is less than if the old latches were re-chromed (if they even could be disassembled).
03: Note: be careful when removing a new latch from its protective plastic wrapper. The adjusting bolt is in its own tiny bag inside which could be overlooked and thrown away. The bolt is coated with a thread lock so don’t install it more than finger tight until it’s time for adjustment.
04: Zip Corvette offers the three separate latches. The left and right outer latches are different from each other. The 1968-1975 Convertible Top Front Center Latch looks the same as the left latch but its adjustment screw has a rounded metal tip. To help preserve the finish, it is recommended to wax the latches before installation.
05: The tip of the adjustment screw for the two outer latches has a rubber cushion. The 1968-1975 Center Latch Adjustment Bolt is solid plated steel with a rounded tip. All are made in the USA.
06: The rubber cushion on this latch adjusting bolt is just about gone after many years of use. Zip Corvette also offers the 1969-1976 Front Latch Adjusting Bolts separately.
07: Fold the top down to make easy access for removing or installing the top latches and related parts. The header trim panel will also be replaced because the old one is cracked and faded.
08: There is no problem getting to and removing the two bolts that attach the outer latches. A 7/16-inch wrench is all that’s needed here.
09: Mark the position of the bolts before loosening and removing each latch because the mounting bracket has elongated slots. Marks will help during assembly to position the latch close to where it needs to be.
10: The screw driver is pointing to a shim at the front bolt of this latch. Make note of any shims to put them back in the same place during installation of the latches.
11: The Convertible Top Header Trim Panel covers the attachment bolts of the center latch and needs to be removed to replace that latch.
12: Remove the outer latches first. They block access to the front panel screw on each side.
13: Remove the 11 1968-1975 Convertible Top Header Panel Screws that attach the trim panel and lift the panel off.
14: After the trim panel is removed, the attachment bolts of the old center latch can be accessed. Unbolt the old latch and install the new one.
15: Zip Corvette’s new reproduction 1968-1975 Convertible Top Header Trim Panel (Plastic) looks a lot better than the tired part it is replacing. It’s made in the USA and fits well. I used a Dremel cut-off wheel to trim and radius the corner that pushes into the top material.
16: While the trim panel is off, clean the top latch pin with 00 or finer steel wool. If the old pins won’t clean up, Zip Corvette offers both new reproduction 1969-1975 Convertible Top Front Guide Pins and the OEM style 12-point 1968-1975 Convertible Top Front Guide Pin Bolts.
17: Tip: after cleaning parts with steel wool, make certain to vacuum or wipe up any steel wool particles. These can leave tiny rust stains on the paint if they get damp or wet.
18: The attachment of the top latch pin allows a lot of movement for adjustment. Therefore, if removing the pin for cleaning or replacement, first mark its position.
19: Install the new latches, placing them in the same position as the old latches. If that position wasn’t otherwise marked, signs of the location of the old washers may help. This shows that the latch was adjusted all the way forward.
20: New reproduction 1968-1982 Top Latch Mount Bolts are also available from Zip Corvette. They are made in the USA and come two to a package for one latch.
21: After installing the latches, put the top up and adjust the screws. Make sure the rubber cushion isn’t overly compressed by the outer latches.
22: Tip: use an adjustable wrench to hold the latch end if the adjustments screw requires a lot of force to turn in. Also using a 3/8-inch six-sided socket prevents the screw head from being rounded.
23: This adjusting bolt was off center. The latch needed readjustment so that the rubber cushion could have full contact. Also, the bolt was only in a few turns and therefore thread lock was applied.
24: Lastly, install the new trim panel. The new latches and trim panel are a major improvement over the old eyesores. You’ll be happy you replaced these parts every time you put the top up or down.
Optional Things to Do When Installing Top Latches:
01: Consider installing a new 1968-1982 Front Guide Pin Bushing if the old one is damaged or missing. These are available individually from Zip Corvette and are made in the USA.
02: The plastic bushing can be pushed down and out after the upper lip is tapped in or cut off. Note the small dents in the chrome around the bushing. They were made by the guide when the top was not carefully put up.
03: Press the new bushing into place using water pump pliers. Place a washer on top of the bushing to prevent marring its upper surface.
04: This is a good time to touch up any paint chips on the top mechanism. Tip: Spray aerosol satin black paint into a small container and then use a brush to avoid dealing with overspray.
1968-1975 Corvette Convertible Top Front Latch Replacement
Source: Zip Corvette Parts
8067 Fast Lane | Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | (800) 962-9632
Corvette Parts List Related to Article:
- 1968E Convertible Top Front Latch
- 1968E Convertible Top Front Center Latch
- 1968L-1975 Convertible Top Front Latch
- 1968L-1975 Convertible Top Front Center Latch
- 1969-1975 Convertible Top or Hard Top Front Guide Pins
- 1968-1975 Convertible Top Front Guide Pin Bolts
- 1963-1968 Windshield Front Guide Pin Bushings (Original Strikers)
- 1969-1982 Front Guide Pin Bushing
- 1968-1982 Hood Release/Top Latch Mount Bolts
- 1968 Hard Top / T-Top Latch Adjusting Bolt – Metal Tip
- 1969-1976 Hard Top / T-Top Front Latch Adjusting Bolt
- 1968-1975 Convertible Top Header Trim Panel (Plastic)
- 1968-1975 Convertible Top Header Panel Screw