Jeep introduced sailcloth soft tops for the Wrangler almost a decade ago, and they’ve never looked back. Wrangler owners are pleased with the additional quality and ride comfort so much that even hardcore Jeep owners have embraced this refinement. There’s a good reason for the warm reception too… the material lasts much longer than traditional soft top fabric, it’s quieter, and it’ll keep you just a tad warmer in the winter.
We’ll talk about the fabric, and it’s use in soft tops, but first a little history lesson.
Jeep has been refining the Wrangler for decades. Starting with the military, Jeep vehicles have always been known for rugged durability and off-road prowess. As the years went on and Jeep started to become popular with average consumers, the designers and engineers realized that they needed to focus on more than just off-road capability if they were going to sell more vehicles. They set their sights on some refinements to the CJ/Wrangler platform that would enhance the off-road ability and make the vehicle more mass-market friendly.
Some of the goals of that evolution were to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), improve fuel economy and improve safety. Plus, the engineers had to stay true to the Jeep name and maintain or improve the off-road capability of the vehicle. As such, the Wrangler underwent a series of improvements, such as moving from leaf-spring suspension to coil suspension, redesigning the folding mechanism on the soft top and in 2001, replacing the traditional soft top fabric with sailcloth fabric.
During the years 1997 through 2006 Jeep produced a Wrangler with the code name TJ. The TJ was the first Wrangler with coil suspension. As an incremental upgrade to the platform, in 2001 Jeep put 4-ply sailcloth on every Wrangler. The 4-ply material was the heaviest they’d ever used and was extremely durable. So much so, they realized it was over engineered and decided to go with a lighter 3-ply material in 2003 to save cost.
If you own a late model 2001 through present Wrangler, you know what the sailcloth looks and feels like. It fits tight, even after years of use. It keeps road noise and sound outside (like when you’re driving in the rain), and it stands up to the elements.
Fortunately, the company who made those soft tops for Jeep sells replacement tops as well. Bestop has been supplying the soft tops that go on every Wrangler for years. They’re made in the USA by some of the best craftsmen in the industry.
Sailcloth fabric was an immediate hit in 2001 when it first appeared on the Wrangler, and consumers with older Jeeps wanted to enjoy the benefits of this new fabric on their vehicles too. Bestop decided to make it’s line of replacement tops in traditional fabric and the new sailcloth fabric so you could choose. Obviously, the sailcloth costs a bit more, but the added durability and driver comfort more than justify the price.How to choose the right soft top for your Jeep
You need to know the year of your vehicle. It is important to know for sure and not guess since there are subtle variations in the tops that make them fit perfectly on various vehicles.
Figure out what kind of doors your vehicle has. Most likely, you have either Half Doors or Full Doors. Half doors are the ones where the top half of the door is made of plastic and fabric, with a window that zippers open and closed. Full doors are the ones with glass windows that can be opened and closed by turning the knob inside.
Decide if you want clear or tinted windows. Tinted windows are suitable for hot regions and for added privacy. Clear windows are better for driving at night and all around visibility. Some of the available soft tops give you the choice of clear or tinted.