We're located in south-central Pennsylvania, just two hours from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC., and three hours from New York City and Pittsburgh.
One of the nice things about this area is the abundance of rolling hills and mountains, and twisty back roads that make driving top-down so enjoyable.
With that in mind, and even though we have three kids, my wife and I purchased a 2001 BMW Z3 Roadster a few years ago. It's my daily driver, but I've come to love the car so much that it seems I suffer from withdrawal when I haven't driven it in a while! I'm sure many of you probably feel the same way about your convertible.
I've accessorized, personalized, and 'modded' the car in numerous ways, and one of the first things I got for it was a matching Topaz Blue hardtop. Later I got Arctic Silver and Jet Black hardtops. Well, of course, I've been asked "why all the tops?" All I can say is I like to change things up from time to time to keep things interesting.
Having three tops presented several problems though. How to store them with limited garage space, how to mount and remove them quickly and easily, and how to keep them from getting dinged and scratched. I had a cart, but it was awkward lifting and maneuvering the top over the trunk of the car to remove it or mount it, and I had to enlist my wife's help each time. Well, she barely tips the scales at 100 pounds, and I'd get the dreaded 'eye roll' each time I wanted her help, so I knew I had to do something differently.
I ordered a lift to make mounting and removal a simple one-person job. It worked fine, but there were several design flaws that became evident during the course of using it. It was designed for a range of hardtops, and therefore wasn't an ideal fit for any one particular top, including mine. There was a strap that ran under the top that had to be worked out from under the top after it had been lowered onto the car. This same strap had to be threaded back under the top before lifting it. This situation was somewhat annoying to me.
After dealing with this for some time, I decided to design our own hoist that would do away with the strap, and be simpler to use. I was also aiming to reduce the cost, which was over $240 for the original manual hoist I purchased. Electric versions ran from $500 to over $700 depending on the retailer.
After fabricating a few prototypes, and determining drawbacks that they exhibited, we came up with the current design. It was originally designed using our BMW Z3 hardtop as the test top, but it also has an adjustment to fit tops with differing dimensions, and currently we've modified the design for numerous other models' tops. We have a hoist tailored for each particular car's hardtop, rather than utilizing one design that doesn't perfectly fit any top, as other shops have done.
So now, when fall and spring are in the air, and you're not sure when to mount or remove your snow tires, at least you don't have to think much about your hardtop--it can be removed or remounted easily in just a matter of minutes--you can lift the top and be out on the road enjoying the scenery when a beautiful day presents itself, or if wintry weather catches you off guard, remounting the top is just as simple and quick.