To Top

History of Bikini/Bimini Tops?

• CATEGORIES: Advertising & Brochures, Features • TAGS: .

UPDATE IV: Barney sent a photo of his rare Whitco Bikini Top attached to a 1971 CJ-5 (with his dog Manny smiling in the back). While not exactly like the bikini tops we saw in the later 1970s, it likely represents the first production example of what became the bikini top (if defined by attached to the windshield in the front and held in place by straps in the back)


UPDATE III: It appears the definition of the Bimini top is that it is open in the front, which isn’t consistent with the tops we’re discussing below ….  I’m trying to determine when/where the top cover originated that, in the front, connects to the windshield, then goes over a mid-bar (usually a roll bar), and, in the back, is held in place by two straps from either side of the top.

Here’s a DIY Bikini top made from a 4-by-4-foot canvas tarp via Four Wheeler Mag:

UPDATE II: This Whitco brochure shows that the company was advertising a “Bikini” top during the 1960s, though it isn’t the design of top (like the one below) I was hoping to document. This top is closer to a Surrey top design.

UPDATE: Vernon notes that these were also called Bimini tops, a term I think came from the boating world?

Maury asked me if I knew when bikini tops were first produced. I don’t have any information on this.  My guess is they arrived for jeeps in the mid-1970s as none of my earlier parts catalogs show the bikini top as an option. Anyone remember when they first started seeing them?

Pic for reference:



16 Comments on “History of Bikini/Bimini Tops?

  1. John North Willys

    i’ve heard them called ” bimini tops ” — was there bikini bottoms ? ? –> (___Y___)

  2. Brad

    I had a ’47 jeep in early 1973. I had a bikini top made at a local upholstery shop after having seen one somewhere else.
    He said he was familiar with them and knew exactly what I wanted. I was unhappy when I picked it up. He made a top that slid into the windshield channel and slipped over the high point of the roll bar. The one I saw and wanted laced to the roll cage. No windshield down trips with that top. I hardly ever used it.

  3. Jim Johnson

    Mine is Kayline bought new in 1982.


  4. John North Willys

    the imperial usa forces detonated an ” a-bomb ” over bikini atoll in 1946 — so bikini tops cannot be dated before that time — bimini is the westernmost district of the bahamas — bimini tops were used on boats to shade drug runners from the blinding caribbean sun …

  5. David Eilers Post author

    Brad, that’s useful info.

    The bikini top made for you by the upholsterer is the standard design, so it must have been available at some point before 1973 (sorry to hear that wasn’t what you wanted though). The downside to the design, and I imagine why you weren’t happy with the one you bought, is that you need the windshield up/attached to use it.

    Out of curiosity, where were you located at that time?

    – Dave

  6. Brad

    We moved to Carson City Nv. in April 1972. And had the top made the next spring in Carson City. After slipping over the high point of the rollbar it pulled down 4-5 inches and was held in place by one button domed snap on the back side of the rollbar on each side, no straps. It was made of off-white canvas (no waterproof, rubberizing, vinal, nothing) when it got wet it flapped like a sail.
    Through the entire ’70s the area (Carson City, Reno, Dayton and even Lake Tahoe) hosted a couple jeep rodeos each year. So the one I first saw could have come in from anywhere.

  7. Kurt in Renton

    I have my Dad’s top off his 74. Most likely purchased in the early 80s. It’s a Bestop with the made in the USA tag in it. My newer top of course is made in china 🙁

  8. Barney Goodwin

    The Whitco Bikini in the posted flyer above was referred to as a “full length bikini” in other Whitco documents. It uses the existing top bows to create a safari top effect. We have a black one that is on our 71 (pictured in an ad bottom right) most of the year. It was NOS when installed. They are very nice. This is a very rare Whitco accessory when found today. Dave, I may be wrong, but I cannot remember Whitco literature showing a roll bar wrap bikini and I have never had a Whitco one in our Whitco inventories over the years. This may have been their only one offered. As a footnote, roll bars were not standard equipment until 76 I believe though by 74/75 most CJs came with them installed already.

  9. Barney Goodwin

    Update: I just checked the 2-page installation sheet for what I have above and apparently Whitco later changed the name of the same product in the flyer above to “CJ SAFARI TOP compatible with existing WHITCO hardware.” At no point on these 2 pages is the word bikini used. I have provided Dave a photo of it installed.

  10. Charlie Duryea

    Hi Dave..funny you brought this topic up, as I just made a top for my 47. No rollbar , so I had a conduit tube bent for the front holes, and I already had common sense fasteners on (10) windshield. I used some white canvas and started with the fastener keepers, then stretched it over and back , then pinned up the slack and started stitching by hand. There are four rear grommets to tighten the top to my footman loops. It isn’t real pretty and I need to take some slack out of it, but it sure beats baking in Nebr. sun. Charlie

  11. David Eilers Post author

    Pretty? Charlie, it’s a jeep :-). Sounds perfect. I hope it helps you stay cool!

    – Dave

  12. Eric

    The roll bar was standard on all Renegades starting with the Renegade I. It was also available through Whitco directly and Jeep dealers at the same time as a Jeep Authorized Accessory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe without commenting