By Ken Smith
Recently we had the opportunity to drive down Hwy. 101 alongside the Pacific Ocean from Santa Barbara to visit Robbins Auto Top Co. in their 50,000 sq./ft. facility in Oxnard, California. Established in 1943, and spanning three generations of the Robbins family, the company is one of the world’s leading specialists in keeping the weather out of your British classic.
They also manufacture tops and other weather ancillaries for no less than 500 other makes listed in their catalog including Miata, Mustang, Volvo, Volkswagen—you name it, they make it! In 1950, Robbins began shipping tonneaus for MG, Triumph, and other British cars, before in the late 1960s undertaking tops for European convertibles.
Greeted by Mike Cobb, the President of the company, we were given the grand tour and an amazing sight it was to see over 100 workers in this huge building cutting, stitching and assembling tops and tonneaus to be dispatched not only to the United States but also to many major overseas markets.
Our tour began with an overview of the entire assembly line before we met Rosendo the plant manager, and were able to witness the computerized operation of how the tops were cut. Each individual top for each individual model has its own digitized pattern and once fed down to the floor below is cut automatically by an amazing machine using Gerber cutting technology. Huge rolls of material are fed into the Gerber which then diligently and economically slices the various parts of an individual top having received the information from the master plotter computer upstairs. Over 200 different materials are used in a myriad of colors to ensure customer match and satisfaction.
The next process is the stitching and welding of the top, and as necessary the pockets for securely fastening the glass windows to the tops installed on certain models. Cleanliness is paramount during the whole operation. Each top is then assembled into a kit which is bar coded prior to dispatch after being bubble packed for extra protection.
Also, Robbins have their own in-house machine shop where tooling for individual machines is created. No part is too small or too large to be produced on site. In addition they have over 60 distributors in the U.S.A. and another 35 in Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe. All in all a fascinating glimpse into a product that many of us take for granted, without realizing the skill, pride, and intensive care that goes into the manufacture of every Robbins Top.
Our thanks to Mike, Doug and Mark Robbins for their hospitality on our visit Further information can be obtained at: www.RobbinsAutoTopCo.com.