$6.00 - Faux Chrome for your Miata Interior

by Eric Lander

For many Miata owners, there is an abundance of accessories available for our vehicles. With so many available to choose from, it becomes difficult to make all the modifications we want - while keeping our wallets from becoming too thin.

With the inspiration of Gary Madison, and his car Hakuna - I completed a series of small interior modifications that makes the interior of a black Miata truly shine!

This set of instructions will allow you to add a chrome like finish to any or all of the following:
• Vent Rings
• Defroster Vents
• Door Handle Cups

Here is what you will need:

• Plasti-Kote Chrome Bumper paint
• Cotton Swabs
• Cotton Balls
• 600 Grit Sandpaper
• Cup of Water
• Masking Tape
• Safety Pin
• Rubbing Alcohol
• Coat Hanger (or Drapery Hook)
• Black Permanent Marker (Sharpie!)

To start off, you will need to remove the pieces from your interior that you wish to refinish:

Door Cup Handles
Removing the door cup handles will require only one screw, which is very noticeable at all times.

Vent Rings
In order to remove the vent rings and defroster vents, I suggest using a bent coat hanger. Bend the coat hanger to have a small hook like end. Insert the coat hanger into the vents, turn it so that the hook can grip to the back of the vent - and give a brisk pull. The vents themselves should come out quite easily! Be sure to push simultaneously on the console as you pull on the coat hanger sharply. If you don't push, you CAN crack and break the center console bracket at the top.
(I used a drapery hook myself, but anything similar works quite easily.)

The rings themselves will be attached to the entire "tube" like vent assembly. To remove it, use a small flathead screwdriver to gently pry apart the ring from the rest of the vent assembly. (Do not be overly concerned if you break any of the tabs. On two of my vents, I snapped one tab each, and the pieces fit back together and hold as good as ever.)

Defroster Vents
Use the same technique as described for the vent balls - above.

Now that you have the pieces off, you will want to sand them down to prepare them for painting. I strongly suggest cleaning them all off though using rubbing alcohol and swabs / cotton balls. This way, you will be removing any substances that can cause a bad finish in the end.

Now, you will want to sand the existing finish off of the areas that will be painted. If you look closely at the finish, you can see that it is quite porous or "bumpy". Your goal, is to sand this finish off and make it as smooth as possible for the paint. In order to do this, you will want to dip your sandpaper in water before and during your sanding. This will help you achieve a smoother finish as well as control the dust that normally comes off when sanding plastic.

As displayed in the picture at left you will want to mask off the inner portion of the defroster vent. For mine, I used two complete layers of masking tape, as you see in photo one. Once the tape has been applied to the entire top, you will then need your safety pin. Although rather tedious, this is essential to control the paint and prevent it from running down the vent slants! Now, use the pin to score the tape along the edges so that your masking job looks like mine does in photo two, seen below. Don't worry if you can't get it right the first time, just do it again until you do.

Finish masking the defroster vents by completely covering the sides and bottom with your masking tape.

Layout some newspaper or a drop cloth so that your painting area is covered. If you can create a booth, than that is best. You simply want to avoid having a lot of dust flying around, because it can settle and ruin the appearance of your paint's finish.

Once you have the painting area all set, simply lay out the pieces so that they can be easily sprayed in quick light motions. Shake the can according to directions printed on the label, and work from about 14 to 18 inches away using side to side motions. Apply one coat, then let dry for approximately one half hour. Then, apply the second coat and allow a couple hours to dry.

If you have gotten any over spray on the defroster vent slants - simply cover them up using your black marker!

Well, you have everything painted, so now you just need to get them all back into your car! Simply reverse the methods of how you removed each piece, and you are all set.

Well, to be honest - I cannot offer any solid advice for keeping these pieces in their best condition. I have only had them installed since December 1, 2001. I suspect that over time, thanks to the fingernails of myself and passengers - the door handle cups may become a bit scratched. My car so far though has made it through a few long nights out with no signs of wear.



This modification came completely from Hakuna's interior. Gary Madison was the source - and his car the inspiration! To review his write up and images, please visit his web site: http://www.pacificsites.com/~hakuna/miata.html

To reach me, simply email me at: eric@ericlander.com