I own a '90 Miata that was purchased from the original owner almost three years ago. It's pretty much the classic (Red) roadster that took most of our hearts away when it was first introduced. Mine has the standard interior, wheels, AM/FM cassette, 5-speed transmission and viscous LSD, PS,PB, and A/C. The car now has 140K on the odometer, and thanks to very attentive maintainance it runs very, very well. The technician that maintained the car for the original owner was recently reunited with the car, and was quite impressed with it's "tightness". I drove a new 1.8 about a year ago, and could not find any discernable evidence that it was a better car, aside from the slight performance boost from the 1.8 engine. This is clearly a very sound little car, and fussy maintainance pays big dividends!
So...what's this got to do with convertible tops? Not much...I just wanted to give you a little history lesson about my car!
Down to business.........My Miata way very seriously damaged in a hailstorm May 4th of this year. I was cruising I-75 North of Atlanta in the early evening, when the most vicious hailstorm I have ever encountered struck, just as I was exiting I-75 onto I-575. To make matters worse...the hail was accompanied by torrential rain...and the top was down! The car was pounded by golfball-sized hail, and I have a newfound respect for racing drivers who get out of the racing groove and into the marbles. Besides being soaked inside, the body was a mess. I counted 177 dents on the car. Virtually every panel was dented, even the windshield frame and the small panel on the rear deck between the trunklid and the belt molding.
I was certain that my (really very understanding) insurance company would total the car, and was prepared to buy it back from them and fix it at my own expense. Wrong! Citing the "excellent overall condition.." of the car, the adjuster recommended repairing the bodywork. A few weeks earlier I'd met a very friendly fellow; an executive with the Audi Southeastern sales organization, on a flight to New Orleans. He was a "car guy", too. A real enthusiast. I don't know why, but we got onto the subject of body shops, and he mentioned that Atlanta Paint and Body in Cumming GA was very good. So I sought them out, we talked things over and they got the job. I specified a "show grade" restoration of the body, including a new set of emblems, MAZDA decal on the front bumber, replacement of all exterior weather seals and virtually everything that had suffered from exposure to the elements, including the windshield wipers. Since the hood had to be replaced, I even specified replacement of all of the decals on the underside of the hood. In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am a candidate for the Anal Retentive Compulsive Foundation's poster child. The bill for all this extravagance was nearly $3000.00, of which $850.00 was my responsibility.
What I got back was a body that was virtually free of any evidence of damage, and the 7 coat paint job (2 primer, 3 red, 2 clear) was stunning in it's beauty. "Better than new" does not do justice to it's brilliance. That's the good news. The bad news was that the top....the original...looked like hell by comparison. It was the original. The window had been replaced once, and despite good care it wasn't in the same class as the appearance of the painted exterior. It had to go, no argument was acceptable. I did a lot of research, and settled on the Robbins vinyl top with the glass rear window. It was a good choice. I had also researched Brian Dior's article on replacing the top, and felt confident that I could do the job myself.
Brian, thanks. Your article convinced me that I could do this myself, and I did. It looks great. I love the glass rear window. I highly recommend this top. But...I do take exception to your comment that reinstallation is essentially easy once the top is reattached to the frame. Not so, at least in my opinion. You left out too many details, but I still thank you. I also recommend that one remove the frame from the car after the fabric has been removed. It doesn't seem possible to me that the attachments around the B-pillar can be made successfully (read:without fear of leaks) with the frame on the car.
I found the Robbins instructions perfectly adequate, once I'd oriented myself to the pictures. I also referenced the Enthusiast's Shop Manual, but only on one occasion when I found myself scratching my head over the orientation of a part that I'd carelessly forgotten to note during disassembly. If you've got one, great. It'll be good insurance. If not, pay attention during disassembly and you'll do fine. One note: I always place the fasteners which hold a part into a small plastic bag and tape it to the part. It makes reassembly much less dramatic. In this case, there aren't too many to be concerned about, but it's always helpful.
I'll ask readers to refer to Brian's article for removal of the top. His "on-the-car" approach works well here, with one exception; do not drill out the rivets on the cable ends. Remove the screws and pull the cables out through the sleeves It's just plain easier to deal with during reinstallation. Top removal in a piece of cake. And I won't bore you with a point-by-point description of reinstallation. Rather, I'll pass along a few details which will save you time and frustration during installation. Just take the frame off once you've removed the fabric.
Do not use contact cement to attach the fabric to the front and sides of the frame. It's not the way the top was assembled, and it's potentially messy and once you've attached the fabric it's not easy to reposition without damaging the top. Use a good brand of 2-sided tape. Tesa makes a great one. Just call your local tape distributor. They're in the yellow pages.
I came up with a clever way to assist in attaching the top fabric/rain rail to the body. I cut a short length of aluminum tube with an ID just larger than the OD of the studs which hold the metal rails to the body. During installation, push this through the rain rail/fabric, and use it to guide this over the stud. Then, remove the tool and screw the nut on a few turns by hand. Do the center one first, then start at either end and work your way to the center. Do follow Robbins' instructions on tightening order. The metal pieces must bend to conform to the contour of the body, and not following this will likely cause buckling and subsequent leaks.
Other than the few items mentioned above, it's pretty straightforward. Be patient. Allow yourself a lot of time, and enjoy the experience and the opportunity to bond with your beloved roadster!
I'll add my 2 cents worth on replacing the original Miata top with a Robbins glass window vinyl top with rain rail. My car is a 94 black A package with a few aftermarket changes that I put on...Racing Beat air intake, timing adjusted to 14 BTDC, dual Fiamm electric horns, Clearwater headrest speakers, and cruise control.
First of all, I read all the other comments in the reviews and tech help area of the Miata net before even buying the top. Lots of good info and tips that helped, especially Brian Dore's detailed instructions. That's the review that convinced me that I could do this myself. I printed it out and read it a few times and referred to it during my top swap. Just the right amount of detail. The Robbins instructions are a little vague for the do-it-yourselfer, not current, and pictures are fuzzy.
It took me about 12 hours total time over a weekend and one night after work to remove the old top and install the new one. Mainly because I worked pretty much by myself and wanted to save the old top. It was still in fairly decent shape. I had broken the vinyl window (crow's foot) during a cold fall weekend trip to the Poconos and I really wanted a glass window anyway. Also, I was fairly deliberate at each step, rereading the instructions, looking at the top, and verifying what I was going to do. I really didn't want to mess up my car or my new $500 top.
I found that a "wonder bar" worked very well to remove the plastic push pins that hold the carpeting in place around the rear shelf. It is a short, wide crowbar type device. It is thin enough to get behind these plastic pins and wide enough to keep from breaking them into pieces. I also found that a good sturdy fork from your wife's kitchen drawer works well too. Both give good leverage to pop those pins without breaking them.
The only real problem I came across was the blasted screw at the bottom of each B pillar that holds in the bottom piece of weather stripping. (I need to mention that I kept the frame on the car throughout the top swap. Removing the frame from the car might have made this step a lot easier, but removing the frame didn't look like a joy to me either.) The way I finally got the screws out was to put a Phillips screwdriver tip from my cordless drill into a small box end wrench (about 3" long) and use some duct tape to hold it all together. It was a lifesaver! Even the dog learned some "new words" before I got those screws out. The standard Sears right angle screwdriver that comes with every tool box , doesn't work and regular screw drivers are too long.
Once I had the old top off, I found that it was easy then to exchange the lower frame stop/shoulder screw and spacers. I also installed the rubber deflector flaps on the upper frame stop. All these are supplied by Robbins and needed for the glass window top.
The new top went on OK. Only problem here was that you really do need some help to put the metal framing (rain rail retainers) onto the studs which already have the new top's rain rail on them. The only other time I need some help was to get the top latched for the first time. I adjusted the turnbuckle on the latches as far as they would go, but still needed 2 people to latch the top in place. I had to push the frame from behind the car while my assistant closed the latches.
The top looks fantastic! The glass window is superb! The top is as tight as a drum. Do I recommend this top with the glass window?...ABSOLUTELY. Would I do the install myself again?.............PROBABLY. Notice the hesitation with the answer to the second question. This is not a piece of cake installation. But now I am smarter and little wiser. It's tough, but well worth the effort.
I have been recently working on restoring a 90 miata. I have found your sight to be of great value in both its articles and links to other areas.
I just completed installing a new top ( from Robbins) and would like to offer a few suggestions that might make the task easier.
Most of what I have been reading regarding this ( including the articles on miata.net ) indicate to start at the front of the convertible frame and work towards the back. While I did do this, several problems were encountered. The first was getting the fabric into the cross bows.
If you were to lay the top ( frame on top of new fabric ) down , and then lift the front up perpendicular to the ground, you can get at the bows ( working from the rear towards the front ) , much easier.
The second item is make sure that one of the first things you do is properly place the fabric over the bottom of the B pillar frame area. Working from front to rear and leaving this alone until you get to this area, left me trying to somehow pull the fabric up and over the B pillar to get the little fabric pockets over the metal tabs. ( just about impossible, but was completed ).
I would even suggest installing the small metal retainers that screw directly into the bottom of the B pillar to keep all in place.
By doing this and working your way towards the front would seem to also allow for the best opportunity to really get the front section fitted tightly and secured to the setplate with the rest of top now fixed in position.
There was a note in the Robbins kit about the fastening order of the nuts that hold the rain rail to the car. FOLLOW this ! When I reattached mine, the center bolt was secured first and looking and either end of the center bracket, the holes were not even close to where the screw studs were. Work from the center out and tighten each one about 3/4 of the way. This seems to press the rain rail against the car, smooth out the fabric and pull in the bracket to fit over all the studs properly.
Mine came out great except for being incredibly tight, I had to loosen the adjusters all the way and pull each side down by hand to attach the levers. I let the car sit out in the sun for a day ( top up ) and it seems to be loosening up a bit.
Other caveats ;
Take the seats out. 8 bolts and you have plenty of room to work with. This includes being able to hold the whole top while standing in the car and have assistants ( wife and 5 yr old son ) help with removing and installing to car frame.
While the seats are out, turn them over and inspect the bottoms. My car is a 90 and even though was pretty well cared for, needed a lot of attention. The seat bottoms were in need to wire brushing and painting.
Use this opportunity to clean out the drain tubes as mentioned elsewhere on miata.net. I was having trouble removing the plastic "tray" that sits in each side "well" ( the drain tubes are attached to the bottom of these). Mine were filthy and full of muck. One tube was clogged solid with junk. Take your time and they can be maneuvered out of the car.
When the top frame is off of the car, a lot of areas are now accessible. Take the time to go over everything that is exposed to clean up and refinish / touch-up, where needed.
I recommend removing the top frame completely from the car for installation around the "B" pillar. There are only six bolts that hold the top to the car and the additional time this removal takes is easily less that the time it takes to attach the top to the "B" pillar with the frame attached to the car.
Robbins encloses some new longer rivets for attaching the cable to the frame. but they are too large to pass through the tab on the end of the cable and the frame. You have to drill both out slightly to use the enclosed rivets. The smaller rivets will not work.
By far the most difficult step for me was attaching the new top to the back of the car. The plastic of the rain rail was so stiff that I could not force it over the studs in the back of the car. The way I solved this problem was to attach the top to the car without the mounting bracket, I just screwed the nuts directly onto the rain rail without the retaining brackets. After a couple of hours the plastic of the rain rail had compressed enough that I could unscrew the nuts and attach the metal brackets.
When attaching the rain rail to the back of the car I had to attach the nuts in exactly the order indicated by Robbins, if you don't the holes will not all line up. Also when attaching the metal bracket over the rain rail, you have to really tighten the center nut, because the ends of the center bracket slightly overlap the ends of the outer two brackets until the center nut is snugged up tight.
Note: The following could use a bit of work. OK, a lot of work. If you can fill in some of the blanks, or if you have something to add, please contact us . Or if you're really ambitious and feel like spiffing up this page (keeping the content, of course!), please let us know!!
Maint. Cleaning Treating Adjustment Protectors Repairing Boot Zipper Care Replace Window Care Replace Turning brown Scratches Glass Replacement vinyl cloth 3 window glass window Misc. rubber thingies plastic stops? Cleaning: The black vinyl top does not need much maint at all. The National club has advised useing a vinyl protector/cleaner. Armour All is not advised due to the way it turns a milky white and runs down the sides of the car. Armorall. Armorall is a sealant, which is not good for rubber at all, even less so for the soft top of your car. It doesn't allow for the vinyl in the material to breathe and causes the top to break down due to UV rays. The net result is cracking. Our club was fortunate to get a local Meguiar's rep out to one of early spring meetings for a product demo, and while I have no ties to Meguiar's, I do believe what he stated about Armorall and the soft top. The MCofA expresses the same sentiments in the Miata Magazine--don't use armorall. You need a product that is a protectant (UV and otherwise) but not a sealant. Meguiar's #40 is made just for this purpose. It would be wise to use this instead of the Viking in a bottle on your new soft top, which ever one you decide on. Regards, Richard Dekker email: firstname.lastname@example.org Edmonton, AB President, Wild Rose Chapter, MCofA CANADA 1990 Mariner Blue `R' package wannabe Tan tops seem to need extra work to keep them clean. They have these black marks that show up, and look unsightly. Larry Karpman from Bedford, TX writes Last week there was talk of those annoying black marks on the tan vinyl top, especially where the top folds. Today I took some Meguiar's #39 Vinyl/Plastic Prep and with a stiff brush did the whole top. ALL ugly marks and dirt came off. The top looks new. I finished with Meguiar's Intensive Protection. I am very pleased with the results. This could also be used on the black top.
Jessica Fawver (email@example.com) writes:
I'm the proud owner of a '90 miata & a fanatic about keeping the car looking pristine. I've tried every cleaning product to clean the top (and yes, i've even made the dreadful mistake of using armorall). The best cleaner i've found is called "No Touch" & retails for around $1.00. No Touch used to be one of the only spray-foam tire cleaning products but now, there are several others (including an armorall foam-cleaner). Personally, I think these foam-cleaners do a lousy job cleaning my tires/rims. But oo-la-la does "No Touch" ever make my vinyl top look factory-new!!! first, when the top is dry, spray the foam generously & evenly over the top. Let the foam soak until it is dissolved (usually less than 5 minutes). Wipe excess with a cloth. spot-spray the foam on any areas that aren't evenly shiny & wipe. voila!!! I've never used any other foam cleaner, so my recommendation only extends to "No Touch." of all the cleaning products, "No Touch" is tops!!! It also repels dirt & prevents dirt-buildup.
Adjustment: The soft top will get loose over time. One of the signs is the top may leak during a rain storm were it meets the windshield. This can be adjusted very easily. with the top up, pop open the clamps that hold the top to the windshield, notice there is a plastic protector that covers the adjusting nut, This cover has to be popped up so the hex nut adjuster can be turned. Simply turn the nut by hand one third a turn at a time and try the fit of the top. It should feel tight, but not a real effort to latch the top. Note these adjusters are also on the hard top, and can be adjusted the same way. Protectors: It is advised against the use of the "white protector sheet" for the rear window that may come with your car. It is used when the car is shipped to the dealership, and is not designed to protect the plastic window when the top is down. Reports of the diamond pattern transfering to the plastic under hot conditions have been posted. Many of the Miata venders carry window protectors to match your cars interior. Felt material or soft towels can also be used, be sure to protect both sides (the carpet can scratch the plastic). Repairs: The most common problems that happen with the soft top are, 1 Top coming away from the bows 2 Velcro strip coming off the side of the top 3 Zipper problems 4 Holes Here are some reports on what works. I used GE 1200 Silicone. Comes in a tube like bathtub caulking. Cleaned the area up, spread the silicone with a caulking gun, and since I lift weights I placed ten pound weight plates across the rib to ensure a good bond. I Let it set overnight and no problems since. One word of caution - use the clear silicone. I already had a tube of white so I used it. I had to go back and "recolor" some areas where the silicone seeped out when I put the weight plates on. Charlie Tucker & 2D WIND (RED 91 A pkg) Camp Lejeune, NC E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 14:11:15 -0400 That was undoubtedly 3M Fast Tack. It's a fabric cement. I've used it for various applications and it works amazingly well. It'd be my choice for repairing the top, for both fabric-to-fabric and fabric-to- metal. Mike Simmons 3M Fast Tack is an upholstery glue used mostly by shops, available at some hardware stores. It'll glue absolutely anything. I've used it in very critical situations (failure could mean serious injury). It can be messy so you have to be careful, but it WILL hold the Velcro on. Mike Simmons I've used Future Glue made by Superglue; supposed to be for automotive use; found it at Albertson's. I've got a '90 also and had the same problem. It's been holding just fine for over 5 months now. The ONLY repair that will work and stay working is to have the Velcro patch SEWN back into place. Adhesive agents just won't work. THe W/S manual was NOT refering to this condition. And Velcro was never glued into the top...it was electrowelded. I beg to differ. I used the 3M 08001 (I think that's the number) at least 3 years ago. It *still* has not come off. My top will need to be replaced before the "Gorilla Snot" breaks down. It is much easier to make this repair once you understand how it is attached to the top frame. The top fabric is one flat piece of material to which the flaps that wrap around the top frame are attached. These flaps are glued to the top material on one side, and are attached to the bows that make up the top frame without any adhesive at all. If you try to glue the flap fabric to the metal bow, the material will not have enough play when the top is raised and lowered, and will typically unglue again. Each bow is a metal tube as you would expect, but attached to the front (in relation to the car) side of the bow, all along the length of the bow is a strip of thin metal about .75" wide. The bottom is attached to the tube permanently, and the open side accomidates the end of the flap that isn't glued to the top fabric. This end of the flap is held in place by simply crimping it between the metal strip and the top bow. It is really quite simple, once you look at it. The best way to reglue the fabric to the top is to detach the free end from the bow, re-glue the other end, then reattach the free end to the bow. A small screwdriver works well to pry the metal strip open so that the free end of the flap is released. Water pump pliers work real good to crimp it back tight when you reattach it. Try to find an adhesive that dries black or clear. 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive works well, but the yellow color is a bit unsightly. Brian Brian K. Dore' Systems Analyst University of Louisiana at Lafayette (318) 482-6868 Reply-to: (Gary Fischman) To: email@example.com (Multiple recipients of list) Irwin, Chuck wrote: > > I need a new soft top. It's a long and boring story, all of the little > things that have contributed to it, so I'll save it for later. > I was just cruising through the archives looking for the word ROBBINS and > all I saw there were horror stories about doit your self installations, > and the ill fitting tops. I installed one last summer with a friend. I plan to do my own car in a couple of weeks. 1) Does anyone have any recommendations to give, or success/horror stories? It came out great, but was a bit of a pain in the ass. We followed the Robbins instructions, and I think that may have been a mistake. I've decided that when I do my own, I'm going to follow the instructions in the shop manual instead. The big difference is that with the Robbins instructions, the frame stays on the car. I also plan to remove the seats to make access easier. 2) The Adds for the Robbins top make it seem like you just undo a zipper to go from the plastic to the glass and vice versa? I checked into it, and like all things that sound to good to be true this one is not. As I understand it the replacement windows don't come with the zipper, you need to take it to your friendly upholstery shop and have them sew the zipper into the new window, to ensure the fit as the tops differ somewhat. Does any one have any experience with this? Do you mean with a Robbins top or a factory top with a Robbins replacement window? Either way, I don't think its as simple as unzip/swap/zip. 3) The other thing is that the glass window doesn't lay flat. I'm accustomed to throwing large heavy objects on the rear deck, when the top is down, this seems real limiting. When is some one going to come up with a window that has a 360 degree zipper with a flap over it to make it weather tight? Then you could zip out the entire window, and lay it flat on the rear deck and stack stuff on it. Is this a problem for those of you with the glass windows? Can I get around it by building a small platform on the rear deck to make the window lay flat? I'm sure I could find plenty of other things to stuff under the plat form. How high would it need to be to make this work? I wouldn't be putting large heavy objects on the Glass. Just not my idea of a wise thing to do. 4) Once you figure in the recommended "Professional Installation at $150 to $300, maybe the Sun-Fast (r) top is a good idea? I've been talking about Sun-Fast. Thats what I installed. Thats what I'm installing again. But you have to decide how much 4-8 hours of your time is worth. (And whether you have a friend to help you - you'll need one.) ______________________________________________________________________ I recently replaced my soft top by myself and thought I would share some of my insights on how it went. Its a worthwhile afternoon project if you're mechanically inclined and can save you several hundred dollars in labor charges. All types of replacement tops made of different materials, some even with glass rear windows, are available from the factory or various aftermarket companies at a wide variety of prices. I choose an aftermarket top with a plastic rear window. What you'll need: Don't try this without a good set of instructions to follow. I used the Miata Enthusiast's Shop Manual, although other manuals are available. Along with various screw drivers, wrenches and sockets, you' ll need some two sided tape about an inch wide, a drill and a rivet gun. How long it will take: It took me a total of six hours to complete, including the fine tuning at the end. If I had to do it again, I'm sure I could cut this number in half. Having a friend help will also save a lot of time, since some procedures are easier done with four hands than two. What to do: Step One - Removing the top. This is pretty straight forward and simple. Detach the base of the top from the back of the shelf and disconnect the frame assembly. Step Two - Remove the old fabric. This will require drilling out some of the old rivets. Not very difficult, although some of the rivets are hard to get to. Step Three - Installing the new fabric. This is the most difficult step, since the new fabric is not stretched out and doesn't always want to line up with the frame assembly. Putting the new top on will require some tugging, pulling and cursing. While struggling with the new fabric, be careful not to damage the new window. Step Four - Putting the new top back on the car. This is basically just a reverse of Step One. Reattach the frame, reattach the base of the top to the back of the shelf and then fine tune. Make sure the weather stripping is aligned and meets the top of the side windows properly. That's basically it. When finished you'll find you have a dark, tight soft top and a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Michael Opalak '91 A Classic Red Peachtree Miata Club, Atlanta GA http://www.miata.net/miatagames _____________________________________________________ Reply-to: Ron_Kownacki@transarc.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Multiple recipients of list) Thanks to all who responded - Malcom, Todd, Alan, Mike, Bill! I think I'll be going for the 3M-08001. BTW, I encountered this problem as part of a successful zipper repair. If your zipper ever gets into a state where it's completely unzipped, don't worry! The problem is quite fixable. This happened to me after one side of the zipper line detached from the soft top. First I sewed the zipper line back onto the soft top. I used good industrial-quality thread and a heavy-duty curved needle. The last time I had this problem my hacked stitching repair only lasted for a year. This time I did it right. Having the curved needle and high quality, thin thread really helped. Now I had to figure out how to make the two zipper threads to zip together. This turned out to be easy. First I removed the movable part of the zipper, which was stuck. To do this, I bent it open with a small knife, then compressed it back to its original form with pliers. I then obtained access to the end of the zipper which is supposed to be permanently zipped, the driver's side on my car. This required unpeeling the glued parts (which were gradually unpeeling anyway). I removed the heavy staple at the end of the zipper lines. I took the movable part of the zipper, and inserted it at the end, and zipped ... voila, the zipper magically zipped. This was easier that I thought, so I tried it a few times to see if it was just luck. Nope, it just works. I replaced the staple, and now I'm set. Zippers have lost a bit of their magic for me. Once I glue it, I expect that the top will be in great shape. I was very pleased to save the soft top money. This is truly a repair that anybody can do. - Ron _________________________________________________________ At 04:18 PM 3/22/96 -0500, Scott wrote: Greetings from the very slowly defrosting midwest, Can anyone tell me if the trouble I'm having with my zipper (!?) is going to be fatal or just annoying. It's like this there are two short (maybe 5-10 teeth) segments where the two sides of the zipper don't engage each other. I really have to work the thing harder than I like to get the slider past these areas. Is there something can do to repair this? Can this be lubed, if so what with? This has happened several times with my rear window zipper as well, and is easily fixed with a pair of pliers. You need to gently squeeze the rear of the slider together to better grip the zipper. Dad showed me this trick! Drive Careful Fast ... Sean N. Archer P.O. Box 61143 President, Kensington Postal Station CDN Rockies Chapter Calgary, Alberta Miata Club of America Canada T2N-4S6 ______________________________________________ Early defrost switch built into the heater fan switch I was checking the wiring diagram for this early rear defroster set up. It would be quite simple to put a switch in place of the fan switch. The blue and yellow wire coming from the timer under the dash, goes to the fan switch. When the fan switch is activated, it grounds this wire and starts the timer for the defroster. You could put a switch in line to disable the defroster when needed, or cut the wire and install a switch to ground and activate the defroster without the fan on. Just a thought (this is all theory, I have not actually tried it) email@example.com
Soft Top Replacement
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian K. Dore')
Reply-to: email@example.com (Brian K. Dore')
To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Multiple recipients of list)
Yesterday was Mardi Gras, and I spent my day off changing the top on my
Miata. I did take some pictures and as soon as they are developed and
scanned in, I'll send a note to the list. Everything worked out way better
than I expected, and it's raining hard outside the office so I'll know this
afternoon how well I replaced the weather-stripping.
If you can't wait for the article and pictures I'll provide a (not so)
short summary. I've changed a Miata top once before, so I knew what I was
getting in to. It turned out that experience paid off in a big way.
The whole job took only 4 hours from start to finish. Last time it took
almost two days. The big difference was that last time I installed a cheap
top, and this time I installed a Robbins top with the rain rail
pre-attached. The second most important factor was that I ignored the
Workshop manual and the Enthusiasts Shop Manual this time and didn't detach
the top frame from the car.
The rain rail is a piece of plastic that is riveted to the back edge of top
cloth from one side to the other. Most tops require you to remove the old
top, drill out the rivets and attach the rain rail to your new top. Now
there are 13 bolts that go through the rain rail and the top, with a hole
for each. The cheap top I used before had most of the holes marked, but not
punched so most of the day involved punching holes in the fabric, lining
them up with holes in the rain rail, and figuring out which holes were used
to rivet the rain rail assembly to the top cloth and which holes were used
to attach the top to the car. With the Robbins top, the rain rail was
already attached, and all of the mounting holes were punched though.
Robbins does sell tops without the rain rail attached for less, but
considering the amount of money I saved by installing it myself, the
pre-attached rain rail was well worth it.
Last time I had followed the manuals exactly, but this time I just started
working. The first step is to remove the carpet from the rear parcel
shelf. Put the top up for this. If your zipper is broken or your window
won't stay up then secure it out of the way before you start. The carpet
is held in place by a bunch of those little plastic clips and two phillips
screws. I destroyed about 5 or six of the clips getting it out and I still
need to run by an auto parts store and pick up a few new ones. Anyway once
the carpet is out you will have exposed the 13 ten millimeter nuts that
hold the back of the top to the car. There are also two more of those
plastic clips that hold the rain rail to the car at each end, but you will
probably have to lower the top to get to them. I removed all of the nuts,
and took out the three metal bars that they secure.
I then went to work on the other end of the top where it meets the
windshield header. I took off the metal strip that is held by about 10
phillips screws and then I removed all of the rubber moldings. The first
molding is held on by two phillips screws at the header, the middle one
just pulls out and the 'bottom' piece is secured at the bottom by a pair of
those press on things. After the rubber is removed then the silver
weather-strip mounts are easily removed with nothing more than a phillips
Now you need a drill. I think I used a 1/4" bit, but I'm sure anything
kind of close will work. I drilled out 4 rivets on each side. One is on
top and holds a tiny cable in place, two are exposed when you remove the
chrome weather-strip mount for the 'bottom' piece, and the last is below
that and anchors the top cloth to the frame. There may be more than one
rivet down there, according to the manuals.
Now all that's attaching the top to the frame is the cloth attached to the
top bows. I folded the cloth back and used a flat blade screwdriver to
open up the gap where the cloth is crimped in and removed it. When finally
removing cloth the top from the car, be careful not to damage the rain
Once the old top was off, Installation of the new top was simply the
reverse. The new top had a piece of string on each side to help thread the
cable through, and I did need to dig up some rivets that were longer than
normal to re-secure the cable end to the top frame. The one instruction
provided by Robbins involved what order to tighten the hex nuts in the
back, which I did follow, but didn't see what problem changing the order
around might cause.
The fit was perfect, and the top looks exactly like the factory. I do have
doubts and questions about some of the supposed Robbins 'features' like
changing the window without removing the top; but I'm happy.
If you have any questions, please ask.
Soft top replacement.
I've got something to add to the top replacement discussion:
Before I started, I'd read where folks who did the work with the top
frame off the car said they'd do it with the frame ON the car next
time. And vice versa. Which implies that there are negative aspects to
The main complaints seem to be:
1. If you take the frame off the car before installing the new top,
it's difficult and awkward to mount the vinyl and get everything lined
2. If you leave the frame on the car, it's pretty much impossible to
properly reattach the top at the base of the B pillar behind the door.
Indeed, a couple of folks I talked to indicated they just left some
pieces undone down there.
I'm advocating a best of both worlds approach: Leave the frame on the
car while you remove the old top, and begin to install the new top.
You can mount the vinyl, get it lined up, attach the bows, rivet the
tension cables, and attach across the header, all with the frame on
Then, remove the 3 bolts on each side that attach the frame and remove
it from the car. Then finish attaching the retainer clip and rivets at
the base of the B pillar. Removing and re-installing at this point
only takes an extra 30 minutes, and you can easily spend this much
time trying to work in that space if you leave the top on the car.
Remove the frame with the top in the "up" position.
Re-attach the frame with the top in the "down," i.e. folded, position.
Another tip that I've heard recently, but don't see on the tips page:
The top will be very tight when first installed, almost impossible to
latch while sitting in the car. Once you get it latched, leave it
latched for one to two weeks, to allow it to stretch out. Difficult,
I know, if you change during the peak of a beautiful spring, as I did,
Todd & Miatoy
'91 White 'A'
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22 August, 2001