How to Choose a Convertible Top
Shopping for a Mazda Miata convertible top can seem overwhelming to say the least - all the colors, materials, with or without rain rail and on and on. We are going to go through the process one step at a time to cover all the key points to buying a Miata top.
Why are we qualified to walk you through this process? Moss Motors has been in business for over 60 years and we have seen convertible tops up close and personal since day one. We have evaluated tops from dozens of manufacturers, whether they have solicited us or we pursued them. We looked at instructions, ease of fitment, materials (top and window, inside and out), color, fit, seams and so on.
Moss partners with two brands to make excellent replacement convertible tops for us. Robbins Auto Top has partnered with us for decades with our British sports cars and since 1994 in our Miata product line. They continually work with us to ensure their patterns are perfect, and they use state-of-the-art equipment like laser cutting machines and robot controlled window sealing machines to make tops that are perfect. Xtreme Auto Tops are high quality tops that deliver high value for a low investment. Both are Made in the USA.
1. Do I want a Vinyl or Stayfast Canvas top?
There is no doubt a Canvas top looks awesome. It is sleek and gives your Miata a rich look that you just can't get with Vinyl. Stayfast also has some longevity and usability pluses. The Stayfast top does come with a price tag but once you add up all the pluses you will see it really is a good value.
Stayfast Canvas - Robbins' Stayfast Canvas Top for the Miata, aside from being the most sensuous material available, has a practical side as well. Stayfast canvas resists fading and shrinking better than vinyl and stretches much easier in colder temperatures. This means you don't have to be Hercules to put your top up on a cool morning.
Vinyl - Vinyl is easier to care for than canvas. Both Robbins and Xtreme vinyl materials are high quality with polyester backing for strength and durability. Robbins Haartz vinyl is 38 oz cabrio grain. Xtreme uses cab grain as well, both are very similar to OEM.
2. Glass or Plastic Window, how do I decide?
Plastic window material has certainly evolved in the last decade with the use of polymers and other manmade materials. On the other hand, glass windows are great because what you see is what you get; smooth, clear glass allows for great visibility and it won't scratch or discolor with use.
Plastic Window - Both Robbins and Xtreme brand tops use 40 gauge DOT approved plastic for their windows. This material is resistant to UV damage and common scratches.
Glass Window - Glass window tops offer a clear rear view that you just can't get with plastic. Robbins' glass windows are tinted and tempered safety glass. They are marked AS-2 to show they meet NTSA and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards. A defroster glass window is a direct replacement for 99 and later Miatas. The defroster glass window is a great upgrade for 90-97 Miata owners with the hardtop option. 93-97 Miatas without the hardtop option can upgrade to a defroster window by purchasing an optional wiring harness.
Note: 93-95 models not equipped with a dedicated heater-defroster switch should operate the defroster window only with the top closed and latched, as it operates when the fan/heater switch is turned on.
3. Can you describe how the seams are put together?
If a company is going to cut corners and save time and money this is the area in which they are going to do it, and many do. Many companies glue seams and put in one row (if you are lucky two rows) of stitching, and when first installed everything looks OK. As time marches on and the glue goes through the cold and hot cycles associated with daily temperatures, it starts to breakdown and puts all the stress on the seams. Without the additional holding of the glue the stitched seams will start to come apart. On the other hand Robbins spent their time, energy and resources figuring out a better way to hold seams together rather then searching out a better glue. The answer was heatsealing the seams. Heatsealing is essentially welding the material together which is stronger than any glue will be. On top of the heatsealing Robbins then reinforces the seams with double stitching to give the "joints" extra support.
4. Do I need a rain rail?
This is by far the most asked question we get and the answer is usually yes. But it does depend on who's doing the installation and how old is the top you are replacing. The rain rail attaches to the back of the top at the bottom with pop rivets, and then the rain rail bolts to the body of the Miata and acts as the rear anchoring point for the top. The rain rail is a "U" shaped piece of ABS plastic that directs the water it collects to drain holes so water doesn't get in your interior or trunk (if you are getting water on your rear deck or in your trunk it may be due to a cracked rain rail or plugged drain holes).
If you are having your top professionally installed the price, in labor, to remove the rain rail from your existing Miata convertible top and fasten it to your new top is about the same as the extra money you would spend to buy a top with a rain rail installed. In this scenario we would suggest you buy a top with a new rain rail so your money goes toward new parts and not just labor to reuse an old part.
If you are attempting the installation yourself, getting a top with a rain rail already installed makes the installation much easier. The drilling out of the pop rivets to remove it from your old top and getting the rain rail installed on your new top with no wrinkles can pose a challenge. However, if your top isn't that old and you are sure your rain rail is in good shape it, using that money to upgrade to a glass window or Stayfast canvas material would be a good investment.
5. What styles of tops do you offer?
Today we offer Robbins brand Factory Style, Streamline and Panorama Window Tops, and Xtreme brand Vinyl tops.
Factory Style Mazda Miata Convertible Top by Robbins - Simply the best top available for your Miata! As the name implies, the Factory Style top is just that, made to the same look as the OEM top with better than OEM quality. These tops incorporate all of Robbins' industry leading techniques and improvements. Factory style tops are available with and without a zippered rear window. The same or better than the original top in every way. 6-year warranty.
Factory Style Tops are available in the following top and window materials:
Streamline Mazda Miata Convertible Top by Robbins - Streamline tops are made to the exact pattern the 2006+ MX-5. This design eliminates the deck seams (front to back seams above the doors) and the rear window panel standard on 90-05 Miatas. This makes for an outstanding looking top that is sleek and smooth. The top incorporates a zipperless window so putting it up and down is no longer a hassle. The added benefit of this design is there are less processes on the manufacturing side so it is a great value. Superior fit, quality and value with a 6-year warranty.
Streamline Tops are available in the following top and window materials:
Panorama Window Mazda Miata Convertible Top by Robbins - The Panorama window in this top is 22% larger than the OEM window, and the windows found on other Robbins' tops, a great improvement to visibility especially if you have a roll bar. The window is made from Robbins' ultra-clear 40 gauge UV coated vinyl for durability against sun damage and scratches. Another feature is the Rain Guards above each door window, to keep moisture that rolls off your top from falling into your door panel (or your sleeve) if you have the window down. 6-year warranty.
Panorama Window Tops are available in the following top materials:
Xtreme Brand Mazda Miata Vinyl Convertible Top - A simple, one-layer vinyl top that is perfect for the Miata owner who usually leaves their top down, or is saving for other upgrades. One-piece construction with original-style top deck seams, and a 40 gauge DOT-approved plastic non-zippered window are features. 3 year warranty.
Xtreme Brand Tops are available in vinyl only (black, tan, or light tan):
6. What other parts do you suggest for installation?
Other things to consider replacing at the same time you install your top are the top tensioning cables that run front to back just above the side windows to keep everything tight and under tension. They can get frayed and in some instances break. Seals are always a big deal especially as our Miatas get up there in age. New seals keep water and wind noise out (you are probably not aware how much air passes through these seals as compared to when it was new). The side seals consist of a front, middle and rear seal for each side.
7. Can I just replace my rear window only?
1991 Mazda Miata Robbins Top Installation
1991 Mazda Miata Robbins Top Installation 2
1993 Mazda Miata Robbins Top Installation
Mazda Miata General Installation Tips
Replacing Tension Cables on the Mazda Miata
Rain Rail Tips on the Mazda Miata