I See a Tan Top and I Want to Paint It Black

Yucky, faded, with glue coming through.

Yucky, faded, with glue coming through.

The Stormtrooper’s top has bothered me since day one. It’s… just not good. At all

I mean, it WAS good originally. The orange top looked very rich and beautiful (I’ve seen some in garaged/new condition) But this one lived outside for a decade and had a lot of cats love it.

Cats.

and covered in cat hair!

and covered in cat hair!

Stormy’s had a lot of complements over the internet and instagram about the paint and top color combo (thank you all!). But… well… that’s because I adjusted the contrast and gave it a bit more color via photoshop. Stormy isn’t a set of my gauges after all. With those, I try to photoshop for realistic colors and accuracy. But for this old NC with a faded top? Sure, I punched up the colors.

These pix are true to life showing how bad the faded orange top really was. Lots of black spots where the factory glue was seeping through. A metric ton of cat hair. Lots of wear.

... at least I got it clean.

… at least I got it clean.

I used packing tape to get the cat hair off. The round suit roller I use on Bucky’s cloth top didn’t even make a dent in the cat hair. I had to use bits of packing tape to slowly get it clean inch by inch.

And when I got the top clean, it looked even more faded and sad.

Time for action.

UK-Special soft top dye.

UK-Special soft top dye.

It's like water.

It’s like water.

This is Renovo soft top dye. I got it off Amazon shipped via the slow boat from the UK. Delivery took over a month. But it’s supposed to be the best stuff on the market for reviving a cloth soft top… or DYING it a new color.

I mean really, when was the last time you saw a Stormtrooper with a tan baseball cap? Yeah. A black top was the plan from the beginning.

A few words about Renovo dye – it’s super super thin. Very water. Such runny. It’s like brushing water onto a canvas. You have to really work it in and you have to get your brush a bit drier than you think before painting it on.

You need at least 1 liter of the stuff for a Miata-sized top. For me, that was TWO bottles. The Amazon bottles were 500ml. I learned this once it was delivered…

Nowhere near enough masking.

Nowhere near enough masking.

Look at that pitiful amount of masking. Nothing like what is needed. I thought this would be enough… and for all the leather dyes I’ve worked with, it would have been. But Renovo is really goddamn thin. It splatters and runs everywhere. The whole car needs to be masked off.

The good news – it’s easy to clean off paint and SUPER easy to clean off of a window. So if it gets everywhere, it’s not the end of the world. It just means you get to spend the 20-30 minutes in between coats cleaning off the mess you made on the car.

One coat.

One coat.

It looks REALLY good after application. The Renovo stuff looks BLACK. Very very rich and awesome.

And 5 minutes later? Not so black. You can see the brown coming through as the first coat dried.

One coat. Extra masking.

One coat. Extra masking.

After I cleaned up the splattered black dots from the white paint, I took my masking a little more seriously. This is Sharka’s ancient indoor car cover. It’s at least 15 years old. I really only use it when I’m spray painting something in the garage and I don’t want to pull Sharka out. I cover the little guy in this old cover.

So I sliced a soft-top sized hole in it and decided the cover’s last ride would be taking care of Stormy’s paint.

Little did I know, I needed two bottles of dye (the Miata.net forum claimed only one) and I’d be waiting a month and re-masking again…

2 coats - and some on the leading edge.

2 coats – and some on the leading edge.

2 coats.

2 coats.

I remembered to pop the top and use the last of the first bottle of dye to get the leading edge of the top. It wouldn’t do to open the thing and see a lot of orange on the front lip.

Looks pretty good eh? I wasn’t too disappointed with just 2 coats of Renovo. It really hid the tan well. Or so I thought.

One Month Later…

2 coats a month later.

2 coats a month later.

As I said above… the slow boat from the UK. After waiting another month, the 2nd bottle of Renovo finally arrived. And this is how the top was looking with only two coats.

Not good. I mean, not bad. It looked like a faded black top. But I didn’t do all that work to live with a faded black top.

Ready for the final bottle.

Ready for the final bottle.

Return of the Masking.

Return of the Masking.

So I took the old car cover out again and re-re-masked the car. It was pretty easy having done it once. Not too much effort. Maybe an hour.

I cleaned the top very well before this too. You’re not really supposed to let a month pass between applications. But a good scrubbing with some Raggtopp cleaner and a brush got it ready for more dye.

I even cleaned up and upgraded my garage a bit during the wait between dye applications!

4 coats.

4 coats.

So much better.

So much better.

A non-black top REALLY needs at least four coats of dye to get a good color change. These pix are with the dye still a bit wet, but… dang. It looks really good. Worth the wait and re-mask.

Dyed.

Dyed.

Outside, dry.

Outside, dry.

Not bad.

Not bad.

And here it is in the sun and actually dry. It’s not bad. It doesn’t look like a new top, but it looks a mile better than it did. I think it was worth the time and effort.

We’ll see how the dye holds up to New Mexico’s insane sun. If it fades or starts to look bad, I’ll update the blog.

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  • GT-Alex says:

    Looking at that soft top without photoshopping was like seeing your one night stand in the morning without make up as you just sobered up. Or so I think it should feel like as I don’t party hard with alcohol.

    Anyway, it sure does look much cleaner now. Just like a few years aged black soft top. Hope it holds as nice as this in time.

    And cats do love soft tops. My NA slept outside at my previous appartment. There were at least 15 cars parked in the area visible from my window. Cats were never seen on any other roof than mine. One of them even started to come and wait in front of the driver’s door to greet me when I came home.

    And 2 years ago, we go with a friend to take possession of his Elise. I told him his cat would nap on the soft top on first occasion, he didn’t quite believed it because he was never on his Celica’s roof. Next day, he sends me a pic of the cat sleeping on the Lotus soft top.

    Soft tops must be made of catnip.

    • Brad says:

      We have a neighborhood cat that prowls around during the warmer months. Friendliest cat I think I’ve ever seen, in all my years. Last year, I was working on the Supra with the garage door open, and the cat decides that he’s gonna claim the Supra for himself. Just laid up on the roof, relaxing. So… I named him Supra. Oddly enough he never went near my NB, although I can understand why they would like a soft top.

      Nice vantage point, and probably a lot like a hammock for a small creature!

    • revlimiter says:

      HAHAHA! Yeah, the tan top was very much the one night stand in the morning.

      I’ve never had a soft top car parked outside until now. So far the black top seems to not be attracting cats… so far. Time will tell. We certainly have a ton of neighborhood cats around the area though.

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