Ode to a Hardtop

Topdown motoring has lost its appeal...

Topdown motoring has lost its appeal...

Every winter for as long as I’ve been a hardtop owner, I’ve dreaded it. The hardtop. Being closed in. The squeaks, the rattles, the confinement.

The fiberglass prison.

For real. I’m making it ridiculously dramatic, but it’s never been exactly a picnic. Sharka’s hardtop has always been far too noisy and annoying to keep it installed for longer than necessary. The real back window makes it worth it (I hate the soft top plastic window, no matter how “clear” it is) and the extra insulation against the cold is nice. But man, the very day it creeps above 50 for a high, I’m usually out there storing the hardtop away again.

But not this year.

This year, there were no rattles. No squeaks. Nothing. Just a solid, stable, wonderful hardtop. And I’m stumped as to why it would be like this. Between last winter and this one, only everything changed. Sharka went from being a 97 to being a totally stock 95. After I took the hardtop off in 2009, I added the rollbar and FM frame rail stiffeners. It was apparently enough to solve the rattling hardtop problem.

And with the lack of annoying noise, I grew to love the hardtop over the winter. Really LOVE it.

Perfect weather. Yet I still miss my hardtop.

Perfect weather. Yet I still miss my hardtop.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve always been a top-always-down kinda guy. I’ve been known to shake my fist at the rain clouds and scream “I’M NOT PUTTING IT UP!” as I drive home through a downpour. I leave the top down basically from April till October. I once got very sick because I took the wife for a top down drive to see the lights on Christmas Eve. And now, suddenly, I have no desire to drive a topless roadster.

I love how the hardtop looks. I love how it turns the Miata from a floppy noodle into a rigid…. (quick, give me a rigid food other than a carrot!) not-carrot. I love the visibility of the rear window. I love the lack of drag (yes, you can feel it) as you drive down the road. At this point in my Roadster-driving life, I love everything about the hardtop.

Even Sharka misses the top. I can tell.

Even Sharka misses the top. I can tell.

Next week I’m putting the hardtop back on. And I’m removing the soft top completely.

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  • Bryan says:

    Really? Pulling the top?

  • Dave says:


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeovanni M., Mazda USA. Mazda USA said: MX-5 Miata drivers, check out this loving "Ode to a Hardtop" by @revlimiter: http://bit.ly/byZit0 […]

  • Sarah says:

    I assure you dudes that the other Miata in the family is a top down car.

  • Dwight says:

    Believe it or not, I can relate. I love the way the Italia works with the hardtop.

    I keep looking for a beat-up hardtop to cut-up for a targa – try and get the best of both worlds.

    • revlimiter says:

      I’ve thought of that for YEARS! That would look quite perfect on the Italia.

      • Bryan says:

        I’ve always wondered what a Targa would be like.

        IIRC, Woolery ran one back during his Super Chicken days. You might ask him about it. I seem to recall that he said it was a pretty noisy contraption. The secret (I think) is a lack of rear ventilation: if the air could get out the back, it’d likely be a lot less blustery.

        • revlimiter says:

          (this is a test to see if I got 4-level replies working on this blog)

          They say the rear ventilation is past the gas tank on either side and out the vents in the back of the trunk. That, to me, sounds like a pretty crazy path to take. But if one was hacking up a hardtop to do a Targa, couldn’t one also put a NACA duct or two in the rear somewhere? Some sort of extractin? Might look pretty spiff too.

        • Bryan says:


          I think you’d definitely need venting on the hardtop instead of counting on the venting through the gas tank area. Basically, you’d need to do it however a conventional tin-top would do it.

        • Dwight says:

          *Most* of the air that comes into the cabin comes from behind the seats.

          I had a large, solid piece of plexiglass tied to the roll bar on the R-package and it made a huge difference in the cabin. Seems to me a targa is more-or-less the same solution, though you might have to drive it with the windows up.

    • revlimiter says:

      Also, you should swing by CR.net once in a while. Lots of old Darksiders that hang out there now. 🙂

  • Meg says:

    Haha, our S2000 is soft-top-less and hard top only. 🙂 We still take it off every once in a while… So I know the feeling. 😉

    I’m looking forward to getting a hardtop for my Miata. I hardly drive top-down as is. Just…. Not my thing. I’d have rather had a Miata coupe, I think.

    • revlimiter says:

      VERY cool! I’ve seen pix on S2ki of some hardtop-only cars. Even some with real rollbars. Love the look.

      There was a Miata coupe on Craigslist on April 1st. I totally missed the joke and very seriously considered adding a 3rd Miata to the garage. When it was gone the next day, I was somewhat… sad.

  • Bryan says:

    I find top-up to be the noisiest state for a Miata. It’s been 4-5yrs since I’ve driven a hardtop’ped Miata with side-latches, though. In Ohio, going without some sort of top is certifiably insane because rain will always come when the car is uncovered…ask me how I know, lol.

  • revlimiter says:

    Also, 17 comments? I should post about random stuff like this more often. WAY more popular than parts reviews or polaroids. 😉

  • Scott Fisher says:

    I hear you. BOY, do I hear you. I’ve been hooked on two-seat convertible sports cars since I was about six years old, and I’ve owned one as my daily driver since 1983. Especially living in Portland; when the sun goes away in October and doesn’t come back till April except in fits and starts, I HAVE to be able to drop the top, say “Well, it’s not raining NOW,” and work on my vitamin D deficiency.

    And… while the Miata will DO that, it’s not the most engaging, spirited, or just plain FUN convertible I’ve ever owned. It’s not even the most fun convertible I own right now. And I’ve been facing that growing realization all week, because the Miata sits with the top up while I drive the Spider anywhere and everywhere.

    So it’s made me question why I have the Miata, what niche in the “car wardrobe” it serves. The answers come down to handling and modern rustproofing, BOTH of which would be improved by a hardtop. (The previous owner who installed the roll bar in my Miata left some rather large holes in the parcel shelf, which let water out MUCH faster than the drain tubes. So I still get a little damp in the spare tire after a torrential rain. Phooey.)

    If I had way too much money, I’d have somebody build me a roof for the Miata that looked like this:


    Bond it into the Miata’s fenders and windshield header for maximum chassis rigidity, cut out the trunk lid and upholster the area behind the driver (even just in carpet) for sound deadening on the road, and have an insanely great-handling GT coupe.

    Barring that, if my kids ever finish college and I have more than $11.78 to spend on car projects, I hope to purchase a hardtop before next winter. And I’m trying to decide whether to get one in Brilliant Black and paint a pair of gold stripes like Sharka’s, or to just go all Lotus 26R and paint the top the same color as Kumo’s wheels:


    Oh yeah. OH FREAKIN’ YEAH…

  • Chuck says:

    I often entertained the thought of removing soft top. I rarely drive more than short trip with the top down. The noise from driving above 70 mph with soft top up makes it tempting thought to remove a soft top.

    I’m highly inclined to remove the soft top and drive with hard top on all the time.

    Again thanks for posting a detailed write up on soft top removal.


  • Alex Knight says:

    I feel the same way, I love the styling and regitidy the hardtop offers. Yeah top down driving is great, but can become old over time and with the softop up the miata just doesn’t look pretty.

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