Lighting in the NA Miata has always been… difficult. In 89 they came with two lights kinda near your knees (which will be swapped out in this blog post). Then in 94 they changed the dashboard to have an airbag and the driver’s side knee light went away. In 94-95 Miatas only had one feeble light by the passenger knee. And in 96 they upgraded to a single feeble dome light in place of the rearview mirror which then got glued to the windshield.
None of these lights could be classified as “good.” There were many aftermarket attempts at lighting the NA interior better. In 2012, I swapped out the airbag dash for the vintage NA6 flat dashboard which came with both knee lights. In 2013, I added a rare 2000s-era lighted rear view mirror. And that was pretty good for the next several years. Sharka’s interior finally had decent lighting at night!
But things can always be improved upon, right?
Aren’t they just beautiful? I love the vintage grille design. And you know about me and toggles – I have them all over Sharka’s interior. The Retromodern lights come with this 24SMD LED array. Twenty FOUR! That’s many LEDs. I believe each little bulb pulls 4.8 watts, which is slightly less than the 5w that each dim factory festoon light required.
These are incandescent balanced because I like the vintage yellow glow at night. I believe the standard lighting temperature is daylight balance, but I asked Ken at Retromodern to do them in incandescent for me and he made the magic happen.
The only change I made was to add some padding around the connector. I use the same padding around my Retro Hazard Switches and had lots of it laying around. Not sure if it’s needed for these parts but rattles drive me insane. I figured it couldn’t hurt.
There isn’t much to the install. You just pop the factory light free and then unplug the connector. Then you sandwich the dashboard between the two halves of the Retromodern light and plug the light back in. Nothing to it!
Sharka’s radio has the SD card, USB, and AUX inputs bolted into the glove box. I included some extra wire to still allow the glove box to come free, but it just dangles there without the extra work of removing those radio input pieces. That’s okay though. Not much space is needed to get the light into place. On the driver’s side, you just remove the knee guard.
It was much more work to write this post than to install the lights.
These lights give a lovely, bright glow when lit. And they don’t glare at all. The angle of the dashboard prevents that, as well as the little metal grate design. They’re just a lot brighter than the stock plastic units.
I also took the time to swap out the rear view mirror lights with LED versions. The bulbs in the mirrors were #192 bulbs from the factory which require 4.6W each. That’s 9.2W for the mirror and 10W for the knee lights with stock incandescent bulbs installed (19.2 watts total). With these much brighter LED, the total is 11.6 watts for all four bulbs ((1W x 2) + (4.8W x 2)). That’s not a bad reduction.
And check out the glow in a dark garage at night.
It’s just outstanding. Sharka’s night lighting is now perfect. And a couple more factory plastic parts have been replaced with beautifully designed metal. This makes me very happy.
Huge thanks to Ken at Retromodern for this interior lighting upgrade!