"Robbins Top Installation"

After 17 years of faithful service, my original convertable top was just about shot. I kept getting holes in the paper thin vinyl and the rear window was browned, brittle, and cracked. I ordered a glass window Economy Robbins Top from Ravens Wing Performance. The price was fantastic ($403.00 shipped) with our Miata club discount. I had never tackled a top installation before but it didn't look to be that hard. Wow, was I wrong! Part of the problem with the installation was that I had just been rear ended in my Pickup Truck and I was pretty sore. I was having a hard time moving around during the install. The actual work wasn't that hard, I was just a little confused on the process and took my sweet time doing it. It took me about 15 hours of work to get the top on but this included prepping for a few other jobs at the same time (top installation, roll bar cleaning, seat painting, heat sheild installation, turret oil flush and change, upper/lower shift boot installation, and window switch cleaning) so I am unsure about the actual total for just the installation. On a scale of 1-10 I would rank the installation at a 7 only because I was new to the process and a little confused by the instructions. Hopefully this webpage will serve to help you guys when you do your installs. I will probably email Robbins with a few thing I would like to see added to the instructions they provide so they will not be as confusing.

Please be patient while I complete the webpage. I have a few issues I am dealing with and want to get them taken care of before I finish the page. Some good advice that I wish I had before starting (more details below):

1) Cut large chunks of the vinyl off before you start removing the top. It will help you see where the screws, rivets, and plastic retaining clips are. Be careful not to cut the top side cables.
2) Buy new top side cables and retaining clips. I'll try to get the correct Mazda Part numbers and put them on this page.
3) Cut the heads off the "hidden" retaining clips instead of removing them.
4) Use a space heater (or a hair drier) on the inside of your car to heat it up the first time you put the top up.

Future use (ignore): blah ignore

My old top is disgusting! It was turning brown and the rear window had a crack in it (I "fixed" it by putting a peice of clear packing tape on the inside/outide of the window by the crack):

This is the Robbins Top I am using:

I removed my seats and style bar before starting the project. The Mazda gorillas were working over time the day they built my car because I rounded the head on two of the bolts. After three trips to Sears buying different types of "this tool will get any rounded bolt out" I gave up and just welded another bolt on the top of the rounded one:

Ah, a little more room to work with the seat, style bar and miscellaneous interior out (again, I am working on a few other projects during this time so stuff had to come out anyway):

I used an old fork and a set of angled needle-nose pliers to remove the interior retainer clips:

These are what the retainer clips look like:

Remove the retainers so the rear deck carpet can be pulled away from the metal top rails. I think the white stuff in the picture is mold from the top leaking. I have had a funky mold smell in the car for a while and when I removed the carpet (heat sheild project I was doing at the same time) I found the pax side floorboard was soaked. Hopefully the new top has cured this. I won't know until I drive/park in some heavy rains and pull the carpet again (meaning I will not know for a LONG time):

Remove the metal railing, mark so you know what is what, and place to the side:

Pull the rain rail (thick plastic) and top off the studs:

Remove the two screws by the top latches:

Remove the top retaining rail (what is this called???):

Mark all your rubber seal parts with masking tape and a sharpie. I used P1, P2, P3 to denote passenger side seal #1, etc:

The two of the three rubber seals are very easy to remove. Just pull them up to expose the metal plates. Again I used a sharpie so I could make sure I put them on the same way I took them off. I drew arrows on them as well that pointed to the windsheild so I wouldn't install them backwards:

The third rubber seal is much harder. After spending an hour trying to remove one of the hidden retaining clips I figured it was easier just to cut the head of them off with an old wood chisel I had. I highly recommend this because of the time it saved and I could see how you could easily destroy your rubber seal by messing around with it too much. I used a 1/4 ratchet and phillips tip to remove the hidden screw.:

Here is the metal peice on the hidden end of the seal:

Take special note on how the top cable runs snakes through all the metal hardware and vinyl. Make sure you put it back the right way. I screwed up and drilled the rivets out. If you are not replacing the top strap don't do this! New top side cables are around $60. I think I probably would have replaced them if I wasn't so cheap and had thought about it before I started the project. One of mine was broken but luckily I had a spare one from the old nasty top I pulled off Red Beast during the initial stage of adding lightness. The two I ended up using looked to be in so-so condition and hopefully they will last for a few more years. I'm not sure how hard they will be to replace when they break so I think it would be worthwhile to order them before starting the install:

The hardest part of the install for me was stressing over the rib straps. I had never seen anything like this and didn't know what to do with them. Use a small drill bit to get a starter hole in the rib and then drill it the rest of the way out with a larger bit. Put the strap in there and run the drill back through so you cut the strap webbing. Cross your fingers and try to put the rivet through the hole. If it doesn't go then run the drill through there again. Saw no mention of how damn hard this was to do on any of the installation websites or documentation during my research. In fact, I didn't even see any mention that you needed to drill a hole in the straps. It will be intersting to find out the correct way I was supposed to do this. NOTE - there is supposed to be a right and left strap (the angles will be different in the way they are sewn). I didn't see this until I was finished so I don't know if I got it in the correct position.:

Again, another major hurdle. None of the holes lined up correctly. In fact, this was a common theme on this top throughout the installation process. I ended up putting a washer on the screws (to keep them from cutting through the plastic) and placing the rivets in before snapping them down. Check your alignment a few times. You may have to drill new holes!:

Remember the trim retainers you cut the heads off of. I bought these at Advance Auto Parts for $1.89. If I had it to do over I would have bought the correct parts from Mazda before I started:

When we got to the part of the supplied instructions that said to make sure the "rubber lip lis turned up before fully tightening the center retainer" I had no idea what they were talking about. After 30 minutes of thinking about how to actually do this (it seemed nearly impossible) I figured I needed something like a shoe horn to help. I built this tool out of some scrap I had laying around. A peice of coathanger would have done just fine:

More to come as soon as I take care of some issues I have with the fit and finish of the top.....................