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Old 05-14-2011, 02:26 PM   #1
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Default I need a new top.

I want something nice, not something dirt cheap.

It looks like there are a few brands of OEM style vinyl and cloth with non-zip, defroster glass rear windows for a range of prices.

There are also hardtops--as in forget the soft top for good.
And then there's the in-development fastback top...

I'm curious first to hear opinions on the best soft top brand for the money (warranty, realistic life expectancy, cloth vs. vinyl, and just general niceness) out there.

What have YOU used? Personal experience is way more valuable to me than parroting the first dozen hits on google--I can do that myself.
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Old 05-14-2011, 02:48 PM   #2
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Cloth, properly cared for, will outlast plastic many times over. But you have to keep it clean, and not fold it up wet, or it will mildew, rot and fall apart. Personally, I like the Robbins, and I went with the "streamline" (NB style) with a glass window. However, canvas is a royal pain-in-the-*** to install, and takes a couple of days to stretch so you can close the damn thing. Obviously, they are more expensive. You get what you pay for.

Glass window (defrost or not at your option) is far superior to the vinyl windows, IMO. No worries about unzipping, or folding/cracking it. It stays clear forever, too. NB conversion is fairly easy if you take your time to measure and cut/rivet the straps in.

After all that, I tore out the entire top and frame, and installed a HT. Haven't really missed the convertable as much as I feared. If it's hot, I just turn on the A/C. Plus, you get to use all that space where the top sits if you take it out. As a bonus, HT is lighter than the softtop and frame.

Like you, I went back and forth several times. Lately, I've been thinking about reinstalling the ragtop, and selling the HT. My advice? Get the best top you can afford (avoid the eBay stuff and go with namebrand), and have both. Best of both worlds, and a HT is an almost guaranteed resell.
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Old 05-14-2011, 02:50 PM   #3
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Robbins cloth with zippered glass window--Do not recommend. The glass window is too heavy for the zipper they used, and it started coming apart after a couple years. Inexcusable for $700.
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
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Robbins cloth with zippered glass window--Do not recommend. The glass window is too heavy for the zipper they used, and it started coming apart after a couple years. Inexcusable for $700.
I had the same exact top but had to turn around and re-sell it cause it didnt work with the rollbar. Glad to hear they're nothing to write home about.

So far I've had 2 new tops in hand ready to install, but both times I ended up selling them myself. Once for the reason above and the other was probably cause I needed cash at the time.

Currently I have the soft top removed and just the hardtop on the car, but I'd like to have the ability to drive the car without the worry of rain hitting. Not to mention added security for when stopping at a store or something.

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Old 05-14-2011, 03:45 PM   #5
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I've read about the perils of the zippered glass window. You have to unzip to put the top down or some crazy BS?

The NB top is a no-brainer. especially on my NB. Glass with defrost was standard and will be what goes on the car.

What's the story on the streamline tops versus the quarter panel flap style?

OEM STYLE:



SLICKY STREAMLINE STYLE:
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Old 05-14-2011, 04:25 PM   #6
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My Robbins NA "SunFast" cloth top still looks great. Actually, it looks way better than the rest of the car. The cloth top has been on car for 6+ years. It has aged a LOT better than the previous Robbins vinyl top. Car is not garaged. Obviously, don't store it wet and folded, or you may get mold, which will reduce the integrity of the cloth.

The actual install is only slightly trickier than the vinyl one. When you first try to latch the top after the install - you will have trouble doing it. The fabric needs to stretch. If the car is outside in the sun, the fabric will warm up enough and you will be able to stretch it to fit. In other words, you will be able to latch the top. After that, the cloth top is all win.

The only down side of the sunfast fabric is that it is sunfast only on the outside! If you want to leave the top down in the sun all the time, I'd recommend something to cover it. I just use a cheap black towel. Not visually distracting - takes a few seconds to stick it on. The vinyl tops really have the same problem, (browning,) the inside bleaches with sun exposure. However, the cloth tops look SO MUCH better, I'm inclined to use the towel to make it last a bit longer.

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Old 05-14-2011, 04:40 PM   #7
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Difference is only that seam. One less place to come apart, leak, etc. I think it looks a little better.

Non zippered is what I have. I heard tell of problems with the zipper, so avoided it. I'm not sure that Robbins hasn't corrected any problems, as they're a pretty decent company, and their reputation has got to mean something to them.
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Old 05-14-2011, 05:22 PM   #8
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I don't know how people can consider using a non-OEM mazda original soft top with the car. Anything else would just spoil the balance and overall character of the car. Mazda got it right the first time. Do you really think you can do better than years of research and the efforts of hundreds if no thousands of factory engineers? I don't understand how people think they can mod the car and make it better.
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Old 05-14-2011, 05:23 PM   #9
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Seriously, what I would do is call up the various miata used parts companies and ask them if they have a nice low mileage NB glass top in stock.
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Old 05-14-2011, 06:08 PM   #10
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I have a vinyl robbins oem style top with defrosted glass bought during their fall sale. I got it over the non zippered due to the wife not always wanting the top down but wanting airflow.

I've so far not had issues with it in 2 years but I seldom use the zipper and use my hard top if it's cold / regularly rainy.

The annoying part about it is the "headliner" part that always touches my head, this is a constant pain in the ***. Not a problem for those shorter than I or those who mangle their / have aftermarket seats.
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Old 05-14-2011, 08:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by y8s View Post
I've read about the perils of the zippered glass window. You have to unzip to put the top down or some crazy BS?
Well yeah, just like the NA factory top. However on the Robbins top I have, the zipper they used isn't heavy duty enough and wasn't stitched in well enough, so it's separating from the top and a couple teeth broke out.
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Old 05-14-2011, 09:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by y8s View Post
I've read about the perils of the zippered glass window. You have to unzip to put the top down or some crazy BS?
I missed this earlier. No you don't have to unzip the window every time like an NA. My top is an NB style (on my NA) so I used the NB style conversion kit to allow me the option of leaving it zipped all the time. It's a big improvement over my previous top which was a factory NA style with defroster glass window that was hard to get the zipper started....every time.

Maybe mine is the new way they make them? I seem to have a substantial zipper, large as the oem one, as well.
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Old 05-14-2011, 09:46 PM   #13
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I have a Vinyl robbins top with plastic window (which is superior to glass, IMO. Larger window and does not interfere with any rollbar). I had it installed in 2004 or 2005 and aside from a few scuffs on the back window which can be easily polished out (its over due) the top looks brand spanking new. I have not babied it, I've put it up and down wet, cold, you name it, just washed it and used the boot when down.
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Old 05-14-2011, 10:28 PM   #14
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Ive got a robbins black canvas zippered heated glass top - definitely looks better than the rest of the car right now. Had it for about a year now. Love the fact that it's designed to not have to unzip the glass to fold the top. Having the zippered window to me was a big plus - Once it starts getting 85-90 degrees out with the sun overhead at full force, I tend to like the top up, but the window down - always have. I usually only use A/C if its raining, if I'm on an extended trip, or if I'm stuck in traffic. Install wasn't too hard, but read through all of the instructions first - They like to write them like this:

1. Do this step now
2. Do this step now
3. Do this step now
4. Do this step before step 2
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:32 AM   #15
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I'm thinking the robbins sunfast glass w/defrost (sorry plastic window lovers).

Remaining questions:

streamline versus oem style? leaning toward streamline...

black (what came with the car)
or TAN for the lower heat transfer from the sun. I suspect this is significant.
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Old 05-15-2011, 11:20 AM   #16
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Streamline vs OEM, your tradeoff is between aesthetics and visibility. Which top has the larger rear view window? I'd pick the larger window, but that is just my opinion. How often do you drive top up? If not often, go with what looks better to you.

Black vs tan, hmm, unless you have a good vehicle color, stick with black. A slight mismatch IMHO looks a lot crappier than a total contrast. Black gets hotter. Hey, if it is hot, turn on the AC. If it is going to be really hot (Texas hot) for the whole summer, put on the HT and turn on AC.

Plastic or glass - visibility of glass is superior. Often the glass area may be smaller. Glass is easier to keep clean and scratch free. I installed a HCHTSD bar long ago, on my NA, so I'm stuck with plastic. I'd rather have glass. Does it bother me enough to change it, no.

Pick something. Do it. If it sucks, change it. Repeat until done.
Isn't that what "we" do?

HTH

-Bruce
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:25 PM   #17
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Just make sure your rain-rail is installed right, mine leaks all over my trunk, ick!
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:45 PM   #18
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If you are one of those who bought the car because it's a drivers car, and not a "convertible", get a hardtop and don't look back - especially if you commute a lot. I've driven a few Miatas with a hardtop locally and I crave one - but I rarely drop the top. Maybe twice per year.
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:47 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverant View Post
If you are one of those who bought the car because it's a drivers car, and not a "convertible", get a hardtop and don't look back - especially if you commute a lot. I've driven a few Miatas with a hardtop locally and I crave one - but I rarely drop the top. Maybe twice per year.
See I don't understand that... I've been know to drive with the top down while its raining and until I put it away for the winter (in December.) Just turn up the heat and put on a jacket! :P
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:03 PM   #20
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It's not about the cold - which I love and would gladly live in a much colder country. I just don't like convertibles, I bought this car because it is RWD, has excellent handling, steering feel, gearbox, brakes, it's extremely reliable and cheap to buy and cheaper to keep in proper shape (ie change oil often and that's about it). Win.
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