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Old 05-19-2014, 10:27 AM   #1
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Default Northern crew: on tops and snow...

So I'm probably going to be re-joining the ranks of car owners sometime before October. Will be used as a daily commuter, mostly just to get from home to the train station and back. Unless someone can provide an extremely compelling reason to the contrary, it will be a Miata.

I have never owned a convertible in a place where it snows before. My intuitive reaction, therefore, was that a PRHT NC would be of significant benefit over an NA or NB. I'm finding, however, that PRHT cars with manual transmissions seem to be somewhat scarce and highly valued.

All else being equal, I'd actually prefer an NB over an NC, because of reasons. But the thought of having to deal with a non-retractable hardtop stuck over my head all winter, even on days when it isn't snowing, is abhorrent to me.

So I'd like some practical advice from people who DD Miatas in snowy climes. Is a PRHT really the godsend that Mazda's marketing department make it out to be? Is it worth paying an extra $5-10k for, and then suffering the ongoing burden of having an NC instead of the car I really want? Can NB ragtops be raised and lowered in freezing-but-not-snowy weather without being destroyed (and does installing an aftermarket canvas top help)?
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Old 05-19-2014, 11:04 AM   #2
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Semi-related:

I posted a nice NB for sale in the random pics thread this morning. Hard and soft tops included.

Related:

Canvas with glass window and defrost should be perfect for what you are doing.
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Old 05-19-2014, 11:20 AM   #3
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I have an nb with a hardtop and it is sort of a pain having to remove it and find a good, safe place to keep it when it's not in use. If you have a pair, it's removable and install-able solo, just takes some practice at first. I would say mine weighs roughly 40lbs. I find that if you have a garage you can install some strong hooks into the ceiling cross members and hang the top from it's rear mounts. It saves about 3ft of space on the floor and is up and out of the way of danger.

I don't really see a reason why you would need to remove it in the winter though?

FWIW, the NB looks so much better with a matching HT and a tinted rear window.
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Old 05-19-2014, 11:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sixshooter View Post
Semi-related:

I posted a nice NB for sale in the random pics thread this morning. Hard and soft tops included.
I saw that. Considering it, though I don't actually need the car just yet, and would actually prefer to wait a few months until I have a place to park it.

The color of that car is also detestable. I never thought I'd let a thing like that influence a car-buying decision, but I don't think I can be seen driving a metallic powder-blue Miata.



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I have an nb with a hardtop and it is sort of a pain having to remove it and find a good, safe place to keep it when it's not in use. If you have a pair, it's removable and install-able solo, just takes some practice at first. I would say mine weighs roughly 40lbs. I find that if you have a garage you can install some strong hooks into the ceiling cross members and hang the top from it's rear mounts. It saves about 3ft of space on the floor and is up and out of the way of danger.
I have owned a hardtop in the past, with a ceiling-mounted hoist, and so I'm familiar with the procedure for getting it on and off. That's not a problem. The issue is more one of "Ok, it's a sunny day, so I'd like to not have the hard top on, yet I'm afraid that if I raise the soft-top once I get to my destination, it will crack, or be so stiff that I can't get it latched."

This was a problem with my past NAs (with vinyl tops) during the frigid coastal-southern-California winters. When the temperature got down into the 50s, it became extremely difficult to get the top fully forward and latched. I'm concerned that it will be impossible when it's 10F.

If the consensus opinion is that the soft-top is not really operable in freezing weather, then that would tend to push me towards an NC. If the consensus opinion is that canvas / cloth soft-tops can be operated when it's sub-freezing, then I'll focus on an '01-05 NB.


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I don't really see a reason why you would need to remove it in the winter though?
Because it only snows on certain days, and the rest of the time it's clear, top-down weather.

When I did own a hardtop, I almost never, ever used it, mostly because it took away the ability to spontaneously say "What a nice day it's become. I think I'll put the top down."
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:02 PM   #5
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I dailyed my old NA in northern Indiana this winter when it was -30 and there was several feet of snow on the ground, and my ragtop stayed intact. I agree with what sixshooter said about the glass window being a better option though. For the love of God, get some good snow tires unless you want to drive sideways all winter. I've driven in the snow for a lot of years now, and it was a challenge keeping that thing straight in the snow with my summer tires.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:15 PM   #6
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I dailyed my old NA in northern Indiana this winter when it was -30 and there was several feet of snow on the ground, and my ragtop stayed intact.
Did you commonly raise and lower the top in this weather, or did it stay up all the time? What material was it made from?



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I agree with what sixshooter said about the glass window being a better option though.
Since I am looking only at NBs, it is a foregone conclusion that the rear window will be glass, and heated.



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For the love of God, get some good snow tires unless you want to drive sideways all winter.
Yes, I have actually driven in snow before. Lived in Cinci for five years, with an Integra. On that car, I had separate summer and winter wheels, with Blizzaks on the winter steelies. It goes without saying that the same will apply here.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:17 PM   #7
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For a daily driver it would be nice to have the option if weather permits. Mine is strickly a "nice day out joy rider ". I don't even have a vert top anymore, it was torn when I bought it and just yanked it for weight savings. The weather channel app has become my bff.

I definitely agree about the tires, I attempted to move mine out of the garage last winter to free up some space for another project and because I have rivals it got stuck it a half inch of snow. Ridiculous!

Edit: even with snow tires, its such a light car and there's no weight over the rear axle. Add to the fact that most nb's have a 4.3 diff and it makes for a very spin happy mazduh.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:23 PM   #8
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I know I live in Florida so it never drops to 10 degrees but I have often lowered and closed the cloth soft top on my MSM in 30-50 degree weather and I have never noticed a difference in difficulty level at those temperatures so I imagine even if it did become noticeable at lower temps it would not be enough to cause harm.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:44 PM   #9
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Mazda recommends that you not put the top up or down when the temps are below 40 degrees or so. When I lived in NoVA I followed that rule almost religiously. I think in a pinch the top would be fine to put up or down when cold, but I would not do it repeatedly all winter. I think it would very much accelerate the deterioration of the top. Latching either cloth or canvas top has always been a PITA for me when temps are below about 50.

Honestly for what you want I think the retractable hardtop NC would be the best choice, unless you are ok replacing the top every year or two.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post
Can NB ragtops be raised and lowered in freezing-but-not-snowy weather without being destroyed (and does installing an aftermarket canvas top help)?
The NC with Power HArdtop would be beast... but if you go with a ragtop NB, Make sure you get the glass rear window version, and the highest quality you can find. The plastic Rear window on my ragtop cracked while raising and lowering it this past winter just from the cold stiffness. ill be replacing it with a glass soft top, and putting a hard top over that. that should solve all future issues. This was my first REAL winter with the soft top, so i learned the hard way.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:59 PM   #11
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Cloth tops are not expensive if you do the install yourself. Or with a friend.

Find your dream NB with a ratty top and shop like a pro:
1999-2005 Miata
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:59 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by flounder View Post
I don't even have a vert top anymore, it was torn when I bought it and just yanked it
In that case, your opinion is invalid. Thanks for playing.

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Originally Posted by Ryan_G View Post
I know I live in Florida
Also, thanks for playing.




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Originally Posted by shuiend View Post
Mazda recommends that you not put the top up or down when the temps are below 40 degrees or so.
I am familiar with Mazda's recommendation.

On the other hand, I have heard, anecdotally, that cloth tops of the sort sold by Robbins are relatively impervious to the cold, and can be operated at low temperatures. I'm hoping to find first-hand accounts which can wither support or refute this belief.


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Honestly for what you want I think the retractable hardtop NC would be the best choice, unless you are ok replacing the top every year or two.
I have no problem replacing the top every year or two. From a purely economic standpoint, I'd come out well ahead buying a new Robbins canvas top for an $8k NB every year for the next decade vs. buying a $15k PRHT NC. I've replaced Miata tops before (on NAs) and they're quite easy to do.

I'd prefer to get more than a year or two out of a top, but if that's what it takes to not have to drive an NC, it's not a deal-breaker.
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Old 05-19-2014, 01:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post

On the other hand, I have heard, anecdotally, that cloth tops of the sort sold by Robbins are relatively impervious to the cold, and can be operated at low temperatures. I'm hoping to find first-hand accounts which can wither support or refute this belief.


I have no problem replacing the top every year or two. From a purely economic standpoint, I'd come out well ahead buying a new Robbins canvas top for an $8k NB every year for the next decade vs. buying a $15k PRHT NC. I've replaced Miata tops before (on NAs) and they're quite easy to do.

I'd prefer to get more than a year or two out of a top, but if that's what it takes to not have to drive an NC, it's not a deal-breaker.
The biggest issue I think you would have with the cloth top would be latching it when cold. I have a cloth top on my 92 and it is a royal pita to latch when cold out even after being on the car for over a year now, and on the previous car for about a year.
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Old 05-19-2014, 01:18 PM   #14
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Canvas top, plastic window, unsure of the brand. I didn't operate it at extremely low temps, but Inidana has a tendancy to temperature swing rapidly, so I have operated it in the low 30s and upper 20s many times. It is stiff, but I just open the door, press down on one corner and set the latch in the groove, repeat on the other side, and tighten. No rips yet. You should be fine with a quality top for at least a few years.
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Old 05-19-2014, 01:22 PM   #15
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Old 05-19-2014, 02:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by shuiend View Post
The biggest issue I think you would have with the cloth top would be latching it when cold. I have a cloth top on my 92 and it is a royal pita to latch when cold out even after being on the car for over a year now, and on the previous car for about a year.
That's my key concern.

Until I actually did a top replacement myself, I assumed that the installer had some degree of latitude in setting the tightness of the top fabric at the time of installation. That having been said, I'm curious as to which manufacturer made the top on your '92, as I expect there to be some variance from one pattern to the next. For instance, the extremely cheap no-zip vinyl/plastic top which I put on my '90 was easier to operate after a week than the Robbins vinyl/glass top which I paid someone else to install on my '92 was after three years.
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Old 05-19-2014, 02:05 PM   #17
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I DDed my NA in Pennsylvania and Virginia winters for several years. The first few were with the original, dry rotting vinyl top with a glass zippered window. It was never an issue for me to latch it, just a bit more effort required than in the summer though nothing worrying or unmanageable. This was in conditions where my family called me crazy for having the top down. Full strength heater FTW. The zipper that supported the glass window eventually ripped due to the window weight and its almost twenty years of use (unrelated to latching in the cold, mostly from people not supporting the windows weight as they draw the zipper across putting stress on the corners).

Then I got either a Key or Robbins (I'll try and find out) vinyl top with a glass zippered window and its even easier to latch. The way it was installed resulted in it being slightly less taught than the old one when up, so maybe this is a trait you can aim for if you buy new. Also the new top does not require unzipping to put the top down which is awesome.

Edit: I've had both running through winters for multiple years each with no noticeable wear. I didn't put them down every day but did so whenever it was acceptable outside. You do have to press it down a bit once its folded up so it lays flush with the rear shelf. Just make sure its not pinching hard anywhere back there and you should be OK.
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Old 05-19-2014, 02:22 PM   #18
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Oh I'm well aware that most of my opinions are invalid...I'm married.
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Old 05-19-2014, 03:15 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post
That's my key concern.

Until I actually did a top replacement myself, I assumed that the installer had some degree of latitude in setting the tightness of the top fabric at the time of installation. That having been said, I'm curious as to which manufacturer made the top on your '92, as I expect there to be some variance from one pattern to the next. For instance, the extremely cheap no-zip vinyl/plastic top which I put on my '90 was easier to operate after a week than the Robbins vinyl/glass top which I paid someone else to install on my '92 was after three years.
I have done about a dozen top installs now, mostly on NA's but a few on NB's. Tops have been the cheapest ebay tops to the most expensive Robbin's tops. I have yet to see any rhyme or reason to how well any fit. Currently on my 94 I have this top and it is a bit snug, I have never had to put it up or down below 50 degrees though. I can try to figure out what type I have on my 92. It came off of my good friends 95, I think he spent the extra money to get a Robbins, but would have to verify. It is a bit hard to latch even when it is nice temp wise out.
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Old 05-19-2014, 04:03 PM   #20
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Everyone I know that daily's a miata in the winter runs a hard top, for the heat retention factor and the fact that they'd never ever want to be top down when its -4F out. And they do it on snow tires and drive circles around the morons in fwd cars on all seasons.
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