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Hard Dog - Hard Top - Hard Bar in 1990 Miata with 80K

John Seegers
JESFromRIC

Expect between 8 and 12 hours for the complete install!

A few years ago I built a buggy from the frame up so I have a lot of experience with backyard fabrication, parts wrestling, and I have an extensive toolbox. I have a well-lit, heated garage and I was able to free up several 3 and 4 hour uninterrupted work sessions to complete this job. These are not instructions, just additions to the other instructions found here (The Garage) and those provided by Hard Dog (Bethania Garage). I am not an engineer and I am not a perfectionist but I do try to keep things neat and safe and I try to do a good job.

With that said, if 1 was easy and 10 were hard I would rate this job as a 8.75. Yes, you can do it, yes, you can do it working alone, yes, you can figure it all out with the instructions available but it is a tough job! I have included a series of photos that might help clarify some of the instructions as you read them and try to picture them in your head. OK, so here, in no particular order, is what I learned:

Read all the directions twice, OK three times!

Print all the Hard Dog images and have them available for reference. They will make much more sense as you take things apart and put them back together. You can toss all the hardware off the seat belt guide when you take it off, you will not reuse any of it. It is a tall stack of parts all held in place with a small compression washer. Just give it a smack with a wrench.

REMOVE THE SEATS I do not care, REMOVE THE SEATS. There are just eight easy to reach bolts to remove to get them out. Be sure to pop the wire connection located under the front of the seat first. Removing the seats will allow you better access to the rear shelf for cutting and most important it will let you bring the bar in level with the rear shelf coming in UNDER the bodywork along the flat area where the plate will sit.

Yep, go buy the $7 carpet/upholstery popper tool it would be worth $70! There are carpet tacks all along the rear where the top convertible top is bolted on and several on the floor between the top and the seat belt tower. You will also find several along both pieces of carpet just ahead of the package tray.

The bar install requires both US and Metric tools! All the lightweight stuff is metric but the heavyweight is a mix. If you wonder why they use US grades it is because graded bolts in metric are expensive and hard to find.

My guess is that the older the car, the more you should expect to have to wrestle with things. My 1990 had clearly  settled" a little and things on the driver side were all a little off. I had to grind the hole for the vertical bolt that goes in to the top of the seat belt tower or it would not line up. The lower brace plate did not hit the body panel flush until I bolted down the reel bolt. The upper brace plate did not hit the body panel flat until it was bolted down to the backing plate. Nothing was off enough that I felt that the bar was damaged and nothing was off enough to make me think the car was damaged, just about what I would expect for an eighteen-year-old car. Yes, the passenger side was only tacked in, not fully tightened down.

PUT THE SEAT BELT REELS IN PLACE BEFORE YOU PUT THE BAR IN PLACE! Hold them in place with the 10mm bolts. Note: The seat belts will only retract and reel when held in the position they would be when mounted.

Get a roll of black Gorilla Duct Tape. You will need it for taping wires out of the way, taping carpet out of your way, holding bolts in place to get them started, etc.

On my 1990 I did not find any use in removing the trunk parts as suggested in the Hard Dog instructions.

You may want a stiff brush handy for removing the caked on mud you will find behind the wheel well splash guards.

You will want a big trash bag to wrap around your suspension and brakes when spraying the undercoating on the upper plates.

Yep, you will need a 12" 3/8" drill bit to start the two holes for the rear brace plates. OK, here is where I hurt myself. I was running a 1/2" electric drill, one with a side hand hold, and once that bit grabbed hold of the sheet metal it locked that drill down so hard and fast my hand was wedged between the bar and the drill. If you can figure a way to mark that hole without doing the 12" bit I would recommend doing it. Maybe a cheap 90 degree 3/8" drive adapter with a cordless drill using a 1/8" bit to mark the hole location? Maybe a Dremel tool? Then drill the holes up from underneath the car using a 3/8" drill and regular length bit.

I ended up with my cutout 5 1/4" back NOT 4 1/4" back from the last hole. This meant positioning the bar in place twice instead of just once. For the cutouts I used a Dremel with reinforced cut off wheels for one side and a real grinder and cut off wheel on the other. Having a real grinder with cut off wheel and a grind wheel will be a big help.

You will have some wires between the package shelf and trunk on the passenger side. Remove the wire clip (use the carpet tool) and tape the wire bundle and single wire against the body panel out of the way of the bar plate.

Tape the wires near the bottom legs out of the way also and protect them from the bar. The bar end plate and the wires actually touch on the driver s side.

Do what the instructions tell you and run the seat belt reel bolts in first and work from there. I ran the vertical bolts in first to sort of hold things in place but had to work backwards to get the reel bolts to start.

I had to grind about a 1/6" off the leading edge of the back up plate for the upper mounts where it was hitting the wheel well frame. Having a real grinder or bench grinder for this would be important.

Get a headlamp, the brighter the better, one of those that straps around your head like a coal miner. This will let you see in those dark corners when under the top and will let you see how things are lining up.

If you plan to do the job alone you will find that a 10" 1/2" drive socket extension lets you tighten the bottom plates while holding the bolts on the inside of the vehicle with a wrench.

Yes, I did use undercoating and would suggest you do also.

Reinstalling everything is straightforward. I am not thrilled with the way the plastic seat belt tower trim goes back in but I was able to get the piece that runs from the door back to the bar in quite well and it is held in place with a boot bolt and in my case the hard top catch as well. I am leaving off the back piece and will either paint the exposed area black or glue some carpet to in it instead.

I did email Bethania Garage and asked them to consider a carpet kit. Heck if I can spend $400+ on a bar, $85 on a bar pad, I would be willing to spend some more on anything that would finish the job off neater and easier. I think they should consider a seat belt tower finishing kit as well but&

Hope this helps.

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