Driving the 2019 Mazda Miata RF for a week, I found myself enamored with the vehicle’s unique, fully-automatic fastback hard-top convertible design. I’d put it down, then put it up, then put it down again — except this time at a stoplight, just to see if I could get it to fully retract before the light turned green. Then I’d get to where I was going, and I’d put it up, or I’d leave it down if I wasn’t going to be long (leaving the top down on your parked convertible is a real power move). I adore the Miata RF, and part of that adoration has to do with its unique top. But how does it all work? How does such a small vehicle remix itself so subtlely? Allow me to explain.
The Miata RF’s top consists of four different moving pieces: two roof panels, one large and one small, a rear window and that fastback-style rear hood (or "cowl" as I refer to it in the video). The top is operated with a rocker switch on the center stack just to the right of the driver’s right knee. Push it up and the top goes down; push it down and the top goes up. Counterintuitive? Perhaps. When putting the top down, the first piece that moves is that cowl. It raises up and then shifts backward to allow the roof panels and rear window to do their magic. Next, the roof panels, which are held in place by a rather large and menacing-looking hook, detach from the windshield frame and begin to rotate backward. Both roof panels and the rear window are attached to one another by a series of gears and hinges. As the roof panels rotate backward toward their resting place on the RF’s rear deck, the smaller rear panel passes over the rear glass, which then starts to rotate backward itself. Ultimately, when everything comes to a rest, the two roof panels sandwich the rear glass in their final resting place underneath the cowl, and then the cowl rotates forward and settles down on top of everything.
It’s really fascinating to watch everything in action, and it wasn’t until after I’d put it up and down several dozen times and I was editing the video associated with this article that I came to fully understand how it worked.
One more thing about the Miata’s convertible adornment: There’s a built-in wind deflector between the seats that cuts down on air turbulence in the cabin, which is a problem suffered by most convertibles. Not only does the deflector come with the vehicle, it’s also held in place by two simple pins, making it easily removable.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.
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