If you own an older Mazda Miata, you know just how expensive a hardtop can be. I was fortunate enough to buy my NA Miata with a hardtop already included, but others who aren't so lucky and still want one could be paying more than $2,500 for an OEM hardtop. Aftermarket options exist too, but even a fiberglass top without an acrylic window can run more than $1,500 with shipping. Surely there has to be a more affordable option, right?
Well, it turns out that there is, but it requires a little bit of elbow grease and some technical prowess. One Miata enthusiast named Xavier Lipscomb stepped in and took it upon themselves to design parts that can be 3D printed to build a Miata hardtop at home for less than $30 in plastic.
Now, not everyone has access to an industrial 3D printer large enough to fit a Miata hardtop. Because of this, Xavier sliced the model into a 44-piece set that can be printed with just about any off-the-shelf 3D printer. Once assembled, the 3D-printed parts form a negative. This means that fiberglass must still be laid overtop like a mold to build a usable product, so it isn't exactly usable as a hardtop when printed by itself.
Xavier says that his project is still a work in progress, but most skilled bodyworkers can likely use the printed files to complete their own hardtop with minimal effort. And it only costs around $30 in material to print the entire hardtop negative. Only 1.5 kilograms of ASA filament was consumed to print the entire structure, printed over six days, eight hours. In addition, fiberglass mat and epoxy ran about $100, around $60 in Bondo was used, $12 for a roll of window seal, an acrylic window for $150, and other miscellaneous costs. All-in, the total cost of the unpainted hardtop was around $360—significantly cheaper than a $1,500 mass-produced fiberglass top or a $2,500 OEM top. Printing one yourself will add another $100 to the price, as that is what Xavier is charging for his 3D printable model. And if you need a printer, a cheap Ender 3 can be had for as little as $99 when it goes on sale at stores like Micro Center.
If a fastback is more of your style, I've got some more good news: there's also a 3D printable fastback created by another Miata enthusiast. The idea for the fastback is pretty much the same as the hardtop (print the plug, build the real fiberglass part overtop) and is well-documented on the Hutchins Racing YouTube channel.
This example of DIY-ing shows exactly how 3D printing will not only help keep enthusiast vehicles alive for longer but also make them more affordable and customizable at home. In case you want to learn more on the topic (or need to be convinced to buy your first 3D printer), I've talked about all of the cool things you can do with a 3D printer in the automotive hobby space before and my colleague Peter Holderith even put together a guide on how to start designing and 3D printing your own accessories after we competed in The Drive's Great Ford Maverick 3D Print-Off.
Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: [email protected]