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    Retractible hardtops aren’t a new science, but they have made a comeback in recent years.

    Mazda’s surprise announcement is just that – a surprise and perhaps a feature nobody was calling for. Will Mazda create it’s own market? Time will tell…

    Meanwhile, I am as always fascinated by “how things work”, and this is an interesting new feature to examine.

    My first view of the press photos revealed some unsual work on the rear deck. The top actually folds down inside the space formally occupied by the ragtop – only minimally impacting truck space. Compare this to Mercedes or the Caddy XLR. Heck, compare it to the rediculous Solstice and Sky tops – their worst feature. 12 seconds after you press the button, the top is down. This is roughly equivalent to the time it takes to put a Mustang ragtop down, but nowhere near as good as an S2000 (6 seconds). 6 seconds is good at a traffic stoplight… 12 seconds woudl take some planning. And it would distract the other drivers!

    So in the back you have this lump stuck in the middle for the CHIMSL. It’s almost an afterthought.

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    A large piece (probably composite) covers the top mechanism when the top is up or down. I’d call it a “bonnet”, although that means the “hood” to the British.

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    When up, the top is weather-proofed with rubber seals. You can see what I’ve called the “bonnet” covering up the area where the top folds down into. There are gaps between the peices – most notably at the base of the window.

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     Another view, with the top down. The “bonnet” covers the top and the mechanism when it’s retracted. I have to wonder if the leading edge of the bonnet (notice how it sticks up) would create some wind noise at speed.

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    View from the back, retracted:
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    Retracting the top is really fairly simple – compared to the competition. And Mazda engineers were very creative when they decided to put the retracted top in the space normaly occupied by the ragtop. This really smart approach has minimal impact to the trunk space. The result is a car that you can actually use to go places. 
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    Closeup view of the “bonnet” at the lower edge of the side window. It looks tight here. I wonder if adjustment will be needed after a certain period of time or mileage, and how it is done? 

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    The gaps in the roof when up are clear. Rubber seals are used to waterproof this. We’ll have to wait to get a report back from an owner as to how effedtive this is… in a storm or in a carwash.
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    The seals appear to have a small drip channel built in. The back part of the main roof portion has these large hinges built in. Kids, watch your fingers when the top is going down!
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    The double-hinges lift the “bonnet” and then lower it again when the top is retracted. There appears to be some sort of locking mechanism hanging down…?
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    Closer view of the drivers side mechanism. 
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    All in all, a very creative effort – and clearly one that was designed along with the rest of the car. In order for the rear window portion to fold so neatly into the inside of the car, and still allow room for the roof portion to sit on top of it, this clearly would have had to have been designed for this on day 1. Kudos to Mazda!

    But not lets work on a *real* engine for the Miata. As delivered, the ragtop version is about 1 thenth of a second faster to 60 and the quarter mile than the Solstice. And that same small advantage continues for handling. Mazda is certainly capable of creating a 190-200 HP engine for the car as the base 2 liter engine… and a 300-horsepower turbocharged engine for a MazdaSpeed version. We need the same type of creativity that went into the top to be demonstrated in this area as well!