1999 Miata LS – All-Black Interior Swap

This writeup is a description of the process I went through after I decided that I wanted to swap my black and tan interior to all-black.

The desire to do this swap was something that surfaced pretty early on after I got the Miata. However, I learned that the bottom-half of the dash wasn’t just a bunch of easliy-removable, snapped and screwed-in pieces like I had assumed it was. In order to swap it out for factory black I would have to swap out the entire dash unit. Not a small task.

I toyed with the idea of painting the bottom half of the dash black for about a year and a half. I thought that this idea was pretty ghetto, but the more I thought about it and looked into paint products, I found that it was actually viable. I decided to give it a shot.

Here’s the “before” pic. It’s the only pic I could find of the car’s interior. Since it was very stock I didn’t really ever take any pics of it. Needless to say – it was a typical ’99 black/tan interior.

NOTE: Click to enlarge any of the pics on this page.

interior_fisheye.jpg

UPDATE (Nov 2008): I finally got the Sparco seats in and had a chance to take some pics. So here is an after pic (more at the end). The conversion process follows.

black_interior_3.jpg

I started by stripping out the interior. Everything that was tan and removable had to come out:

stripped.jpgMy first step was to pull everything out of the car that was tan and removable. That included all of the plastic trim that was not attached to the dashboard, the seats, door cards and all 3 carpets.

Overall this process is pretty straightforward. The only thing I needed a wrench for was the seats and the hard top side strikers. Everything else is held in with either phillips-head screws or some type of plastic fastener. Consequently, many of the tan plastic fasteners were going to need to be reused. Since these are not readily available in the right size/type/texture, I opted to paint mine.

The only plastic fasteners that actually broke were the ones holding the “top” carpet in. (The one that covers the fuel tank/parcel shelf area.) I’m guessing these were the ones that got the most direct sunlight. The combination of UV radiation and extreme heat cycling left them pretty brittle. Almost every one of them broke. I picked up some generic black panel fasteners that were roughly the same size at AutoZone for about $5. The downside is that their texture is smooth. But they are not in an area where they’ll receive much scrutiny.

Painting the trim pieces was what I did next:

misc_painted_parts.jpgHere is a shot of all the pieces I painted off the car. All of the rearward trim pieces around the seatbelt towers as well as the front kick panels and glove box pieces. The key to making sure that the “chip proof” (product claim) finish remains durable is in the preparation. I prepped the plastic by wiping it down with paint thinner until the shop towel wiped clean. I made sure to wipe in many directions as to clean out the textured ravines in the plastic.

Now for the dash underbelly:

masked_and_sprayed.jpgThe next step was to mask off the tan parts of the dash. I took my time – wanting to get it right on the first spray with as little post-spray touch-up as possible.

Before actually masking it off, I wiped down all of the tan dash and surrounding bits of the black dash with paint thinner to remove any residue. Obviously I did this for paint adhesion, but also for masking tape adhesion. It doesn’t want to stick to the black dash if there is any Armor All type substance on it.

I used thick blue painters masking tape and a big roll of basic masking paper to mask off everything very well. No real technique to it other than “cover everything up perfectly”. Plastic bags came in handy for the steering wheel and e-brake handle.

Even though I was quite careful – there was still a little bit of touch up I needed to do here and there. It was easy to do with a very fine, short bristle paint brush. I just sprayed the paint into the cap of the can where it pooled up and used that.

Driver’s side close-up:

left_painted.jpgThis is a close up of the driver’s side after the first 2 coats of paint. I noticed some pin-holes in the paint at this point that actually concerned me a bit. I hadn’t seen any of this happening on the other trim pieces that I painted so I was disappointed at first.

The first time I saw this I thought maybe I had done a bad job prepping so I immediately wiped the entire panel down with paint thinner. I removed all the paint and re-prepped it only to have the same thing happen when I tried again. So the second time I just left it and let that coat dry for about an hour before doing another coat. The next coat filled it in nicely.

By the way – those buttons are masked off even if it doesn’t look like it. I wouldn’t be so ghetto as to just spray them over :)

Passenger side close-up:

right_painted.jpgThis side was easier, what with no steering wheel to contend with. You might notice that I removed the glove box. The front face and handle are removable so I opted to remove them and paint them off the car. This should make for a more seamless job in the end.

One thing you have to make sure you do is walk over to the opposite side of the car to spray the part where the center console (radio/gauges/HVAC) is. The tan part of the dash curves over to face that side of the car and you need to make sure you hit that edge.

After Painting:

dash_shiny.jpgHere’s a shot after the masking was removed and the glovebox reinstalled. The raw black plastic dash is quite dull compared to the shiny black painted dash. You can see on the right where I’ve added some Formula 2001 interior dressing. The bottle I have is about 3 years old and not the “super shiny” stuff. I’m going to pick up said “super shiny” Armor All and that should get the sheen close to the same. In daylight, and with the rest of the interior installed, the difference should be a lot more subtle.

Apart from painting the tan plastic trim black, I also sourced a 2003 center console (nicer design) and second-hand black carpet, door sills and door cards. All of this stuff was in good to excellent condition and only required minor clean-up before installing.

The seats I went with are Sparco Speed seats. They were a very cheap and lucky eBay find. The pair was brand new and came with Sparco sliders for $650 shipped to my door. I did decide to use the Sparco sliders but doing so required fabricating some custom mounting brackets. How I pulled that off is a story for another day.

Now for some pics of the final product.

black_interior_5_0.jpg black_interior_2.jpg black_interior_4.jpg black_interior_1.jpg black_interior_5.jpg

Conclusion: I think that this is a completely feasible and rational way to go about swapping a black/tan interior to an all-black interior on a budget. Instead of spending around $200 on a black dash unit and many hours swapping it out, you can spend about $14 on paint and probably around 75% the amount of time. As you can see, the final product is quite good.

That being said, I’ve decided that for me this is a temporary solution and that I am going to eventually swap out the dash for a factory all-black unit. If this were a track-only car or something that I was intending to be function over form, I would leave it as-is. But since this is a car that I plan on keeping for a very long time and that I’d like to use frequently and show off, I think a dash swap is going to be a better long-term solution for a perfectionist like myself.

-SD

2 Responses to 1999 Miata LS – All-Black Interior Swap »»


Comments

  1. Comment by squarerootofnine | 2008/12/03 at 00:08:28

    it looks awesome. excited to see it in person. your car and my camera may need to go on a date. what do you think?

  2. Comment by Steve | 2008/12/03 at 10:32:44

    I think your camera and my car will be better friends in the spring after my car has a fresh coat of paint. But I’m up for a photo shoot any time. :)

    -SD


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