New member looking for advice - folding hardtop

Hi there - I’ve just joined the forum, after a while looking around the public areas.


My daughter and I are looking for a fun weekend car and, for reasons known only too well to members here, the MX-5 is our desired choice (we considered many options from Midgets to vintage 911’s, but rampant corrosion and the cost to insure it for a 19 year old were blockers).


We don’t mind a bit of mechanical fettling - I am pretty good at car stuff and part of the reason behind the purchase is that m’girl is similarly happy with oily fingernails - I’m rubbish at bodywork, though.


Currently we are gravitating toward a model with a folding hardtop - an early one, with a budget of around £3-4k, we should be able to find something.


Question is, how is the hardtop viewed in the community - is it more trouble than it’s worth? Is there anything to look out for other than the normal corrosion issues?

The seal can go and it is an expensive fix. The NC is no stranger to rust, many now have rust affecting the subrames and rear sills. If you put details on this site on a car you are contemplating buying members will give you their opinion.

Our PRHT is a great car. There is a simpler drain system than soft tops so they are less prone to rust. Front of the real wheel arches especially is a rust spot as can be on front wing around during the indicator. Ours is almost 12 years old and so not new by any means and not new prices. Some say that the mk3.5 is better engine wise. Ours is 1.8 which is fine. Critics say 2l is best. There will always be critics whatever model you have. lowering is essential according to some but can’t be lived with according  to others!  Ours has air-conditioning,  leather heated seats and the SmartTop module which is expensive but great. Look,  buy, enjoy…

The folding hardtop’s a matter of personal preference really I think; personally I much prefer that over the soft-top version not least due to the additional refinement the hardtop gives at motorway speeds with the roof up.  After over 7 years of ownership I still really like my PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) & for me the purchase of this version as opposed to the soft-top car was a no-brainer.

As Raymond’s said, the seal between the back of the roof panel & the panel with the rear window can split on some older cars, the cause of this has been subject to some discussion e.g. possible rubbing on the carpet in the stowage area when the roof’s down, or possibly due to sun exposure when the roof’s up etc etc!

A very few folk have also had problems with the microswitches and / or motors; motor faults are very expensive to fix.  Also the allen bolts can potentially work loose causing grinding noises.

Against these issues though, the soft top can also wear & need replacement, which isn’t a cheap fix either.

I think the general opinion is that the folding hardtop’s usually very reliable & generally trouble-free, although, like everything else on the car, the potential for problems will increase as it ages.

Other issues include the 2 scuttle retaining clip seals - these items are located beneath the small coin sized covers in the plastic panels at the bottom of the windscreen, they’re plastic clips which clip into the bodywork (with a foam seal beneath) & then the plastic panels screw down into those.  The foam seals go & allow water into the cabin - on the nearside, the water often gets into the fusebox causing all sorts of electrical gremlins.  The retaining clips are quite cheap & relatively easy to replace - I did mine a couple of years ago as a precaution.

A set of decent quality matched tyres is important - these cars are very sensitive to mis-matched tyres.  Also check the radiator header tank, these can crack around the filler neck, underneath the cap causing a sudden coolant leak & overheating which may warp the cylinder head.

Electric window switches can also fail & on the model with the folding hardtop that affects roof operation because the windows automatically drop slightly before the roof starts to open or close, so if the windows don’t drop due to a switch fault then the roof won’t move.

As Raymond’s said though, the main thing to look for on these cars is underbody rust; there are some very good ones out there (garaged, rarely been out in the rain, possibly rust-proofed by a caring previous owner etc), but also some rough ones too which have racked up a relatively high mileage in all weathers without the application of any additional underbody protection.

There’s lots of good advice here on this forum!

Thank you for the replies - we did look at a few today, and this is the one we’re interested in:

All thoughts welcome. There appears to be very little rust on the floorpan itself, the sills are solid and the suspension mounts (as far as I can see them) are also without any rust.

It was a solid drive - the first one we drove had a fried clutch and it was horrible to drive as a result, this one was much better but there was a little notchiness in the gearchange, it felt like it was quite easy to “beat” the syncromesh. A brief pause in neutral between gears resolved the situation, and I put it down to me being used to driving big German diesel auto-barges for the past 20 years or so.

There are two flat tie-rods between the body and the rear subframe which seemed to be a little crusty. I reckon that a good wire-brush and a going-over with Waxoyl should sort it out. There’s a fair amount of rust around the diff, but again, it’s all surface and as long as I can get the back end into the air enough, I reckon I can sort it fairly easily - no welding, that’s the main thing and I would begin a regime of waxoyl as soon as it arrived home.

All thoughts and comments are welcome.

That one seems to have a good MOT history.

Those flat chassis braces at the rear are often rusty, the subframes can be too (as yours is around the diff), you’re ahead of that already I see with your mention of Waxoyl.

Re. the synchromesh - “They’re all like that, sir!” - especially first to second, worse when cold so sounds like nothing untoward on the car you’ve seen.

I know you’ve said that the sills & floor look OK but have you very carefully checked inside the rear wheelarches, where they meet the ends of the sills?  It’s not uncommon for these to go through, at the bottom of the wheelarch, into the sill & also the floor / box section near that location immediately behind the sills which can also rust out.

Also what was the oil level?  Essential to keep these just above “Max” at all times otherwise severe engine damage can occur.

Having seen the MOT history & the photos, that does like like a good 'un; nice colour too - but I’m biased!



Have a look at this link that was posted recently. It shows a Mk 3 in the second half that a tad rusty and will hopefully guide you as you look at mk3s to purchase.


hopefully a folding hardtop will not be as bad as this example.



Thank you again - does the price look OK? It’s a little leggy (almost 104k), and I am anticipating closing the deal at £4k. 

Funnily enough, I didn’t check the oil that carefully - when the bonnet was open, I was checking mainly for rust, there was a little around the power steering reservoir (I think - the metal can at the front right hand side of the engine bay). Every one I’ve seen has had rust here, and this was the best I’ve seen.

There’s a few little scabs on the trailing edge of the bootlid, so I’ll sort those as soon as I can to stop things getting any worse. Again, I’ve seen very few without these - I saw one Mk2 which was absolutely perfect here (some surface rust starting on the rear of the sills, but really clean other than that), and the one we’re considering is better than most.

If there are no alarm bells ringing, and that price looks fair, by this time tomorrow, Browne Jr and I shall be in the gang!

There are better cars than that one. Take your time , don’t buy the first car you see.

Don’t take MOT history as a sign of good condition mine was no advisories at all in September or previous test’s when I bought it, yet in June after only 300 miles used since last MOT rusted inner sill’s MOT failure.

My garage who MOT’d it said they would not put rust down as a advisory due to no exact science on how long the advisory would take to become a failure.So they would just tell the customer.

I didn’t know what I was looking for and went of MOT history, so if your not confident take someone who know’s

Ref PRHT mine and others have lots of creaks and there’s always the chance it get’s stuck but does make you feel like your in a more solid car when up and good in winter touch wood completley dry.

I paid £2.7K 56reg 107K miles as a guide for you last September   



Good luck   




My wife and I have had two MX-5s over the past eight years, both with the PRHT unit, and I have to say that they seem pretty much fool proof.  We’ve never had any problems with ours (I guess that might be tempting fate now !), and they have always worked faultlessly.  I suppose it is likely that problems might arise the older a car gets, but our present car is eleven years old now, and so far, no issues with it.

As previous posts from other members have stated, the NC is now of an age where rust issues are beginning to show their ugly heads - the same with any car of that vintage really, so just be vigilant when inspecting a possible purchase.  I’ve never read of any problems with the NC as major as those suffered by NB front chassis rails though.

All 5s suffer from ‘notchy’ second gear selection (from first) when cold - don’t worry about it unduly - they are generally fine once the transmission has warmed up.  Water leaking through the grommets at the base of the windscreen is common, and must be cured immediately, because the wet stuff floods the fuse box, and can cause all manner of expensive problems.  However, it only takes about half-an-hour to affect the repair - if you can’t get new grommets, silicon is just as effective.

Basically, the NC is a well-engineered and well-built car, even though factory rust prevention is pretty crap.  So when buying, be vigilant, and get the best one you can afford.  

Ref PRHT mine and others have lots of creaks and there’s always the chance it get’s stuck but does make you feel like your in a more solid car when up and good in winter touch wood completley dry.

I paid £2.7K 56reg 107K miles as a guide for you last September   



bruce re roof creaks , have you tried to adjust the roof latch ???

did mine and its loads better 



i followed this link


top tip … try not to unhook the spring at the top 







Not yet, done the usual, read up on it, plan it in my mind ask a thousand questions on the forums and then forget about it…

easy job , 20 mins , fiddley but great when the creaks n knocks have gone
good luck !



Being used to the plethora of creaks, rattles, groans and clonks on 1960s/ 1970s sports cars - Midgets, Sprites, Spitfires and MGBs etc - when I was a mechanic back in the day, I suppose I just mentally shrug off the odd little noise from my PRHT - cultivate a deaf ear, that’s the way to go !  And no, I’m not drawing any parallels with my wife !


I thought I’d give a quick update on this thread as we are now about 3 months into our MX5 journey.

It’s been great - it drives nice, it handles well, it’s been reliable (*touches wood) and it’s been fun!

The PRHT has been faultless and although the rust on the rear subframe is unpleasant-looking, thorough investigation has shown that it isn’t too bad and, I must confess, we did more driving than fixing this summer. It will be wire-brushed and waxoyled, probably early next spring. I’m trying to find a garage which will rent me a ramp to make it less unpleasant.

Other mods on the horizon are a head-unit swap for one with DAB and CarPlay and I’m going to vinyl-wrap the piano-black dash inserts with carbon effect. I’ve done the same with my c-class and it looks much better in my view - understated and matte rather than gloss, it hides all of the existing scratches and doesn’t show any new ones.

I may wash it soon. We had our driveway replaced at the end of the summer and it was like living on a farm, so all of our cars are suffering!

Thank you everyone for the advice given, it’s good to be a part of the family.