Hard Dog Sport Roll Bar Installation

by Aaron Tachibana - aaron@miata.net


Before you start, assemble all the tools and have them ready, can't stress enough about having the right tools on hand and having them accessible:

  1. Shop Vacuum
  2. 19mm, 17mm Sockets (both std. and deep)
  3. 9/16" socket and wrench
  4. 3/8" drill bit (std. size)
  5. 3/8" drill bit 12" long
  6. Automotive tin snips
  7. Dremmel tool & cutting discs
  8. Philips Screw driver
  9. 1/2" and 3/8" drive ratchet set w/extensions
  10. 10mm socket
  11. Carpet button removal tool (spend the $5.00 and buy one..way worth it)
  12. Floor jack
  13. Jack stands (2)
  14. Various pliers and channel locks etc...
  15. Drill

Prep Work:

First take the entire carpet and sound deadening from the package tray area and the bottom front of the package tray area out (Carpet Button removal tool is worth it's weight in gold here...a second a piece for each button removed, and there are about 20). Also remove the cockpit brace (if you have one) and the side panels. The side panels are removed by taking the rear boot snaps off (two of them) with a 10mm socket, and remove the front clip by taking out the Philips screw and lifting the small rectangular piece off. You need to do this for each side. Then remove the Philips screw on the rocker panel closest to the door jam. Once you do this you can remove the weather/protectant strip the covers the edge of the side panel. Now carefully pry the side panels off. Remove the Package tray cover (about ten 10mm bolts), and remove the seat belts from their receptacles by prying off the plastic cap from the seat belt harness restraint and removing the 19mm (IIRC) bolt (save this bolt because you are going to reuse it to secure the bar to the top of the seat belt tower) and 10mm screw on top and 17mm bolt on the bottom) and lay the seat belt mechanism to the side. Unbolt the ECU from it's mounting studs (three 10mm nuts) and lay it to the side. There are three studs that hold the bracket on, the bottom most stud needs to be removed, so take the Dremmel tool with cutting disc and cut that stud off flush (you will not need it). There is no need to remove the seats if you have another person helping you (and I highly recommend you have another helper), if you are doing this by yourself, then removal of the seats will make things easier for you.

The Hard Dog Instruction Sheet:

Take the two sets of instructions sheets from Hard Dog and throw them away...they are useless...and confusing. The templates are junk and it will take you a half an hours time just to figure out what they are trying to convey.....Installing the bar is really straight forward, and by taking some time to visually inspect the area where the bar installs..common sense will be your guide (of course if you lack common sense..I can't help ya and then you'll have to depend on the instructions.....Yikes!!!!)

Cutting the Package Tray Area:

This is the hardest part of the install...and the easiest if you do not use the instruction sheet and provided templates. You will need to cut a 3" wide by 6" long strip of sheet metal on either extreme side (right and left) of the package shelf area. You will see where it needs to be cut but placing the bar into a relative installation position and your common sense will all of a sudden say.."Oh yeah..I need to make a cut there so I can put the bar's rear support legs through the side tunnel to the trunk area." Using Automotive tin snips (with a compound handle) and cut the two 6" cuts 3 inches apart, then you can use a pliers to bend the strip down and then fire up the Dremmel tool with a cutting disc on it and cut the final 3" cross tab off. Now you'll have a 3" wide by 6" long cut-out. Repeat the process on the other side...then test fit the bar. It should butt up to the seat belt tower flush (this is why you need to cut the lower ECU mounting stud off) and the rear supports should fit through the slots you just cut (depending on the quality tolerances of the car you might have to cut the slots a little further back for the bar to fit flush up against the seat belt tower). It's nice here to have another person helping you test fit the bar into place. Once you get the test fit flush with the seat belt towers, you can remove the bar and now reinstall the seat belt mechanism by pressing it into the upper slot and letting it naturally hang in the vertical position (do this for both seat belt mechanisms). Now put the roll bar into position. Using the 17mm bolts that held the bottom of the seat belt mechanism in place, secure the bar to the seat belt tower. This is a little tedious cause you cannot get a socket in there and you'll have to use a combination open end and box end to tighten it down, but do not tighten it all the way. Leave the bolt loose cause you will need to rock the bar back and forth to be able to align the top of the bar with the securing holes on the top of the seat belt tower. After securing the bottom, secure seat belt mechanism's top 10mm screw. Now looking down on the seat belt tower from above, you'll see the mounting tab with a hole on the bar, that that aligns with the hole underneath it in the seat belt tower. This was where the seat belt restraint was located with the 19mm bolt. You can test fit the alignment by putting the 19mm seat belt restraint bolt through the bar's mounting tab and into the threaded hole in the seat belt tower. One bit of difficulty arises here. On the 19mm bolt, there is an approximate 1/2" diameter collar underneath the bolt head. When you secure the bar with this bolt, the head of the bolt will not fit flush, so you will need to enlarge the mounting tab hole on the bar to accommodate the bolt collar. Using a drill and appropriate 1/2" diameter drill bit. enlarge the mounting hole on the bar tab. Now you can insert the 19mm bolt through the bar's mounting tab and screw it down into the top of the seat belt tower (remember you have to do this on both side mounting tabs). Once you have all the mounting bolts in place, you can secure all bolts tightly.


Now that the bar is securely bolted to the seat belt tower, you're ready to drill the backing plate holes. First jack up the rear of the car and place jack stands in the rear lift points. Remove the wheels. then remove the wheel well liner by removing the 10mm bolts that secure the liner to the wheel well.

Beginning with the lower seat belt tower mount, you can use the holes in the bar's mounting plate as a stationary template to drill the 3/8" holes. Once the holes are drilled, use the supplied 9/16" bolts and washers and thread the bolts through the mounting plate and then take the corresponding backing plate and place it over the threaded 9/16" bolts through the inside of the wheel well. It's easier to do if two people are involved. One holding the bolts while the other tightens them. Repeat the process for the other side. Now for the tricky part. Using the foot long 3/8" drill bit, look down on the rear support mounting plate from directly above and drill three of the four mounting holes. It's tight, but you can carefully maneuver the drill bit around to drill the holes. Once you've drilled three of the holes, place the supplied 9/16" bolts and washer through the just drilled holes. From underneath the car in the wheel well, take the backing plate and secure it to the bolts and tighten the nuts. Once that's done, take the long 3/8" drill and from underneath, use the backing plate hole as a guide and drill all the way through the top mounting plate. Now you can thread the last 9/16" bolt and secure it from underneath to the backing plate. Repeat these steps for the other side.

The Home Stretch:

The bar is now securely bolted into the car. Check to make sure all bolts are tightened. Reinstall the fender liners and the wheels/tires. Now it's time to reinstall the rear package tray. Contrary to the instructions and other post from list members' I did not have to trim the package tray cover at all. Just put it back in in the reverse order of removal. Rear deck carpeting takes some faith to do and you have two basic choices, one take you car to an upholstery shop and have them cut the carpet to fit around the rear braces, or two do it yourself. It's really not very hard, Just install the carpet from the extreme rearward position first, and kind of lay it on the rear bra supports. Then take a deep breath and cut vertically from the edge of the front of the carpet to the bar's support brace. Then secure the carpet to the package tray with Velcro strips and the stock carpet buttons.

Now you need to secure the ECU. Place the ECU and it's mounting bracket horizontally from the outer ECU mounting stud (one closest to the driver side) to the bottom left mounting stud (as you face the ECU). You will notice that the lower bar mounting bolt head is in the way of securing the ECU bracket. Use the Dremmel tool and cutting disc to cut a half moon shaped notch in the ECU bracket that allows the bracket to flit flush on the bar mounting plate and the bolt head and over the ECU mounting stud. Then secure the ECU and bracket with the two 10mm nuts.

Replace the bottom section package tray carpet using the stock carpet buttons to secure it. Those of you that would like to use the rear boot cover (and I'm one that does) will have to cut the boot to fit. This I'm definitely taking to an upholstery shop, as my sewing skills aren't up to stuff.

The side panels are another story, and you just have to relegate yourself to cutting them in half vertically.....or something like that. I haven't actually gotten to that yet as I'm waiting for El Nino to take a hike so I can put the top down and work on the side panels. By the looks of things, I'm going to have to cut them vertically in half and make them a two piece affair. Doesn't look too hard, anyone have any idea about how to do this? Let me know.....

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18 March, 1998