The first owner of my RX-7 had at one point installed an Autopower bolt-in Street roll bar, which was then removed by the second owner. This translate to me buying the car with its body having open holes that required addressing. If the epoxied on sideskirts and large rear wing were the major turnoffs when I was initially buying the car, then these roll bar holes were the next big fault.
A sane and reasonable man would have just left the holes alone and carried on with life. They are not in critical areas of the body, 3 in each of the rear wheel wells and 3 underneath on the floor pan on both sides. 12 small holes in these places really does not matter. Option B would have been to have them welded up.
Since I am neither sane nor reasonable, I went with none of the above and instead bought a new Autopower roll bar in the Race model. The Street version is just a 4-point hoop, while the Race adds in a harness bar and diagonal brace. My other idea was instead to have a custom stainless steel roll bar fabricated and welded in place, inspired by Porsche Tequipment. I opted against this route because 1.) after finally getting it back from the body shop, I didn’t want to leave the RX-7 at another shop for a week or more, and 2.) stainless steel roll bars (would have essentially been made out of small exhaust tubing) are generally not certified by racing sanctions. I may not have intentions to track this car, but regardless, form must follow function.
Not all hope was lost in the form department, however, because I still wanted to achieve that raw stainless steel look. After much research, I had the roll bar powder coated with Prismatic Powders’ Super Chrome base coat and Black Chrome I top coat. Super Chrome is a very shiny, chrome-like silver while the Black Chrome I hues the paint to a more grey, stainless look.
All Bay Powder Coatings did a fantastic job and the paint came out with minimal peel. I’m glad I didn’t go with a typical black color for this roll bar, as I think it will add some nice contrast to the interior.
Although the car originally had a Street model, the Race uses the same mounting holes… but Autopower hand makes all their products on a jig. You can see where I’m going with this. I withheld my premonitions, yet still went into the install with bated breath. All of my doubts and dread were realized, plus gratuity. If I learned anything from the Hard Dog roll bar in my old Miata, it’s that installing roll bars suck.
Before I could even see if the mounting holes lined up, I ran into another problem. The rearmost legs are designed to be detachable and slip on once the main hoop is in the car. After ever so carefully positioning the roll bar inside, I realized that the powder coaters also painted the inner tubes where the rear legs slip over, and there was no way to fit them on.
I tried in futile to simply rub down the paint with sand paper, but eventually accepted what needed to be done. The roll bar was removed from the car and out came the dremel. The powder coat was so thick and the tolerances of the bars were so tight, that everything needed to be sanded down to bare metal. I had to resort to my angle grinder to get the job done. It took literally an entire afternoon of work just to get the rear legs to fit.
By the evening, the roll bar was again positioned back into the car and rested in place. Now I could check how the mounting holes lined up, and as suspicions would have it, they needed attention… Thankfully, the curved wheel well areas lined up closely, I only had to elongate a couple holes on the end plates. The floor pan points were further off. I was able to get to a local hardware store right before they closed to pick up stainless steel washers and tungsten carbide bits for the dremel. Resulting in the remainder of the night and next morning doing a lot of this:
Aligning pre-drilled holes that are not perfectly on mark is MUCH more difficult than just drilling the holes yourself. When I went out to the car the next morning to finish up, I started off poorly by dropping 2 nuts, one after the other, down into the abyss of the interior trim panels. I was seeing red having to fish them back out. I also came down with an awful flu the night before when I was busy dremelling away. Another challenging part of the install was being overly paranoid about actually inserting the roll bar into the car, since one tiny bump against the body could have resulted in a dent or paint chip. I’m not even going to comment on the what-if.
A snapped-off tungsten bit, 2 drill battery charges, and enough swearing for a lifetime later – the roll bar was finally installed and the 12 holes are now covered. This was easily the most stressful and enduring job so far, but I’m glad I followed through with it because once finally bolted down, the roll bar did fit great.
What a bitch of an experience. Now I’m sick and I have metal splinters embedded all over my hands. What is done is done. I’ll still need to get a couple small things done in the future, like have an upholstery shop make a trim piece to cover up the rear speaker holes.