Some friends have joked that I seem to have a thing against keeping rear seats in my cars but at least with the Silvia I could argue that they were hilariously impractical to begin with. Additionally, when S15s were fitted with the Spec B interiors (orange or blue) the back seats were never changed to match; with my blue interior it wasn’t immediately apparent that the front and back seats were different colours but it was still always a little odd. Regardless, those factory rear seats now sit in storage alongside Mustard’s because much cooler things sit in their place. Shiny things.
While all areas of the Silvia saw work last season, the exterior very much saw the bulk of the time and effort so this year I decided it was best to switch attention to the interior instead and get it to a “finished” state. Finished, in this case, meaning that it would be complete once again and have some of the remaining required fixes dealt with at last. There will still be more parts and restoration work to come in the future but I wanted it to be fully presentable and have everything back in place. Until Driven this year, the interior had not been 100% assembled since the teardown last spring – parts were always coming and going.
For documenting the interior’s 2021 makeover, I intend to split the work into three separate posts. This – the first – will focus on the initial fitting of what I always intended to be the centerpiece of it all: the NEXT! Miracle Cross Bar. Part 2 will then look at the “framing” of said Cross Bar with both OEM and custom paneling, and Part 3 will be the other little details and easter eggs tossed in. To go with Part 1 there’s also a video covering some of the procedure as I couldn’t really find anything on YouTube covering S15s with any Miracle Bars. Hit Play above, if you wish to check that out!
So, the Cross Bar. It’s interesting to see who actually recognizes it these days; I’ve seen people both immediately pick up on what it is, and others have no clue as to what kind of weird bracing is in the back of the car (“it’s not a roll bar or strut brace, what is this?”).
I can recall numerous builds from the mid-2000s that really stood out to me – usually Hondas, naturally – that all featured these in the back. The Miracle Cross Bar, it seemed, was one of those pieces that was a go-to when building a top-tier car back then and ever since it had always been one of those “I’d like one some day” parts. With the Silvia I at last had a chassis that NEXT! supported (somewhat), and it’d also be another detail to pay tribute to the era when I really dove head-first into the modified import world and was trying to read and learn as much as I could.
Unlike with many other pieces from those days, very fortunately NEXT! still produces these bars so I was able to simply order some brand new pieces instead of having to go on the hunt for parts from 15 years ago; however, not before a bit of research.
There are different Miracle Bars to sit in different areas of the cars, and as I opted to go specifically for the Rear Type I had to order an S14 setup. The only S15 bars officially listed are the Center Type which mount between the B-Pillars; I don’t know for certain if they did ever produce S15 Rear Type bars but my research has shown that to be unlikely. Anyway, I had considered the Center Type but it’d all but ruin my seating position due to where the bars would run, and I had another idea in mind which would require the bracing to sit in the back anyway.
Before we get too much further though, we might as well have a few detail shots of the bar from when it was freshly unpacked! After years of wanting one, months of waiting to actually order one, and then another number of weeks’ worth of waiting while it was being produced and shipped over, I could finally take an up-close look at one of these.
I will note that there are also titanium versions available with the always-wonderful burnt finish, but those are unbelievably expensive (read: thousands of dollars) so I went with the standard stainless steel.
However, I didn’t get just the Cross Bar. To go with it (the main Cross Bar forms the basis of any Miracle Bar setup) I also added the optional Upper Parallel Bar to the shopping cart. Various other add-ons are available for the sides and even bottom in some cases, but I felt that’d be a bit much visually. The Upper Parallel Bar would make the whole setup a bit more obvious from outside the car and also make it look more complete, I felt.
All the bars mount with the hardware and brackets you see here; the larger threaded rods/inserts affix to the ends of the bars themselves, and offer adjustment to get everything nice and tight. The C-shaped brackets to secure the X then bolt to four points in the car using the short black bolts, while the Upper Parallel Bar’s brackets secure using the longer silver bolts (bottom right).
The long silver bolt is there to replace the standard bolt for the X, as the various add-on bars’ brackets secure to those for the X itself; an extra photo later on in the post will better illustrate this if it’s still a bit unclear here.
Also as part of the hardware collection are large-diameter jam nuts to fasten against the bars to really secure them in place and keep things tight; you can see one in the lower right corner of the photo here. Amusingly, this finally gave me the chance to use this wrench I’d picked up from a sale bin some time back. I didn’t know when or even if I’d ever need it but it was something like a dollar or two so I figured why not?
With detail shots out of the way it was time to finally get to the initial set-up of the bars, and that began with pulling the back half of the interior out. The bars would be coming back out soon for the next step of the interior makeover but I had to figure out the exact overall lengths needed (remember, the ends are adjustable) and see if there were any issues with adapting the S14 pieces to an S15. With the help of a local S14 owner – Spencer – we had compared a few measurements ahead of my ordering the bars so I was expecting things to be fairly straight-forward. “Fairly” wasn’t quite the right word as it turned out.
The various ends were threaded in place, mounting brackets bolted into the car, and the X was carefully moved into position; and it didn’t fit. All of our big issues had to do specifically with the upper mounting points of that main Cross Bar (the X); there were still tweaks for the other areas but these were the most critical.
The first hurdle was that the adjustable ends of the bar couldn’t be threaded in far enough to actually clear the brackets secured to the car, let alone have the mounting holes line up. If you picture the jam nut here being the end of the Cross Bar, it not only had to be able to sit considerably closer to the C-shaped mounting bracket, but the end of the threaded insert also had to be trimmed down to fit within that C as well. This was when I made the first call to Doug.
(In the video I had the order of discovering these hurdles a bit backwards, it was super late when I was filming the recap so I was tired)
The solution to this began with milling the flats of the inserts further down, into the existing threads. Once that was done the top of each was taken off on the lathe to shorten the overall length, and finally new mounting holes were drilled. I can also say, in this case, all of this was actually done by me! While Doug has lent his expertise on many occasions in the past he was always the one operating the mill/lathe/etc. This time however he stood off to the side and guided me through the setup and machining for each step!
It was awesome to have a chance to try it all for myself, and I would be back soon to have another go because this wasn’t quite everything needed to make the X fit.
While the threaded ends could now be turned down far enough, the upper two brackets were now the point of concern as the ends of the X itself would hit them ever so slightly. Back to the lathe we went, this time turning down the face of each bracket that sat against the car’s C-pillars; this effectively pulled them further out from one another creating extra space between for the bar to sit. We also shaved a tiny bit off the “tines” as we didn’t want to take any more off of the mounting points than we already had. Obviously then, on the left is a modified bracket and on the right is an original.
Amusingly, as this was a game of millimeters at this point even the washers had a small amount filed off so they could clear the X as well. It all worked though as with these changes the upper half of the X could now bolt into the car. Progress!
The next step was to address the bottom of the X. As it now sat in the S15 shell, the lower points were a bit higher off of the floor than they had been designed to be in an S14, so longer bolts were required for the lower brackets. As shown in the video spacers were then needed as well, but at the time of filming I only had stand-in washers in place. One challenge with these bars is there’s so much adjustability in the various ends that the best way I found to get the exact measurements of how high up it sat was to simply keep adding thin washers until I could get the whole unit to sit in place and fasten perfectly, and then measure the resulting stack.
As for the Upper Parallel Bar then, it fit into place just fine although there weren’t enough threads left on either end for the jam nuts. I possibly could have threaded the bar all the way to one side and had room to fit one nut on, but the bar had to be centered in the car as the logo (which I wanted positioned to be visible through the back window) needed to be centered for it to look proper. The solution here, as noted in the video, was to run thread lock tape on the inserts and it has worked to keep everything perfectly secure. I used some on the main X as well, since its upper pair of inserts couldn’t have the jam nuts either.
(I will point out in case anyone is wondering, not running the jam nuts doesn’t prohibit the bars from keeping their tension on the shell. All length adjustment is done via the threaded inserts and they have to be out of the brackets in order to do so. Even if I were able to spin the Upper Parallel bar as it sits in place in the car, as the inserts are all threaded the same direction as one another it would only move the bar left and right and not actually increase or decrease the overall length.)
Here’s a clearer photo – as promised – showing one of the ends once everything had been bolted in place. Note how the bracket for the Upper Parallel Bar (on the right) bolts to the bracket for the main X, and how that main bracket and the X itself sit so close to one another. You can see why even the washers had to be trimmed down! Everything is perfectly secure though, and there’s not a single rattle or squeak to be heard.
And with that, at last, we can wrap up Part 1 now! As for the next step, with the rear seats needing to be ditched to fit the bars and the side panels unable to fit (as they were) the easy approach would have been to leave the back half gutted; and many do, when fitting the Miracle Bars in various platforms. That wasn’t what I wanted for this car however…
In the coming Part 2 I’ll share how I trimmed the factory side panels and built a simple seat delete of sorts to cover up most of the exposed floor pan, but that’ll come after we get through some Sorority Row coverage!
Lastly though, before closing today I need to extend another massive thank-you to Doug for not only his expertise and help once again, but taking the time and opportunity to teach me some (extreme) basics of machining as well! Compared to what he can – and does – do in his workshop modifying the inserts and brackets for the Cross Bar were extremely basic jobs but I’m still pretty proud of the fact that I get to say I did it!