Miata Sim Rig: Building a Frame and Mounting the Controls

With the dashboard and center console removed from the Miata, it was time to cut it down to a more manageable size. It has to fit through a door after all.

The skeleton of a Miata's dashboard and its attached center console, clamped to the top of a metal work bench.

I used a 5″ metal cutoff disc to sever the internal frame and cut off the passenger side of the dash. I also trimmed the top of the dashboard to make it flat and shorten the overall length.

The remains of the dash after trimming.

I had to remove all the various instruments, buttons, dials, and trim pieces to get the dash out. I’ll add it all back in later.

I’m planning to use the steel frame inside to mount the whole thing.

As I trimmed I started to plan where trim panels would go, and made clean lines for them. I also retained the steel dash bar, since everything mounts to it, and it would make a good anchor point.

A rectangular steel frame on the ground, with the miata dash board set on top of it roughly.
The basic frame and dash layout.

I made some measurements and decided to once again use Unistrut for the base frame. Unistrut is versatile, and allows adjustment and repositioning, so it’s perfect for this application.

The Miata’s dash skeleton mounted to the Unistrut frame.

After painstaking measurements, tack welding, hammering, and more welding, I had the Miata’s steel dash frame built. It has to support the forces I’ll be putting into the steering wheel so it needed to be rigid. I measured the height of the frame relative to its donor car’s floor to get the position just right.

The dashboard skin placed on to see how I did. The frame interferes with a part I hadn’t planned to trim so I had to get creative on how to make it look right.

I also attached wheels to the frame, which made it much easier to work on. With the height of the dash set, everything else started falling in place. I decided to use the original seat from the car as well. It’s comfortable and matches the interior.

Seat, center console, and dash loosely in place.

I pressed forward and mounted the seat. I used the original seat mounts and sliders, but took them off to bend the angles flat for mounting. I used a full size strut for the front and a half size for the rear, giving it a slight tilt like the original mounts had.

I decided to use the original steering column mount points to mount the controller. To do this, I used my brand new tool, the Swag Offroad press brake. The 1/4″ steel plate I used was overkill, but it was laying around the shop and would be nice and rigid.

Putting the Swag finger brake to work. It fits in a standard Harbor Freight 20 ton press and handled the 1/4″ plate with no problems.

The controller steering box is big, so it spaced out from the dash much more than the original wheel does. In my race cars, the wheel is spaced out from its original position by several inches, so it puts the wheel in just the right spot. I used a piece of strut to provide a spacer between the mount point on the dash frame and my plate.

The mount plate for the wheel, mounted to the original steering column points.

I later put more bend in the plate to put the wheel in the correct position. I made a simple mount out of strut scraps for the shifter. It’s mounted to a small frame, also strut, that I built to support the center console. You can see it in later posts.

The shifter mounted to the center console frame.

With a few more details, it will be ready for paint.