Starting Some Dash Fabrication

After being down and out for the last few days with this darn back injury I was back out in the garage yesterday after lunch.  I’m quite a bit more mobile now and just a little stiff.  Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and advice on how to get back on my feet quickly 🙂

I wanted to make some progress on the car but I also didn’t want to push it and lift anything that could send be back to the couch.  So after some Advil and a few heat treatments in the morning I started to disassemble the dashboard.

I had been doing some test fitting of the the dash panels, gauges, LEDs and switches a while ago, so now I needed to take it all apart to ensure that I didn’t ruin any of the equipment or dash panels.

There are a couple of areas that I know of that need to be addressed on the dash.  One is the area around where the steering wheel comes through the dash, another is fixing the bottom so that my bottom panel fits properly and lastly making sure the dash face meets the dash lid with a nice clean line.

After positioning the dash face in the proper location I adjusted the lid so that it was where I wanted and then marked it with some masking tape and trimmed off the excess.

Before I can fix up the dash face so that it meets the dash lid with a nice flush finish, I needed to get the dash lid fabrication completed.

After trimming the dash lid I needed to fabricate some connection points.  I want to be able to pop the dash lid on and off whenever I want so that I can have easy access to the wiring behind the dash.

The first thing needed for the connection points was to create a lip around the edge where the dash meets the body.  I was able to use the pieces trimmed off of the dash lid and secure them to the body shell with some clamps.

Then I busted out the resin and a couple layers of fiberglass matt in order to bond the two surfaces together.  Once everything had cured I trimmed and ground away the excess material.  When I have the rough fabrication work complete I will come back and smooth out these lips.

One of the things I want to ensure is that the dash lid looks very much like the movie car.  The hero car dash lid is about 3/4″-1″ thick.  As you can see, the fiberglass piece that I have for the dash lid is only about 1/8″-1/4″ thick.

The technique that I wanted to use was to create two dash lids and then fill the area between them with something that would make the lid thick.

First step was to create a fairly “flimsy” copy of the dash lid.  This was done by covering the existing lid with aluminium foil and then laying down a layer of fibeglass matt and resin.  Once the resin cured I was able to trim off the excess.

You may be wondering why I would want a “flimsy” copy of the dash lid?  This allowed me to bend and move the lid around where I wanted without having to fight the rebound of the thicker lid.

This surface will be the one that mounts to the lip on the body shell.  The mounting points were then created using some bolts and some rectangular tabs which were drilled and welded to the heads of the bolts.

The reason why I needed rectangular tabs was that it allowed me to fiberglass them into the dash lid and ensure that they wouldn’t turn when tightening the nut from below.  Once the lid and lip was marked and drilled, I was able to insert these bolt/tabs and fiberglass them to the lid.

The other modification that was needed on the new “flimsy” dash lid was cutting out the notch for the “tray” that goes around the front center canopy track.  This tray collects any water and drains it down under the hood of the car, making sure no water gets into the cabin.

This was first templated with bristol board and then fiberglassed.  Once I pull it back out I’ll also fiberglass the back-side of this area to trap the bristol board inside a water tight layer of resin.

Now it was time to make a dashboard sandwich.  I layered the original dash lid on top of this new secured lid and used some screws to hold it in-place.  The original dash lid is nice and smooth which will make rubber cementing on some vinyl later a lot easier.

I also cut some small 3/4″ pieces of MDF that I used as spacers along the front of the dash lid to make sure it was a fairly even height and also tapering it to the sides.

When everything was secured, and the spacers set, it was time to break out the expanding foam.  I personally like to use “Great Stuff” which sprays with an applicator tube and expands nicely.  It’s typically used to plug gaps around windows and doors during construction and when it cures it can easily be cut and sanded.

This will allow me to shape a bit of a curved edge along the front of the dash lid to fiberglass later.   Great Stuff also acts as foam glue so it glues the two sides of the dash together.

The foam takes 8 hours to fully cure, so I let it fully cure overnight.  Once fully cured, I’ll start shaping the edge.

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