Simply Dashing

Building a new dash

The intent is to fabricate a simple but functional dash to fit the genre of the car. A speedo, a tach and a couple of gauges should do.

What inspired this dash redo project

I got inspired to redo the dash after seeing this sweet install at a recent Mustang show. And if you look at the lower section of the drivers pod they even reused the original switches and bezels. And since I wanted to redo it anyway I went ahead and jumped right in! The intent is to fabricate a simple but functional dash to fit the genre of the car. A speedo, a tach and a couple of gauges should do.

Stage 1 Uncovering the framework

The dash assembly comes out - I started by removing all the plastic trim panels and the glove box door. The dash cluster and passenger side trim unscrewed and unplugged rather uneventfully. From that point it was a few bolts to the dash bracing and supports. A pair of bolts at each end, a couple of small connectors for lights, wipers and ignition switches allowed the complete lower unit framework came out . The left over AC vent casings were removed also.

Stage 2 The Padded or now Unpadded Dash

Losing the damaged foam padding and vinyl skin I had removed the padded dash cover a ways back (for another project) to give me access to the heater box, which requires a dashectomy (dashboard removal}to accomplish, so it was already out sitting in the shop. It had been skinned with a PVC Coverlay many years back because of the poor condition, crunchy actually, of the extensive padded surfaces from many years of life in Nevada and LA. I easily decided to strip off all the degraded foam padding and crunchy vinyl and get down to the bare steel skeleton. Boy! What a job that was! But, a couple of hours later I had a raw skeleton exposed. After prepping it with solvent and Scotchbrite, a few passes of primer and it got a topcoat of black epoxy. For now.

Stage 3 Reinstall and New Framework

Putting it back together - My Way! - The installation of the cleaned up dash skeleton went easily.But before installation I did decided to fill the upper speaker cutout with a solid panel for strength. While the pictures show my earlier AC vent panel, I filled the former AC vent opening in the front with a simple removable flat aluminum filler to be used later for switches. I fabbed a pair of short brackets to support the outer ends. Since the lower section was not being reused the center section needed to have a pair of support braces installed. So a quick mockup in coat hanger to get the angles right, they needed to be angled and redirected, I duped them into flat steel stock and drilled to fit.

Lower support brace - I decided after looking at the dash structure to put in a lower support brace that picks up the same mounts where the old lower dash unit was attached. A horizontal bar of 3/4 inch square stock runs all the way across. I ran two more small support braces from the center module down to this bar and the dash is now solid as a rock. My water/oil/volts gauge panel will be hung on the bottom of this center section. Solid and ready to move on to the insert panels.

Stage 4 Fabbing The New Panels

Building the dash inserts - Fabbing the panels is going to be a bit dicy but I can do it. The passenger side is first. A basic panel pattern was guess-timated with cardboard and taped up sections. And after some refinements a piece of lightweight aluminum was cut to fit the pattern and some of the mock brackets fastened to it to get it in place. A wee bit of fenagling got the curvature right and the bottom skirt the way it should be. Some fine tuning of the lower section is to come but it is generaly acceptable at this point.

The next refinement is the switch panel insert. The flat panel was drilled for four On-Off-On bat handled switches. A quick scuff and a shot of primer and it can be painted black to match the dash.

Stage 5 Switching Directions

This unit is being built race car style and has a single toggle with indicator lamp for primary ignition power and a push button start. There is now a secondary power toggle controlling 3 system toggles. Lights, wipers and heat. Trying to keep it simple. Just 2 primary power toggles controlling all the essentials. The master kill is in the trunk just above the battery.

The lights will be running and headlights all on. No in between. The wipers will be 1 speed so will the heater. On or off that's it. Not a real big need for all the hocus pocus on this one.

After taking a second look at the switch panel it was funtional but I determined that it was a bit confusing to have just red and black switch covers. So after a bit of web rummaging I came aross some other colors of covers and grabbed a set. Now I can color code the switches. Nice! It was a simple task to swap out and it looks good.

Stage 6 Gauge Selection

I selected a small a variety of iEquus gauges for this project. They actually look pretty nice with the white face and a brushed aluminum trim ring. I got them all at my O'Reilly store. I work there so it makes it nice. A Trio of the big 2 5/8" white face electrical gauges for the water temp, oil pressure and voltmeter. Since the gas gauge is only available in 2" I have a matching white face version of that. The tach and speedo are the big guys. The only piece of this puzzle I had to get elsewhere was the three hole 2 5/8 gauge panel. I could have ordered it through the store but I was able to get the same iEquus panel online for half he price!

A small side note: The speedo is actually a dummy from one of our displays. For my needs the tach is sufficient. But as long as the illusion exists we let it be.

new iEquus gauges

First I have to fabricate the harness for the electrical gauge senders and the backlight hookup. Not a real biggie just a project. With all the big 2 5/8 gauges in a single standalone panel that harness should be pretty straight forward. A to B. With just a trio of long feeds [oil, water, and volts] to the engine. And since there will be no dimmer on the dash gauges it will be even simpler.

Now the new custom dash will be pretty easy also. I have the panel pattern fabricated and I am fitting the 3 gauges into their new homes.There is a bit of finagling to do around a couple of sub braces The dash insert will have a big tach, a big speedo [a dummy actually] and a 2" fuel gauge. That's it for gauges. A couple of small LED turn signal indicators and we are good to go

I have the gauge sub-harness complete. The primary wiring for the panel is pretty redundant. All get fed by a hot, all get a ground, the lighting is the same a hot and ground. The only external feeds are for the oil pressure sender and the water temp sender. I did separate the leads for the gauge back lighting so it could be triggered by the light switch. So a simple 6 wire hookup handles it all. It looks like the gauges will reside in the middle of the dash under the new switch panel. Easy to see and out of the way.