Other than possibly under the hood, what is the one area of a car that you spend the most time in? If you don't think that it is the interior, you need to drive your car more often. Even if a car looks great outside, if the upholstery is worn or disgusting and the gauges are falling out of the dash, it's time to focus some attention in that direction.
The work required to restore the dash depends on the condition of the car. For instance, a car that's been carefully cared for since it was new will obviously need a lot less work than one found in a junkyard. The switches and gauges on the dash might not even need to be fixed or replaced in a well-cared-for car. One from a part's car or junkyard on the other hand …
Our Project 50 '69 Charger was not one of those cared-for-all-of-its-life kind of cars. We've handled the extensive metalwork on the body, and while the car is off at paint and body we thought we could work on a few items to keep things moving along. For a brief few moments our ever over-enthusiastic car owner felt that he might be able to handle the restoration of the dash on his own. Luckily, he decided otherwise, and the hunt was on to find a shop that could handle the quality of restoration that we were after.
After some searching of forums and asking other competent Mopar restoration guys, Mike Mancini and his crew of guys at Instrument Specialties in North Kingston, Rhode Island, was who kept coming up in conversation. Instrument Specialties is your one-stop shop when it comes to dash restorations. They can handle everything from gauge rebuilding and plastic replating to complete dash restorations. They can rebuild and restore every component on your dash.
In our situation, we needed a lot of help. The dash in our Charger was so bad that we needed to use two dashes to actually build one complete dash. We might have surprised Mike and his crew by not divulging this tidbit of information at first, but we figured they could handle it.
1. Here's the better of the two dashes that we needed to send to Instrument Specialties for the restoration. The first dash was in the car when we dragged it home. It really did take two dashes to build one for this project.
2-3. Wrapping a blown fuse with aluminum foil is asking for a disaster. Since we found this hint of "engineering," it's all the more reason that the guys will check all of the wiring before the dash goes back in.
4. This is when we realized that we would need another dash frame to complete our project.
5. With the dash frame we'll be using stripped, it's time to remove the old paint and really get a look at what we're working with.
6. Here is where paying attention to details pays off. Most guys will simply repaint the dash frame and call it good. Instrument Specialties makes sure that a flawless surface is created before the primer and paint go on.
7. Painting the dash is more than just covering with color. If you use a paint that is too glossy, reflections from oncoming lights can literally cause you to lose sight of where you're going for a moment. Use a paint that is too dull and the result is an ugly dash. Instrument Specialties happens to have original textured, suede-finish paint that gives your dash an OE look.
8. Next time we'll get into restoring the gauges and other in-dash items.