by Bill Dewell in the September 1998 RootesReview
Does your dash look terrible, cracked, faded with peeling veneer? Don’t throw it away! Remove it and refinish it. This is guaranteed to be cheaper, more satisfying and with better results that buying an aftermarket dash panel or crafting a replacement. Keep in mind that the original walnut burl on the dash is very good and may be difficult to duplicate.
Also, now is the time to do any work under the dash you had planned such as upgrading the power distribution with an additional fuse panel; locating hidden ignition and fuel pump switches, replacing the windshield to body weather seal, replacing the dash cover, etc.
Refer to your shop manual, Section “O”, page 6 for a dash breakdown pictorial and Section “N” page 31 for instrument light and switch locations. No shop manual? Make a diagram and tag all wires switches, lights, and instrument locations.
The following procedure should help get your started. Bare in mind this isn’t a weekend project, but one more suitable for your winter restoration plans!
Remove the following:
- Steering wheel and turn light unit and surround
- Air vent controls (on some Tigers)
- Lower support rail
- Heater and air control and bezels
- Four Phillips screws in dash face
The dash panel should now be ready for removal. Be careful not to lose any loose pieces of veneer as these will be reattached later.
The following is a list of materials, which are required for this project:
- A good non-neutralizing furniture type of paint remover
- Medium and fine steel wool
- 400 and 600 sandpaper
- Good quality wood glue- weld bone or Elmer’s and syringe
- Tung oil- Formby’s hi-gloss
- A one- pint polymer kit- contains one each container of resin and hardener- polytex hi-gloss
- Normal shop tools and propane torch
- Wax paper
Get the paint remover and steel wool out and begin. Be sure to wear safety glasses or face shield and gloves. With dash lying flat and supported with blocks, pout paint remover on a small section at a time. When original coating rises and flakes, remove with steel wool. It may be necessary to do this procedure several times to clean off the old coat. Proceed until the entire panel is clear of the original coating down to bare wood.
After original coat is removed, lightly smooth with fine steel wool and feather edge with 400 sandpaper. At this point, don’t worry about the washed out appearance of the wood. This will be taken care of later.
After the paint remover is completely dry, carefully glue any loose pieces of veneer and loose wood, using just enough glue to attach, if any glue collects on dash face, remove immediately, as this will inhibit the finished color. If any glue does collect on dash face lightly sand clean. A glue injector helps during this step. If some of the veneer is raised off of the panel light clamping will be required. Use wax paper between the dash and the wood strips used to clamp the raised piece down. This prevents any unwanted attachment of the clamp assembly to the dash. After panel has been re-glued to your satisfaction, a final light rubbing with steel wool and 600 sandpaper will ready the panel for the finishing steps. Be sure to check the rear of the panels for loose wood and re-glue.
At this stage, the panel face probably looks bleached out, so this step will really bring out the burl characteristics. Take the bottle of Tung oil and, using a few drops on a clean rag, apply to the face of the dash. Be sure to read directions on the bottle. Upon application of the Tung oil, the wood grain begins to take on a new life. Apply several applications over several days, rubbing in per directions. Rub each coat after drying with fine steel wool. Give this step several days to cure before the final finish.
The final finish coat can be polyurethane or polymer or whatever you choose. I chose polymer due to the depth of the finish. If polymer is selected, be sure to read the instructions found in the kit. Basically, even parts of resin and hardener are mixed and poured over the object to be finished. The mixture seeks its own level, so make sure the dash panel is level and blocked up over newspaper to catch the runoff.
Beginning at one end of the dash pour the polymer on the face of the panel as equally as you can. Some of the mixture will run down through the instrument, switch and light holes. This can be cleaned out after the mixture cures with a sharp chisel and sandpaper. While pouring over the panel wave a propane torch flame six inches over the top of the dash. This will release any air bubbles within the mixture. Care should be taken not to touch the surface with the flame feather. Be very careful to maintain a level panel to prevent runs. After pouring the polymer wait several days for the coating to cure. Initially after the polymer solidifies slightly make sure the blocks are free and not sticking to the bottom of the panel.
The result of your endeavor will be a show quality instrument panel. You will be surprised at what you were able to do with that original considering it’s 30 years of sun, wear and tear.