by Ron Ressman & Ira Balestrieri in the January 1996 RootesReview
(Reprinted from Shelby American)
In our opinion, one of the nicest things in the Sunbeam Tiger is the burled walnut dash panel. It’s also the source of constant aggravation for owners with the epoxy finish invariably spider webbing and cracking, caused by age (due to expansion and contraction). A cracked panel through the veneer is unacceptable for us perfectionists.
In our quest to keep our dashes original, we decided to try to refinish the panel. After all, if we failed, the easy (and expensive) way out would be to have a new one made. After several hours of mangling fingers, the instrument panel was dismantled and our rascal was out. Upon close examination, we found it to be in better condition that originally anticipated.
Reddi-Strip was layered on and left to set … this didn’t even faze it. Sanding was out of the question as a slip might go too deep and ruin it. After much discussion, we decided to contact a commercial furniture stripper to see if he could attempt what we had failed. After using his super secret formula eight times, all of the epoxy was removed. NOTE: After soaking, the panel must be clamped between two boards so it won’t warp or the veneer separate. A day or two of this will suffice. When we picked up the panel, it was bleached white.
It was decided that a dark walnut stain would best bring out the burl and grain. Preparation for staining is easy; just use 4-0 steel wool instead of sand paper to smooth out the surface. After the first coat, we noticed several minute cracks. A quick remedy is to sand the back of the panel. Save the sawdust, mix with Elmer’s Glue and spread into the cracks. It really works! After steel-wooling, it took on the desired color tone.
Polyurethane was used for our finish- due to the ease to work with and the hardness produced. You can either spray or brush it on. We recommend four to five coats. Steel-wooling after dry between each. After the last coat, a really good, fine polishing compound and furniture wax will give a very brilliant, polished surface. After a little work, you have a dash panel looking like new. Cost – approximately $25. Most important, it’s original. Re-veneering would be approximately $60.