Building a custom dash for the vette
Once the corvette was striped it was clear the factory dash was ugly over sized and totally unusable for the project. So in this case i decided to build a custom dash and interior. First thing to do was get every removed from the car including about a mile of wire that weighed in around 50 pounds that will never be installed again. For this project i will be building a wire harness from scratch. The old harness was far to complex and had far to many gizmos and gadgets attached to it. Many of them were broken or had stopped working years ago. Once removed of its considerable mass of parts plastic and metal and a coffee can worth of screws and bolts. It was a clean stylish chassis that needed nothing to look great. One thing i wish is that it could have just left it alone. But some sort of dash was needed. The cross brace is a large aluminum structure that supports the chassis and is not removable. It does of coarse unbolt and can be removed. But once this is done the car is no longer structurally sound or safe. Even for mild auto cross where crashing is not a concern the brace is very important to the rigidity of the C4 corvette chassis.
Once cleaned up the corvette was ready for a new dash board. Since i had not cash for a replacement and no metal to make one out of. I decided to make it out of fiberglass. Since I also wanted it to be super light and not have the bulk of the original dash. I also decided to make it with a foam core. Basically like a surfboard using a foam core as a mold that stays inside the dash so very thin layer of fiberglass can be used to create a nice clean dash that also has some level of crash protection. Since you never plan to crash but it does happen figured it only makes since to build it as safe as possible.
I also wanted it to be very light so instead of heavy dense foam. I ended up using some regular polystyrene packing foam board that came with a relatives exercise equipment. It was about 1 1/2 inches its a good place to start then put a thin 1/4 sheet of construction foam insulation. Had an R1 value and used some 1/2 inch insulation foam that was covered with foil on one side to keep the bottom insulated from the electrical and engine heat. With the thicker sheet in the middle. This gave me about a 3″ thick block of foam that was very strong and easy to work. I cut it to shape so it could fit inside the car and click right into the spce around the window. When making this i also made it wider than i needed it so i could trim the front off and glue it to the bottom of the front so I could make the dash as thick as it needed to be and still fit inside the original space the old dash fit.
Once the shape was made i covered the entire outer section with blue painters tape since the fiberglass resin would melt the polystyrene foam easily i used the tape to prevent this from happening. The tap was laid in over lapping fashion to cover the entire dash. Allowing for a protective coating which worked perfectly. Much better than i had hoped. None of the resin got thru and melted the dash core.
The next step was to cover with some thin fiberglass cloth and resin in. For this i did only two applications of cloth weave that allows for a ridged but thin cover that is hard enough to hold a solid shape but will also flex easily if need be. It should also be safer than a metal dash made from aluminum. I also added a few coats of resin to allow for sanding and smoothing of the dash top and front face. Also to add some level of strength for light impact.
Once the glass was laid in the resin was sanded and everglass body filler with fine strands of glass to cover the entire outer surface. This was used to make the dash dead flat and smooth so it could be painted and coated with a textured that allowed for an older style finish not found in most modern cars. the coating was modern but made more of a rock like finish that came out incredibly well.
Once this was complete the dash was installed more to come when its prepped for gauges and wiring. It came out very nice and should work great for this purpose. It also ended up weighed only 2 pounds at most. very light weight along with its good looks. More to come….