I hope and trust everyone is keeping well and safe. Unprecedented times in our lifetimes from many perspectives, unless you're a WWII vet, in which case my thanks admiration and respect, regardless when where or what your journey was. Given that as context, what we are being asked to do by staying home and not spreading the infection is not really even noteworthy. My thoughts and heart goes out to those poor folks afflicted and impacted by this scourge and of course respect to the world's medical community for their sacrifices, efforts and continued dedication, even when the system has let them down.
Project Overview, some already posted in the "show your lockdown project" thread but I thought an entire post start to finish (whenever that will be, likely in May) is appropriate, even though there will be relatively limited routering involved lol.
Trying to do a couple of hours a day, and have had to design most of it, as it's taking shape. Fairly complex with multiple materials, shapes, compound curves, hidden fasteners and of course durability, ease of installation, servicability, functionality and a good look. Head is spinning, lol.
Been working on an oversized instrument cluster for my Fox body Mustang, in order to get rid of the messy multiple areas and typical poor aftermarket mounting arrangements. The pic showing the various instruments was the best I could do when I last drove the car in 2015. Not really very nice to look at and having them in different planes also means having to re focus my eyes at every glance between the various readouts, never mind having to look down etc. Not exactly ergonomic and adds needless stress and time while driving at the road course in anger. Been planning something like this since I bought the car in 2010. There is a gage panel available from the aftermarket that is inexpensive (about $125 empty) that fits inside the OEM cluster housing (called an IP - instrument panel) but it's way too small and not very conducive to holding all 11 of the big 2-5/8" NASACAR style Autometer Pro Comp mechanical gauges I have. One of my buddies has a car like this with one of the new digital dash panels that is mind blowing but requires electronic sensors everywhere and is designed to operate / control the aftermarket EFI system. Since I run a carburetor and want to remain old school, that was not an option, despite being very intriguing. Next car build maybe.
So, basically took the IP cover off, cut it into 3 pieces and decided to utilize the outer ends containing several OEM switches that control the headlights, hazard, power roof (its a convertible) etc. Making up the shape in between to match the original curvature (no good when extended) and the dash/windshield curves (also not good) meant some mockup and attempts at designing something that will look like it belongs in there. Also had to figure out the right side mounting, since that part of the panel has been moved to the right side by over 12". The top cover needs to be
high and wide enough to accomodate all the instruments, while maintaining a continuity and pleasing curvature, a small hood to prevent glare as well as blind mounting. Visibility of instruments through either of the two Momo brand steering wheels is paramount (one is 12.5", one is 14") as is the layout and final balance. There will likely be several indicator lights as well as possibly some control switches, depending on the final layout. The instruments will all be mounted on a real sheet of carbon fiber, which will be laminated to a 1/4" hardboard backer plate. That plate drops from above into slots cut into the top of the housing, and will be held in place by the cover dropping from above. There will be 3 visible mounting screws at the windshield edge, just like the OEM cluster IP has. Subtle yet outrageously complex and functional is the theme or rather the target. Managed to clean up the ABS plastic edges and laminate some filler plugs near the upper inside of the cluster. Those plugs came from the centre part that was cut out, ensuring identical material. They were glued into place using ABS cement and hand sanded/shaped to match the contours. The outer edges are semi polished, but sadly I can think of no way to duplicate the grain/pattern onto them, so this will have to do for now.
The two outer pieces were connected using a MDF frame and several thin, curved MDF panels, there were roughly half a dozen nut and bolt mounts made up and drilled through the main dash to hold everything tight and gapless.
The top cover was made from a mix of MDF and plywood, including a 1/4" piece with two dozen 1/16" deep slots relief cut into the top and bottom, soaked in hot water in the bathtub for 4 hrs and then clamped into shape overnight using an mdf 2 pc mold I made. Then glued, screwed until it was stable and strong. Made a board with center offset and holes for the studs so it could be pulled into the same curvature as when installed on top of the dash. Wrapped in a single piece of jersey stretch cloth, glued and stapled into place. Then soaked in fiberglass resin and allowed to cure. Added 6 layers of additional resin and 4 layers of random chopped fiberglass cloth to build up the strength from the inside.
Now final clearance grinding and using body filler to finish prep the surface as nicely as I can. That is today's project.
Once done, it will be test fitted several times on the dash to ensure perfect fitment. Then have to figure out the clearance required to wrap it in 1/8" foam backing and then wrapped in Alcantera (man made suede) with possibly some leather with stitching, depending on a few things yet to be determined. Seeing this is the most viewed part of the car (while driving), it is imperative to finish this as perfectly a possible. Hoping to get it to 90% is a realistic goal. Time will tell.
Before finishing it however, the whole dash, IP, both steering wheels, and the drivers Recaro seat have to be installed to determine the actual instrument layout on the flat panel for maximum visibility from my position.
Will cut several panels on the router table as spares, once it is final fitted. Initial dash when I bought the car, my track pack mod from 2015 and then the sequential progress. Some potential instrument layouts and the prefab panel examples as well as the NASCAR dash pics also included in the photo cavalcade about to follow.
This is the progress thus far; probably have 50 hrs into it all told, including some mistakes and re dos. The design and details probably took 25-30% of that time; if I was to do this again, it would take less than half the time and likely turn out better as well. Small failed suicide attempt as well, shattered cutting disc @ 20 000 rpm ....oops.
More pics following below and to come as it progresses, comments and thoughts more than welcome as always.