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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All:

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. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Progress:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
more
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
and some more lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
and up to today:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
That's a LOT of work and looks really good, Paul! How many hours in that dash redo?

David
Thx David; I figure 50 so far, it will likely be well over 100 by the time it's wired, plumbed, installed and functioning.
Read the diatribe in post #1 for more agonizing detail of how to burn time like it's going out of style lol.
 

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Rick
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Nice work as always . I used to love fabricating car audio . Wow that’s quite the scratch you got . The disc blew up ?
Thankfully the disc grinder wasn’t electric. Did you post two separate injuries ?
 

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Frank
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Paul,

This is really a project. Many years ago a friend was putting a convertible top on an old car. Cannot remember year or make. It was supposed to be the second conversion done. He needed a wood frame to go over the windshield to attach the top. Another friend of mine helped complete the project. Sorry no pictures. It was very difficult to think in 3D. We glued up oak and shaped to fit curve of windshield. Kept sanding and fitting until it was perfect.

Frank
 

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Paul,

We can tell what your passion is ! With the time energy and effort you are putting in this project, You will surely enjoy it for many years. Given the magnitude of this dash project you obviously intend on keeping the car for a long time. Being a car guy myself, I can relate to it all. The project looks good enough for a show car VS a race car. I know what you mean about digital VS analog gauges. My 2017 Explorer gives me the choice and I always use the analog. I have done many restorations and modifications in my days but never to re-design a complete dash IP. I am not very patient with wires and electronics so my hat's off to you. It is a good feeling when you can include 2 of your hobbies to your project.
Now what can I do to my 2010 Impala ???
Cheers,
Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Paul,

We can tell what your passion is ! With the time energy and effort you are putting in this project, You will surely enjoy it for many years. Given the magnitude of this dash project you obviously intend on keeping the car for a long time. Being a car guy myself, I can relate to it all. The project looks good enough for a show car VS a race car. I know what you mean about digital VS analog gauges. My 2017 Explorer gives me the choice and I always use the analog. I have done many restorations and modifications in my days but never to re-design a complete dash IP. I am not very patient with wires and electronics so my hat's off to you. It is a good feeling when you can include 2 of your hobbies to your project.
Now what can I do to my 2010 Impala ???
Cheers,
Dan
Thanks to Dan et al, appreciate the kind words. I installed car stereos professionally for close to 20 yrs and also worked at Pioneer Electronics as Product Manager and National Installation Ctr Manager, so cars, audio and modding are in my blood.

My last Mustang I owned for almost 24 yrs but had to scrap it after a crash. Most of it lives on in the new car. It's funny how once we know what we like, we stick to it.......old and stubborn is the common term I believe.
My very first car received instruments, a big sound system and rear wheel flares....in 1982! Haven't really grown past that I guess lol. Some old pics from 87 onwards. The blue coupe in the pic is still in my friends garage to this day. My kid (the hockey player is now 21). Time flies.

I do take the car to the track on a regular basis - not sure what will happen here, since it is going to be super nicely finished and running backwards thru the infield at 100 mph seems like less of a good idea than previously. We shall see. Have always wanted to attend Woodward, Syracuse Nationals and the Hot Rod Power Tour; just couldn't do it without driving something unique and built by me. Maybe 2021/22.

2010 Impala is likely a decent quiet ride. I would start by pulling all the speakers out of it, making MDF baffles where possible and installing Dynamat/Dynaliner to quiet it down some. Then install some high end speakers in the front (MB Quart, Morel or Focal) and something less fancy in the rear. The figure on adding a fancy custom subwoofer with a pair or 3 ten inch woofers with a dedicated high level input amp. Then tune it.
If you need more, then is the time to pull a signal out of the OEM radio and go active crossover and 2 outboard real reference grade amps. Tuck it all and hidden means it's a sleeper and can hit over 125db crystal clear.
Shouldn't cost much more than $500 for all equipment, parts and materials for the first phase; maybe another $500 for phase 2 amps and crossover; if you want to change the head unit then another $500.

Going to phase 2 can give you sound quality significantly better than anything you have ever heard, even phase 1 will be astonishing considering it's in a car and using the factory source. My F150 only has all the speakers replaced, also a different sub, .......makes the factory Sony 700w setup turn red in shame..........

You did ask lol.......if your Impala was older with LS or LT V8 I would have some different, more costly ideas.......
 

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Nice cars and nice sled Paul,

Thanks for the tips on audio upgrades. It has the original Bose system in it now and compared to my wife's 2008 Impala with a basic audio system it is a big improvement. I do enjoy some pretty loud music at times but mostly in my Explorer when driving in remote areas such as Timmins, Cochrane. Cogama... and of course all over Quebec and the Maritimes.
As for the 2010 Impala I am thinking mechanical upgrades more than audio. Exhaust, chip, twin turbos !!! $$$ that would sure wake up the 3.9L. It is Gold coloured and I would like to change that to a Candy Root Beer or similar. Although I like the original mags, if I paint it I would also upgrade to 20''. It is a top of the line LTZ model so well equipped and I enjoy it so I think I'll keep it. I bought the Explorer because I drive in some very remote places that the Impala wasn't made to handle rough roads. The suspension bottomed out a couple of times last summer and that made me decide to get a 4x4 SUV. I sell sawmill and mining equipment and not all locations are on the main paved roads. Sometimes I use the Forestry roads .
 

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