Dashing through the snow…

Posted: January 8, 2015 in HAMB, Traditional Custom Cars
Tags: , , , ,

IMG_4173Building a custom car is not just building a giant model car kit, nor even like restoring a car back to original.  It’s taking each and every little part of the car, modifying it to suit ones own taste, and then modifying the parts so that they’ll fit back together in the form of a car.  Every little change impacts something else, or SEVERAL somethings, and every part has to be modified to work and/or look proper.  The dashboard of my ’59 T’bird is a case in point.

The windshield of the car is chopped, not by cutting the glass, but by sinking the entire windshield and it’s steel frame, down into the cowl as far as I could, a fraction shy of 2 inches. The dash mounts to a lip on the windshield frame, which moved down a like amount.  That meant that the dash was too low in the cockpit, both to see the gauges behind the steering wheel, or to get ones legs under the edge comfortably.  To remedy those ills, and to have it not look goofy, I cut the gauge and glove box pods out of the dash, moved them up and forward.  This accentuated the aircraft design of the dash, makes the pods more pronounced, the end result being that the dash still looks like a ’59 T’Bird dash, and makes it echo the design of the tonneau covers twin headrest pods.

It also meant a LOT of work.  For the past week, it seems I’ve done nothing but work on the dash.  First, I cut out some previous work I”d done that I wasn’t happy with, then hours of grinding welds.  After that, I spent hours spreading and sanding filler on the dash, spreading more filler, sand, spread, sand, ad infinitum.  I finally got the dash to the point that it looks good, and have the “eyebrows”(made of squirt can foam on the dash pads original steel morning lips) shaped and fitted to the dash.  It’s been a long, tedious project, I’m tired of working on it, and was excited to get the dash mocked up in the car.

It was at that point that I realized the original gauge pod, which fit as it was supposed to in the dash while it was out of the car, wouldn’t fit over the steering column when mounted in the body. The reason for this was two-fold.  First, while I’d raised the gauge pod, it was a little lower still in relation the steering column, which did not move in the w/s chop.  The second problem was that I inadvertently moved the pod over to the right about 3/8”, which meant the gauge panel was no longer exactly centered over the steering column, which meant the nice cut out at the bottom of the panel for the column to nestle into, was too far to the right, and too low to let the column snuggle up where it should.

I still have a little “finesse” work to do on the dash, and none of the new switches or gauges are wired.  When I built the car originally, I used the complete wiring harness from the donor ’87 Mustang GT, including the gauges and switches, and decided all this had to go, along with the crappy looking Mustang steering column and wheel.  I have a nice new stainless column, had a steering wheel custom-made, and have the wiring sorted out and labeled for light switches, turn signals, and the cruise control.  I DO have the new, old style ignition switch wired in and started the car and let it run long enough to discover that all the pieces of rubber fuel line in the fuel system to 5.0 HO engine are brittle, cracked and leak.

Once I get all that sorted out and the finish work on the dash done for paint (it’ll be body color), I still have to cut down the original vent window frames to fit the new lower windshield frame, and extend the cowl panels between the hood and windshield, because the windshield not only went down 2 inches, but back almost 2 inches as well, leaving a big gap between the glass and these panels.

Other than that, it’s almost done!

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more...

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more…

Aircraft inspired dash.

Aircraft inspired dash.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.

  1. Kevin Hogan says:

    I’d like to know more about sinking the windshield. The dash is going to be bitchen painted body color. Do you know what the paint is going to be?

    • flynbrian48 says:

      The car will be bright silver, with a darker charcoal accent that’ll follow the character line in the door. So, it’s silver and charcoal two-tone. I have a bunch of photos of sinking the w/s frame, unfortunately, they’re locked in our old, non-functional desk top so I can’t share them. Chopping a top this way works well on a car with a wrap around windshield, and was easy on this car with it’s convertible style w/s frame. I sunk it as far into the “dog-leg” as far as I could, which was the perfect amount to my eye. It does cause problems trying to get w/s wipers (I never had them hooked up anyway, so Rain-X will have to do now!), and the dash fitment is an issue. Not that any top chop doesn’t cause it’s own particular set of finishing problems…

  2. Craig Dorsey says:

    The dash is looking amazing Brian. You are such an inspiration, your photo journal and stories have inspired me to the point of wanting to take on a project like this for myself. Hats off my friend!

  3. flynbrian48 says:

    Thanks Craig. It makes me want to get rid of the stupid 90’s digital gauges in my ’48 Pontiac convert, and further, wish I had saved the original pieces I took out!

  4. Keith Vander Pol says:

    The domino theory/effect is alive and well. The end result of all this attention to detail will be a custom where all the modifications will meld together nicely into an eyecatching build. Can hardly wait to see the finished product. Hats off to you!

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