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Restoring a Chevelle Dash - 1967 Chevelle

2/9/2021
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Dramatic photo, brought to you by drop light.

User experience & user interface. It’s a term that comes up a lot in e-commerce. I don’t know much about those terms in that setting. If you put user experience/interface on wheels, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

The dash in this car was USED UP. It was only showing 85k and some change on the clock but, oh boy. . . those must’ve been some hard miles.

After I’d finally resigned myself to taking the entire dash assembly out, I found that just about every individual component was either worn out or had deteriorated from dry-rot and age. The main shell had several layers of poorly applied paint and from the look, many applications of Armor All. I have a good friend who owns a wheel restoration and applied coatings business. I decided to enlist his help to bring all the black painted pieces up to snuff. He stripped, treated and powder coated the dash, ashtray and glovebox door satin black.

Wiring and A/C made easy!

While Randy had the dash panel, I took the opportunity to wire the car and install the A/C evaporator unit. I also refinished the dash top and installed a new padded dash bumper. After I got the steel parts back, it was winter time. My garage isn’t heated and my wife has a pretty decent sense of humor, so this project moved into the family room, which was still all dolled up from Christmas. Please excuse the festive table coverings. They helped keep scuffs and scrapes down to a minimum.

A few things to note, before the dash went out for refinishing, I cut in the holes for Astro-vent A/C ports and I located and drilled knee-knocker tach mounts.

Assembly of the components was fairly straightforward. The first item I installed was the upper trim “eyebrow” which in this case was woodgrained because this car was a Malibu. I’ve got plans for a Walnut rimmed steering wheel so keeping this detail was important to me. As I found with many Chevelle parts the only reproduction option for this part was a SS version, which I’m sure is a nice repop part, but they have a black wrinkle finished insert. The original woodgrain was faded and worn very thin in some places. In my search for the “right” shade and pattern of woodgrain, I settled on some fairly decent Contact shelf paper.

I wasn’t terribly wild about the idea at first but considering the alternatives, which included custom printing some vinyl wrap material, I decided that it was worth a try. I was pleasantly surprised with the conformability and tack. I was able to smooth down the decal and trim it into the cavity with little trouble. It did stick to that tablecloth and ended up ruining it, so I threw it away. Don’t tell my wife.

Emboldened by a gamble that paid off, I assembled the rest of the components that live in that upper rail. I used the headlight switch from the 22 circuit wiring kit because since they’re based on GM standard-issue items, the pigtail was identical to the OEM switch. I reused the retaining nut/bezel and paired the assembly with a new knob and stem.

The same sort of arrangement worked out for the ignition switch. The original body was retained and a new key tumbler and retaining nut were used. I also, finally bought the special tool that’s used on the ignition nut. Prior projects were already marred and gouged from previously being gripped with pliers. I felt that a fresh start deserved proper assembly. All those components actually install through the wood-grained trim piece.

So, once that was done, I just had to finish the rest to see what it all looks like together. The radio sort of held that plan up. See my RetroSound article for details on that. Anyhow, once the radio was assembled and installed, I stuck the new Dakota instrument cluster in and buttoned up the remaining items needed to put it back in the car.

For the reinstallation, I enlisted the help of my son Jonny (with the lowered OBS truck) to give me a hand. My plan was to get the dash unit into place and fasten the bottom loosely, then rock it into place. Hooking up wires and components as we went. My biggest goal was to avoid sticking my head up under the dash to hook up wires.

That was almost too easy.

I’m not gonna lie, I was pleasantly surprised at how well that step went. My only snag came as we started to close the gap at the top and I couldn’t see the terminals on the back of the ignition switch to route and hook up the wires correctly.

Do I look amused? I assure you, I wasn't at that point.

Frustrated and still holding a fairly heavy dash assembly up with one hand, I improvised. It turns out that selfie setting on your phone is good for something after all. Who knew?

Note the 3/8" Green LED centered above the speedo. This is a shift light controlled by the Dakota module.

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