A labour of love

Dashboard restoration

Dashboard restoration

Yes, it’s time for another one of those random mid-week lockdown projects! When I stripped down my dashboard a few weeks back I noted that the main fascia panel was going to need some work before it went back in. The crackle black finish had lifted or worn away in a few places, particularly around the switches and gauges, and there were also a couple of extra holes drilled into it that have bugged me for years (a remnant of an old alarm system I think), so today I tackled these jobs.

I started by sanding back the area around the two holes, and then carefully cut out two discs from sheet steel to fill them in.

I welded them in from behind, and then cleaned back the front face with a flap disc. I didn’t bother cleaning up the welds on the back, since they were impossible to get to with a grinding disc, and I’m never going to see them anyway!

Once I’d cleaned them up I could see the welds had not completely penetrated to the front in places, but the gaps were so tiny they will be easily covered up by the crackle finish paint later on.

Next up I sanded back the whole panel thoroughly inside and out. There was a small amount of surface rust on the inside which I treated with rust converter, before giving the whole of the inside a coat of rust preventative zinc primer.

On the outside I really wanted to preserve as much of the texture of the factory crackle finish as possible since most of it was sound, so I carefully feathered back only the damaged parts.

The inside was then treated to a couple of coats of satin black…

…before it was finally time to put the new crackle finish onto the outside. I had already purchased a can of VHT “Wrinkle Plus” paint in preparation for this, which seemed like the ideal coating to get close to the original factory finish.

The instructions advise to put 3 coats on in fairly quick succession to get a good weight of paint on the surface, which apparently promotes the wrinkling effect, and then recommends heating the piece in an oven at a fairly high temperature to accelerate the curing process. Well I don’t have an oven quite big enough to fit a dashboard panel, but I was blessed with another gloriously sunny afternoon, so after applying the paint I left it out to bake in the sun for a couple of hours, and the results were fantastic.

If I was being picky I’d say that it came out ever so slightly more “crackly” than it originally was, but for a couple of hours work and only the price of some paint I’m thoroughly pleased with it, and there is no longer a trace of those unsightly holes!