When enthusiasts consider restoration of dashboards there
are two fundamental issues that must be considered -
• The "finished appearance"
• The quality of work - "Restoration" or "Repair"
Finish in any restoration is paramount to ensure the original
aspect of the vehicle is maintained. As far as dashboards
are concerned this comment relates directly to the texture
and grain of the finishing material. Unfortunately, due to
the passage of time, material in the original grain and texture
is almost impossible to locate, however, professional restorers
do have alternatives that are almost identical to the OEM
Enthusiasts should ensure that this aspect is clearly settled
prior to committing their unit to the restoration process.
Professional restoration businesses will have material available
that has been used in prior classic car restorations that
has been found to be acceptable by the car clubs with whom
they deal. They should happily provide references from these
clients together with material samples for your consideration.
Insist on the material you require!
Dashboard restoration has been available for over twenty years
but unfortunately, despite the advance in technology, only
a small group of professional restorers have moved forward
with these advances. The techniques of twenty years ago remain
with us today and provide an extremely poor quality result
that is actually a simple repair rather than a quality professional
restoration. This method is known as "crack-fill and
cover" which in essence involves the dash surface material
cut away from the dash cracks, that are then filled with automotive
body-filler putty. The area is then sanded and a vinyl sheet
glued over the dash surface. Failure of this type of repair
occurs very shortly due to the effects of heat and cold on
the body-filler that causes movement under the dash skin.
Lumps form and the material will eventually force itself through
the dash surface material. This is a low cost, no quality,
method that should be avoided at all cost!
Professional restoration companies have taken advantage of
technology and, in cooperation with major chemical companies,
have developed products ideal for restoration purposes. Original
dashboards were filled with low-density foams, which over
time actually die and turn to crumble. In a professional restoration
this dead material is removed from the unit and replaced with
sophisticated products that replace the original foam and
provide lightweight strength and durability in the dashboard.
This material is then handcrafted in shape and size of the
Enthusiasts are not always aware that dashboards actually
shrink and warp through the passage of time and only professional
restorers understand that this can only be remedied by a quality
approach. This aspect is undertaken by the use of tooling
jigs especially designed for the vehicle in question, which
ensures a correct specification. Unfortunately, those in the
industry who are not true professionals, ignore this issue
and often dashes simply wont fit or look absolutely unsightly
due to obvious gaps between body and dash.
An important part of any high quality restoration is the surface
preparation of the unit prior to the vacuum forming of the
finishing material. Specially prepared adhesives must be applied
to a specially prepared surface if total bonding is to be
successful. This involves professional treatment of both the
material and the dash surface. Perfect bonding will only take
place if heat relief provision is made on the dash surface.
This is due to the extreme pressure and temperatures required
in the vacuum forming oven process. Bonding will fail, due
to air bubbles, in corners and instrument apertures if suitable
relief is not provided.
The final finishing material must be of high quality to provide
the UV protection and durability of the dashboard. Professional
restoration businesses will only use OEM quality products.
Colour should not be an issue to anyone, as professional restorers
will use material that is pre-treated to accept quality colour
dyes. Your dashboard should be available to you in any colour
whatever. It costs no more to colour a unit black than it
does to provide you red!
For further information see www.dashboardrestorations.com.au
By James A Kirk