‘Early’ Late Model Dash

What I started with…

What I ended up with…

Okay, purists should avert your eyes for these next shots. If you remember I was on a quest to find an early metal dash but gave up due to the expense. I’m not cheap but the idea of spending $400-$500 on something other than go-fast parts left me a little disappointed. So I did what any good hot rodder would, I improvised.

It started by stripping all of the foam and vinyl off my ’78 dash, then drilling out all of the underlying metal forms around the glove box, for the original dash light, etc. The following shots show the dash after I repaired and reshaped the area around the steering column and filled in under the glove box opening, blending it into the center. Very much reminds of the early 289 Cobra dash contours.


Wrinkle paint

After the repair work, some filler, a bit of primer/filler and a whole lot of elbow grease, I drilled holes for the dash mounted ignition switch, starter button, AC plug, and an early style dash mounted map light and switch. Existing holes will be filled as follows: top left – headlights, under that – fog lamps, to the left will be the dash light rheostat (as in the original). Instrument cluster and ’78 series warning lamps all remain the same. To the right of the cluster in the top position will be the wiper switch (TR6 variety), to the right of that the washer switch (Lucas part), and under that the heater fan switch. Ignition and starter switches are under the cluster. Defroster controls will fill the two round holes under the dash vents.

A few words about shooting wrinkle paint – it’s harder than it looks. Took me a couple of times (I got to completely sand down my first attempt) to get it the way I wanted but it looks amazingly close to the finish on the early MGB dashes. Exactly what I was looking for. What really helps is having a heat gun (an oven large enough to hold the dash would have been ideal) to help cure the paint and encourage even wrinkling. It takes a bit of practice but, like most things, patience is your friend.

Handmade glove box door

One of the more challenging things to do was form a new glove box door as the original ’78 door would no longer fit. As most readers are aware, the late model dashes have a pretty health curve on each end which made forming the door an interesting adventure. In the end, some judicious use of my body hammer and the anvil area on my vise got the job done. Here’s the primered result leaning up against the partially finished dash. You can also see the eyebrow I fabricated for over the instrument cluster. After dealing with the light at night bouncing off the gauges in the Cobra, I thought this would be a good way to solve the problem.

“New” dash installed w/console

Lastly, here’s a shot of the dash being test fit with most of the switches and instruments in. Ended up making a new console as well. A good place to hold my cut-off switch as well as rockers for the hazard lights, fuel pumps, etc.

So, now that I have my ‘new’ early dash, what do I think of it and would I have been better off just to bite the bullet and do a conversion to the early metal dash? Simply put, I like it and am glad I did it. It’s definitely a “poor man’s” version but I like its uniqueness. I also enjoyed the challenge of making the cubby door and learning how to wrinkle paint. I guess if you want to tackle something like this you need to decide what you’re looking for. If it’s authenticity, then the only way to go is full metal dash. If you’re looking for something different, give this a go. Other than the cubby door, it can be done for less than $15 including the paint, sandpaper, filler, etc.