When restoring our cars, most of us spend the majority of our time and money making sure the exterior and engine compartment look as nice as possible, not giving much thought to the way our dash looks. As long as the most important gauges are functioning and you can still see through the scratched, yellowed lenses, who cares about all of those nicks in the black paint, the missing chrome or that broken-off clock knob? But once you've seen what a difference a restored dash can make in the overall appearance of the interior, you realize it's some of the best money spent during your restoration.
Shown among the photos that follow is a 1969 Charger instrument cluster. Note how the black finish isn't really brilliant black any longer. The clear lenses are scratched and yellowed, and are hard to see through. The emergency brake lens is faded and not brilliant red. The numbers on the gauge faces have yellowed. The clock knob is long gone. Some of the chrome on the switches is cracked and gone. The black around the small gauges has long ago worn off. To add to the ugliness of this cluster, the owner slapped on a radio station sticker, which is still partially visible! The cluster also shows quite a bit of rust and corrosion on the back side. It's interesting to note that this dash only has 11,840 original miles on it; I personally removed it from the car myself.
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Earlier this year, I removed the instrument cluster, radio bezel, upper glove box trim and other small pieces of dash trim from my 62,416 mile SuperBird and sent them to David Patik at Performance Car Graphics (PCG) in Tallahassee, FL. David is well known in the Mopar world for his meticulous dash restorations. My car was used as a race car for several years, so the gauge cluster spent some time outside of the car, then was re-installed sometime in 1976-77. While David proclaimed it to be in excellent condition for it's age and usage (and granted, it wasn't as decrepit looking as the "before" example Charger dash shown here), the Bird's dash still showed signs of age. The gauge faces had faded and yellowed, the clock knob and stem were broken off, there were several chips in both the black and chrome finishes, and in fact, the tach had at one time shorted out and I ended up unplugging it at least 15 years ago.
David first disassembled everything and cleaned the parts thoroughly. Next, he stripped and re-faced the speedometer and then re-calibrated it. The small gauges were given a new overlay and re-calibrated. The tach was re-built and given a new overlay. The emergency brake lens was replaced. The clock was converted to quartz movement (this is done without changing the stock look in any way) and a new stem and knob were installed. All gauge needles were re-conditioned. All of the switches were cleaned and rebuilt. Lenses were polished and new gaskets were installed. The front instrument bezel was re-chromed, fresh black paint was sprayed on and everything was re-lettered. Behind, all rust was removed and all connectors were cleaned or replaced as needed. The vacuum headlight switch was tested for leaks; luckily my switch was still in good condition so it didn't need to be rebuilt. Nothing is left to question; the instrument cluster not only looks like a brand new piece when it comes back, but it also functions like it's brand new too.
If you have over-tightened a speed nut and broken a stanchion on a part of your dash, David can also repair that for you. My other dash pieces came back looking every bit as nice as the instrument cluster. David can restore ALL hard dash trim, including the inner A-pillar mouldings! I can also attest to the careful job of packing PCG does with your precious parts. UPS practically destroyed the top of my box when shipping it from Florida to Iowa, however all of my dash pieces were so carefully wrapped and packaged inside that nothing was damaged.
If your nicely restored Mopar still has the original dash and it's looking like most of them do after 30-some years, I strongly recommend sending it to David for a restoration. I promise you'll be impressed with the difference it makes. It's amazing - you forget how bright and attractive the Mopar dashes were when they were new! For more information and price quotes on dash restoration, contact David at: Performance Car Graphics, 723 Shannon Street, Tallahassee, FL 32305 or call (850) 878-1450 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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