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Custom Fiberglass Dash

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Whatsup guys? A while ago (long while ago) I posted on one of the Z forums about making a fiberglass dash for the z cars that was modernized. The effort needed to install the dash would be considerable because the dash would fit with some modification, and would require rerouting of major electrical and air control/vent components. The end result would be something comparable to a WRX or RX8 styled dash, with the goal of pulling out the inverted angled radio area of the Z car and pushing the entire dash back about 1-2". Added to the car would be a double din, better vented defrost, rounded style air vents and possibly unified instrument cluster.

 

While I love the Z car, something has always bothered me about the dashes they have, so I feel it's time to do a facelift. Here's the question:

 

Would there be enough interest to make multiple dashes?

Would you guys make a reverse mold of the dash for multiple copies (as opposes to just coating the current dash in fiberglass with mods)?

 

I know you can technically just fiberglass over a dash and install it, but technically it's a tiny bit bigger than the original, so I would rather make a reverse mold, then be able to make multiple copies for others, if interested. Dawgggggggonit though, this would take so much modification of the existing under-the-dash components (air control, lights, air vents, gauges, etc).

 

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I would encourage you to make a mold. You might be able to sell one or two if the design is a hit. But make the motivation for your effort your car and not hopes of making money.

 

I like the idea of options. I have a fiberglass dash cap that was designed for the Tomahawk Z kit, I like the fact that it is different and gives me a place to mount another gauge.

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Ok thanks guys. Yeah, I'm not sure I would even sell it, and it's definitely because I need something decent for my car. But since I would be going through the work of making it, why not make a mold to share if others wanted to "escape" the stock dash everyone uses.

 

 

The question is, could I fiberglass the outside of the dash with modifications in place, then gel coat the "back side" (the side that was adhered to the dash) and use that as my reverse mold? I've heard of people using foam and whatnot, but the idea of a gelcoated fiberglass mold strikes me as easier. Not sure if it's been done with dashes, but seems like one of the better options as opposed to foam shaping an entire reverse mold for a dash (then again, with some bondo as a cover, might be a good option for a reusable mold). What do you fiberglass buffs think?

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The question is, could I fiberglass the outside of the dash with modifications in place, then gel coat the "back side" (the side that was adhered to the dash) and use that as my reverse mold? I've heard of people using foam and whatnot, but the idea of a gelcoated fiberglass mold strikes me as easier. Not sure if it's been done with dashes, but seems like one of the better options as opposed to foam shaping an entire reverse mold for a dash (then again, with some bondo as a cover, might be a good option for a reusable mold). What do you fiberglass buffs think?

I would love a dash I could customize and whatnot. I find the stock dash to be a bit too restrictive as far as gauge placement, options, etc. Let's face it, these cars are old, and could use something to pull them further into the present!

 

I'm not an expert of fiberglass, but the concept is relatively easy for me to grasp. The only problem I can see from my point of view is that fiberglass is rather fragile so you might run into issues when separating parts from the mold. *shrug*

Then again it might be the muscle relaxants talking hehehe

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Lol, it is very restrictive, and I just couldn't bear the thought of putting it back in and trying to make the gauges work in the older dash and the gauge "pods."  I wanted to redo the interior in all newer styling as far as the door panels, seats, carpet, and rear trunk goes, but there was no use without redesigning the dash (unless you like the mixed retrofit style).

 

Fiberglass is relatively fragile, but in a brittle sort of way.  In other words, it is actually very strong, but it can flex very little before it cracks.  The amount of force needs to crack the fiber is a lot, though.  With small rubber grommets between the dash and the mount points plus small washers up against the fiberglass and screw head, the dash should hold up great.  I will need to use a release compound to get the fiberglass of the mold, but I can get some that washes away with water and it will be worth it.

 

I almost have a sketch drawn up with how I want to design it.  I'll scan it in this weekend and you guys can give some feedback.  I'm thinking of a combined speedo and tach for my dash.  :D

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Got the dash sketch kinda finished. Planning to make the instrument cluster look more like a GTO dash like what you see below. The reason the sketch shows a weird center instrument cluster is because I have decided to use a RX-2N multifunction gauge from a motorcycle as the main gauge for RPM and speed. Has nice startup gauge sweep, and looks amazing. Of course, the dash will be flat in back and I'll cut it out after I finish it, that way I can mock-up gauges how I want before cutting out the spots for them in the fiberglass.

 

The design features 3 gauge pods reminiscent ever so slightly of the original design.  Below are two bezel vents, and between those are the defrost, hazard, accessory buttons, maybe A/C, recirculation, and on/off button for the car computer, etc.  This bar could also be modified to fit a status bar, if one so desired to do something like that.  To the left of the driver are for turning the lights on, and maybe mirror control/cruise control if I choose to equip it.

Still thinking about the possibility of producing multiple copies of the dash for others wanting to modernize. With that in mind, what suggestions do you all have regarding my design? Why do you like/don't like? Again, instrument cluster will be modified more than what's on paper, but the general idea?

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Edited by zohanisback

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Alright, started making mods to the frame. It looks super neat with modern style lines. I will try to get pics up tomorrow. The big question I need feedback on is whether you guys would sacrifice a glove box for better style lines, or if a glove box is necessary in a dash. Space is tight and integrating both is possible, but the lines will have to be simpler. Kinda torn on what I should do. Thanks guys!

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Probably.........going to delete the glove box on the plug, then fiberglass brackets for a glove box back in once I have a dash finished.  Here is my progress so far in video and picture form.  :D Have a fellow med school student also big into cars helping me with this project, so the work done reflects both of our efforts. 

 

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This is pretty cool, although I had wish you had stuck with the wrx style :I

 

Nonetheless keep up the good work, I'll be following the progress for my own ideas. My initial plan was to get the s30 fiberglass version and some how mate it with my r34 center console.

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I wanted to keep it WRX style, but as we were cutting we came up with the idea of the twisted curve on the passenger side, and it looks SO good when you can see it.  It won't disappoint, for sure.  I would even venture to guess that this is gonna look way cooler.  Still need to figure out the glove box though...  :-/

 

As far as the middle dash goes, it will be pretty close to WRX and RX8 style.  The instrument cluster and content to the left will be VERY close to WRX style. But more condensed because the dash is so much narrower from the width of the datsun.  Whereas the WRX dash has about 4-5 inches of room to the left of the cluster, this dash will only have about 2-3.  Much more like an RX8.  Going out to work on the dash again tonight.  Will keep you guys updated.  :)

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And.....more updates just in time for Christmas.  :D  Basically copied the driver side dash end near the door exactly the same as the passenger side.  But it wraps smoothly into the gauge cluster area and finished on top.  The design will make the right side of the dash cluster stick out less near the bottom right because it molds into the center dash area smoothly.  Unless you guys think this is a big mistake, in which case some foam and more metal can remedy it.  I just felt like a unique, more styled curve near the center dash part of the cluster would make the center dash feel more uniform, but of course, at the expense of symmetry in the gauge cluster .  I figure it's a small price to pay, and really gives the dash a uniqueness.  Look close at the pics near the end and tell me what you think.  Cheers!

 

Overview of the dash on the driver side all cut out.

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Starting to cut out the instrument cluster.  Notice on subsequent images that the lines marked with a sharpie are not actually a fair representation of the gauge size since they are outlines. Since I will be foaming and smoothing the cluster panel and the walls are bowed out, I will bring the final surface closer to the driver, thus making the total panel size larger.

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Finally installed in the car.  Welded in temporarily.  It was a little crooked.  >_< Foam and resin, baby!

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Boom!  Driver side panel left of gauge cluster almost done.  Space for buttons, and the shroud over the cluster in place to provide a rough base for the foam shroud to follow.  Notice on the right side of the shroud/arch thingy that it needs to be cut.  This is due to the fact that the dash actually forms a semi circle around the occupants.  The gauge panel was welded in at a 90 degree angle (ha.....or thereabouts) to the driver.  The shroud was welded in parallel with the panel.  But the dash angle as you move toward the center is AWAY from the driver and toward the firewall.  So I had to trim down the shroud down on the right to make it meet the left side of the center dash better.  See following pics for this.

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ONE OF MY FAVORITE SHOTS. Really shows the unique curve we through in with the dash.  Starts inverted at a negative angle, then ends up positively angles near the middle.  Wow!

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Shroud Comparison 1.  Here is what I'm talking about below in regards to making the right side of the shroud end up further toward the firewall than the left.  In this picture it is symmetrical, but look at the angle needed to meet the center dash!  It would be nearly impossible to do this and make it look good. 

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Shroud Comparison 2.  Here is where it is finally trimmed and a mock-up made from cardboard is installed.  The right side of the cluster shroud is now trimmed further toward the firewall, making the gauge cluster shroud unsymmetrical, but ultimately making the center dash more symmetrical and reducing the need for a crazy angle to meet the right side shroud with the left side center dash.  Lol, that was a mouthful.

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Looking pretty darn good, in my opinion.

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Ugg...  Cardboard looks like crap from this angle.  They'll be a lot of foam filling in the left side of the shroud curve. Don't worry, lol.

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Shroud Comparison 3.  NICE!  Love this shot.  Really shows the angle cutout on the right side cluster shroud.  :D

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That's it guys, let me know what you think.  I was gonna post a video of me grinding down the frame in prep for the shroud, but it was just too long and boring.  :(

Edited by zohanisback

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Thank you.  Heading back out right now.  Picked up two part urethane foam, release wax, PVA, 1.5 and 2 oz fiberglass, fiberglass roller, 2" ABS for gauges, and polyester resin and hardener tonight.  $175 bucks. :icon52:  Wow...

 

But I got a gallon of PVA, enough urethane liquid foam to do some other interior parts, too, and a gallon of poly resin.  4 yards of 1.5 oz and 2 of 2 oz fiber.  Should be good to go for a first run.  Might need some gelcoat...  :-/  We'll see.  Either way I can replicate other car parts now, too.  Kinda thinking of doing a center dash and fiberglass trim parts. Maybe....  :icon56:

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So what I finished doing was the right side of the instrument cluster and the center dash. I really don't like how the right side of the cluster turned out because it looks like a dent, so I am going to go ahead and foam in that area and level it off close to the center dash curve. The dash is now out of the car, as you will see in later pics. It came right out with no problems, even after all that welding. happy.gif

I already mentioned that I bought in preparation for foaming and fiberglassing the mold:

  • Two part urethane foam
  • Release wax
  • PVA
  • 1.5 and 2 oz fiberglass
  • Fiberglass roller
  • 2" ABS for gauges
  • Polyester resin
  • Hardener



And here are the pics of what's been done.

Center panel installed for a test run of what it will look like and maybe what the general curve will be.

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Ugg, that dent I "made" on the right side of the cluser looks bad. Definitely going to be using a lot of foam to level it out with the left side of the center dash.

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Might be able to actually fit this center console in here, maybe....

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Testing a rough S shape for the center dash. Decided I didn't like it as much as a concave curve many of the newer and modern dashes have. An S shape would be amazing, but would have require more thought into how the shifter it placed and a harsher initial curve right off the dash.

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This stuff is amazing. I filled each little cup with about 2 mm of the liquid, then combined them. It is "cold" here in SoCal, so it only expanded about 20x, but still was very impressive. Hardens to workable in about 30 minutes. This was basically a test to see if the foam actually sticks to metal. Strangely, it broke away from the cardboard pretty easily. Just a few good tugs. But getting that metal piece off, even after trimming the foam wrapped around the edge, was nearly impossible. I believe I can pour it right on the dash. grin.gif

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Tranny tunnel trim tacked up and center console fit over it. I do believe that with some trimming, the center console will work with this design. For myself, I intend to redesign the center console with cup holders. shades_smile.gif

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Without the console in place. Looks pretty rough with the box edges, but nothing a little foam won't take care of!

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Yup, out of the car again already! Stands up nicely and came right out without any problems. Mounting points were well preserved.

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Used a wire wheel over the entire dash to clear out welding slag and roughen up the metal further for foam placement tomorrow. Looking pretty good. I like the brushed look. happy.gif

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And some youtube vids:

 

 

And part "2":

 

Edited by zohanisback

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Nelsonian:

That's a fantastic idea!  I personally wouldn't integrate it into my design at this point, but I could definitely add it once I have a fiberglass dash pulled from the plug.  I'm thinking Kevlar reinforced Carbon Fiber coating for style and strength during hard pulls through 2nd gear.  :)

 

TRD_240z:

Thanks! I'm actually located in San Bernardino/Redlands. Norco isn't that far away.  Just down there by Corona.  I used to work in Anaheim as an electrician, so I made the grueling commute each day at 4am.  Ugg, glad that's over!

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Oh Fontana?  Yeah I go there all the time for estate sales, car parts (you guys have tons of yards over there), and industrial supplies.  Pretty good place.  :D

 

Ahh yes, the 91.  I swear I'll never do it again if I can avoid it.

 

And yeah, we should check out each other's projects.  Do you have a build thread?  One of my fellow classmates is the one who got me into Z cars and is redoing a 240z and 260z in our spare medical school time (ha!).  Anyway, you're always more than welcome to check it out.  :D

 

AND NOW FOR UPDATES:

 

I did the foam yesterday afternoon.  Today was too cold for the two part urethane, so I didn't bother trying to foam anymore.  Here are the pics with the foam on part of the passenger side after two pours:

 

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And....a video for you viewing pleasure...

 

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Hi all!  Here are some updates on the dash. I apologize for the delay.  I went ahead and have been doing work on the dash without doing updates.  Medical school just started again today, so I am stretched for time like crazy now.  With my BMW project done and my buddy back from break, we'll try to work hard on it over the weekends.  Just not going to happen that much during the week as I need to study.  Here's where we are now:

 

  • I finished foaming the entire thing
  • I shaved and sanded the foam to shape
  • Jon (fellow student) and I started applying bondo and finishing the last shapes
  • We poured a little extra foam over the instrument hood because it was just gonna be too much bondo.  :P

And the pictures and videos from what you saw last until tonight:

 

Here is how I shaped the instrument shroud/hood.  It works pretty well, but the foam will leak out, so you have to seal it well with electrical tape and hold it in place if it starts to push out.

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Starting to pour the center part of the dash.  This was actually the most fun in my opinion because it transformed the dash so much...

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Edited by zohanisback

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Plastic piece leftover after the pour.  The cardboard is what I use to keep the foam from expanding really think, and instead expand vertically.  The foam actually exerts quite a lot of pressure, and when pouring this stuff in pontoons, they have to cut relief holes to keep it from damaging the pontoons.  :o

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A little behind the scenes sneak peek at what the metal work looks like.  So glad that is done!  :)

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A heating technique to preheat the metal, then keep the foam warm for maximum expansion and curing speed.  It's amazing the difference heat makes.  I wasted so much of this stuff by not knowing how to pour it correctly the first few pours.  By the time I got to this part, I was spot on pretty much every time.

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Edited by zohanisback

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Left side of instrument cluster foamed in.  End caps of the dash all foamed.

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First pass sanding.  Final shape on the passenger side pretty much all set. I'm very pleased with the way this turned out.  Driver side still needs tons of work.  I like the curves from the center dash to the bottom passenger side and will attempt to mirror (though at a higher level) on the driver side.

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Side views

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Closeup of the center.  Needs some body filler.  lol

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Edited by zohanisback

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