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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:24 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:42 pm
Posts: 948
I guess I will post this in segments. The first issue is how you define "dash." To me, the "dash" is pretty much the entire structure in front of the driver extending from right to left. You have the frame which the dash pad, trim, and all sorts of other stuff bolts to...

But, saying "frame" doesn't really make folks think of the area we are addressing here, even though it most closely falls in that category.

I like to differentiate the dash components that serve special functions like the instrumentation and accessories (gauges, switches and controls, radio, glove box, etc). Thus, for all intents and purposes I truly feel like this "top of the dash" is best referenced in just that manner.

It is all very simple, yet intricately complex when you really begin thinking about how to describe the top portion of the dashboard...

That said, let's get started.

Objective: Create a custom "top of the dash" out of sheetmetal. This will allow us to clean up the area and allow for easy painting, or covering/upholstering (my plans call for that anyway).

Things to Consider: Whatever sheetmetal you select and finishing options you go with need to account for several things:
1: The Dashpad-Clearance
2: Left and Right A-Pillars-Clearance
3: Vents if you plan to use them-Function
4: Center Speaker Grill if you plan to use it-Function
5: VIN Plate, if you want it uncovered
6: Heat and UV Exposure

Why: You might ask yourself why I am going this route. You might also be thinking you have never seen anyone else do this. Well, I am right there with you...I've honestly never seen anyone do this either; so why exactly am I doing this?

I want a clean carbon fiber look to match and accent the instrument cluster, trim, and console changes that are coming!

First off, I would love to just cover the dash in carbon fiber. However, due to the fact that my windshield is installed and the dash is in the car, this simple little task gets complicated. The dash structure is held in with screws up front that are inaccessible without removing the windshield and seal. After talking to several Charger folks, the general consensus was that removing the windshield is a total PITA, nearly impossible for 1 guy to do alone, and usually results in the glass breaking and/or ruining the seal, trim, or scuffing paint. I think all this could be avoided, especially with 2 people involved, but it just doesn't make sense to remove a non-leaking windshield to basically touchup the dash.

Moving from that point, if I did somehow coerce my hands to lay down the carbon fiber and smooth it out, could I really trim it like I need to along the windshield's edge? Do I run the risk of cutting a gasket, or weather strip? The answers are: No, Yes, and Yes. I can't see the plus side to cutting an expensive, non-leaking seal and do so while making a finish I am unhappy with in the process.

On top of that, when you start thinking about it further you realize the wrap would be sitting on the metal dash, over a slotted speaker grill, and on top of plastic dash vents. Why is that worth mentioning? If you haven't noticed that your original dash pad is likely cracked and the paint faded, I invite you to take a look. The sun's rays take their toll over time and when the wrap is baking at different temps in different locations, I don't like the chances of it staying pristine too long. That brings you back to square one, takes a lot of time to rehash, and would then leave you vulnerable to the same thing happening.

So what is my solution? Simple...Avert all the potential issues by cutting a sheetmetal panel to drop in place between the factory trim (A-Pillars and Dash Pad). This means I can cover it, paint it, texture it, etc. while it is "outside" the car...This in turn means I am not going to be cramped for space, cut the seal, or turn out work I am unhappy with after contorting myself into the chiropractor's office. Should the wrap bubble, melt in the sun, turn pink and yellow, or any other myriad of unknowns, it simply gets popped out and retooled.

This, to me and at this point, is the best possible solution. I think you could mask and paint the dash's top side if you are so inclined, but it would be a pain...This separate panel would work for those applications as well. I have no intention of using a center speaker and don't route anything thru the dash vents. In the event you do, you can easily trace the vents from below and cut them out to allow for air travel.

That said, now that you know what I am doing and why I am doing it...let's take a look at the process:

Step 1: Source Sheet Metal
-Smallest piece I could find that would work (roughly 5' Long) was 3'x8' in length. Standard is usually 4'x10 for thin sheet metal.

Step 2: Create a Template of the dash and trace it to the sheetmetal

Step 3: Test Fit the Sheetmetal Dash

Step 4: Test Fit with Dash Pad and A-Pillar Covers

Step 5: Trim According to Step 4's Fitment and Test Fit Again

Step 6: Find out that your "new" dash pad doesn't fit like your old one and your Step 4 trimming resulted in "too much" material being removed.

Step 7: Recut the Sheetmetal and test fit with "new" dash pad.

Step 8: Wait for warmer days to paint and cover the new sheetmetal dash.

As you can see, I got screwed with my "new" dash pad. When I unboxed it, I noted that it looked and felt great, but the studs were shorter than the stock unit. I didn't know the dashpad would also not extend forward (towards the windshield" as far as the factory piece. Ordinarily, I would have mocked things up with the new dashpad, but my main goal with it was to keep it clean, pristine, and away from sharp edges. Lesson learned there...

To add insult to injury, those studs on the new one are painfully too short. I'm not sure that the center studs will clear to even accept the speednut. I'm not too happy about that. My current hope is I can somehow extend them.

I am also hoping if I "work" the foam a bit I could have it come forward farther, but as is I will have to cut out a new dash topper...Maybe this one will fit the Duster...

Stay tuned for more updates...

Founder, Amarillo Area Mopars
Founder, Lone Star Mopars

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