Giving a '57 Corvette Dash a Facelift

A Dash of Renewal

Andy Bolig Sep 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

The radio is the first thing to come out. Take both the radio and the speaker out. Notice the size of the speaker. This is both the speaker and amplifier. (This would be the best time to send your radio out to someone to be checked out.)

Time to remove the gauges. Take a minute and mark where the wires go. This will make installation much easier. Also, be careful of the paper tag on the back of the gauges. Ours was almost ripped in two, so we put some clear tape over it before we reinstalled it.

We used this ignition-switch nut wrench to remove the switch assembly. This tool makes the job much easier and prevents the chrome from getting damaged. Always keep your eyes open for little tools like this at swap meets.

We removed the speaker grilles so we could paint them and the dash separately. With the speaker removed you can easily get to the tabs behind the dash.

Removing the knobs from the dash is the next step. Take your time because some have nuts on the back and some, like the headlight switch, have a pin that you need to push on the headlight assembly, behind the dash, to remove it from the assembly.

Remove the steering wheel and hub, and take the bell off the steering column. It’s best to make sure the wheels are straight before you remove the steering wheel. It’s a good idea to mark the wheel and shaft so you can index the splines exactly the way they were.

With the gauges removed, the dashpad is the last part to take off. It’s held on by nuts behind the dash.

The stripped dash is now ready for painting. We used a small pneumatic grinder to prepare some small cracks for filling. This is the time to take care of them. The dash will be painted before we start reinstalling parts.

We contacted Zip Products for new bezels and faces for our gauges. Zip carries complete sets, or you can order only what you need.

We started with the speedometer. When you remove the chrome bezel you’ll see some small tubes around the inside. They ride in the groove around the inside of the bezel and keep the glass and bezel from grinding together. Make sure you save these.

The speedometer assembly is removed from the housing after taking out the two retaining screws. We’ve found the best way to remove the needle is to use two small blocks as a fulcrum and gently lift up on the needle with two small screwdrivers. The shaft can break before the needle comes loose, so be very careful and go slowly. Once the needle is off, you can gently bend the tabs that hold the glass lens in place.

The black paint under the lens was badly faded, so we cleaned it off and sprayed it with a semigloss black from a spray can. We didn’t clean up the speedometer housing because we didn’t want to remove the date codes.

Once the paint has dried, we can begin reassembly of the speedometer. Don’t forget to install the spacers between the glass and bezel.

A retainer that’s crimped over the body of the gauge holds on the other gauge bezels. Take a small screwdriver and gently pry the crimped area back out so it will slide off the gauge body.

You can see how deteriorated and faded the black paint is on this temperature gauge. We scraped off all the paint and carefully sprayed semigloss black paint without getting any overspray on the needle. Our gauges worked great—they just needed a facelift; but if yours don’t work and need rebuilding, Zip has kits you can use. The company also offers a rebuilding service.

While the paint was drying we swapped out the new bezels. They’re held in place by the part that has “FUEL” and “TEMP” written on them. While they’re apart, clean the pieces of any grime. We sandblasted the dual-gauge housings and painted them with metallic silver paint.

With the paint dry we can reassemble the gauges. They look great with the new lenses, bezels, and paint. We also installed the “repaired” small tag that goes behind the fuel gauge for that original look.

With the gauges rebuilt and the dash paint dry, all we have to do is reassemble the parts. This is where marking the wires will come in handy.

Clean up the small parts with a fine polishing compound. With minimal rubbing, these parts can be made to look like new again, and this is the time to do it.

When you’re reinstalling the steering wheel is a good time to remove decades-old grease and freshen up the turn-signal operation. We cleaned the mechanism with a spray degreaser and wiped it dry. Once it was installed we applied lubricant to the moving parts.

When reinstalling the steering wheel, make sure to align the marks you made so the wheel is pointed straight when you’re going straight. Torque the nut to 35-40 lb-ft.

When reinstalling the steering wheel, make sure to align the marks you made so the wheel is pointed straight when you’re going straight. Torque the nut to 35-40 lb-ft.

With the steering wheel installed, you may have to adjust the bell a little to get the proper clearance between the bell and hub.

Install the horn contacts and screws. The horn button simply snaps onto the steering wheel, and you’re done!

Hard to believe that the dashboards on the ’53-’57 Corvettes were the targets of some criticism when they were new. While you could debate the user-friendly nature of the gauge placement (especially when driving at speed), you can’t deny the classic styling that epitomizes the era. For the straight-axle Corvette lover, the lines and simplicity are representative of a time when style was not a slave to function and economical repetition during assembly. Even though we all appreciate the advancements in almost every aspect of the car since the straight-axle was first offered, who hasn’t lusted over the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one?

The styling cues are possibly dated by today’s standards, but Zip Products carries the parts you need to make the dash in your straight-axle look as good as new. Follow along as we give our ’57 Corvette’s dash a facelift.

Everything we did to our ’57’s dash was done either in the garage or inside on the dinner table. While we used a few tools you may not find in every garage (media-blaster, grinder/polisher), this task can be accomplished by the typical Corvette owner with moderate mechanical ability. Also, if dealing with disassembling the gauges makes you nervous, contact Zip Products. They provide that service so you don’t have to worry.

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