Next to the steering wheel, the dash has got to be the most looked at part of a custom car. When you strap yourself into the seat, the dash becomes command central. All the buttons, knobs, and gauges (for the most part) are on the dash in one place or another. In some vehicles, the dash holds all those items and the dashpad is just a thing that sits on top and looks pretty. Well, when you talk about a second-gen Camaro, the dashpad is an integral part of the entire instrument panel, and more to the point, everything that makes up the dashboard hooks to it.
Even though the original was designed to hold all this stuff and look good, the factory design can be improved. One thing Chevy designers could not account for is time, and time is what kills these pads. You see, the pad sits under the windshield and gets hammered by UV rays. Well, those rays, given enough time, will shrink or dry out vinyl and materials like it. If you have ever owned a second-gen Camaro, then you know what we are talking about. The factory pads have a tendency to curl up along the edge where they meet the sheetmetal and look horrible. The pads in many other vintage Bowties suffer a similar fate.
Replacements have been on the market for some time, but their fitment and look compared to the original were at times marginal at best. Plus, the new pads were not as strong as OE, so once installed, the dash moved a bit. National Parts Depot (NPD) thought this issue had run its course and decided to start from scratch. It designed a new pad that had the look and feel of the original, but made it stronger.
We will be installing one of these new pads in a '70 Camaro that is in desperate need of a new one. The original has all the usual issues: curling edges and faded color. Since we really like the car, we thought it was best to treat it to a new and improved pad from NPD.
1 National Parts Depot improved construction with ABS plastic over a steel reinforcement panel for the body and another reinforcement panel for the gauge area. This creates a stronger pad than any other repro, or even an OE pad. NPD also added more retention clips along the back so it will engage more of the metal dash to prevent it from deforming over time. This new pad is a bit more expensive than its lesser quality pads, but we think, at $379.95, it's pretty reasonable since the dashpad is an integral part of the second-gen's dash.
2 Here is a close-up so you can see just how crisp the details are on this dashpad. NPD didn't sacrifice any quality in this piece just to make it stronger. NPD casts this pad in the original grain and texture for a seamless blending into the interior.
3 Because the pad was created with more clip-mounting points, you will need to use the upgraded fastener kit (PN C-14655-57K) to install it. The kit gives you two more clips for a total of five. It retails for $14.95.
4 The clips simply install over studs that are cast into the pad.
5 We are going to skip the removal of the factory pad and focus on the installation of the new unit, but teardown is as simple as reversing the order of the install. Here is what the factory dashpads are prone to do over time. The backside where the pad meets the dash curls up as the material shrinks. The beefier inner structure, added clips, and premium materials will keep the NPD pad from doing this.
6 Unlike some older cars, the '70 Camaro's dashpad is an integral part of the structure. Everything that is below the dashpad is actually bolted directly to the pad itself. Now it might become clearer as to why this pad needed to get an upgrade. On the driver side, the dash vent is removed by taking out the three small screws. The passenger side has a bigger piece of plastic that houses the glovebox door. Even though it's bigger than the driver side vent, it's held on the same way with just more screws.
7 A & B Since the new pad has all the factory-mounting points, these items easily bolted on to the new NPD piece with our old hardware.
8 With the clips and lower plastics in place, the new assembly is slipped into the car.
9 Even though the new unit has more retention clips, no mods to the car's sheetmetal portion of the dash are necessary. NPD knew there were holes not being used, so it decided to utilize them.
10 Once all the clips were pointed at their respective holes, a light tap on the pad snapped them in.
11 One thing we wish we had ordered was the Camaro Fastener Kit/Instrument Cluster, PN C-9743-16AK. In that kit, we would have gotten these little nut clips. Since our dash was broken up, we were missing a few of them. We were able to scrounge our shop for a few that will work, but the correct ones are smaller and would have made the job go a bit faster—well worth the six bucks the kit cost.
12 The instrument cluster bolts to the dashpad in four points. Once this is installed, the dash becomes pretty dang solid.
13 The bezel doesn't provide a ton of support, but it does the job it's supposed to, which is to make the cluster look good. Make sure you have the grounds for the headlight switch, wiper switch, and lighter hooked up or you might be scratching your head as to why they stopped working.
14 With the bezel in place, we could bring the column up and tighten it in place.
15 Now the final piece of this dash puzzle—the filler piece that houses the heater controls. Just like the other plastics, it mounts to the bottom of the dashpad.
16 There are two screws by the heater controls...
17 ...two hiding under the ashtray...
18 ...and then a few on the bottom that tie it to the driver side vent and passenger side plastic. There are two bolts that attach the lower outside corners of the dash assembly to the kick panel area of the car to complete the install.
19 The last thing we did was to clean our old plastics so they wouldn't detract from the new dashpad. NPD's new dashpad is awesome; it makes the dash nice and rigid, but is still soft and supple when you touch it. We feel confident it will stand the test of time, thanks to all the improvements made.