Over the past few installments on Project Scarlett we’ve moved to the interior to tackle the air conditioning and some of the wiring, so it’s only natural that we begin to work on the dash. In our case, this started with the teardown itself, which included removing all the molding and dashpads and stripping out the ratty old firewall insulation. Once we were down to ground zero we did a little touch-up on the birdcage and started prepping the dashpanels and the gauges for reassembly, which is in reverse order. As usual, we’re doing all the work at Tray Walden’s Street Shop in Athens, Alabama, where Scarlett has lived since we tore her down last summer.
The good thing about new dashpanels is that they look really good, the bad thing is they make the rest of the original parts look so rough you pretty much have to replace all of them—the “new wine in old wineskins” effect, if you will. Which is what we ended up doing. Corvette America provided the dashpads (both the upper and lower ones) and Volunteer Vette Products supplied us with the center gauge console to replace our broken original. Since we’re keeping the interior black, as it originally was, we ordered all the soft parts in the factory black. The gauges, though, are a bit of a different story.
Even if we hadn’t wanted to, the speedometer and cable were going to have to be replaced. Not only was the needle prone to sudden fits of bouncing wildly across the dial, showing speeds almost twice the actual speed, then sweeping down towards zero and back again, the pointer suddenly gave up the ghost and broke off at the pivot. That left us with the joy of looking at the bottom half of the needle (below the pivot point) and trying to extrapolate the speed from where the missing needle portion might have been. “But officer …”
In addition to the functional changes, we upgraded the appearance of the gauges by having them rescreened in white instead of the original black and having the markings reprinted in black using the original font. For good measure, the speedometer was recalibrated for 200 miles per hour and the tach marked to 8,000 rpm, with the redline painted on at the engine-builder-recommended 6,700.
01. We started the dash teardown by unscrewing the visors and header molding, which let us remove the A-pillar molding and then the dash. It’s hard to replace just one component, since new panels only make the older ones look more worn and tired, so we’ll be replacing them with new reproductions from Corvette America.
02. Like we found with the steering column brackets, many of the metal parts such as this dash bracket were left in bare steel, which quickly rusted. As with the other parts, this was blasted and painted prior to reinstallation.
03. Among the other parts we found in less-than-ideal condition was the factory firewall insulation pad (top), which we removed in pieces and replaced with a new one (bottom). We also added a foil-backed sound and heat deadener in the areas the factory pad didn’t cover.
04. Here’s the dash after complete disassembly, but before beginning reinstallation. In addition to removing the old insulation, we neutralized and sanded off some light surface rust we found on the birdcage and repainted it in the factory dull green. After all, we wouldn’t want the car to look like it’s incorrect.
05. The firewall insulation pad is held in place with a set of soft plastic plugs that are inserted from the passenger compartment side through holes in the firewall. They’re best installed by inserting a long punch into the hole at the base of the plug and using that to push them into place.
06. During the dash replacement, we also removed the windshield to have it replaced, and found this unpleasant surprise: a rusted-through area at the base of the windshield on the passenger-side where it couldn’t be reached to weld up.
07. Since there was no way to get to the diseased area without removing the fender, and we’re in no hurry to take the front end off of this car, we found a spot high on the birdcage where a hole could be cut to let us access it from the rear. We’ll worry about welding up this new hole once we’ve fixed the old one.
08. After we cut a triangular flap in the birdcage and pulled it back so we were able to access the rear of the affected area, Tray Walden used a small sander to prep the metal so that a patch could be applied.
09. Once the metal was prepped and the patch clamped in place, Seth Wood of Lucky’s Restorations used an industrial automotive adhesive to permanently affix the patch in place. While we have a strong preference for welding, the adhesive seemed a little better than melting steel that close to painted fiberglass.
10. In addition to being laughably inaccurate at times, our factory speedometer also decided it would do just as well without the long end of its needle, which it jettisoned one evening. We’re going to replace it anyway.
11.The rebuilt speedometer (left) and tach (right) came already assembled in their housings, and only needed to be mounted in place on the back of the lower dashpad, which we sourced from Corvette America, and which is shown upside-down in this photo. The top part of the instrument housings are screwed into place on the raised mounting points on the top.
12. The bottoms of the gauges are held in place with brackets that attach to the steel body of the gauges. The hole on the right has to be aligned with the plastic stud on the back of the dashpanel and the screw to the left of it holds the bracket firmly in place against the panel.
13. This ground strap goes between the two inside gauge mounting points. Originally rusted like every other piece of bare metal Chevy left under the dash of our car, we blasted it clean and painted it black, leaving the contact areas bare metal.
14. The new dashpad with the speedometer and tach installed. Like everything else with Scarlett, we went for the not-quite-stock look by retaining the factory-style gauge markings while changing the faces to white and recalibrating the gauges to match Scarlett’s much-improved performance. Yes, the speedo and tach go to 200 and 8,000, respectively.
15. As deep into this car as we are, there’s not much use reinstalling 40-year-old electrical components. This new switch, knob, and bezel from Corvette America will go into the new dashpanel.
16. Since the gauge console in our car was broken, as is common, we sourced a new one from Volunteer Vette Products. We started to put together the center gauge assembly by replacing the lens, which goes in from the rear and indexes on two cast-in studs on the inside of the metal console. We also replaced the red warning light lenses at the same time.
17. We ordered a new set of gauge seals from Corvette America so we wouldn’t have to reuse the old ones. While the foam seal shown was not included in the factory installation, it won’t hurt anything to add it in.
18. The front part of the gauge housing goes in behind the lens: the warning light lenses and their housings can then go in from the rear. Yes, that one housing is cardboard. Since we had both the original gauges and the cores that we ordered to have rebuilt, we just picked the cardboard one that looked better and installed that one. The gauges themselves can now be installed from the rear and screwed into place.
19. The gauges installed in the new console. Like the speedometer and tach, and pretty much all the other controls in the car, we had the gauges converted to white-faced. Although the clock in C3s is, like the parking brake, essentially designed to be nonfunctional, hopefully the new quartz one we bought will actually work.
20. In addition to the passenger-side lower dashpad itself, we also ordered a map pocket from Corvette America. Since the factory instructions say that the map pocket is glued into place on the panel, it’s pretty much mandatory to replace both at the same time.
21. The ends of the map pocket slip through the vertical slits cut into the dashpad. The lower half of the pocket folds upwards behind the pocket and is held in place with adhesive.
22. Once the ends of the map pocket are in place on the backside of the dashpad, they’re held in place with a pair of coil springs that attach to the plastic rear of the pad on one end and rivets installed in the reinforced holes of the pocket on the other. The original pad is shown in this photo.
23. Optimistic? Who knows. But with 635 horsepower and a modern six-speed transmission, it only seemed appropriate to have our speedometer recalibrated a little higher than the stock 160-mph unit.