September 2001            
I tackled the restoration of the cab interior much the same way I tackle most projects:

  • Take everything apart

  • Clean/paint/grease/oil each item that's fixable

  • Make a list of the items that aren't fixable

  • Make a list of items I broke while trying to clean/paint/grease/oil

  • Order new items to replace those I can't fix or I broke

  • Put everything back together

Sounds  easy.  And actually it is.  You just have to be patient, work methodically, and be willing to spend money.  It really helps if you enjoy restoring things.  I do.  While I like to enjoy the finished product, it's the work itself that I most enjoy.  If you don't enjoy the work, you should probably buy a pickup already restored.   The expense is probably about the same.

I had already removed the heater diverter box, so I decided to go ahead and remove the rest of the heater/AC ductwork.  All of the parts needed cleaning and removing them would give me good access to the other items under the dash.  After I had all the ductwork out, I removed the glove box door and liner, the AC ball assemblies, the AC center vent assembly, the radio, the ashtray, and the dash pad.

After inspecting the removed items, I decided I needed to replace the AC/heater diverter, glove box liner, and the chrome AC air direction balls and felt.   

Besides the items I removed, some other items needed attention also.  The parking brake T-handle was severely sun-faded and I could not restore it back to its original black, glossy finish, no matter what I tried.  The plastic chrome plating was worn off the letters on the ignition switch marker plate.  I thought about painting the letters with  silver paint but decided that would probably look tacky.  Both of these items are relatively inexpensive, so I decided to just order new ones.

Removing the heater/AC ductwork was easy, just a few screws and bolts.   With the ductwork, glove box liner,  and ashtray out of the way, the radio was  simple to remove.  The only thing holding the radio in the dash are the nuts on the radio tuning and volume shafts and one screw in a bracket on the back of the radio.   The AC air direction balls just fall out after you remove the housings.  The dash pad, however, is another story.

At first, I wasn't planning  on removing the dash pad.  It was in perfect shape and all it really needed was a good cleaning and some black shoe polish.  However, the paint on the top of the dash was in bad shape.  Various objects thrown on the dash over the past thirty years had worn away the original black paint in several areas and the orange-red color of the rest of the cab was showing through.  The top of the dash needed repainting and the only way to do the job right was to remove the dash pad.   The dash pad is fastened to the dash with about 8 speed nuts (I can't remember the exact number) screwed onto studs that are permanently attached to the pad via a metal strap that is molded into the pad.  .I figured there would never be a better time to remove the pad because I had already removed all of the stuff that had to be removed to get to the speed nuts.  So, I decided to go ahead and take the pad off and repaint the top of the dash.

After about an hour of laying on my back, scrapping the skin off most of my knuckles, and a lot of cussing, I had the pad off.  The most difficult part was getting to the two speed nuts on the driver's side.  The instrument panel, with all of the wires, cables, etc. attached to it makes the nuts a bear to get to.  I guess I could have removed the instrument panel, but I didn't really want to.  Anyway, I finally got the last two speed nuts off and removed the pad.  Now I had to decide what kind of paint to use.

I remembered someone on the 67-72 chevytrucks forum said that the reason the top of the dash was originally painted black was to eliminate glare.  So, this meant I needed a flat black.  When I was at the store buying the paint, I discovered Krylon makes an "Ultra Flat" black paint.  This sounded perfect for eliminating glare, so I bought a rattle can of the "Ultra Flat".

Before painting, I sanded the top of the dash with 200 grit to smooth it out and remove the scratches.  Then I masked off the top of the dash and the rest of cab interior.  Good thing I had been saving the daily newspaper.  It takes a lot of paper to cover up the inside of a cab.  I didn't worry about the seat covers, because I was going to replace them.  After all the prep work, the painting only took about 20 minutes for a couple of coats.  And man, was it black and flat.  There wouldn't be no stinking glare from this dash!

I was  proud of the paint job until the first time I tried to wipe the dust off.   I guess to get their paint "Ultra Flat", Krylon left out what ever it is that makes most paints hard and slick.  Trying to wipe the dust off of the "Ultra Flat" just results in gray smears.  If I ever decide to redo the paint job, I'll go with a flat satin black next time.  Anyway, I didn't discover this problem until I had the dash pad back on, and given the pain in the ass the pad was to get off, I wasn't going to go through that again.  

After much time and cussing I got all the speed nuts back on except the one in the very corner on the driver's side.  I fought with that one for about 30 minutes until I finally dropped it (for about the 10th time) and couldn't find it.  It's still up under the dash somewhere.  Maybe someday, if I have the instrument panel out, I may try to put it back on.  For now,  the dash pad looks just fine without it. 

The next item to attack was the glove box door.  The wood grain on the glove box door trim plate was badly scratched.  There is no way to repair the wood grain finish, so I decided I needed to order a new one.  I found several places that sold wood grain "contact" paper decals that you apply on top of the metal trim plate.  I probably would have gone this route but I wanted to paint the rest of the glove box door and to do a good job meant taken the trim plate off.  As I discover too late, there's no way to get the trim plate off without bending it.  So, I wound up ordering a new reproduction trim plate.  

Painting the glove box door was straight forward -- mask off the options sticker, wet sand with 200 grit paper, wash with detergent, wipe down with lacquer thinner, two coats primer, two coats glossy black enamel.  I also painted the glove box door hinge at the same time.  All of the paint was rattle can.  Rattle cans work well on small items if you do it right and you use good quality paint.  I tend to use to Krylon or Rustoleum if existing rust is a problem.  Stay away from the bargain brands -- trust me, they're no bargain.   

The glove box door turned out so well, I decided the heater/ defrost duct also could benefit from a fresh coat of paint.  I painted this item using the same procedure and paint used on the glove box door.  It looked practically new when I was done.

The only other item on the dash that needed painting was the horn button.  I bought some craft paint and fine artists' brushes at the local hobby store and painted the button by hand.  I've recently bought an air brush to paint model trains and that's what I will use in the future for these small items.

The rest of the work on the dash consisted of detailing.  Sounds easy to say, but it took the longest and used the most supplies  -- rubbing compound, wax, Formula 409, Autosol and Mother's metal polish, lacquer thinner, black shoe polish, ArmourAll, WD-40, lithium spray lubricant, toothbrushes, rags, paper towels, cotton swabs, 0000 steel wool, WD-40.  But what a difference a little elbow grease makes.  The dash looks practically new.

The only thing on the dash that didn't detail to my satisfaction was the instrument panel bezel.  The bezel is one of those items that has chrome plated plastic.  The chrome plating has rubbed off in a few areas and the only way to restore it is to replate the bezel or buy a new one (dang near same cost either way).  I'll probably buy a new one sometime, but it's good enough for now.

The parts I ordered for the dash arrived a few days after I finished the detailing work.  I was pleased with the overall quality of the parts but some weren't identical to the original.  It has since been my experience that this is more the norm than not.  The new diverter box was black plastic, where the original was more of a grayish charcoal color.  Also, the process used to glue the two halves of the new diverter box together was not a cosmetically pleasing as on the original.  The process they used left a rather large bead of adhesive around the seam where the two halves met and was not of the same color.   The bead reminded me of a running metal weld.  I decided I could live with it if I colored the bead black to match the body color of the diverter.  Through trial and error, I found that a permanent black felt marker matched the color and sheen of the diverter body almost exactly.  And if it ever needs re-touching, it will be a snap.  

The wood grain on the new glove box trim plate was not quite the same color as the other wood grain in the cab and the holes for the Sierra Grande emblem in the trim plate did not line up with the holes in the glove box door.  The glove box liner, AC center vent assembly, and the AC air direction balls and felt were near identical to the originals.

October 2001               
It has now been about 3 weeks since I started the restoration of the cab interior.  In that time I've done several other things to the cab interior but I'll chronicle that in latter episodes.   For now, let's finish the dash.  Having the detail work done and all the parts in hand, all that's left is putting all the parts back in the dash.  

The first thing to go back in was the radio since it had to be done before the glove box liner or the heater duct work was installed.  The radio went in as easy as it came out -- one screw in the back and two on the shafts through the dash and it's in.  It's best to plug in the wiring harness and antennae before attaching the back bracket -- I know because I had to take it back out after I discovered I couldn't get the wiring harness plugged in with it installed.. 

The heater duct work also went back in without much trouble.  The new diverter box was a true "bolt in", with all the screw holes matching up.  It takes a little tinkering to adjust the control cables from the AC/heater controls, but it's not really difficult.  The hardest part was re-attaching the duct hoses that run to the defroster vents and the AC air direction balls.  GM didn't leave a lot of slack in the hoses.  Combine that with the fact that they are a little brittle after 30 years and getting them hooked back up can be a challenge.   If I had it to do over, I would install new hoses.  The new ones are much more pliable that the originals.  Plus they are one-piece vinyl.  The original hoses are made of cloth that is spiraled around a wire, with the seams in the cloth taped together.  If you pull too hard on the hose the cloth winding comes apart.  About the only way to repair it is with duct tape -- effective, but not very eye pleasing.

When I was installing the new AC center vent I decided to go with a modification I saw in several of the parts catalogs.  The center vent originally had a hose connected to both side of the vent.  To increase air flow, the parts catalogs recommend plugging the driver's side of the center vent and only running a hose to the passenger side.  Of course, the part supplies sell the plug., but  I decided duct tape would work just as good.  I've since discovered that it does indeed blow more air out of the center vent but it tends to all be directed toward the driver.  However, I'm always driving, so I don't see the problem.

The next items to go back on the dash were the new glove box liner and the freshly painted glove box door.  The liner goes in easy once you get brave enough to just cram it in.  The liner's just a tad wider than the opening because the front edges go behind the opening after it's installed.  So there is no way to gently push it through the opening -- you have to kind of force it.  It doesn't seem to damage the liner, just takes a little while to get up the courage to push it through.  Also, be sure you're ready for it to go back in because it doesn't come out as easy as it goes in.  You're almost guaranteed to bend it getting it out.

Before I could put the glove box back on I needed to attach the wood grain trim plate.  As I noted before, the first problem  was that the holes in the trim plate where the emblem attaches did not match the holes in the door.  I decided I had two choices -- (1) cut the studs off the emblem and glue it to the trim plate or (2) attach the trim plate and drill new holes through the front of the door to match the holes in the trim plate.  I decided to drill new holes in the door.  My reasoning was that replacement doors are easy to come by but the Sierra Grande emblems are relatively rare and I didn't want to risk damaging the emblem grinding/cutting the studs off.   

I decided to use 3M's spray adhesive to attach the trim plate. I think the adhesive would work OK if the trim plate was perfectly flat.  Unfortunately mine wasn't and the adhesive wasn't quite strong enough to keep the edges of the trim plate from curling up slightly.  Of course, I didn't know this would be a problem until after I glued the trim plate on the door and I didn't dare risk trying to pry it back off.  The last time I did that I bent the trim plate.  I solved the problem by mixing up a little epoxy and applying it under the edges in a few places, then I used some spring clamps to hold it down while it dried.  Worked like a charm.

With the trim plate securely attached, I took the door to my drill press and drilled holes in the door to match the holes in the new trim plate.  The only precaution is to make sure you don't drill through the inside of the door.  There's a good 1/4" between the inner and outer panels of the door, so it's not too dangerous.  After drilling the holes I attached the emblem and installed the door.

Almost finished.  Next I installed the new ignition marker plate and the new chrome AC air direction balls.  To install the ignition marker plate I just popped out the old one and popped in the new one.  Before I could install the AC air direction balls I needed to replace the old felt in the ball housings with new felt.  The new felt was pre-cut to width, so all that was needed was to trim to the correct length.  Rather than cutting the felt strips to length before I installed them, I sprayed some 3M adhesive on one side of a strip, placed the strip in the housing and then trimmed it to length.  I then placed the new AC direction balls in the housing, snapped the hose to the housing and screwed the housing back onto the dash.

One more item and I'm calling the dash done.  The first time I drove Maych after dark I noticed that the instrument panel appeared to have a bulb or two that was not working.  I  hoped it was just burned out bulbs, so when I ordered the new items for the dash I also ordered several replacement bulbs.  Turned out only one bulb needed replacement, so I have several spare ones for future use.

The dash portion of the restoration of the cab interior was now complete (at least for now).  At some point in the future I may replace the instrument panel bezel and repaint the top of the dash, but for now it looks real sharp.  

So, it's on to the cab roof. . . 

 

 

Copyright 2001-2006 by Johnny M. Patterson
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