Friday, September 25, 2009

Misses Dash - Interior Part II

By now you have a project on your hands. I’m not sure, in the grand scheme, when, exactly, something becomes a project, but I’m willing to bet that a ’67 sports car that’s missing most of its top side and half its interior qualifies. So now what? To save your project from becoming just another boxed-up bargain listing on eBay, you gotta maintain expectations and be adaptable. Knowing that everything is not going to turn out as planned will keep your sanity in-check and your interests high. So…you find a crack in your differential mount. Big deal. Get a welder, learn to weld, and fix the darn thing. And have fun doing so.

Inspirational words and uplifting sentiment aside, dashboard removal can be quite a task with lots of wires, controls, gauges, and steering columns (er...column) in the way, coupled with intriguing design details that toy with your problem solving skills. Choice time: Do you trust your skills enough to put back together whatever it is that you take apart? If so, read on, Jack.

First things first: Unhook the battery. It’s only 12 volts so you’re not going to get shocked while you’re fiddling around behind the dash, but you could have some nice sparks and arcs if there's power back there. The lead going to the ammeter is live even with the ignition turned off (most of your car’s power goes through here and, consequently, you will not have any power to the rest of the car while the ammeter is disconnected). If you choose to remove the battery entirely, don’t leave it on the floor of the garage or anywhere else near the ground. Mystical forces are at work here and they will drain your battery dead if you let them – a couple of 2x4’s or a shelf will provide adequate insulation.

Before getting down and dirty, there are some prerequisites for dash removal:
- From the engine compartment, free your choke, hood release, and heater control valve cables from their respective mechanisms and feed the cables through the firewall into the car’s interior. You can use a Sharpie to mark the cables as a reminder of position when you reinstall them. Or not.
- Unhook the cable that goes to the heater unit under the dash – the one that controls air flow direction, not that there’s much of a choice there.
- Disconnect the control rod for the vent cowl (one of my favorite features of the TRs is that popup cowl) from the armature under the dash.
- Remove washer fluid lines from under the dash.
- If your vehicle is outfitted with a radio, please unhook it and/or get rid of it now (we’ll be discussing the sound system in a later post).

Now start disconnecting the electrical leads to the steering column under the dash, which consist of wires for the horn, directional switch, light switch, and, in some cases, the overdrive switch. Unless there’s an abnormal amount of deterioration under there, the connectors should separate cleanly with moderate force. Once you think you got all the wires, double check and move back into the engine bay.

Follow the steering column from the firewall toward the rack/pinion and stop at the first joint you come across. Douse it with CRC and loosen the retaining bolt until you have a decent amount of play there. Go back under the dash and unbolt the bolts along the column. Once unshackled, the whole assembly, steering wheel and all, should slide through the firewall and into your pants, setting up a ridiculous scenario in which you squint an eye and say to your buddy, “Arrrg, it’s drivin’ me nuts!”

When playtime is over, you should have a nice amount of room in front of and behind the dash to start removing the gauges, speedometer, and tachometer. Some masking tape and a marker will help since you really should label all the electrical connections before unplugging them.

Although the ammeter, fuel, and temperature gauges are the only ones that work on electricity, all of them have lighting in the form of a pressure-fit bulb. Pop those out, disconnect connections and unhook cables behind the dash, saving the oil pressure for last. Since this gauge is fed directly by the engine’s oiling system, there is a chance residual oil is in either the gauge or the tube or both. Just have a rag handy when you disconnect the oil line. Also inspect the connection for seepage, which could indicate cross-threading or other issues preventing proper sealing. Once the stuff is disconnected, it’s a matter of undoing a couple hand-tightened nuts that secure a U-bracket holding each assembly in place (the ashtray is mounted the same way). The gauge faces are glass, so keep them safe from harm. Don’t worry about whether the gauges are in good working order because we’ll cover how to test all of them in a later post.

So, now you should have an empty dash with wires/cables dangling beneath it. Good progress. When you’re ready, open the glovebox door and remove the glovebox liner – it’s cardboard-ish and should be held in by 6 screws. If you can’t work it completely free, don’t worry; just let it sit in the recess until the dashboard’s been removed. There should be five screws about the dash surface – you remove these and your wooden dashboard will follow.

The dashpad top is next, held in place with glue and a few screws, which are revealed when the wood dash is removed. You also need to unbolt the defrost vents from the underside. What you’ll be left with is the backing plate and the rest of the support structure – don’t be concerned with the surrounding dashpads or the vent ducts – they’ll all come off with the backing plate.

Now you can start tackling the rest of it - move on to the dash support, which is the console-like appendage that holds your radio, envelops the gearshift, and doesn’t really support the dash a whole lot. Undo the four bolts securing it to the floor and then move on up to the plinth. The plinth is the thing directly above the support that holds your controls. Why ‘plinth’? Because Triumph said so. There’s a fastener behind the plinth on the left side – unscrew it and remove the plinth, controls and all, revealing two more bolts on the dash support. Unbolt those and remove the support. Work the fasteners on the backing plate until it can be removed and, Viola! If it wasn’t a project before, it sure is now.
Here's what everything should look like now.

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