CORVETTE TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

1958-1962 CORVETTE PADDED DASH   


The padded dash on the 1958-1962 Corvette is a molded device made of a closed foam material of varying thickness covered by a tough vinyl skin which is color keyed to the car's interior. It is installed over the fiberglass dash and held in place by means of both gluing and mechanical devices. The dash pad is pre-formed and, depending on the quality of the one you use, semi-ready for installation. I have seen dash pads 'for these early Corvettes, which were of such poor quality I would never attempt to install one, and I have seen pads, which were excellent in fit, color and texture. 


The pads come in a rough form, and need to be prepared for installation by cutting holes for the instrument cluster, speaker screen, defroster outlets, inside rear view mirror studs, courtesy light, automatic convertible top switch, and passenger side cove trim. In addition, the entire perimeter of the pad needs to be trimmed to fit around the windshield and around the center con- sole. The trimming, as you can imagine, needs to be done with great care so as to provide enough material to extend under the windshield area far enough to allow for future shrinkage without the possibility of the vinyl pulling out. The vinyl dash pad cover need not extend under the windshield itself, only under the rubber windshield seal. If you try to put the vinyl under the windshield, it will hold the windshield up, off of the cowl too far for a good fit. The windshield was not designed to hold the dash pad in place, and the leading edge of the vinyl pad does not need to be glued down at all. Just let it extend freely under the rubber windshield seal about 3/8" to allow for the shrinkage mentioned earlier. 


The same thing goes for the trimming of the area at the center console. The vinyl needs to disappear behind the stainless horseshoe trim (above the radio) but have a little extra for the shrinkage that will occur in time. 


I believe for a person to understand the installation of one of these pads, the trick is to under- stand the fact the pad needs to vary in thickness. The area between the rear view mirror and the courtesy light is the thickest part of the pad. The thickness diminishes, as you look closer to the edges. Many of the dash pads I have seen require the removal of some of the foam padding in various places to allow for a proper fit. It is very important to remove all the foam, leaving only the vinyl in the area just under the instrument cluster, and the passenger curved dash cove. The big trap a restorer may fall into is one whereby the pad is glued to the dash and then the instrument cluster won't bolt into place because the pad is too thick and it holds the cluster out too far. By this time it's too late to remove the foam because the pad is glued in place. The same thing applies to the passenger cove area. If all the foam is removed from the dash pad in these areas, the installation is usually very easy. 

























Another problem is gluing the dash pad to the dashboard of the car. As you push the pad into place, it seems to always slip off again before the glue is able to dry. I used two cloth straps, as you can see in the photo, to hold the pad in place overnight until the glue was dry. The straps are wide enough so as not to leave a mark on the new pad. It really worked very well. I used some wood to force the pad up into the (lower) area of the courtesy light, as the straps were loose in that area. In order to use the straps, it is necessary to remove the radio and the cowl vent. 


The solvents used in some types of trim adhesive will actually eat away some of the foam as the glue is drying, and therefore I would recommend using a spray trim adhesive as the spray will go on evenly and you will not be able to see lines of glue through the pad later (lines from the glue coming out of a tube). 


Actually, the glue is not necessary to keep the pad in place. The various devices attached to the car through holes in the pad will hold the pad to the dash. The glue is only used to keep the pad from lifting up in random places when the sun heats it. 


I recommend the pad be glued into the car before the holes are cut for the defroster openings, the rear-view mirror or the courtesy light. The hole for the speaker, however, should be cut before the pad is glued as the pad must be fastened with the speaker hole exactly over the corresponding hole in the top of the dash. This is where the straps are most helpful. 


After the pad has been glued in place, I used an ice pick to poke a hole through the dash pad in each place where openings had to be cut. That is, I reached up under the dash and pushed the point of the ice pick through the hole in the fiberglass for the inside rearview mirror, defroster, etc., and this method assured the holes will be placed exactly where they need to be. I used hole punches and a razor knife to cut the exact size end shape openings I needed for each item. 


I think it is important to black out the visible foam in the defroster openings with a black felt- tip pen so later when you look through the windshield, you will not see the light colored foam inside the defroster opening.










     

   

















In preparing the car for the installation of the dash pad, I think it is important to repair the screw thread holes for the dash end caps. These holes as well as any other place where tapping type screws are threaded directly into fiberglass will strip out in time, and when the dash end caps are installed, the screws that hold them need to be secure in order to pull the cap firmly into place. It is this end cap, which holds the portion of the padded dash from the defroster outlet to the car door.













 



















Another area I would like to mention is the area of the speaker-retaining ring. On those cars with retaining rings around the speaker grille, the studs for this ring project out of raised, oval bosses. These bosses will push the pad down and cause a tuft if a space is not prepared for them in the top of the pad. I have included a photo of the speaker ring poised for installation, and the corresponding recess in the dash pad ready to receive the boss so as not to cause a distortion. 


The Corvette dash pad is not easy to install, but I believe for the most part the Corvette owner is better able to do a good job than most trim shops, because it is more a labor of love than a matter of skill or experience. 


I hope that article will shed a little light on the subject, and I would recommend a person consider doing this job for himself or herself because it is rewarding to accomplish.



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