The first job I had to do was remove the old dash and set about making a frame to hold the new one.
Along the top I made and a strip of fibreglass sheet which fitted along the bit just under the widnscreen, then on each side
rail section I covered them in plastic then applied fibreglass matting, then wrapped them again in plastic so when it cured the fibreglass
took the exact shape of the rail to be the perfect fitting base for the dash.
Next I made up some fibreglass
sheet and made up two end plates, which would hold the upper and lower fixing pieces together.
The intersecting ribs needed to be stronger than just sheet fibreglass, so using core matting which is a
sort of plastic honeycomb covered in a felt like stuff, I made up some rib shaped pieces which would be used to give my new frame
shape and strength. Then each one was cut and shaped to fit a certain place along the dash to give me the shape I wanted.
There are still a few bits to finish off, including the heater cover and trimmings in brown leather to match the steering wheel, but
I am having trouble matching the colour, but there not vital bits so it's not so bad.
I must admit my first two dashboards
were a learning curve, but now I think I have got this one how I really wanted one, with a better driving position, and everything
to hand, plus a heater that worked and could demist the windows on the coldest and dampest of days.
As well as making a new dash I also wanted to alter the steering angle, as I always found the steering wheel
to be a bit upright for a good driving position, so set about making a bolt in frame to hold the steering wheel and universal joint
to allow me to get the driving position I wanted.
This used parts from an existing late type mini steering
column, as it had a bearing in the end, plus the mounting points for the later type stalks, with the headlights on them, over the
older type where the headlights were on a separate switch.
With the steering column in place I could then sort out the steering column cover, as well as work out how
all three sections were going to fit and join together. Then with the ribs and end plates in place I marked and fitted the support
ribs, which would allow me to cover the dash in thin fibreglass sheet, then bond it to each one to make it very rigid.
The vents I used were off two different cars, the larger side ones also had a side feed in the original car,
but I cut this out as I just wanted the front vent, and the side ones while fine as they were I needed to make a mounting for them,
as they would be sprayed and fitted after the dash had been covered.
Once the side sections had been covered in thin fibreglass sheet, I could mount the side window vents, and
the heater controls, which fitted from the back, so I made a small raised section so they could be bolted firmly in place, as
with the new longer control cables I found it put quite a strain on the unit if not mounted firmly.
To keep the screen mist free on those cold days, I needed more than just the two long vents the mini normally
has, so I decided to make air feed tubes either side so I could fit four smaller vents along under the windscreen to give it more
coverage, plus permanently open small side window vents to blow hot air on them to keep them clear as well, and coupled
with the larger moveable vents I can aim them into the car or at the windows pending what's needed.
Next my new steering wheel required a boss to fit the mini column, but on seeing the universal boss, let's
just say it was hideous, so I decided to make my own, turning down a huge chuck of aluminium to not only fit over the rounded end
of my steering column, but match up to the new steering wheel perfectly.
It's not overly fancy, as I wanted
something that looked neat and tidy and like it was made to fit there, over something flashier and was really pleased with how
it came out.
With the side section finished and fitting, I set about covering them with cream leather to match the rest
of the interior. The air vents were all sprayed cream to match the other cream stuff, and each end I opted for a strip of chrome
just to match in with the polished aluminium.
I also turned some bezels for the heater controls and sprayed
them again to match the rest of the bits.
The cowl which would sit behind the steering wheel and house the dials proved the hardest part, as I needed
the shape to match the curve of the wheel, while nicely butting up to the dash.
To solve this I used wooden
strips and fixed them around the wheel, then glued smaller pieces in-between to form a ridge shape. It was then removed from
the car, and covered in alloy mesh to smooth the curve out, then it was covered in plastic sheet then fibreglass matting applied to
form a solid layer.
When it had cured I stuck a sheet of expanded foam to the underside, then applied another
layer of matting which would form a solid and rigid shape, and allow me to cut and trim it to my desired form.
Once finished it was covered in leather and chrome strip applied round the front to finish it off and hide the leather join.
The last job was to make the facia for the instruments to fit in, along with several extra warning lights
which included indicator lights for either side, oppose to just one for both, a handbrake warning switch, and separate lights to show
when the lights are on, as in side lights and dip beam. I actually ended up with nine warning lights, so I could set them out
to be even as you looked at the dials.