Latest from my Workshop: A Dilemma for the Obsessive

Just recently Claus Ebberfeld was contemplating the ins and outs of period correct speakers in the rear window parcelshelf of his newly acquired Mercedes coupé. Pffff… hardly much of an issue is it? To ram home my point, here’s a problem which can truly effect your night’s sleep and lead to a minor mental meltdown.

Take a good look at the picture above. You’ll no doubt quickly realize that we’re looking at two dashboards for a car. I can reveal that they’re for an Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV – in this case for my GTV. Most likely you’ve already noticed that the bottom dashboard is lacking a hole compared to the top dashboard. Herein lies the basis of my dilemma.

My old dashboard had accumulated its fair share of cracks along the top. The quality of the original dashboards was so poor, that they all started cracking after some 20 – 30 years. It’s possible to buy a plastic shell which you simply glue on top of the old dashboard to conceal all the cracks. It’s both a cheap and a quick fix, but it’s not really a long-term fix, as it’s painfully obvious to the eye that this shell is perched on top in a not so discreet manor. However, there are two – or perhaps three – ways of dealing with this issue. One is to buy a brand new dashboard, and the second is to send the cracked dashboard off to a specialist who can refurbish it. The third solution – which just isn’t an option for me – is to live with the many cracks, and simply inform anyone willing to listen, that the cracks are purely a sign of historically correct wear and tear.

At well above £1000, the first solution is expensive. The second equally so at just above half the cost of a new dashboard, but then adding the price of shipping to and fro on top of it. There are only two places that can do this refurbishment properly utilizing all the bells and whistles of thermovacuum. One place is in Los Angeles, USA and the other in Australia, so that shipping cost is fairly significant too. Any possibility of buying a good secondhand dashboard evaporated long ago, as demand has been high for many years now. I sulked for a while, decided to leave it all be and see to other projects instead.

However, I then found that one of the reputable English Alfa Romeo specialists had begun producing new dashboards, which they were selling cheaper than the cost of refurbishing an old cracked dashboard. As this specialist is widely acclaimed, I didn’t see any reason to postpone matters. I transferred a rather significant amount of Sterling Pounds, and waited with high hopes for a big box to arrive at my workshop. Eventually it did, the box was indeed big, and inside was a brand new dashboard for my beloved Alfa Romeo. It would now finally have the last part of the interior sorted, so it could present in what I would define as perfect condition.

I placed the old worn out dashboard next to the new one in order to compare the two. I must confess, they’ve done a stellar job when it comes to replicating the texture and “feel” of the surface on the original dashboards. Okay, so the inner structure of the dashboard is plastic, where the old ones were metal. Fittings are therefore better attached on the old one. The finish of holes and edges is also better on the old one, and the glovebox on the new dash is at best a bit of a joke with several rivets misplaced. However, if you’re a DIY hero, much of this can be rectified. But wait a minute! The lower part of the new dashboard is lacking the hole for the choke. This is a feature only found on the 1750 models. While the dashboard is shared with the 1300 model, these don’t have this hole as the choke is instead placed under the steering column. Oh damn it!!! I grabbed the phone and called England to inform them that they had mistakenly sent me a 1300 dashboard.

The kind man on the other end of the line didn’t at first understand what I meant, but after having consulted his colleague, he made it clear to me that they only had this one version of the dashboard. In return I made it clear to him, that I had in my order precisely specified that I was after a 1750 dashboard. He then confirmed that this was indeed true – I had specified this quite clearly. Nonetheless, they still only had this one version of the dash, and if I insisted on a hole for the plate that holds the choke, then I would have to make that hole myself. All hope was sucked out of me, and I just couldn’t muster the energy to continue the discussion. Instead I politely hung up, after having advised them to give any future customers this information BEFORE they commit to the purchase.

Take a second look at that picture. There is just no way that the missing hole can be cut into the dash now, without leaving scars. It should naturally have been made before the thermovacuum process wrapped the warm vinyl around the whole dashboard. So what now? By all means, please do share your words of wisdom in the reply area.

Thus far, here’s what I ended up doing: Impatiently I started assembling the new dashboard with wooden panels, chrome trim, instruments and switches. I’ll just have to find another position for the choke. The new dash will be installed in my GTV.

The old dashboard will be sent to Los Angeles for a professional refurbishment, and then eventually make its way back into the car. But won’t that be expensive? Yep, it sure will, and I honestly feel quite ashamed, but it’s just got to be done. More than anything, I’m left annoyed that I didn’t have the strength of character to return the new dashboard, and then have the sense to simply learn to live with the historically correct cracks – but I guess that’s just not who I am.

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