There are certain aspects of automotive restoration\customizing that are inherently difficult, even though the task itself is simple. Dropping an engine in a car is a fairly simple process, but can be really tricky on certain cars and always involves a lot of R&R for parts that really don’t have anything to do with the engine, but make the actual install easier. Painting a dash is also one of these difficult tasks. The basic location of the dash is the main problem. For cars that have removable dashes, this is not really an issue; simply pulling it out alleviates the problem. But for those of us with welded-in metal dashes, things get a little more involved. Our 1971 Buick GS convertible is one such vehicle.
Since the car has been completely gone through, and was being prepped for paint, we decided to paint the dash. The seams had begun to scale up with rust from leaky top seals and the paint was looking funky, it really needed a fresh coat. The problem is that to properly spray the front of the dash where it meets the windshield, no spray gun can reach, and you certainly can’t get a good sweep in there. This leaves only one option- remove the windshield.
Removing the windshield is a little scary, these things are not cheap, at $350, a new piece of glass would seriously dent the ‘ol pocketbook, especially when the original glass is good and still in the car. Rather than risk this task ourselves, we searched out a local mobile glass installer and for $60, he R&R’d the glass. The hard part is getting the glass out, so if they get that done without breaking it, you’re golden. Our guy told us there is a 50\50 shot, but we think that is just their way of saying “If it breaks, it ain’t my fault”. Just hope your guy is good. Removing a windshield requires several specialized tools, so don’t even try it yourself, it’s not worth it.
With the glass out, we removed all of the old seam sealer, treated the rust with OneStep (a rust killer and preventative, very good stuff) and prepped the dash. For paint, we went to Eastwood and ordered up their new Hot Rod Black paint. This single-stage urethane is a semi-gloss paint and is dang close to the original sheen. You might not want this on your concours-level car, but for anything else, it is just about right. While we were at it, we cleaned and prepped the steering column, and sprayed it as well.
We used a paint booth ‘cause we have one, but a clean garage with the floors wetted down would do just fine. Just make sure you wear appropriate safety gear, like a respirator. The nasty chemicals in paint are not good for you, plus you might all loopy and end up spraying your doors…..
In the end, the dash came out like new and really looks sharp against the DuPont HotHues paint on the rest of the car. Painting your dash isn’t rocket science, but taking the time to pull the glass and properly prep it is important. A rattle can job with yesterday’s sports page on the windshield is going to look like a rattle can paint job, period. Besides, you can’t get to any of that hidden rust that is sure to ruin that new paint job.
1. While this cowl doesn’t look it, there is a terrible monster hiding under that seam sealer. The rust trail leads from inside the car on the dash and there are tell-tale signs of rust under the seam sealer.
2. The mobile glass guy has several specialized tools to get the job done. The stainless trim would get bent with the quickness if you tried to pull it without this little hook.
3. Pulling the wipers was made easy with this spring tool. This tool both holds the wiper arm and releases the spring pressure at the same time, freeing up your other hand to pull the arm off.
4. This is the most specialized tool and why we called the glass guy out. This air-powered glass saw uses a bent blade and a side-to-side moving head to cut through the gasket. Starting the cut and the corners are the hard parts. This guy made it look easy.
5. It takes 2 people to pull the glass off the car, we placed the glass on a parts stand covered in a blanket and set it in the back of the shop, so it wouldn’t get broken.
6. Removing the seam sealer proved us right, there was a lot of scale and rust starting up underneath. This would have ruined our new paint job in a hurry.
7. Once everything was sanded down, we wire-brushed the rust and then treated the area with OneStep. This spray-on chemical converts rust to black oxide, and prevents further oxidation. This stuff is great and really works well.
8. The cowl was primed and painted, along with all the door jambs, and then we prepped the dash itself. The dash was scuffed with a medium grit scotch-brite pad, being sure to cover all surfaces.
9. The steering column was looking really rough too, with lots of chips from swinging keys. We sanded it down with 80-grit, then 120 grit. If your dash is chipped or peeling, then you will want to sand it the same way.
10. The glove box had some small dents, so we sanded it down and wiped some filler on the door. The filler was sanded with 80-grit, then 120 grit.
11. The entire car was wrapped with plastic sheeting and painters tape to keep it free from overspray.
12. The interior was taped off as well. The steering wheel was a little tricky and required a lot of tape. We also covered up the inside area of the dash, we didn’t want every wire to be black.
13. The paint was sprayed on with a Devilbiss detail paint gun and left to cure for 24 hours. The results are quite stunning. We used single stage urethane paint, but an enamel paint will work too. If you don’t have the ability to spray from a paint gun, an aerosol can provide a quality job, as long as you take your time. Since you are taking the time to do it right, you should try to get a compressor and paint gun for this job.
14. While we were at it, with everything taped off, we trimmed out the cowl interior section with some undercoating. This will protect the metal from rust, debris, and moisture which will certainly get in here and fester over time.
15. The final results, the dash looks just about perfect with just the right amount of sheen. All we need now is for the glass guy to come back and reinstall the windshield. The $60 R&R charge for the glass includes a new gasket too.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).