By Ron Ceridono
It's undeniable that over the years vintage tin has become rare and expensive, and that's particularly true of anything made of sheetmetal for a '32 Ford. Take the sedan dashboard shown here. Not long ago we wouldn't have hauled it home for free, but today it's a different story. When we had the opportunity to pick up what remained of a sedan dash for 50 bucks, we jumped on it.
Our plan was simple enough: Use our sorry original for it's top rail and end pieces, pop for a reproduction Brookville roadster dash, and graft the two together; presto-o-change-o, a sedan dash. But alas, things don't always go according to plan. To our surprise, we found the "indented" portion of the roadster dash was much wider than the sedan's. So, simply grafting the top of the closed dash to the bottom of an open car's wasn't feasible. Still we were determined to make something out of our remnant of a sedan dash, so we turned to a Brookville once more; this time we tried a '32 dash for a Model A roadster. The good news was the shape of the A panel and the width of the indentation were just right. The bad news; it wasn't quite tall enough to fill the huge hole in our sedan dash.
With various pieces of new and used sheetmetal in hand and a vague idea in mind, we headed south to Randy Clark's Hot Rod & Custom Stuff. There, ace metal man Lars Bloomberg took a look at what we had and started slicing and dicing. Essentially, the center of the Brookville dash was cut out, and then that piece was split horizontally. Next, a filler strip was added to make it the proper height.
Watching Lars work his magic was an educational experience to say the least. One of the things we learned was the importance of fitting the various pieces together. Lars makes very precise cuts and makes sure all the joints are as tight and gap free as possible (especially when the pieces are to be TIG welded). As a result very little filler rod is needed. He also uses lots and lots of tack welds, and skips around taking his time to do the final welding, which minimizes distortion. And finally, as soon as the welding is complete, the seams are hammered to smooth them and relieve stress.
If you're doing a similar project at home, the same techniques apply. Be careful when fitting pieces together. For MIG welding, a slightly larger gap will work well (generally about the same as the diameter of the welding wire). But above all, take your time, work slowly, and don't concentrate too much heat in any one area.
Although there are more reproduction sheetmetal parts available than ever, there are also fewer originals to be found. That means if a new piece isn't available, you may have to repair something that is rougher than you'd like. SR