As our 2013 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour car progresses it becomes apparent this '51 Ford is going to see more than just your average rod run. Of course Jerry Dixey has been seeing to that for more years than he cares to count, logging about 25,000 miles a year on each tour car, but this one will have an all-new accomplishment by the year's end.
The car is being built at Honest Charley Garage, a company that is part of the Coker Tire group, and when it comes to driving old cars, the Coker family loves to participate in vintage car rallies, including The Great Race. Since vintage car rallies are open to modified and original cars, the plan is to take this chopped and channeled, twin-turbo Ford-powered hot rod on a vintage car rally. We won't be able to make the time commitment required to do the great race, rather the car will participate in a regional three-day rally, with one of our magazine staff as part of the team. We'll keep you posted on that as the rally time approaches.
So what does all this rally stuff have to do with a dashboard story in STREET RODDER? Simple, this car is going to be equipped with a rally clock, specially designed by Dakota Digital that will allow the navigator to accurately time the prescribed routes. To that end the '51 Ford dashboard must be modified to accept this rather large clock.
The '51 Ford dashboard is no doubt the best looking dash of all the '49-51 shoebox Fords and arguably one of the best looking dashboards to appear in any '50s car. The asymmetrical design, the fine insert mesh, and simple single cluster all add up to a great looking and very functional dashboard. None of this was lost on Greg Cunningham and the team at Honest Charley Garage, so they carefully planned a dashboard modification that would still carry the great '51 Ford look, but also provide room for the aforementioned clock and new gauges.
To accomplish this task a second '51 Ford dashboard was used for parts, and rather than try to keep the asymmetrical design, Honest Charley opted to go symmetrical in the basic design. To that end the second dashboard donated the speedometer "brow" and some of the raised portion of the dashboard. Then Richard Marter deftly cut up the pieces and welded them to the original dash. Like all modifications patience and careful alignment of panels are imperative. The original glovebox was sacrificed, but the glovebox door was severely sectioned and relocated toward the center of the dashboard. Vintage Air in-dash outlets were located and then the dash was ready for final prep and paint. When it was all completed it looked like a dashboard that could have been stamped in Dearborn in 1951.
When the donor car for the 2013 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour car arrived, one of the best pieces was the uncut dashboard. The '51 Ford dashboard is one of the best looking dashboards ever built.
Honest Charley Garage located this second dashboard, it was cut up to provide pieces for the modification. You know what they say, "You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet."
The speedometer brow and the associated raised feature line were cut off the donor dashboard to be relocated on the passenger side of the dashboard. This second brow will hold a large rally clock specially built by Dakota Digital for the car.
After removing the glovebox hinge, the bottom of the seam on the bottom of the dashboard was welded together with a Miller MIG welder.
Forming the filler piece for the glovebox opening was a straightforward job of simply rolling a piece of 18-gauge sheetmetal to fill the opening.
Looking at the bottom of the dash illustrates how the panel filled the glovebox opening up to the dogleg in the stock dashboard. The gaping hole to the right once held a large radio speaker.
A little work with the Eastwood hammer and dolly ensures the panels are perfectly matched prior to final welding.
This piece was also removed from the donor dashboard. This is the piece of the feature line that went diagonally across the dashboard to the bottom of the dash. We transplanted this piece to the far right of the dashboard.
At this point we have located the rally clock brow on the right and filled the glovebox. We have also extended the feature line on the dashboard to connect with the second brow by using pieces from the donor dash.
The Eastwood stretcher helped to reshape the panels and produce perfect contours for our "one out of two" dashboard build.
After cutting the raised feature line out of the dashboard the edges were deburred and gently hammered to match the contour of the dashboard.
By combining and reshaping parts of the raised feature line from the donor dash Richard Marter was able to get a perfect fit on the end of the dashboard.
The very bottom of this piece was tapered to an end and once the piece was fitted a line was drawn on the dash by following the edges of the new piece.
Carefully following the scribed line with a cutoff wheel Marter removes the dash material behind the soon to be grafted feature line.
The dashboard and the new glovebox filler piece were both cut so the feature line would be a butt weld rather than lapping the feature line on top of the dash panels. This makes for a cleaner radius and easier finishing of the welds.
After finish welding with a Miller TIG welder Marter worked the welds perfectly flat. At this point the dashboard is beginning to resemble a stamped piece.
Likewise the top of the brow and all the welds on the newly formed feature line are carefully sanded to the proper profile.
When it came time to fill the gaping hole left by the original radio speaker Marter sectioned the glovebox door and fit in into the dash. Comparing the modified dash to the stock dash shows just how much surgery was performed.
In the center of the dash we located a Dakota Digital clock between two Vintage Air outlets. The car uses a Vintage Air system.
The original '51 Ford gauge pod was retained and filled with a six-in-one gauge cluster from Dakota Digital; speedo, tach, oil pressure, water temp, volts, and fuel level are monitored in this gauge.
After a skim coat of body filler and a coat of epoxy primer from PPG the dash is looking good. The large rally clock on the right will have a matching gauge face from Dakota Digital. By using the original Ford accent lines and gauge pods the dash contains plenty of '51 flavor.
Watch the guys over at Honest Charly Garage work on our '51 Ford Dashboard here.
To see more videos which cover the build of the 2013 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour '51 Ford click here.