Few aspects better mirror the condition of a classic car before renovation than its interior.
At least sixty years have gone by since the vehicle rolled of the production line and hundreds if not thousands of hours have been spent by driver and passengers being carried in it, as well as any manner of goods and proobably a family pet or two.
Restoring the interior of a classic car covers a number of different procedures –starting from the focal point of the vehicle - its dashboard. As well as the steering wheel, The dashboard will always contain a number of gauges and instruments providing the driver with vital information of what is happening in the engine and its ancillaries.
Almost every vehicle produced pre-war and well into the Fifties were graced wish dashboards produced in the finest of lacquered wood veneers.
During the Sixties metal and even molded plastic dashboards became more widespread, with up market models also fitted with complementary centre consoles and door trim.
Time and constant exposure to UV rays will take their on any vehicle’s interior trim, a situation that at one time called for almost certain replacement, involving considerable effort and expense bringing dashboards and centre consoles back to premier condition.
Thanks to the advances in classic car restoration a large number of companies have sprung up in the UK and Europe, who specialising in producing aftermarket dash trim kits that will instantly solve the problems of faded interiors.
Even though there will be very few restorers with sufficient skills to handle the actual cutting and assembling the dashboard and other parts, they can save even more money by rubbing down and polishing the material while the work is in progress. For those who choose not to go it alone , there are still a number of long-established companies who specialise in restoring wooden trim either with or without the option restore original wood steering wheels to the high quality shiny lacquered finish that they carried when first produced. The majority of steering wheels produced during the Fifties and Sixties were produced using thermoplastics.
Thermoplastics make ideal steering wheels. When heated and subjected to controlled pressure they can be readily cast into any shape through a process known as injection-moulding, around a metal frame.New or even refurbished steering wheels can be supplied either in the original manufacturers colour or any other to match the vehicle’s color scheme.
Unlikely thought it may seem up to forty years ago, the only legally required instrument to be found on a vehicle’s dashboard was the speedometer, with the rest according to the driver’s specifications to perform a function and some simply for show.
Restorers surveying a dashboard of the vehicle to be restored must take into account that instruments and gauges of the Fifties and Sixties were very basic and if they haven’t been renewed, they will need to be.
Once again, the restoration industry provides a solution with a few specialist instrument restorers and calibrators to be found either on-line or through owners clubs who will repair or sell new and refurbished instruments and gauges to suit any vehicle.p>Common gauges include fuel gauges, oil pressure gauges, tachometers. temperature gauges and even one that reports on the temperature outside the vehicle.
With the choice of gauges almost limitless the restorer should not make the mistake of installing too many, cluttering up the dashboard and ruining its aesthetics.
Car radios were first introduced in the US in the Thirties and made their way rapidly into the UK and Europe not long after.
By the Fifties it was common for most models of car to be fitted with an integral radio, except those in the very low price rang. Originally most radios fitted operated on AM with radios that operated on the FM band scarcer.
During the mid Fifties AM/FM radios became very commonplace, remaining the industry standard up till the end of the Sixties and onwards. Manufacturers took great trouble to integrate radios as unobtrusively as possible, blending in nicely to the dashboard.
Auto sound specialists have overcome the problem by installing a state of the art sound system in the glove box, There are also a few classic style radios available on the market that will give both the look and the sound.
A compromise worth considering is to take the original radio, if it is still around, remove its inner workings and update them providing a much-improved sound.If the radio is found to be beyond saving there a lot of classic receivers to be had at reasonable prices. They can be found either online, at owners’ meetings or even car boot sales and swap meets.
When the classic been worked on rolled off the production line the chances were that it was not fitted with safety belts. Installing safety belts only became compulsory in the mid-Sixties although it only became law to wear them in early 1983 for front seat passengers, with adult back seat passengers obliged to clunk-click from 1991. That means that the classic must have a full set of seat belts installed if it is to be legally driven on the roads, something that the restorer will have to take into account to complete the interior restoration.
Dashboard on Alfa Romeo 1750
Basic dashboard of a Ford Anglia
Rich wooden trim on a Mark X Jaguar
Futuristic dash on a Citroen DS19