1975 Chevrolet Laguna - A Dash Of Class
Just Dashes And Grant Products Made Our Laguna Interior Like New Again-And Compared To The Alternatives, It Was Very Affordable.
From the August, 2010 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Jim McGowan, Johnny Hunkins
It cost us a total of $900-$100...
It cost us a total of $900-$100 for a used Laguna dash and $800 for the Just Dashes restoration service-to get our dash in like-new condition. The restored dash is indistinguishable from a brand-new one. (Note how the Laguna dash is divided into two parts-a soft upper pad and a hard plastic section.) Read on to see how Just Dashes performs this miracle.
Whether you like PHR's
or not, you will be able to appreciate the sheer impossibility of finding a reproduction dashpad. Even more daunting is finding-and paying for-an NOS piece in the case of a really rare muscle car where a reproduction part is not available. Even in this day of online auctions, it seems like finding the right dashpad in serviceable shape is next to impossible. We looked everywhere for our Laguna, and only found used ones in poor condition. Fortunately, an old, beat-up dash is all you need to start with if you elect to use the services of Just Dashes in Van Nuys, California.
Just Dashes can completely refurbish any old dashpad (or instrument panel too), and you won't be able to tell the difference between the restored one and a brand-new one. The cost isn't cheap-it ran $800 to restore our Laguna's dash and companion plastic dash panel-but it's far less expensive than tracking down and buying a NOS part for three or four times that amount. For many muscle car projects, this is the only viable option, short of building a custom dash.
This before and after comparison...
This before and after comparison shows how far our interior-and the dash in particular-has come since we bought the '75 Laguna a year and a half ago. Other key changes include Procar Rally 1000 seats from Scat, a Stewart Warner Maximum Performance tach, Summit Racing supplemental gauges, new carpet from OPG, and lots of rattle can work. We picked up this nice looking, used billet steering wheel from a swap meet for $50, but discovered it was too large, and it burned our hands in the sun. Check out the wood Grant Classic steering wheel toward the end of the story to see the updated wheel.
The turnaround time on our project was only a couple of weeks, not including shipping time. Moreover, all the parts were meticulously packed by Just Dashes, and clearly labeled. Our dash actually consists of two parts, the padded upper portion, and the hard plastic lower portion, which Just Dashes cleaned, and applied matching dye to. We did need to find a used dash first, since Just Dashes does not stock these, and we wanted to keep our car driveable in the interim. We located one from fellow Laguna lover, Steve Yoder, for $100, and had him ship it directly to Just Dashes for us. Once restored, the Just Dashes piece went in perfectly without any hang-ups, and the visual impact was immediate and dramatic. As an unexpected bonus, the Laguna even smells like a new car again, because all the vinyl and foam is new.
To finish off the interior, we added one of Grant's Classic-style walnut steering wheels. Grant seems to really understand the muscle car guy, because they offer a wide selection of classic and nostalgic steering wheels that have a period-correct look, but with the sizes and features desired by modern drivers. For instance, we really dig Grant's walnut wood wheel for its look and feel, but we also like the fact that the metal rivets that hold the wood-and the metal part of the rim-are recessed to prevent burned or frozen hands. When we saw that Grant made a small-diameter walnut wheel with satin black three-hole spokes, we realized it fit the vibe of the car perfectly, and we ordered one. It matches our satin black paintjob and the rest of our interior perfectly, and our days of burning our hands on a metal rim are over.
In just one day, we completely transformed Project Laguna. Granted, the exterior is the most memorable visual feature of any car, it is the interior that makes it easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. Nowhere is this more manifest than the dashpad and instrument panel. Interestingly, it is now the interior that garners the most compliments from our Laguna, and that's saying something.
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT
|Used dash for '75 Laguna
|Just Dashes dash restoration
|Grant 13.5-inch Classis Series steering wheel
|Grant wheel installation kit
|Grant Bow Tie horn button
|Dupli-Color Vinyl & Fabric paint
|Misc. interior fasteners
|*Price from Summit Racing
The transformation started...
The transformation started when we sent a used Laguna dash to Just Dashes. The vinyl on the original pad is now being sanded and prepped for the application of new, high-density, closed-cell foam. The approximate 5x5-inch area in the pad, which housed two side-by-side A/C vent ducts, has been filled, as we no longer wanted them. A backing was added to the reverse side of the pad, and the area then filled with sandable foam.
The foam filler is now sanded...
The foam filler is now sanded smooth with the surface of the dashpad. At this time any surface imperfections are filled, and the entire area of the pad sanded to provide a good adhesion surface for the new foam. In some extreme cases, the old vinyl must be completely removed from the core; in this case it will be used as a base.
A new layer of state-of-the-art...
A new layer of state-of-the-art foam has been glued to the surface. It is now hand shaped to the exact contours of the pad. There's a lot of handwork and attention
to detail involved in creating a concours-quality restoration.
Any openings must be perfectly...
Any openings must be perfectly shaped in order for the original parts, in this case a vent grille, to fit exactly back into position. Notice the hard, straight features of the shapeable foam.
The Laguna has a logo emblem...
The Laguna has a logo emblem embedded in the pad. This area must be worked exactly right in order to provide for the thickness of the new vinyl skin, and
allowing the emblem to be replaced and fit properly.
You can see how nice the area...
You can see how nice the area where the vents were removed is finished. There is no sign they were even there. Just Dashes can perform many custom alterations, per the customer, that would never be noticed by someone unfamiliar with the part. They have even added gauge pods for an added cost.
After the foam surface is...
After the foam surface is completely inspected, the pad receives a coat of professional grade adhesive, which must be applied perfectly even. No lumps or imperfections can occur here, as they will show on the surface of the finished product.
The pad is then positioned...
The pad is then positioned and supported in the Thermo vacuum forming machine, and a sheet of hot vinyl in the correct factory grain pattern, is sucked down over the part. The vinyl will take the exact form of the pad and be pulled into every nook and cranny. It's a great process to watch.
Once the vacuum is shut off,...
Once the vacuum is shut off, the hot vinyl is sprayed with water to assist the cooling process. The excess vinyl is cut away, the part removed from the machine, and it's off to the finishing department.
After a quality control inspection,...
After a quality control inspection, glue is applied along the underside edges of the pad. Additional excess vinyl is now cut away, leaving just enough to wrap around the outside edges of the part.
The craftsman at Just Dashes...
The craftsman at Just Dashes uses a heat gun to soften the cooled vinyl so it can be folded around the pad edges. This is a critical step, as a wrong cut or overheating the vinyl can send the pad back to ground zero for a redo.
The original red plastic lower...
The original red plastic lower portion of the dash we bought from Steve Yoder is now painted to match the new black pad-and the rest of the Laguna. It's important to make sure the finish on both the pad and the trim shown here, are the same hue of black. With both the pad and the trim restored, it's time for installation.
Back at the Popular Hot Rodding...
Back at the Popular Hot Rodding tech center, we got to work rehabbing the instrument panel that we got from fellow Laguna nut, Larry Belcher. The Laguna's panel is covered with a fake wood laminate, which we peeled off to reveal a textured black plastic. We removed the HVAC controls, the vent, and the radio face, then created white cardboard templates to cover the holes. Once the templates' fit was double-checked, we used the cardboard pieces to create plastic block-off plates with a similar texture as the IP. With these glued in place with epoxy, we hosed the whole thing down with Dupli-Color's black vinyl and plastic paint.
Since we still had our original...
Since we still had our original dash in while our second one was being restored by Just Dashes, it was easy to R&R. Nevertheless, if you're sending your old dash out for restoration, your memory will fade in the three or four weeks before you reinstall it, so you'll want to take pictures and make notes.
A dash restoration wouldn't...
A dash restoration wouldn't be complete without a fresh steering wheel, and we found the perfect one in Grant Products' 13.5-inch Classic wood wheel (PN 313, $79.95). We were attracted to the small diameter and its matte black spokes. We also got a Grant installation kit and a Chevy-specific horn button for another $34 from Summit Racing.
We defy you to show us a more...
We defy you to show us a more seductive cockpit! The new Grant wheel, rehabbed dash, block-off IP plates, and gauges from Stewart and Summit make this Laguna look serious and functional.