Dashboard design evolved over the years from straight, almost vertical panels in the '20s to beautifully molded metal sculptures in the '50s. It's a part of the interior that the driver has to constantly look at while driving, so car manufacturers thought it should be functional as well as attractive. In the '30s and '40s dashes were wood grained metal and later painted to match the color of the car or the interior. One thing they all had in common was they were structurally sound because they also had to support the steering column. A strong dashboard was a good thing in many ways, but in case of an accident they could be very dangerous to the occupant.
In the late '50s and early '60s padded dashboards were introduced by many of the car manufacturers as a way of protecting the driver in case of an accident. The padded dashes were softer than the metal dashes, so they may have helped add a little protection, but most buyers purchased them because they looked nice. In many cases a padded dash was optional and had to be specifically ordered by the car buyer, and that was the case with this '65 Pontiac dash being restored at Just Dashes. In '64 and '65 a padded dash was optional, so the buyer who ordered a GTO for cruising around town could purchase the optional padded dash, but the fellows who were buying the car to drag and street race would leave that option box unchecked, because to them it was just additional weight.
Today most GTO/LeMans restorers prefer a car with as many options as possible so most want a padded dash. The problem restorers are facing is the padded portion of the dash is usually weather worn and cracked. Depending on where you live the dash could reach temperatures as high as 120-degrees in the summer or drop to 40-degrees below in the winter months. After years of expansion and contraction by the foam padding, the original vinyl material would eventually get brittle and crack as well. Pontiac used a very strong vinyl, which they called Morrokide in the '60s, so these dashes are generally in better condition than vinyl materials from other manufacturers, but they can still take a beating from Mother Nature.
If you have a dash pad that is torn or cracked there is a solution regardless of year, make or model. Just Dashes in Van Nuys, California can turn that old dash pad into one that looks brand new. We followed an early GTO dash pad through the restoration process and were amazed by the Thermo Vacuum Forming process and their quality of craftsmanship. There is a good deal of work involved in recovering a dash, and most of it is done by hand, so the cost of having your dash recovered is actually very reasonable when you take that into consideration. The company has recovered dash pads for every make and model of car and this GTO/LeMans dash pad is probably one of the easy ones. The material used in the recovering process is black but the company has a coloring section that can dye the dash to match your original interior color or create a custom color. They have done a vast amount of research to get the dyes used to match the interior colors exactly and also offer do-it-yourself vinyl dye kits for professional quality at home interior touchup or color changing.
Just Dashes also can restore 50s and 60s dielectric multi-color door panels because they are not being reproduced. The company began refurbishing door panels for many car makes and models and the ones we have seen are exact reproductions. They even matched the interior panels for a '64 Dodge we were working on and the panels were perfect right down to the Mylar chrome tape that Dodge used. If you are restoring a car and have door panels that are less than perfect we recommend giving Just Dashes a call to see if they can restore the ones you have. In this article we will show you how a GTO/LeMans dash pad undergoes a concours resto from start to finish.