I took on a major challenge this weekend and the project was successful. I completely replaced the cracked dashboard in my 91 Spirit with a nice dashboard from a 94 Spirit that I saw in the boneyard last weekend.
My car is in pretty good shape, but the Florida sun had cracked the dashboard and it looked really ugly, so I knew I had to do something about it. About a year ago, I made an attempt to remove a dashboard from a similar vehicle in the boneyard, but ran out of time and patience. This is a major undertaking and not a project for the faint of heart.
It all started last weekend when I was in the yard looking for parts for my recently purchased G. Voyager. I saw this Spirit that looked identical to mine. It was a car from the north that had recently been added to the yard. The interior was immaculate, and even though it was a 94, the dash looked identical to my 91. I decided I had to give it a try and when I came back this Saturday, a few things had been removed, but the dash was untouched. I arrived at opening time for the yard (9:00 AM) and went to work. By 11:00 AM I had it out, along with a new heater control unit and new visors. The headliner had already been salvaged. Total cost for everything was $60, and the yard made me cut the VIN number off before I could buy it.
Changing out these dashboards involves a lot of work and here is a summary from my memory of what had to come off: Dash pad (grille), glove box, upper left dash trim, center trim, dash cluster, headlight switch (and associated trim), defrost switch, traveller, radio, ash tray, lower left panel, fuse block, turn signal flasher, relay block, parking brake lever, hood release handle, heater control unit, cigar lighter, trim around steering column, lower pillar trim on right and left, some HVAC tubes and the duct work that goes under the steering column, lower left side steel brace (under lower left trim), carpeted trim around air bag computer (center hump). Also, the steering column need to be lowered to the seat (battery disconnected, of course). It seems that a couple hundred screws are involved in removing everything. The major support bolts are at the windshield under the defrost grille, the left and right kick panels, the steering column nuts, and two nuts at the center hump at the airbag computer area.
I had to get the VIN swapped from my dash to the new one, replace some rotted foam at the heater/AC box outlet, and then I began the massive task of putting the new dash in. This was the biggest part of the job. There are a gazillion electrical plugs, plus HVAC tubing, heater control cable, etc. that have to be placed in the correct position before the dash can be bolted in. It took several hours to get everything in-place, but I managed to get the dash in nicely and about 1/4 of the things hooked up before darkness hit. I finished the rest by Sunday early afternoon and got the old parts back to the boneyard for my $3 core credit
[Editor's note: the VIN swap is highly illegal unless performed by a licensed mechanic, who must fill out an affidavit and get special dispensation. This is not something you can legally do yourself, and the penalties are very harsh.]
All I can say is that it looks real nice, ...but what a job
So far, the only problem I have discovered is that my nice looking replacement heater control panel has two bulbs burned out in it, and I know that those are a bear to change. I am very satisfied at the outcome, but I am tempted to say "don't try this at home folks"
My wife happened to come of the house when I had the everything out and I saw her face turn a pale white, and then she shook her head and said "only YOU would do something like that". She does like seeing the car, now that it is done, with a nice looking interior.
Sorry for the long story, but I thought a few of you might want to know what's involved in changing a cracked dashboard