Restoring Early '60s Mopar Dashes
By John Gunnell
Restoring early '60s Mopar dashboards means dealing with specialists. Jerry Kopecky, of Iola, Wis., restores Chrysler 300 Letter Cars. When he restores the dashboard of an early '60s Chrysler Letter Car, he works with Just Dashes www.justdashes.com and JC Auto Restoration www.jcauto.com
The "Buck Rogers" instrument panel used in the Chrysler 300F is unique. It has all of the engine monitoring gauges housed in a "globe" or "bubble" with electro-luminiscent lighting. One might think that the restoration of one of these instrument panels would be on a par with building your own Space Shuttle, but Kopecky discovered that JC Auto Restoration restores them and a Canadian supplier even manufactures replacement wiring harnesses for them.
Here's the unrestored instrument panel on a 1960 Chrysler 300 F that sat outside in Alaska for many years.
To do dashboard restoration work, Kopecky made his own "dashboard rotisserie." After sending the display bubble off to JC Restoration, he mounts the rest of the assembly in his dashboard rotisserie, so he can flip the unit over to work at different angles. The dash also has a lot of bright metal trim bits that he sends to Iverson Automotive, in Minnesota, to be buffed up or re-plated.
Kopeck Restorations built this dashboard rotisserie to hold the dashboard for disassembly and clean up.
The dashboard is completely taken apart. Each piece is sandblasted and refinished. The old brittle, faded and spliced wiring is replaced with a completely new harness. All chrome trim is re-plated and all gauges are sent out to be rebuilt. When it's re-assembled, you have what amounts to a new dashboard. Kopecky keeps a visual record of all work done with digital photos and videos. "Taking lots of pictures is a good way to keep track of your interior restoration project," says Kopecky. "I would highly recommend it to any restorer."
When the instrument panel gets to JC Auto Restoration, in Lynnwood, Wash., repairs go fast and smooth The company — owned by Jeff and Lisa Carter — has specifically researched how to repair instrument panels for '60s Mopars with electroluminescent backlighting. JC also does other specialty jobs.
A close-up of a 1960 Chrysler 300F dashboard and gauges mounted in the rotisserie and ready for disassembly.
"For a 1960 Chrysler 300 F, we typically restore the instrument panel, the heater, the air conditioner, if there is one, the push-button automatic transmission switch and other electric motors," Jeff explained. "We have three 1960 Chrysler 300F electroluminescent instrument panels going in the shop right now."
Electroluminescent instrument panels are backlit using a system — introduced on 1960 Imperials — that Sylvania Electric Products, Inc. (later GTE) devised. Electroluminescent was then used on Chrylser cars as late the 1967 Dodge Charger. Each gauge pointer becomes an individual light source.
Jeff Carter first got involved in repairing electroluminescent backlighting after buying a 1961 Chrysler 300G in 1978. "The instrument panel lights on the car didn't work," Jeff recalls. "There was no information available at that time, no light bulbs, nothing in the whole program and we really just started from there."
Carter learned his repair techniques through trial-and-error and by contacting Osram Sylvania headquarters in Danvers, Mass. Carter found out how to rebuild the power pack that powers the electroluminescent lighting system.
Carter estimated that JC Restoration restores about 40 electroluminescent instrument panels per year. "We're a small shop, but we have two employees who do instruments on a full-time basis," Jeff said. "Since we do all of the work in house, we can control the quality of the work and the schedule for doing it."
Complete instrument panel restorations are a service that JC offers, but other Mopar collectors need only a power pack rebuilt. That's a separate service. JC Restoration also has a warehouse full of NOS and used gauges for Mopars.
The 1960 Chrysler instrument panel recently done for Kopecky Klassics was a true work of art, as reflected by the accompanying photos. Even more important was the fact that it was done with a one-week turnaround time.
04- This is a 1960 Chrysler 300F gauge cluster after restoration by JC Auto Restoration. The Lynnwood, Wash. company is the best at this job.
"We specialize in electroluminescent panels and we're really the best at that, but we have also diversified into doing other jobs, and with the current economy, I'm glad of that," says Carter. "We just rebuilt a beautiful set of original gauges for a 1942 Willys hot rod pickup, since the owner thought the original instrumnents looked better than aftermarket replacements."
Sources: Dash, Gauge, & Interior Options
American Classic Restorations (dash and console restoration)
680 Douglas St.
Uxbridge, MA 01569
Dashboard Restorations (dashboard restoration)
Dash Specialists (dashes rebuilt & recovered)
1910 Redbud Lane
Medford, OR 97504
Just Dashes (dash covers)
5941 Lemona Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91411
Toll free: 800-247-3274
Performance Restorations (dash bezels restored)
Phone: 817-433-0001 or 817-431-1888
Ultimate Rides (dash pads)
11540 Gateway East
El Paso, TX 79927
Toll free: 877-DASH PAD
Bob's Speedometer (cables and casings and clocks)
10123 Bergin Road
Howell, MI 48843
Toll free: 800-592-9673
D & M Classic Auto Restoration
57-B Creekside Park Ct.
Greenville, SC 29615
Toll free: 800-722-0854
Harnesses Unlimited (wiring harnesses)
Wayne, PA 19087
Instrument Services, Inc. (clock and gauge rebuilding)
11765 Main St.
Roscoe, IL 61073
Toll free: 800-558-2674
Instrument Specialists (instrument repairs)
14 Church St.
Oxford, MA 01540
Jack Marcheski (rebuilt gas tank senders)
100 Dry Creek
Hollister, CA 95023
JC Auto Restoration (Chrysler dash restoration)
20815 52nd Ave. W
Lynnwood, WA 98036
Phoenix Restoration (gauge face restoration)
2418 Wilkes Ave.
R S Gauge Works (rebuilding gauges)
Rhode Island Wiring Service, Inc. (wiring harnesses)
West Kingston, RI 02892
Williamson's Instruments (clock repair and quartz conversion)
2018 E. Front Ave.
Chester, AR 72934
Y' n Z's Yesterday's Parts (wiring harnesses)
333 E. Stuart Ave. A
Redlands, CA 92374
Classic Auto Radios & Clocks (radio restoration)
Lexena, KS 66215
Classic Auto Radio Service (8-track tape player restorations)
23502 Shelby Ave.
Port Charlotte, FL 33954
Toll free: 800-880-1409
Classic Plus, Ltd. (steering wheel restoration & stainless buffing)
601 Lakeshore Dr.
N. Fond du Lac, WI 54937
Toll free: 888-923-1007
Clockworks (clock repairs and quartz conversions)
1745 Meta Lake Rd.
Eagle River, WI 54521
Toll free: 800-398-3040
D & D Automobilia (steering wheel re-casting)
813 Ragers Hill Rd.
South Fork, PA 15956
David Lindquist (clock repairs and quartz conversions)
Whittier, CA 90602
J.B. Donaldson Co. (steering wheel restoration)
2533 W. Cypress St.
Phoenix, AZ 85009
Jim's Sales & Service (1920s-1970s radio restoration)
455 Gerdes St.
Breese, IL 62230
Gary's Steering Wheel Restoration (steering wheel restoration)
Toll Fre: 866-879-6525
Palo Alto Speedometer (clock repairs and quartz conversions)
718 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301-2410
Precision Stereo Repair (radio restoration)
8441 Seneca Turnpike
New Hartdord, NY 12413
Tayman Electrical (radio restoration)
244 Shopping Ave. #288
Sarasota, FL 34237
West Coast Auto Radio (radio restoration)
9260 Gainford St.
Downey, CA 90240
Williamson's Instruments (tachometers)
2018 Front Ave.
Chester, AR 72934
Quality Restorations, Inc. (steering wheel restoration)
Key Men (lock service and key making)
Monroe, NY USA 10950
Vintage Lock (lock service and key making)
144 S. Main St.
Cambridge, MN 5508
Kopecky's Klassics (restorer)
PO Box 473
N6871 Highway 49
Iola, WI 54945