It's not uncommon in our hobby to see a truck that has been customized to such an extent that it makes it quite hard for not only the newcomer but even the seasoned classic truck veteran to discern the model, year, or even the make of a hot rod hauler. This can be traced back to the earliest days of customizing when guys were swapping out items on their stock pickups in favor of more modern conveyances.
This act of updating, as it were, continues today in the guise of dropping in the latest Detroit has to offer in drivetrain and suspension components as well as using original parts from the past to customize our rides to satisfy our desire to set our rides apart from the pack. While some upgrades, such as the aforementioned drivetrain and suspension components are due to our desire to make our trucks a little more user friendly in a contemporary environment, some are made to make them even more retro, as it were.
Things like disc brakes, EFI systems, and overdrive transmissions arguably make sense, but when it comes to the aesthetic side of customization, sometimes looking to the past makes the most sense.
Here's the '52 Pontiac dash fresh from the Pomona swap meet with all the stock bits still
This has proven to be very true in the '52 Ford F-1 pickup that I've been building over the last year or so. If you're a reader of our sister publication, Street Rodder magazine, you might recall the Hemi buildup I did as well as the T5 transmission story we ran a few months prior. That's the traditional drivetrain that will inevitably power the hauler, but complementing the old parts are a few modern additions in the form of a Currie 9-inch rearend with disc brakes and a Total Cost Involved Mustang II IFS installed up front. The goal is to have a truck that will appeal to the traditional aesthetic that I love and will perform in a contemporary, real-world application.
With that traditional aesthetic in mind, I was recently looking over the cockpit confines of the stock F-1 and realized that the dash was lacking that '50's flair that I wanted. Consisting of two 41/2-inch round gauges and a minimal amount of chrome trim, it just didn't have that '50's custom look. With that said, I started scouring the swap meets and the internet in search of something a bit classier to slide into its place. What I found was a dash out of a '52 Pontiac passenger car that incorporated not only a liberal amount of chrome, but had a gauge cluster that would allow Classic Instruments to restore it complete with volt meter, fuel gauge, speedo, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges all incorporated in the same cluster. The price was right and the specs were met and soon I found myself trying to fit the wide dash into the narrow confines of the pickup cab.
Fitting a dash from a larger passenger car into a pickup is not without its share of headaches, but with a little patience and perseverance, any dash can be trimmed and shoehorned to fit just about anything. One thing to be careful of is trimming too much of the original dash and surrounding area before the new dash can be mocked up into place. This can result in more work than necessary and will compound any problems that may arise. But by going slow, measuring twice and cutting once, it's easy to fit any dash into your ride, instantly transforming a stock hauler to a custom; all in a day's work.
For reference sake, here's a Pontiac dash in its original guise. Note the healthy use of c
With the Pontiac dash being dismantled, our attention is turned to the F-1 cab where we've
Cutting out the stock dash is made easy using an HTP MicroCut 301 plasma cutter.
The stock dash is removed, except for the support brace that runs along the bottom of the
While there's room to work, we mocked up the Vintage Air GEN-II Compac evaporator unit and