Update: This did not turn out to be a lasting repair. after several months, the main crack started to re-emerge, and the truck bed lining started to blister in spots. Please do not expect this procedure to be anything more than a last resort option. If “dash caps” or replacement used dashboards are available to install, I would recommend that option first.
The 1969 BMW 2000 that I am refurbishing spent most of it’s life in a hot, dry climate which is why the body shell is in great shape and nearly rust free. However, spending 40 years baking in the sun was not so kind to the interior. This car suffered from a common malady, a badly cracked dash.
The dashboards in these cars were made of foam and vinyl, molded together over a steel shell, and over the years, the material dries up and becomes brittle, shrinking and cracking as it ages. This one was in a bad way, cracked all over, with the shroud over the instrument cluster being particularly crusty and fragile.
The best course of action would be to fit a nice supple crack-free dash from a donor car, but unfortunately, due to the relative rarity of the model, there are none of those available to me. Another option would be to have the dash recovered in foam and vinyl or leather by an auto interior specialist, but this would be pretty expensive and would not really replicate the original molded vinyl dash very well, as there would have to be seams and stitching. It would look nice, but not very original.I opted to try to repair it myself.
Fill The Cracks
I filled in the cracks using a product by Permatex called Liquid Metal Filler, which is a one part cement that comes in a tube. It air dries, and is sandable. I applied 2 coats, sanding between.
The “metal filler” alone seemed sufficient for the smaller cracks, but the shroud over the instrument pod was in particularly sorry shape. It had a big gaping crack, and the part that was not cracked was hard and brittle. I applied a patch of fiberglass cloth and resin to keep the pod from being crushed like an egg shell.
Once the fiberglass resin had cured, I sanded down the high spots and filled in the gaps with good old-fashioned Bondo and sanded that smooth. I probably should have applied a second coat of Bondo, as there were some visible pits and glass cloth texture that showe through when the paint was applied.
Now to cover up all the patch work. I found an article that described using Plasti-kote Truck Bed Coating spray to refinish an Alfa dash, and decided to give that a try.
The Truck Bed Coating went on fairly thick and spattery, which imparted a nice texture to the dash. It dried pretty hard yet resiliant and does not scratch easily with a fingernail, so maybe it will actually hold up for a while. As a topcoat, I applied 2 coats of Plasti-Kote flat black vinyl paint, which as far as I can tell, is the exact same product as the Truck Bed Coating but with a different label. I’m not totally sure of this, but before using these sprays, I did a test piece with both products applied side-by-side and I can not tell any difference between the two sides.
I am really happy with the way the vinyl paint turned out. I was worried that it would be too shiny, but the matte sheen is just right, closely resembling that of the original vinyl dash.
All of the smaller cracks – the ones that did not get the fiberglass treatment – showed through after the final coating. I’m not really sure why.
Overall, it’s a big improvement. It’s not perfect, but it will have to do until I stumble across that New Old Stock ’69 NK 2000 dash.