Cars


Mini Rebuild

 

Step 52 - Lower Dashboard

 

This is one area I've been dreading. The upper and lower dashboards were cut out of the car prior to me purchasing it. As I've said before, I wanted to keep the car looking as close to original wherever possible. For the interior that meant keeping the centrally-mounted instrument panel and keeping the original dashboards. Most of the upper dash was long gone but I was able to easily replace it with a new part. The Mk1-style lower dash is not available new, so I had to work with the original one and a Mk4-style dash from Heritage.

 

Of course there were complications. The custom pedal assembly I had installed passed right through the plane of the lower dash. Further, the location of the roll cage's front 'legs' meant I could not insert or remove the lower dash without first removing the entire pedal assembly. I had put off solving the lower dash problem until now but it was holding things up. I decided to re-think things and suddenly realized that I really didn't want/need the lower dash to be removeable in the first place. A friend had recommended going that route and once I accepted the idea I didn't question it again until now. Now I just didn't see the point.

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

When I first tried mounting the lower dash in the stock position, I had to butcher the heck out of the front (see above). This basically ruined the panel - it lost all strength at that end and was a couple bends away from snapping like a paperclip. It also didn't look right to have the dash located behind the cage. I decided to move the dash outwards to make the front of it flush with the roll cage legs. It would have to move outwards (towards the back of the car) about 2-3", which most people would not be able to detect. It would ease the installation method as you'll see in a moment. And most importantly it allowed the dash to almost completely clear the master cylinders .

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

One problem with moving the dash backwards in the car is that sides of the car there are diverging. Basically I was moving a slice of pizza away from the rest of the pie. I would need to widen the dash by a few inches to fit into its new location. Luckily I had two dashboards - the original and one new one. I would use the center section of the original dash and the sides of the new dash.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

The next step was welding in a length of steel tubing where I wanted to mount the dash. I curved it to match the countours of the dash, notched the ends, and welded it in place.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I would mount the face panel of the dash directly to this crossbeam, then fabricate a custom dash panel to form the floor of the dash.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

The first problem with this idea was that the tube was too large in diameter to allow the switch panel to be mounted to the center of the dash.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

 

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I cut out the offending section of tube, essentially splitting the tube lengthwise along that section. I then welded on a flat strip of steel and ground it all smooth. The end result is a round tube that has a 'D' profile section.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I then welded in a length of square tubing along the firewall followed by two support tubes running to the dash tube. This would give enough strength to allow me to hang the heater underneath the center of the dash and the ECU tray from under the righthand side.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I welded the center section into place.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

Then I trimmed the righthand side of the new dash to length and test-fit it.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I welded the two together as well as welding the dash face to the cross tube.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

The dash face needed very minimal trimming to clear the master cylinders.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I went back and smoothed out the welds. When it is painted it should look pretty good.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

One other thing I decided to change while I was at it was to ditch the machined aluminum steering column support and fabricate one from steel. I decided to use two more of the steel bolt-on supports. Part of the reason for this change is that I didn't fully trust the aluminum support - and why should I? I made it! The other reason is that I was very unhappy with how sloppy the remote brake/clutch fluid reservoir setup had become. I don't like the idea of filling the reservoirs inside the car when it is all painted and the interior trim is all in place but it is the lesser of two evils. I'll just have to be extra careful.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

Here you can see the dash in place as well as the master cylinder reservoirs. You'll also notice that three sections of the dash floor with a section left out entirely for the pedal assembly.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

And here is the steering column as it sits now. I fabricated a new horizontal support using thick-wall steel tubing. It just barely squeezes inbetween the two brake fluid reservoirs.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

Now on to the ECU tray. With all the various electrical systems in the car I needed a bit more space to neatly mount them near the firewall. I decided that mounting them underneath the dash would be about the best spot. Here I am laying out various control units on a template of the tray. The upper left box is the R1 ECU. The bottom one is the Pro-Shift controller. The Power Commander piggyback ECU is to the right and the Speedohealer is at the top. Like everything on this car, it is going to be a tight sqeeze.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

By creating a hinged tray I can create a little bit more space, keep everything out of sight, but still make everything easily accessed. I welded a steel tube to the firewall and mounted a length of piano hinge to it.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

I then installed two Dzus quick-release latches.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

Detail shot of one of the latches and several of my awful welds.

 

Mini Rebuild - Step 52

Finally, I installed a catch strap to hold the tray whenever the ECU's are being accessed.

 

Continue to Rebuild Step 53

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