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Alphabet Dash Installation

pdfDash-Alpha-Instructions-Combined.pdf

Click to purchase the Alphabet Dash

These instructions are a transcription of a hand-me-down copy of the original instructions for the Alphabet GTO replica dash (courtesy of Kimberly Reck). I apologize in advance for the rough nature of the instructions themselves, but I think you will find valuable details within them regardless. I have edited LIGHTLY for readability, but not for content. 

What you have purchased from me is just the fiberglass dash referred to in the instructions. Any other parts that may be referenced are parts that you will have to fabricate.

This dash was originally designed for the Datsun 240Z cars and the instructions are written as if you have a 240. Installation in other cars will be slightly different than described in these instructions.

Almost everyone who has installed one of these dashes has done it slightly differently. The instructions describe removing the old dash pad from the metal structure underneath, then using the fiberglass as a new cover over the structure. However, some builders have scrapped the structure altogether. 

Don’t be afraid to do it the way you want it. Use your best judgment and I’m sure you will be happy with the results. Just make sure you “measure twice and cut only once!” 

As always, I appreciate your feedback on and photos of your installation. I will save your feedback and incorporate it into a new manual someday soon.

INTRODUCTION

Removing the dash from the vehicle is the simplest part of the project. An experienced mechanic can have the dash on the bench in well less than 2 hours. However, even at a first attempt you will be on the bench in not too much more time.

Use caution to not break the windshield. If you know you need to change the windshield, go ahead and remove it now as it makes access to mounting bolts easier.

Tools required:

A good #2 Philips screwdriver

A 12 mm socket, 10 mm socket, 6" extension, and a ratchet handle

To remove the dash itself, a universal elbow should be added to the list and is almost a must if the windshield is still in position.

Initial steps:

Check all dash lights and note which are burned out. They are much easier to replace while the dash is out of the car. 

Disconnect the battery or any other 12-volt power source (e.g. battery charger).

Empty the glove box.

Remove the glove box door, latch, and light.  

Remove the dash vent panel at the top of the dash just behind the base of the windshield. It shields the screws that hold the top of the dash. It is held on with four Philips screws. Remove them and lift the vent panel out.

Remove the seats for more room in the cockpit. You can sit on a milk crate or similar size box in order to do the rest of the work.

REMOVING OLD DASH FROM CAR

CONSOLE

The console is held in by five Philips screws, a wiring harness, choke cables (on the 240Zs), and various radio wires, plus any other wiring to aftermarket accessories that may have been installed during the vehicle's life.

Unplug the two multi-wire connectors coming from the main harness. These are located on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel close to the firewall. They are keyed male and female and will only plug back together one way.

Undo the shift lever knob.

Remove the three screws located in the package tray located rear of the console.

Remove: the two screws ahead of the shift lever toward the front of the console. They are located low on each side of the vertical panel. Note: The two screws on each side located high and toward the front are only holding the radio bracket.

Lift the console and slide it to the rear. The radio Wires should now be exposed. There are so many radios that have been put into these cars that there is no telling what you will find. In general, there will be power wire, an antenna wire, and one or more pairs of speaker wires. If there are any more aftermarket accessories, switches, etc. mounted in the console, now is the time to get them too. Just be careful and take your time undoing them. Remember to mark any wires that may get mixed up on reinstallation. .

If your car has a manual choke, the control lever is (was) mounted on the console to the rear of the shift lever on the left. The factory screwed it to the underside of the console. Wherever it is, undo it and lay it side.

Move the console up and back to remove it.

STEERING COLUMN

The steering column is held in position by two bolts holding the mast jacket to the dash, and four bolts holding the sealing plate to the firewall. It also has nine different quick-connects or multi-wire connectors between it and the main harness. Almost all of these wire connections are shrouded by a plastic cover.

Remove the mast jacket shroud. It is secured from the bottom to by four Phillips sheet metal screws buried in recessed holes, and one machine screw. Remove those screws and drop the bottom cover away.

Remove the two top bolts on the left center dash support bracket. They are exposed now but the steering column will obstruct them when you lower it. 

Use a 10 mm socket to remove the four bolts holding the column sealing plate to the firewall. Switch to a 12 mm socket and remove the two bolts holding the mast jacket to the dash. Pull the steering wheel down and take off the top mast shroud piece. This will expose the wiring connections.

You should see:

Two single red/blue-stripe wires with 1/4" tab quick-connects going to the back of the ignition switch.

One five-wire multi-connector going to the back of the ignition switch.

One white/red-stripe bayonet quick-connect.

One nine-wire multi-connector to the control lever.

One 5/16 tab quick-connect to the control lever.

One Red bayonet quick-connect to the control lever.

One three-wire multi-connector going to the turn signal lever.

One three-wire multi-connector low on the steering wire harness going to the main wire harness.

 All these connections are either color-keyed or device-keyed so they are almost foolproof for reconnection. Disconnect all these wires and pull the wheel farther down.

DASH

The dash is held in place by bolts located both under and on top of the pad shell. Use a 10 mm socket with extension as required.

Starting from the driver’s side, remove the hex bolts next to the kick panel.

One above the floor vent control knob next to the kick panel.

Two on left vertical bracket from transmission tunnel. Remove the two lower bolts and the bracket, also.

Two more on the matching right bracket. Remove lower bolts and bracket, also.

Two more in a flange on the center of the transmission tunnel.

One above the passenger floor vent control knob.

Disconnect wires from the main multi-wire connector panel above the passenger foot well close to the kick panel. There are seven multi-pin connectors on it. Five have to be pulled and all are color/size keyed. Leave the two right connectors in the lower row (large white connector and small black connector). The rest are removed by squeezing the tabs on the edges and pulling straight back. If some are tight, try a rocking motion while squeezing and pulling. If you have trouble reaching them from the bottom, they’ll be more exposed from the top in a moment.

There are five wires on the driver’s side, plus two multi-pin connectors that have to be disconnected. The multi-pin connectors go to the flashers located on the left kick panel. Three single wires exit the kick panel above the upholstery. There are two bayonet connectors and one ¼” tab quick connector. The bayonets go to the door light switch and the 1/4” tab connector is a ground. No need to mark any of the wires. The other two single wires are located on the left side of the mast jacket support and go to the brake light switch mounted on the pedal assembly. Both are bayonets and since the switch is just a simple connection, you don’t have to mark the wires.

Remove the eight bolts on the top side of the dash along the forward edge of the dash pad. The four interior bolts are close to the locations of the vent screws. The two corner bolts are tucked down close to the lower corner of the windshield. Here’s where the 3/8” universal elbow comes in handy.

Pull the dash back away from the cowl about four inches. Undo the speedometer cable and any remaining wires. Free the dash from the cowl support brackets and slide it out the right door.

REMOVE DASH PAD FROM DASH STRUCTURE

If your old dash pad is in good condition, it has some value. Use caution to not scratch or crack it if possible.

Tools required:

#2 Phillips screwdriver, regular length

#2 Phillips stubby screwdriver

FRONT SIDE

Lay dash face-up on the workbench. Working from right-to-left, undo the following items:

Glove box door, shell, light, latch (if you did not remove them earlier). Swing the door to the right and the stop tab will slide out of the slot.

Control fascia panel. There are four Phillips screws, two on each side. Disconnect the two 2-wire multi-pin connectors.

Air Distribution box behind the fascia panel. Two Phillips screws, one on each side. Slide off duct hoses.

Recessed Phillips screws at top of speedo and tach.

Trip reset and dash light dimmer knobs pull straight off.

BACK SIDE

Flip the dash over so you're looking at the back of it.

AIR DUCTS

Remove the two vertical back shell braces. Each has four Phillips screws.

Remove the air vent duct hoses. These go from the air distribution box (now removed) to the dash vents and the foot vents. There is one set of hoses on each side.

WIRING HARNESS

Unfold the retainer clips. 

Four are located on the left side

Two are on the right

One is just below the speedometer.

Unplug the various multi-pin connectors and quick connects.

2-wire multi-pin connector going to the dash light dimmer.

2-wire multi-pin connector going to the speedometer.

8-wire multi-pin connector connecting the main harness and the speedometer.

3-wire multi-pin connector doing to the warning buzzer.

7-wire multi-pin connector from the tach to the main harness.

1/4" tab and a bayonet to the cigarette lighter and safety. (The Italian-style dash has no provision for a lighter and neither does the original. So unless you're 'a confirmed smoker, leave them off during reassembly.

Three multi-pin connectors going to the small gauges in the center of the dash. There is also a single bayonet quick-connect to the center gauge. Looking from the front of the dash the three gauges from left to right are:

Water Temp/oil Pressure.

Amps/Fuel Level

Clock

Now remove the Phillips screws holding the two plastic wire ways. The center wire way has two screws. The side wire way has three screws, two are visible on top and one is semi-hidden underneath by the tach.

Lift out the harness.

Instruments and Controls

Remove the screws holding the tach and speedometer to their rear support brackets. Each has one Phillips screw.

Turn the dash right side up and slide the tach and speedometer out toward the front.

Turn the dash back on its face. Remove the three Phillips screws holding the dash light rheostat and trip reset rod. Reinstall the screws for safe keeping.

Dash Pad

Now you're down to the point of separating the pad from the shell. There are 22 Phillips screws holding the assembly together. The screws are located as follows:

One on left end

Three on left top

Three on center top

Two under the small gauges

Three on right top

One on right end

Two on right bottom

Two over and under the lighter (one each place)

Two more on left side in a more or less matching location

Three on left bottom under glove box opening

Remove all these screws

Peel the vinyl covering dash covering from the back side on the top on the glove box opening.

Separate the pad and the shell, and lift out the small gauges.

INSTALL ALPHA DASH COVER

The tools required for this part of the job are the same ones you used earlier, PLUS:

A drill motor and a set of small fractional drills.

Some method of trimming sheet metal.

A metal saw, either hand or power.

A #1 Phillips screwdriver.

In addition you will need some metal screws, finishing washers and a few machine screws and nuts.

There are several things you can do to dress up the appearance of your finished dash. Among the simplest is to use black button head socket screws to secure the small instruments in position. They are easy, look good, and are very period. Advanced builders have done things such as fabricate fascia panels from aluminum sheet and then either texture finish or engine turn (jewel finish) them. The choice is up to you. However please think twice before trying any plush treatment such as wood veneer or other luxury touches. The GTO is a very Spartan no-nonsense kind of vehicle and looks best if finished that way. Hopefully you still have the list of the dash lights that need replacing. If you haven’t changed them yet best do it right now lest they be forgotten.

UNPACKING

First look over the exterior of the box. There should be no obvious shipping damage. If there is, check for damage to the contents. If the contents are damaged or missing contact the shipping company immediately. They will instruct you on how to file a claim. 

Inventory the contents:

The fiberglass dash cover

Three lightweight aluminum brackets with pre-drilled holes.

One Alpha GTO dash badge.

DASH CUT-OUT

If you have not already one so, completely strip the metal dash shell of anything that can be unbolted or unscrewed except the brace across the bottom enter of the shell.

Paste, tape, or in some other way stick the cut-out template in position on the outside of the metal dash shell. Mark the all around the outside edge of the template and then cut on the marks. A wide tip felt pen make a dandy marker. Try to be neat and clean up any ragged edge with a small grinder or file. Since you will be working in this opening later it is far less hurtful to work with smooth edges.

Re-install the two vertical back shell braces that were removed in step 1 under ''air ducts", page 8. Also replace the two air outlets at the ends of the dash.

SMALL INSTRUMENT CLUSTER

Collect the three small instruments and a #1 Phillips screwdriver.

Remove the mounting brackets. The clock has four screws per bracket, the others only two. Save the screws. They will be used to mount the gauges to the new brackets.

Select one of the T-brackets. Using one of the bracket screws, mount it to the top of the clock with the tab ear up. Use the screw hole in the clock that is the closest to the face. Mount it with the stem on the "T" running down the center of the clock and pointed toward the face. This will leave about one half of the cross bar on each side of the clock. You will also have to bend in a small offset to clear the body of the clock.

Again using the bracket screws, mount the Temp/Oil Pressure gauge on the top of the cross and on the left side, and the Amp/Fuel gauge on the right side as you look at the face of the gauges.

Mount the remaining "T" bracket on the top of the Temp/Oil Pressure and Amp/Fuel gauges. Again, position the tab ear up.

Mount the ''U" bracket to the bottom of the clock with the tab ears *up*.  Use the screw hole closest to the face of the clock. 

SECURING DASH COVER

The dash cover is secured to the back shell with metal screws and washers. After it is in place, and the vent fascia is fitted, expanding caulking foam is used to fill the area between the cover and the shell. When the foam is completely hardened then re-assembly can be begin.

Seven is a good number of screws to use across the bottom of the shell as is five across the top. The bottom screws are #8 x 1/2" oval heads with a finishing washer and the top screws are #8 x 1" (cut down as required) pan heads with a flat washer. Use a 1/8'' tap drill. Measuring from the left-bottom corner of the dash cover, good locations for the bottom screws are:

1-1/4"

5-5/8"

18-1/2''

34"

40"

46-1/2"

51-1/4"

In all cases make sure that the hole will come through in a good spot. If the hole comes through in a double thickness area use a 9/64'' tap drill. Also try to keep the holes 1/2" in from the edge of the cover.

The drill sizes called out in the instructions are for #8 metal screws. If you use another size drill you will have to make the necessary adjustments.

Since fiberglass can be a brittle material, a couple of cautions are worth noting:

Two drills bits should be used to drill the holes for a metal screw. The first one for the tap drill through the metal shell, and the second one a slightly larger body (clearance) hole through the fiberglass. If this is not done the glass will have a tendency to fray and split.

Use washers under the screw heads to spread out the bearing forces of the screws.

Wax the outside of the metal shell with a good automotive paste wax. This will act as a release agent if the dash cover ever has to be removed from the shell. In this same line, make sure that all rough edges from the cutting have been smoothed down.

Pull the dash cover down snug on the bottom edge of the shell. It should fit neatly around the air vents on each end of the dash.

Use a 1/8" diameter drill to drill a hole near the center of the bottom edge of the dash. Remember to drill this hole about 1/2" in from the edge.

Next use an 11/64" drill as a body drill through the fiberglass

Secure the dash cover to the shell with a screw and a finishing washer.

Drill the remaining holes in the same way. Make sure that the dash is pulled down tight each time. In other words, drill and secure each location before drilling the next hole.

Moving to the top of the dash, pull the dash cover tight to the shell. Either clamp it or ask a buddy to hold it while you drill the screw holes. The holes should be placed 1/2" in from the edge on the dash and in the center, 9" and 17-1/2" each way from the center of the dash. Lay the cowl trim piece in position and lightly mark with a pencil the area of the dash cover that will be covered. Again, drill and secure one location at a time. Cut down the two outer screws and any others that require it.

Pull down the three center screws enough so that there is a level surface across the top of the dash cover. Remember, you are approximating the thickness of the padding on the stock pad so there should be a space between the cover and the shell. Lay the cowl trim piece back in p titian and check your work. Make adjustments as required.

FITTING VENT FASCIA

The vent fascia opening is undersized so that the vent fascia can be custom fitted. The edges of the vent opening are built out with body filler and are to be sanded (shaped) as required for a neat fit with the vent fascia.

Sand each side evenly until the fascia just sets into position. You might have to spring he opening a little, but make sure it if just a very little.

Replace the two vent fact mounting brackets. Secure the vent fascia into position. It should fit evenly all around. If one side, top or bottom is either recessed or proud, the mounting brackets can be bent to correct the alignment.

Remount the holder bracket for the dash light rheostat and trip reset. Reaching through the back side, mark the center of the place where the control rods would exit the dash.

Trim the edges of the bent fascia opening with satin black paint.

Drill small holes where you marked for the light rheostat and the trip reset rods. They will be enlarged and adjusted later.

Install the small instrument cluster with #8-32 x 3/4 machine screws, washers, and nuts. It is possible to install it later, but now is easier. 

IF you are going to put on a dash fascia of some sort you will probably want to hide the instrument mounting screw heads. To do this use flat-head machine screws and countersink the front side. DO THIS BY HAND!! No power tools, Fiberglass tend to be self-feeding and will suck the countersink drill right through the dash! 

Touch up the wax wherever necessary and re-install the dash cover. Leave the vent fascia out for now.

FOAMING THE COVER

As you would expect, there is a fairly large space between the dash cover and the back shell. This is the area that was taken up by the padding on the underside of the stock dash pad. There are several ways to fill this area. One of the best and easiest is to use expanding urethane foam. Polycel Insulating Sealant is a good one and is sold in most hardware stores as an insulation material.

Start by foaming under the center on the dash cover. Use enough to almost fill the area you are working on. The foam will expand very quickly to fill all the available area. The trick here is to NOT over-foam the voids. The foam will keep expanding for quite a while, it is really amazing stuff. Work outwards towards both sides. Use any openings in the back shell to squirt the foam in. Continue out to the edges of the top and down the sides. Take care on the sides so that the foam does not get away from you and run out into the air vent areas. It is better to err on the side of too little rather than too much. You can always re-foam later. When the voids are completely done, LEAVE IT ALONE FOR A DAY!! This will give the foam time to fully harden.

 When the foam is "crispy" all the way through you can trim off the excesses. A serrated steak knife makes a great trim tool. One problem you might encounter is that the foam has expanded too much and bowed the top on the dash upward between the top securing screws. IF you have this problem use the trim tool and take a horizontal slice out of the thick parts.

Now you have a turned a dash cover into a dash pad.

MOUNTING THE INSTRUMENTS

Trip reset and light rheostat

Test fit the trip reset and light rheostat bracket. Note what adjustments have to be made in the locations of holes through the dash.

Make these adjustments working from the front side of the dash. Please do this in several steps. It's much quicker than patching oversized holes.

When you're satisfied with the mounting alignment bolt the units in securely and push on the marker knobs.

Large Instruments

The tach and speedometer slide in from the front. Both of them will be held in with the rear mounting tab only. They will be secured to the original mounting points by a piece of aluminum angel and flat stock. The drawings for these brackets are included in the kit.

Bend up the mounting tab on both instruments to 90 degrees.

Install the speedometer from the front in the left hole.

Attach the angle piece to the speedometer mounting tab with the stock screw using a very few threads.

Install and attach the tachometer in the same way.

Fabricate two flat metal support pieces.

Attach the support piece to the angle bracket.

Pull the bracket back very tightly and mark the position of the original mounting bolts. You can move things around to get the instruments correctly at aligned. Use the stock mounting points to gauge the bends in the support pieces. The instruments want to be the same height as stock.

Either clamp and drill or remove and drill the flat brackets for 1/4" machine bolts.

Mount the brackets securely and pull the instruments into the dash with their individual mounting screws.

RE-WIRING

Almost all of the original wiring harness is use in its stock position. However, the wires going to the small instruments will have to be extended. There are several methods of splicing wires. Use one that you are comfortable with. The only cautions are make sure the connections are tight and that they are correct. Either a "wrong" wire or a pulled loose one will have a tendency to cause short circuiting to say nothing of the waste time.

SMALL INSTRUMENTS

Remove and save the vertical back braces.

Place the wire harness in position.

Secure the wire ways to the shell. Remember, the innermost one has only two screws while the outer one has three. You will have to find a shorter screw for the most outboard location.

Working with one gauge connection at a time, cut and extend all the wires going to that one gauge.

Lay out the length of wire that you will need to extend one wire. Duplicate it as many times as required.

Cut and splice both ends on one wire at a time.

Repeat until all wires for each connection have been extended.

Don't forget the single green/white stripe going to the Amp/Fuel gauge.

** It's easier to work with the pin connector on the wiring harness. Make sure that you have plenty of wire between the cut and the connector to make the splice --- on both sides. Follow the wire back into the harness if you think you have to.

LARGE INSTRUMENTS

Both the large instruments: Just plug back if their original connectors.

Plug the light rheostat connector into its spot in the speedometer harness.

 Secure the abandoned wires to the harness or cut off and tape. These should include:

The glove box light

The cigarette lighter (unless you've re-installed it)

The door switch (two bayonets going to kick panel)

The multi-pin connector going to the warning buzzer.

Secure the harness with the folding straps.

AIR DUCTS

Mount the air box with its two Phillips screws. The flat surface is the bottom.

Connect the vent hoses to the foot vents and the side vents. The longer hoses are on the passenger's side.

Re-install the two vertical shell braces. 

alphabet-dash-240z-1alphabet-dash-240z-2 

Additional feedback from a customer on the gauge area and using the stock Z gauges

The gauges were re-faced with white gauge faces. These can be printed with a computer and cut to fit. 

You can make the gauge panel as a sandwich. Outermost is the aluminum face, next is a clear 1/16 or 1/8" Lexan layer that is cut to a similar shape slightly smaller than the aluminum. Next is a 1/2" plywood panel that slips into the area cut out of the fiberglass dash. Behind that you can position the gauges themselves.

To keep all of the gauges looking the same, break apart the original plastic bezels on the smaller gauges and put the little metal faces into hand-built fiberglass bezels. Those fiberglass bezels are mounted permanently to a 1/2" plywood panel that cut to the shape of the curved dash pod. The plywood is painted flat black. 

The metal housings for these gauges are screwed into the exposed side of the fiberglass bezels. From the front everything is flat black except for the white gauge faces that applied to the actual gauge faces. The two larger gauges are mounted to the back of the plywood directly using L-brackets; the needles are then 1/2" behind the Lexan. 

The plywood panel will slip into a matching hole that you cut out of the fiberglass. You will have to make "stops" inside the dash to keep the plywood panel from falling into the dash. Keep in mind that you will have the thickness of plywood, Lexan and aluminum. There are five holes cut out of the plywood: the two large ones for the big gauges and three smaller ones for clock and so forth. 

The hardest part of cutting the plywood is taking into account the 'parallax' effect that you get when your eyes see objects recessed into holes cut into the plywood. You just can't mount the gauges straight behind the holes. You have to sit in the driver’s seat and shift the gauges around behind the holes until you get them to "appear" like they are centered. Even though they aren't truly centered, your perspective will think that they are. 

Use caution when cutting the aluminum faceplate to avoid scratching it. Plan ahead when deciding where to cut the holes in the aluminum. You need to take into account the perspective from the driver’s seat (parallax) so that the recessed gauges appear to be centered in their holes. 

I used quite a number of Plexiglas templates as stand-ins for the aluminum. I would cut the Plexiglas to the exact shape, mount all the parts into the dash (everything else should be finished and attached by this time) the place the Plexiglas in place of the aluminum and using a permanent marker make 'perceived' center points for the gauges, as well as marking the outline of how big I wanted the final holes to be. I went through about seven of these Plexiglas panels before I decided on the best one. The holes were drilled using a very large drill press and hole-saws for all the holes for a machine finished look.

Additional Notes

I have had customers install this dash in place of the entire stock dash, without using the underlying steel structure. There are pros and cons to this approach. In some ways it is simpler. One of the negatives is that the steel structure provides some impact absorption which is important in older cars that were designed with less consideration for cockpit integrity and impact absorption.

About half the customers who purchase this dash have it covered with leather or some other material before installing it. A very thin layer of padding can make it more attractive and softer to the touch. 

Mike Kokin installed LED lighting in his Alpha dash. This makes the instruments much easier to read at night, and LEDs have much longer life than incandescent bulbs. However, you have to install a circuit to enable dimming, which LEDs normally cannot do.

Click to purchase the Alphabet Dash

pdfDash-Alpha-Instructions-Combined.pdf


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