Robin Allum - Dashboard Renovation on Lagonda DB 3 Litre

My 1956 Lagonda 3 litre 4 door saloon had a little bit of damage to the cubby locker flap and one of the door caps. The cubby door looked like it had had a plaque glued to it sometime in the past; probably by the original supplier. There was a black substance on the door which had been varnished over and the door capping had a repair that stood out quite dramatically. I tried to sand it down and varnish it but it looked even worse and when cleaned back had some veneer missing.

I contacted some dashboard restorers but they were not interested in small repairs but would do the whole dash and all the door caps at £1,200. I thought not! I found a cabinet maker locally who would do a repair to the door cap that would be noticeable but better than a complete re-veneer as this could not possibly match the rest. The cubby flap could be re-veneered as the existing veneer did not seem to flow with the dashboard.

The dashboard had been re-varnished in the past and not a very good job had been done; I would say that it had been done in situ. I decided to remove the dashboard and re-varnish it and to take the door cap and cubby flap to the woodworker. I decided that the most economical way to deal with the dashboard as the veneer appeared to be in good condition was to sand down the existing varnish and then re-coat it. This I did and I am pleased with the result.

To remove the dash appeared to be difficult as I could not find any fixings. I removed all of the dials, switches and controls. To remove the switches, it is best to remove the fixing nut; pull a switch out and then disconnect the cables from the front of the dash. It is a lot easier than trying to access the terminal with the switch in position. I have some split box spanners which enables them to pass over the cable to fit the retaining nuts.

The radio proved very difficult to remove. I had had this converted from its valve operation to modern internals with FM and MP3 player some years ago and the way it was fixed was truly difficult with a bracket bolted to the side of the radio and then screwed to the back of the dash. Access to these screws was very awkward.

I remembered that other manufacturers of cars with wooden dashboards would fix brackets to the back of the dash so that the controls of the radio would fit through from the rear and then the control spindle nuts would hold the radio in.

With all of the equipment removed, I removed the leather-covered trim at each end of the dash. Then I could see that there was a bracket at each end of the dash that went up behind the trim that surrounds the front screen. I removed the trim to reveal the fixing brackets. With one screw in each removed the dash was loose but still attached. In the rear of the ash tray is a small screw that holds it to the bulkhead. The dash was now free but the end brackets need to be bent in to allow the dash to clear the side posts.

These are the box spanners that make switch removal easier.

Tools used:- 7/16 Whitworth split box spanner, 19mm or 3/4" AF split box spanner, escutcheon tool, 2BA and 4BA open-ended spanners and sockets, 3/16 Whitworth open-ended spanner for the oil pressure pipe nut.

I found that a lot of screws had been replaced with Pozi or Phillips head self tappers, a lot easier to fit but not right for this era of vehicle. All of these were to be replaced so it was essential for me to have a screwdriver that grips the screw head as I would be using stainless steel or brass screws so a magnetic one would be no good. I have two sorts; one has a claw that holds the screw head to the blade and the other a split blade that wedges in the slot. Both are okay for starting the screws but are no good for tightening.

The dash fixing bracket and screw under the trim.

With the dash out the last thing to remove before any work can be carried out was the cowl over the instruments. This is made of aluminium and held on by 1/8 Whitworth studding which I cleaned up and sprayed with brown paint.

The cowl fitted back on the re-varnished dashboard.

Brackets fabricated to hold the radio.

The radio support bracket and heater controls trim in place.

The choke was never satisfactory as there was a large washer front and back and it was never tight. I found screw holes around the hole suggesting that there should be a bracket for this too.

The demister pipes were in a poor state as the rubber had started to perish and so I fitted new PVC hoses.

The cubby box had a lot of screws missing and I found some in a box I must have had for nearly fifty years. "x6 black japanned round-headed screws were located. I knew that they would come in handy one day!

I also have boxes of BSF and Whitworth nuts and bolts that belonged to my late father that he had acquired before the war; now they come in handy for the car.

The car ready for the dash to be fitted.

The block in the centre is where the ash tray fixes and I took the opportunity as access was easy to fit an immobiliser which is the small black box above the steering column.

The dash back in and the screw in the ash tray that holds the centre of the dash.

The radio fitted from the rear and ready for the bezel.

The bezel fitted with the holding nuts under the knobs.

The cubby locker lid never had a cigarette/vanity mirror case in it so I had no idea as to what one looked like. I asked around and trawled the internet but never found a good view of one. The best I could see was on video on the post 45 web site. I found a 1940/50s case on E-bay with close dimensions to the recess in the lid. I had no idea as to how a cigarette case is fitted. Also, the locking mechanism needed fixing as this was broken. I have held the lock with a small plate screwed to the lid and then fitted the case with Velcro until I can find out the correct way to secure it.

The case fitted in the recess.

The case in the open position.

In the photo you can see quite clearly the repair to the door cap. It was the best that could be done without re-veneering the whole cap. I did not want to do this and am happy with the result as it looks far better than before.

Restored dashboard.

Robin Allum