Up-cocking the pit

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The lightish royal blue interior my Syncro came with was another blechhh kinda thing; I mean, if you’re gonna do blue, commit! Deep navy, at least. Midnight, even. But not this mamby-pamby watery bullshit blue.

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I’m someone for whom aesthetics motivates far less than function, though, so remodelling the interior was always another “someday” thing. But with the dash redo last year, and doing the 4-button steering wheel and driver’s grab handle, I guess I had set myself on that path. The old interior panels were getting tatty, anyway, and the new wheel partly blocked the old gauges, so the custom instrument cluster I’ve long planned to build moved up the list. Plus business is pretty good, and my 60th birthday approaches, so I could justify a little indulgence, something I’ll enjoy every time I saddle up. I decided to just go for the whole shebang.

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After the requisite shopping time, poring over catalogs and websites, a process at once delightful and loathsome, the goodies were chosen and ordered up in earliest June, and given most were custom, plus we’re all still entertaining this unwanted visitor, the waiting began. The carpet set from VanCafe and power window conversion kit from GoWesty were stock items, so both showed up within a couple weeks and were set aside. The custom Contura switches came soon after, but the gauges would take over 5 weeks, ABS panels two weeks more, and the seats were pegged for late August but Oh happy day! shipped early the first week of, or I’d still be waiting.

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In between making my parts and filling my orders, I brought in a spare dashboard and mocked up the gauge panel and cover with some “soft” materials. I got the gauge dimensions from Speedhut and cut out circles of actual size for each. Chose a 2″ radius for the panel corners because I have some 4″ steel pipe to use as a bending mandrel for the ABS cover panel. I measured measured measured and set up a rod to sight down to simulate the viewing angle over the wheel rim to work out the positions. Here’s the mocking-up, there were a lot of steps to get to a design, so I may do another post later to cover a few of the details. Or not.

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Anyway, the results:

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Seats are Corbeau LG1’s, regular width, in black vinyl and microsuede (alcantara?). Added seat heaters in both, and a driver’s lumbar air cushion.

Boy oh boy are they comfy!! Very firm, but they hold you like a suede-gloved giant who thankfully has NOT expressed any intention of making you supper.
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Werksberg black ABS cards throughout, except the rear cargo side panels, the factory masonite ones are already black and were in good shape so I left them alone. He does a good job on these, I can heartily recommend, plus I got in under a substantial materials cost increase, so I thought they were a bargain. Front carpet set from Sewfine, via Vancafe. There’s nothing like factory-formed carpet pieces, but given their limitations, they do a pretty nice job on these. I haven’t got them fully attached yet, but the pieces stay in place pretty much on their own. Vinyl painted the B-pillar coverings rather than gluing in new ones, Sewfine does offer those vinyl pieces cheap but two coats of paint worked out fine for a lot less work, a job like this is already long and complicated enough.

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Driver’s-eye view of the new panel. It’s a little over an inch taller than the stock “binnacle” (I love silly nautical terms, and that one cracks me up). Top row is oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp, fuel level, and time clock. Bottom is air/fuel ratio, speedo and tach. On the door, the power window convert kit came with switch housings which I chose over the factory flush-mount, this is much more ergonomic. I mounted the tweeters to the door card so they sneak in just at the corner of the dash, their 6″ mates are low in the doors, with the crossovers mounted behind the card in the stock speaker cutouts.

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A bank of Contura switches with customised labels. The headlight one’s light is always on with ignition so you can see it in the dark, all the others light up with the running lights; I need to add a dimmer for all those. The defog switch powers the stock rear window and mirrors first, then second position adds the windshield deicing grid. The radiator fan switch powers the first fan speed constantly with a push to the left, and to the right it’s a momentary that runs the 3rd speed on a one-minute timer that will continue even after ignition off, to bring down overall system pressure to counterbalance the engine heat soak pressure spike. That’s rarely used, but on really hot days it can take some physical strain off the system.

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The ABS cover was heat-formed over a makeshift mandrel made of the aforementioned 4″ pipes, but afterward needed a little hand-massaging with the heat gun to get a closer fit around the gauge panel. Consequently there’s a little distortion here and there. I’m gonna cover it in thin padding and vinyl to match the seats, that’ll disappear the lumps.

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Essential idiot lights top center, right in the driver’s sightline above the wheel rim. I need to make some little labels, but L-to-R there’s oil pressure, operated by the VW dynamic OP circuit board which is mounted to the back of the panel; I think that’s a smart system so I wanted to keep it. Middle yellow LED is the alternator exciter circuit, and a flashing red LED for handbrake and low brake fluid level on the right. There a small green LED on the far right to confirm rear diff lock engagement, I can add a couple more in that area for the pneumatic swaybar links I’ll be building and possibly a front diff-lock if I ever decide to add that. The new speedo’s face has a blue hi-beam and two green turn signal indicators built in, so I wired those up. All these gauges have programmable warning lights; some I’ll use, some not.

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Next to the air/fuel ratio gauge is my own monitor/control set-up for the LC1 wideband O2 sensor controller i’ve run for many years; this little array used to be housed in one of the stock switch blanking plates. The yellow LED indicates system status of the LC1, it flashes during warmup and goes solid when normal, and can flash error codes. The red button lets me reboot the LC1 on the fly, that clears most errors, and the black button is to do the occasional free-air calibration of the sensor. The green LED shows which mode my lambda input-switching device is in, dimly lit for idle circuit closed, off for normal lean-cruise, and bright lit for full-load enrichment. That unit is a whole other project deserving of its own post. The little knob is the dimmer for the Speedhut gauges’ backlighting.

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On the other end of the panel is a dual voltmeter for both batteries, and a control switch for the Yandina combiner. The voltmeters are on a timer relay along with the audio system and auxiliary cig lighter and USB power sockets, it comes on with ignition and turns all those things off after 4 hours. That’s handy for camping as I can see the camping battery voltage during the evening, and we can forget about devices left on charge and such without any concern about running the battery down. I positioned the voltmeters and clock so I can see them from the back of the van. The little button is the time clock set.

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The two-stage switches for the seat heaters are below the mini audio controller that I featured in my dash redo post. The audio is powered by the key-in switch, but the little rocker switch on left allows use of audio without the key in. I moved my satellite radio head down here where it’s actually easier to read, better contrast below the dash level and better focus being further away. At almost 60, I have CSS (Can’t See Shit) pretty bad.

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The driver’s seat has a lumbar air pad, an extremely awesome thing. It just uses this little bulb pump and valve on the end of a tube, so I just tied it off where I can easily reach it while leaning back in the seat to gauge the effect. You can see the 1″ x 3/16″ steel bridge-bars I made to mount the new seat sliding mounts, they’re about 4″ narrower than the stock seat tracks. I had swivel seat tables both sides, but the driver’s was never used, so I took that one out and put the driver’s seat on small risers (not quite visible here) to get the same height, plus a slight rearward tilt of the seat base. This really opened up access to the storage under the seat, my recovery gear is all piled in there.

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Impressions? It’s fracking amazing! like a whole new van, even has a bit of that new car smell!

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