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johnny0874 01-04-2011 05:09 PM

1994 CTD Dash Replacement
Howdy... Well, like a lot of you guys, I had the dreaded cracked dashboard... I had a dash mat covering it and it was suct taped so it wouldn't rattle... Well, I found out that if something (or someone) isn't securely fastened down when you come to an abrupt halt. I hit a telephone last year and the girl had the seat belt strapped across her waist only... the chest strap was behind her... so she went face and hands first into the passenger side dash and it EXPLODED. Luckily, she wasn't hurt and I had a pipe bumper, so I was able to drive home. The truck is back on the road, a little uglier than before, but in one solid piece... except the dash was GONE.

Notice the bottom portion of the dash is missing a lot of chunks too? This is going to be an adventure...

I decided I was not going to pay $350 for a piece of plastic, when I could fab a new one for $100... and then I got to thinking about how my 2004 has a nice flat dash with 5 speakers in it, and how nice that sounded (it really raises the sound image)... so I decided to put speaker pods in the dash... and that started a rash of ideas that resulted in me beginning a stereo install in my poor old CTD. So off I went into the land of crazy ideas...:thk:

So the biggest obstacle to start with was getting the pieces arranged... it looked like a damned jigsaw puzzle made by a crack fiend...

Well, after I tried 10 different ways to hold the pieces together so I could get an idea of what I was working with, I finally figured out that hot glue was the best agent to use to hold the plastic together (super glue would set fast enough and wouldn't hold it... even 2 part epoxy and jb weld were failing to do the trick). Once I got that much figured out and cut up some small pieces of wood to make a sub frame for various parts where there were large pieces missing... it went together pretty fast and i was able to lay some glass on it. I started with cloth and resin so i wouldn't add to much thickness to it... and then decided to go to mat because it was just so much stronger... Plus, if you examine it, there is a lot of open space under the dash... you could make it 3 times as thick and not have any problems except where the ducts and screw holes come to the surface.

Once i had it roughed in and back in one piece I started laying on matt and molded in a pseudo center channel speaker plate...

Then I tested the sound and decided to add a set of wide field stereo image speakers to it... my initial placement was made using cardboard cutouts, but the final plates are birch-poplar ply in 1/8" and 3/16" thickness. I was going to use MDF but I wanted the rigidity of plywood... there's not going ot be any bass in these speakers, and they won't be sealed, so MDF seemed like a waste to me.

It was a bit challenging to locate the best places for the plates so that they wouldn't interfere with the control boxes (like the AC box cable) But i think I got them done pretty well... and they are symmetrical(ish) so the sound won't be biased to one side or the other.

The REAL challenge now was not the dash cap or speaker plates, but getting the "structural" portion back into on e piece...

I had to add A LOT of mat and resin behind the face without taking it out (I was afraid it would self destruct if i started taking it out... it was REALLY brittle)... but I got it glassed in and cleaned up so it wouldn't cut any wires or interfere with the AC controls...

I even managed to mold in the missing pieces a bit... I'll fill the dips and such in with bondo when it's time...

This is the first "installment" of my saga... I'm going to be going the distance with this truck... The plan for now is to ...

(1) finish the dash out with glass and bondo and prime it for paint.

(2) Mount an amp rack along the back wall (It's a regular cab) above the bottom tray and remove the top trays and hangars for space. I'll be running 3 amps ... (a) 90wts/ch stereo on the dash speakers. (b) 125wts/ch x4 to a pair of 8"s in the doors and in the B-pillars. (c) 410 watts mono on (2) 10"s in a sub box that will replace my center console (the truck has the buckets with the flip up center seat that I hate). (d) 35wts/ch x4 from the deck going to some fosgate tweets in the factory door locations and a pair in the A-pillars way up high.

(3) Replace the speakers in the factory locations as previously listed

(4) Mold the tweeter pods into the A pillars.

(5) Build a custom center console that runs from the base of the dash (I took out the Airbag Computer at the base of the dash... it was pointless since I am replacing the factory steering wheel with an after market) in which I'll incorporate a slot loaded sub box, and use it to hide the power wires and power caps, and a fuse block, etc. I'll also be mounting some additional goodies in there (like my linear for my CB and my brake controller so it's not hanging down by my knees anymore).

(6) Once all the fab work is done, I'm going to paint the dash and A-pillars with a flat paint in the factory colors, and probably wrap center console in tan vinyl (my interior is that medium tan). The speakers in the dash will be hidden with tan grill cloth or I may get some speaker covers and paint them tan to match the interior... I want it to look as factory as possible so it doesn't draw attention. It sounds like a lot of equipment to not want to draw attention, but it's going to be set up to sound best at moderate-medium volume levels... I'm not trying to win an SPL contest.

Well, that's it for today... I've been after this for about a week now, and i need to get back out and check to see if the resin has set on my dash plates so I can start laying in matting.


GTyankee 01-04-2011 05:27 PM

Johnny you sure have a lot more patience than i do
It will definitely be a one of a kind dash
I hope that you will continue this thread with more images & explanations


johnny0874 01-04-2011 10:35 PM

more posts to come
Hey Yankee... thanks for taking the time to give my post the once over.

I will be posting more pics (it limits you to 15 per post and i had like 30+)...

Today, while yanking out the interior, I found that I am going to need to do some surgery to the floor pan before I go any further with the sound deadening i was going to spray in. Those geniuses that brought us such things as flimsy cup holders that mount ABOVE the electronics (it's literally, right on top of the radio) apparently didn't realize that they needed to coat floor pan bolts. Especially when they're going through 2 kinds of metal... so there's a GIANT rust spot in my floor pan. I'm just hoping it didn't start exfoliating yet (didn't get that far into it, because it started pouring rain).

I will be laying the final glass on the dash tomorrow afternoon... give it a day to set and then I'll sand it and start laying body filler... then let that set and temp install the dash (sans speakers for now).

I still need to smooth and lay some filler on the lower dash where I had to repair the structure of it. Some of it could not completely be done from behind, so that whole part of the dash will get sanded smooth, primed and painted. The dash cap is going to get a vinyl top and some handmade speaker grills (a ring and cloth type like on old school home speakers)... the A-pillars will get the vinyl treatment temporarily, but will eventually be sanded and painted (after I get the tweeter pods installed where I want them).

I did get the amps mounted today and will do all the main wiring tomorrow... It's a '94 model... so it has that crazy storage tray system. I actually like it, and it turned out to be a bonus because I can mount the amps right onto the back wall dressing (not the cab, but the mount for the storage trays, that is carpeted). It's some kind of heavy duty pressed paper (like phenolic). I can still keep the lower tray, for stuff like my air compressor, Q-beam, and my "tire tool / attitude adjuster".

I'm going to try and bring all the wiring up the middle, because I'm going to fab up a custom center console that runs from the base of the dash back to the lower tray, and do away with the middle seat entirely. I may have to cut the seat brackets to do that.. it's not like the new dodge, where the center console has it's own brackets... it mounts to the left and right seats on arms that extend towards the center of the cab. I won't have exact specs on it until I get to that point (a week or two from now... maybe more).

Anyway... there will definitely be a lot of follow up this, because it's going to be an on going build. Once the interior is done, I'm going to rework the body a little and add 3" of body lift and a 1" or 2" lift block in the back to get a little more rake in the truck (it rides smoother when the wight is tilted slightly forward instead of level like it is now). I'll probably go to 18"s or 20"s with 35" metrics. It's a 2wd, and I do still pull with it once in a while.. so I don't' want to go too high.

Thanks again for stopping by.. check back periodically for updates.


johnny0874 01-05-2011 09:31 PM

exciting day at my house
Well, I laid the last layer of glass on the dash today... tomorrow I'll sand it down smooth and lay on some filler... then sand and prime it on Friday.

While I was cleaning up some surface rust on the seat brackets and floor pan, I found a 9" crack along the base of my cab at the rear wall. I reshaped it as best I could with a dolly and a hammer and then sealed it with silicon for now. I'm going to do a body lift this summer, so I'll weld it up when I have the cab and bed loose and it's easier to get to it with a wire-feed welder.

I did manage to get all of the signal cable and about half of the power cable pulled into place... I need to start drawing up some plans for the center console so I'll know how long to make the power cables (have to know where the caps and the fuses will be mounted).

Toms Blue Ram 1500 01-05-2011 11:33 PM

I am really looking forward to seeing you post more of your work . I look forward to seeing the final product . Some rep for your hard work and how to do it .

johnny0874 01-06-2011 12:59 PM

Thanks Tom. I'll be real honest though... it's not hard at all... just time consuming. I offer that much to anyone who is interested in doing fiberglass work. Also, one of the best resources for step by step, "this is how to do it and why we do it this way" type instructions... Go to YouTube and look for Steve Meade Designs.

Steve is this guy who lives in Cali, and has a series of YouTube videos for his trucks that he's been building and they are SICK (!!!). He'll show you all of the dos and dont's.

I really recommend going straight to the 15 or so videos (they range from 1 minute to 15 minutes each) on how he built his door panels. He walks you through making the speaker rings, and how to mount them and how to lay glass and how to beef it up with structure so it won't rattle or break... And the door panels for his tahoe are insane... he put an 8" mid-bass and (3) 6.5" component sets (with the tweeters too) in each door panel (not mounted to the door, but mounted in a heavy duty fiberglass panel so there's no issue with mounting depth).

As for my progress on the dash and the wire job... By Friday I should have all of the wire run and the dash smoothed out and ready for me to decide between paint or vinyl. I want to do vinyl, but I think paint may be quicker, and then I can do Vinyl after I have the center console built and the door panels redone.

I was going to scrap this truck this summer and throw my CTD (Cummins Turbo Diesel) into a 4x4 suburban or maybe a crew cab F-350 (there are a lot of them from the early '90s that came with gas motors because it was so cheap back then, and they are perfect for an engine swap)... So this truck is really more or less practice for what I'm going to do to my next ride. And then I can part out the dodge... including the custom fiberglass I've been making. There again, that's all hearsay until I actually do it... I do a lot of thinking out loud, but the real decision is never made until I'm at THAT point where it has to be made (kinda like the paint vs vinyl decision I'll be making this weekend).

Thanks again, and I'll be sure to put up some pics by Friday.


CdnoilRAM 01-06-2011 05:27 PM

^^^ I watched the same guy and that's what got me started doing my door panels.

johnny0874 01-06-2011 09:40 PM

what I got done today
I think the dash is 90% done... I decided today that I am going to use lightly padded vinyl to cover the dash... There is one small spot I need to fill, and then it's ready.

The amps are mounted up, and I started routing, but I realized today that the terminals are corroded and stripped out... so I'm going to buy a new one. That just puts me a few days behind on my schedule... but I can start building the sub box while I'm waiting for it to come in. I decided to go with a Lanzar MAX15D (the one designed for small boxes). It's DVC, so I can run it at 2ohm on the profile, and it'll get 410 watts, which shouldn't push it too hard.


johnny0874 01-09-2011 09:57 PM

News from the fornt...
Sorry I've been slacking for anyone who is following my thread... I've been working all weekend in the cold (I help run a paintball field on the weekends)... Anyway... I have been tweaking the sound on my system, and I have to admit... those coaxes in the dash are probably the best sound I've ever had for the kind of music I listen to (Rock & Country). I haven't bothered to cross them over yet, and thus I have the gain cut back to less than half... but they CRANK and they meld perfectly with the sub/guitar speaker I'm using for now... I have a lot of work left to do still before I'll call it done (if I ever call it done).

Last Friday I managed to repair all 3 of my power caps (they were stripped out and one had a broken off bolt in the hole... that was a loooong day). Anyway, I'm running all 3 caps (1/4, 1/3, and 1/2... for a total of approximately 1.08 farads. That's enough for 1080 watts (when all my amps are in and running at max, I'll be pushing about 1040 watts, so it's a perfect match). I need to get some circuit breakers (I'm only currently running a master fuse, and no independent fuses per amp... I don't like that so much).

I'm running 4ga from the battery back to the caps and then they all split off to 8ga. The cap has a 1/0 ground that is less than 18" long: just to be safe. All of the power and signal/speaker cabling is separate (they can cross but not run parallel to minimize any noise, even though all my signal cable is double shielded, it's an old habit from working avionics for a long time to split up cables into signal categories). I ran snake skin and heat shrink over everything. The only thing I am not happy with on this install is that 99% of it is hidden out of sight... so it feels a little like wasted effort. LOL

The amp remote leads are all run on individual switches... so that I can turn things off and on as I desire. Sometimes I like to just listen to the factory speakers with a little sub... Sometimes i want the whole shebang. Once I Install the 8"s that won't be an option anymore until I get the A-pillars installed. They will be wired up so that I can listen to the deck with no power (no amps) and at lower volume levels (I listen to a lot of audio books when I drive).

Tomorrow (after I'm done with my chores) I am going ot snatch the dash back off to make some tweaks. The trim ring doesn't sit exactly flush, so I need to shave the dash a little to fix that... the place i mounted the driver's side plate is too far back (I thought i had it right, but I must have moved it without thinking while I was getting ready to glass it in). The easiest fix is to trim the instrument cluster house. I believe the back half of it is empty space... so tomorrow I'll crack open the case to verify this and then trim it as necessary and reseal it (if I think it needs it) so that the 5"x7" will set flush. Then I need to put some wood blocks onto it so the speakers will have something to screw down to. I need to do this to the lower dash structure as well, because a lot of the little "captive" nuts are missing... so after you install the dash a few times to fit check it, the screws no longer have tension on them (ie the bite on the screw is gone). I have been playing with the idea of using plastic blocks (I have some poly material that would work good... it cuts and shapes really easy).

Once all the tweaks are done, I'll start wrapping the dash in the vinyl I bought and then fab up some trim rings for the speakers with grill cloth stretched across them... I also still need to sand and paint the lower dash where it was repaired.

Once that is done I'll call the dash good to go (except I still need to hi-pass the speakers at 200 hz or so).

The doors are getting a pair of lanzar VX830 8"s that will run in stereo on the bridged eclipse 32440(2x240watts rms at ohms) and crossed over at 50hz-80hz. When I do this, I'm going to low pass the 12" that's in the cab now down to 50 or 60 hz. I just want it to fill in the missing tones below 50hz. One of the control boxes that is coming has a boost at 20 hz of 0-12bd. So that, plus the 45hz (o-12db) boost on the amp will be able to let me really shape the sound of that little sub.

The A-pillars (which have not been started yet beyond basic repairs) will get a set of 3" extended range speakers made by peerless (They make Pro Audio drivers and the like). They are 20 watts and 8 ohms, and the fosgate tweeters are rated for 50watts at 4 ohms... (on the same power, they should be approximately equivalent power handling and volume... or so I hope)... so I'll mount the 3"s and the Fosgate tweeters in the A-pillars as high up as I can get them, and power them off the deck (22 watts rms x 4). I'll definitely play with locations and sound stage before I do too much with them.

I am definitely going to order a new sub (probably a single 15" or a pair of 10"s). The center console project is probably going to take me a while since i have 5 days to finish everything, plus clean up all the mess because classes start again on the 18th and i work the weekends.

The last thing I want to do is use the open space where the cupholder used to be to mount a couple of 1/2 din Lanzar control boxes and (EQ & EQ/X-over).

Anyway... I've rambled long enough...

Here are a few more snaps of the wire job. It's not the finished product, but it's about 90% of it.

Hope anyone who is wondering about how to hook their single cab up with sound can pull from this... and for those of you who need to fix your dash... fiberglass is not hard.. just time consuming... so don't be skeeered... Just schedule some time and knock it out.


johnny0874 01-09-2011 09:58 PM

On a quick side note... I found 3 more of those eclipse amps for $100-$150 each on ebay and craigslist. I'm tempted to get at least one more if not all three and see what kind of havoc I can wreak. 8D

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