Posts Tagged ‘Norton Speed Grip’

My absolute favorite thing about my day job is installing 12-volt electronics where they do not easily fit and making it look like they came that way from the automobile manufacturer. In this case, it was installing the new Alpine X009-U 9″ head unit into the dash of a 2003 Ford F-350. As you can see in the images below, the X009-U is virtually the same height as the Ford double DIN radio and climate controls combined… and quite a bit wider!

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Since the X009-U will need to be custom installed into pretty much every vehicle out there, Alpine graciously supplies a trim ring that can be molded into the dash. This makes it a tad bit easier on the installer and gives him/her a nice starting point. Said trim ring can be seen in the previous two images.

First thing is to cut a VERY large opening in the dash panel to house this behemoth of a head unit’s trim ring. I then like to hold the ring in place with superglue, in a few key places. This will hold the ring in place while I permanently glue it in place with Norton Speed Grip 2-part plastic epoxy:

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Once the epoxy is set up, I then grind/sand any extra off that squeezed through to the front. I make sure to maintain the shape of the trim ring to the front of the OEM dash panel. In the next image, you will notice that I had to build up a section under the head unit buttons to make for a seamless transition from the Alpine trim ring to the OEM dash panel. For this I use Evercoat Fiber Tech, which is a Kevlar reinforced filler. I then use Evercoat Rage Gold for any “fine tuning”:

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Once I was happy with shape of everything and filled any little pin holes etc., I sprayed the entire panel with several light coats of texture to get back to the OEM textured finish. For this texture I like to use SEM Satin Black Chip Guard:

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Once the texture coat dried, I applied a OEM matching top coat to give its final finish:

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Now that the dash panel was basically finished until final install, it was time to find a good place for the climate controls. Luckily there is a pocket below the dash panel that is of little use. Although the pocket itself isn’t near large enough to house the climate control, the surrounding area is:

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The first thing to do was hack the pocket out of there with an air saw:

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It was immediately clear that I was going to need to build this area out a little to make room for the climate controls to be rear mounted. So I made a perfect frame out of a solid piece of 1/4″ ABS. This would give me a framed-in area to rear mount the climate control and also give me a place to build onto to get the shape I want for that area of the panel. A quick test fit before trimming it a little on the corners and then tacking it in place with super glue:

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Just like the head unit trim ring, I used the Norton Speed Grip to permanently bond it in place:

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Again, I rough sanded the Norton Speed Grip and then used the Evercoat Fiber Tech to build up the transitions to the OEM panel. This is after rough sanding and using some more Evercoat Rage Gold filler for the finishing work:

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A quick coat of texture in the modified area, some sanding to blend to the panel, just to check to make sure my shaping was good etc:

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I then used the same 1/4″ ABS and Norton Speed Grip to make mounts for the climate controls to screw to the backside:

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A quick test fit of the climate control:

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A complete texture coating of the panel:

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And finally the OEM matching color and mounting of the climate control:

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Now that all the panels were finished, it was time for what I consider the hardest part… securely mounting the head unit in the dash. This is typically very time-consuming since there isn’t really any mounting points for the new radio. It needs to be EXACT so that when the dash panel is secured back onto the dash, the head unit sits perfectly into the opening I just created. The first thing is to cut out supports that are in the way etc. The new head unit is huge, so it needs space! Then it’s a matter of coming up with a mounting system that I can attach into the dash and is adjustable so I can fine tune the fitment as I go. So there is a lot of putting the dash panel on, take it back off, adjust the head unit a little, but the dash back on, take it back off, adjust again, put the dash panel back on…. you get the idea. I did not take any pictures of this as it’s behind the scenes and boring. So you will just need to take my word for it when I say this thing isn’t budging.

Installed images:

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Well, this job was slightly unexpected for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s right up my alley. However, the cost for me to do something this tedious is not cheap… and for what most onlookers would refer to as a waste of money. With that being said, I completely understand the customer’s reasoning. Hell, I do the same sort of thing all the time… spend tons of money or time on things that will go unnoticed by most.

So down to it! This customer had a set of S13 JDM window switch plates/switches that he wanted in his S13 USDM vehicle. Seems easy enough, just unsnap/unscrew the switch assemblies from the back of the JDM plates and attach them to the back of the USDM plates. WRONG! The switch assemblies are of completely different design from the JDM to the USDM version. Not only that, the window switch plates have the opposite curve to them since the plates are obviously on opposite sides of the car in JDM land. If you take a look at the images below, comparing the JDM and USDM, it quickly becomes apparent the differences. The switches themselves are also different. The USDM switches(not pictured)are a simple push forward and push back. Whereas the JDM switches are a pull up and a push down style. Which means there also needs to be a “cup’ formed in the plastic in front of the switch. That way your finger doesn’t just poke through when you are trying to pull up on the switch. In the following images, the USDM plates are the ones without the actual switches in them.

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So the only way to properly do this was to cut out the section that has the JDM button openings, thus retaining the original JDM button mounting setup on the back. Then hack out a similar size opening in the USDM plates and retrofit the JDM assemblies into them:

The cut out JDM assembly on the right needing to go into the USDM plate on the left:

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USDM plate ready for the transplant:

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Test fit to make sure I am still on course:

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Same with the passenger side:

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Next it was time to bond these permanently into place with one of my favorite products… Norton Speed Grip 2-part adhesive. Note: just to get setup with this stuff it will cost a minimum of $100. The glue is very expensive and it takes a special applicator gun to apply it. But it’s so worth it if you need to bond plastic.

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At this point it’s time to get it looking good. A lot of rough sanding, shaping, forming, a tad bit of Evercoat Fiber Tech filler, some primer and here you go. Well, some of those steps need to be done numerous times!

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My customer also requested a white LED to be mounted in the driver side switch:

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Last but not least, some SEM Satin Black Color Coat:

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Recently finished up a gauge panel for my good friend Damon Young. As most of you will know, he use to own the black S13 hatch that was on the cover of Modified Magazine along with mine. However, he has moved on from that and into an EVO VIII. He needed a killer place to install his (3) 52mm Defi gauges and I hooked him up with a nice solution. I typically like to make my custom interior pieces appear to be something the OEM manufacturer would have made… but weren’t cool enough to do so. When they see it, I want people who know nothing about cars to think it came from the manufacturer that way. I want it to look so integrated that it doesn’t look like I did much… even though I spent hours and hours modifying and fabricating it. Well, Damon’s gauge panel demonstrates this philosophy.

For this write-up, I also decided to strictly use my iPhone 5 to take the progress pics. It’s WAY easier than getting out my Canon 50D, setting it up, getting it dirty etc. It worked out great and I will continue to do this for all of my progress pics on future projects… except for my S13 project of course. It receives the full treatment at all times 🙂

Damon sent me his radio/HVAC trim piece to retrofit the gauges into. The radio is getting relocated which gave me a nice spot to mount the gauges. Here is the original piece that he sent me:

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The first thing I did was increase the size of the rectangular opening. The three gauges actually sit in the OEM opening fine, but they do not flush into the opening. When possible, I like to flush gauges into the panel I’m modifying. I think it gives an overall finished look and also keeps with the OEM theme. Sure it takes a lot longer to do it, but the results are always worth the hassle in my opinion. So I enlarged the opening on the top and bottom. Next I bonded in a piece of 1/4″ ABS with some Norton Speed Grip 5 minute. As usual, I roughed up all the edges to be bonded with some 80 grit or harsher sand paper prior to bonding. I made sure the ABS had a large enough footprint to squeeze the gauges in while not cutting into any of the surrounding OEM plastic. As you will notice, I had to work within the confinements of the recessed area in the OEM panel. It would have been easier to simply fill in the entire recessed area and then flush the gauges into that, but again, it will look MUCH more OEM if I keep the recessed area intact. Here is a shot of the ABS bonded into place:

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Next I sanded all the joints, ABS and the surrounding OEM plastic in the recessed area to give a nice smooth/seamless transition from the original plastic to the new plastic. This is going to receive a smooth finish for the final paint, so it needs to be perfect:

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Using a digital caliper, I carefully centered the gauges in the proper spots:

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I then used a hole saw to get the hole sized as close as possible. Since there isn’t a hole saw that is exactly the same diameter as the outside diameter of the Defi gauge, then I had to make it small and then enlarge it with a 50 grit sanding drum on an air grinder. I then sanded the hole by hand with 80 grit:

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Test fitting the gauges… I didn’t realize the following pic was blurry when I saved it, so sorry about that. It’s unacceptable to me, but it’s the only pic I have where I show them test fit straight on:

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Showing off the flushness… Zilvia would be proud. Well, except for the lack of stretched gauge bezels:

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I scuffed the entire trim piece down with a red 3M scuff pad. I then sprayed a heavy coat of Dupli-Color Cast Iron Engine Block enamel over the entire piece. I have found in the past that this paint color, Cast Iron, is a very close match to several OEM interior trim panels:

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After that dried I wet sand it with 500 grit. I then sprayed a heavy coat again and did the process a few times to get it perfect without any defects, dust etc:

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Damon is a very smart man and supplied me with brand new HVAC stickers to apply to the finished piece… and here it is with the gauges mounted in and stickers applied:

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My cluster build is complete. Although the finished product looks very basic, there was a lot that went into keeping the simple look. So bear with me while I post a lot of build pics during the process.

The first hurdle was the size of the MXL… it’s too damn tall to fit within the constraints of the cluster framework. As you can see in the photo below(don’t mind the crappy cell pics in the next four images) it is about 3/8″ too tall overall. The top is cut off and at the bottom the buttons are smashed into the lower lip of the framework. Note: the framework has obviously already been modified to the specs of my standard clusters I make.

I knew that I wanted to keep the front edge of the framework as is because I need the OEM cluster surround to butt up in front of it so it fits like stock. So essentially I need the front lower edge to stay put, but the back lower edge that butts up against the plate needs to drop down 3/8″. First I slit the bottom ledge at each corner just inside the lower mounting points:

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Royal_T from Zilvia, who is building a really nice LS powered 350z drift machine, contacted me about making all of his Speedwire gear look like it belonged. I told him it shouldn’t be a problem. He gave me the go ahead to do it however I wanted. I did it how I would if it was my own 350z drift car… which is a good thing.

Essentially I used the storage compartment opening for the Speedwire 6 circuit panel and the radio opening for the Speedwire 6 switch panel box. Obviously the openings where nowhere close to being the correct size. I wanted to be able to rear mount both Speedwire pieces and have them be framed in by the OEM trim panels. So I made the openings to the size I wanted by using pieces of ABS, gluing them in with Norton Speed Grip, them shaping them with an air sander. The storage compartment opening just happened to be the correct width, but I had to add on the top and bottom. Since the OEM trim has an arch left to right, I had to angle a rectangular piece of ABS in there to keep a straight edge to butt up against the circuit panel. I left it long and glued it in place. I then ground it down to the contour/shape of the OEM piece. I used the same process for the bottom of the opening. As for the radio opening, I had to widen the opening and add ABS to the top of the opening. I also deleted the worthless OEM triple gauge thing that sits atop of the trim. As you can see in the pics below, there is a light grey area between the OEM plastic and the ABS plastic… that is the Norton Speed Grip bonding epoxy. Since I used a flat piece of ABS, the glue has to fill in the corners for when I grind it down to match the OEM contour. Otherwise there would be holes in those corners after grinding. So the Norton Speed Grip acts as a bonding agent and a filler… which is sand-able and paint-able. When I glued the ABS in I purposely left extra glue everywhere to make sure it wouldn’t be below the OEM plastic after grinding.

Here is a backside view of the same pieces. You will also be able to see the mounting system I came up with for both Speedwire units. For the circuit panel I was able to slightly grind down the OEM plastic posts and screw some aluminum “U” channel to them. The circuit panel is very heavy so I wanted this mount to be up to the task. For the switch box I ground out the area on the back of the OEM trim and used Speed Grip to glue in some 1/4″ ABS legs in the appropriate places.

As you can probably tell, the shifter trim will now box in the bottom edge of the Speedwire switch panel. From the factory, the shifter trim has a wide “U” that’s notched into the top of it to go around the bottom portion of the OEM radio. Again I used the same ABS procedure to fill it in. Another shot of the shifter trim which locks into the bottom of the radio trim:

Next I sanded off all of that weird OEM texture down to bare plastic… makes it easier to apply my texture coat for the final finish. Once that was done I made all of the “U” shaped notches so the wires from the circuit panel could escape out of sight:

Once I was assured that all of the contours and everything were correct, I applied the texture coat:

Mounted everything up and this is the outcome:

Rear shot: