Posts Tagged ‘Stack’

Just another S14 cluster build… well, not so fast. This just isn’t any old customer. It’s Peter Tarach, editor in chief of Modified Magazine. Peter and I have known each other for several years now. I help him, he helps me… it’s a good relationship! So naturally when he asked about a cluster for his track S14 I was more than happy to oblige. However, this cluster wasn’t just going in the car, it was going to have its own little write-up in an issue of Modified Magazine. Now as I typed this a few months back, it appeared that Modified Magazine was going to be closing their doors… and they did. I’m not sure what that means for getting this cluster featured in maybe whatever magazine Peter works for next, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s not even about the money. It’s about seeing how satisfied people are when they receive one of my products. It’s an honor for me to have one of my clusters or interior pieces residing in a customer’s dashboard. Whether they are a well known drifter, a 16-year old kid with his very first ride or in this case, Peter Tarach. So I wish the best of luck to Peter and his new ventures… along with the rest of the staff at Modified Magazine.

I guess it’s time to get down to business. The first thing I ask any potential cluster customer is what they want in it. I have to make sure everything is going to fit comfortably. I refuse to cram things in. It has to look natural with an adequate amount of spacing between gauges. In this case Peter already had a Stack race display that he wanted retrofitted into the cluster. “Cool” I said, those things are sick and have an ultra-clean style to them. He also wanted his 45mm Omori boost gauge and 52mm AEM wideband mounted in there. Naturally this threw up a red flag for me. Not only were the gauges different brands, but they were different sizes. This really “gets my goat”. So I politely suggested to him that we ditch those two gauges and replace them with a couple Speedhut gauges. After all, this is going to be in Modified Magazine. I can’t have a mish mosh of equipment floating around in there, LOL. I suggested Speedhut for a couple reasons. For one, I’m a Speedhut dealer and am very familiar with them. I could just order them up and he would not need to worry about it. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him since I just told the guy that I didn’t really want to use the gauges he just sent me. Second of all, Speedhut gauges are completely customizable. Which meant I could match the look and illumination of the Stack display. Peter, being the good guy that he is, agreed to all of this. Not to mention that Speedhut was kind enough to hook us up on the gauges in exchange for the obvious exposure they would receive in the magazine article. Now that we were set on the equipment, it was up to me to make it all come together inside of an S14 cluster.

In case you didn’t already know, I prefer to retrofit the aftermarket equipment into the OEM cluster housing. It ensures that the cluster will simply bolt back into the dashboard just like it came out. But most importantly, it maintains a nice OEM style with the flair of the aftermarket equipment inside of it. I also try to reuse the OEM cluster lens… I think it helps finish off the look. I offer an optional 7-step polishing process to restore the lens back to new. So first thing is to gut the OEM cluster housing. This is the cluster in stock form:


OEM lens removed. As you can see it’s in need of some love:


OEM cluster surround removed. This piece will need to get trimmed/gutted to perfection in order for this to all come together… more on that later:



Back half of the OEM cluster that houses the actual gauge faces, electronics and circuitry on the back:



Everything removed from the back half:




Now that disassembly is complete, it’s time to start modifying everything in order to accept the new gauge plate. I use a 3/4″ piece of MDF for the plate. This allows me plenty of thickness to flush the gauges… which I feel gives a much more finished look over simply surface mounting them. The OEM cluster surround needs to be opened up to remove the horizontal flat section where the OEM gauge faces use to reside. This means grinding/sanding perfectly right up the surround wall. It also needs to be perfect on the backside so the new gauge plate butts right up against it without any gaps or weird undulations.

My tool of choice when modify virtually any plastic is a die-grinder. I use a burr type bit to rough cut the majority of the plastic away:




Next I use a 1-1/2″ drum sander on the die-grinder to rough sand it down to match the exact contour of the interior wall of the cluster surround:



Close-up of the precision sanding:


Next up is to modify the back half of the cluster. Not only will this allow the new aftermarket gauges to physically fit, but it also serves to “sandwich” the new gauge plate between it and the front cluster surround. First thing is to grind all of the nubs and high spots off the back of it:



Grinding off the extra plastic on the back allows me to easily run it through my scroll saw. The saw is used to rough-cut away the horizontal flat section… thus leaving just the wall:



Next I use the same drum sander used earlier to finish off the rough spots. It doesn’t have to be perfect since it will never be seen, but there’s no need for it to look like a hack-job:



As discussed earlier, I use a 3/4″ thick piece of MDF for the main gauge plate:



It butts up against the back of the surround nice and flat since I took the time to make sure the surround was sanded carefully and true:



As seen in the image below, the 3/4″ thick gauge plate is far too thick for the back half of the cluster to snap back on. So I simply use a router to make a rabbet cut around the perimeter of the plate:






With the rear half of the cluster modified, it’s time to move on to the main plate. The Stack display is installer friendly in that it has a thin lip all the way around the perimeter for it to surface mount into a plate. However, I wanted to go one step further and flush mount it into the new gauge plate. First thing is getting it marked out. As you can see in the image below, I got lucky that it barely fits height wise within the S14 cluster surround:


The inner line gets cut out with a jig saw, then the flush portion is created again with a rabbet bit. However, the lower corners are too tight to use the rabbet bit. So I hand carved/shaped the flushed ledge in those areas:



As mentioned earlier, we agreed on the 52mm Speedhut Revolution series gauges to flank each side of the Stack display:


Also added in flush turn signal indicators and eventually a Stack shift light off to the right side:


I’m constantly test fitting things as I go… this is one of those times:



This after an initial coat of SEM Satin Black Chip Guard. It typically takes several coats to get a texture I’m satisfied with. I love this stuff!


After six coats and some dry time, I test fit everything to make sure I’m still on track:





Last thing on the list, before I can call this complete, is to polish the OEM lens. I start off with wet sanding the inside and outside with 1200, 1500 then finish with 2000 grit. I then polish the inside and outside with four stages of polish. This is after the wet sanding to get all of the deeper scratches out:


The finished product ready for service!




Finished up a batch of clusters recently.  Business seems to be picking up with the release of my new website, Facebook page and the sponsorship I was offering for a short spell.


Nissan S14 cluster utilizing a Stack Cluster flanked by 2-1/16″ Speedhut Revolution series gauges with optional 7-step OEM lens polishing:



Nissan S13 cluster housing an array of Defi BF gauges with OEM lens delete:



1998 Honda Civic cluster utilizing a 4″ Speedhut Revolution series GPS speedo dual gauge flanked by 2-5/8″ Speedhut Revolution series gauges with optional 7-step lens polising:



Mazda FC RX-7 cluster housing (2) 4″ Speedhut gauges and AEM boost gauge:



Nissan S14 cluster using an array of Speedhut gauges… (2) 3-3/8″ and (2) 2-1/16″, also 7-step OEM lens polishing:



Nissan S13 cluster utilizing an assortment of Speedhut gauges, optional LED turn signal indicators and optional 7-step OEM lens polishing:



Nissan S14 cluster using (2) 3-3/8″ Speedhut gauges and (2) 52mm AEM gauges:


Holy moly, an update! I have been extremely busy with everything… well, except for my 240. But that should hopefully change very soon. For now, a couple pictures of an S13 Stack cluster I built for Chase from Chase Bays. As mentioned in previous posts, he’s helping me out with some parts for my swap and I’m helping him out too with some stuff for his S13 build.

I laid it out exactly how he wanted. He sent me four momentary buttons to mount in there also. This is also the first time I’m getting to try out these new indicators I found. They are actually for Harleys… and boy do they work perfect for my application. Since Chase wanted the buttons in the cluster, this one will not be getting the clear cover installed back on.

I finished the trim panel right before the weekend…. I am really happy with the finished results. As stated in part 3, the only thing left to do was some final finishing work, texture and final paint. I had few tiny holes to fill around where the SAFC plates mount to the trim panel. I sanded that back down and shot it with the final SEM texture coat. Once I was happy with that, I finished it off with several coats of SEM Satin Black

I then used “yellow” hot glue to hold everything in place. This is what some OE manufacturers use to hold things like hard foam on the back side of door cards. The yellow will withstand higher temperatures compared to black or white hot glue. It can then be pealed off with a little effort if something needs to be removed down the road.

Finished results:

My customer also wanted me to freshen up a lot of his smaller trim panels and whatnot. Here are some before and afters:

A shot of some mass painted parts:

My customer and I also wanted to texture/paint the radio trim and shifter trim since they would be in direct contact with the piece I just fabricated. That way the finish would all match.

In part 3 I will discuss what I did with the S-AFC. The only place it could go at this point was the center area where the climate controls use to live. The opening was damn near perfect as far as height…. we are talking a 1/32″ too small. I simply sanded the upper and lower edge with 80 grit and that was enough. Again, I wanted it to look as OEM as possible. So I counter sunk the unit back about 1/4″. I then used 1/16″ ABS sheet to make small fillers on either side.

I rough cut a couple pieces and marked where the angles would be to conform to the profile of the S-AFC:

This is after rough cutting, then test fitting and re-cutting until I got the exact shape I needed:

I then super glue those in place for a semi-permanent bond:

I rough sanded the entire area with 80-grit, then used texture coat to act as a filler and see where I’m at as far as finish grade. I then sand that down with 80, 120, 180 then 240 to see how close I am to doing my final texture coating:

I didn’t take any pictures, but I also used the 3M Duramix on the back side of the panels for a permanent bond. Superglue is not permanent enough and is very brittle. So the superglue will give way under flexing… the Duramix laughs in the face of flexing. I only use the superglue for a very easy bonding to hold it in place. I use a very high grade CA super glue and use an accelerant to instantly cure it. So I glue the pieces in place then use this accelerant out of an aerosol can to “kick” it.

I make sure everything still fits as intended…. very close to doing my final texture and paint. Probably another texture coat and sand it down. Then a final texture coat for the actual texture and then final paint:

Part 4 will be the finishing work!

In part 2 of the series, I will discuss what I did with the Greddy Profec B boost controller. The customer wanted it in the middle replacing the rear defrost button and hazard button. Now this is nothing new, I have seen it done before. However, I’m going to 1-up “them” by giving it what I consider a completed look. Everyone that does it pulls the two middle buttons and drops the Greddy piece in there…. and that’s it. It looks alright for sure, but I want it to look like it came from Nissan that way. Also, my customer wanted to maintain the hazard switch and ditch the security light on the right side. Which meant I simply needed to slide the hazard switch over one spot to the right. The only problem with this is that the center buttons don’t have the exterior rounded corner like the outer buttons… we’ll fix that in a bit.

Here is a picture to illustrate the gaps around the Greddy piece and where he wanted the hazard button:

This will show the difference between the corners on the right side. I need to shave the right, upper corner of the hazard switch a little, to better mimic the corner of the security light:

Some careful grinding to get it closer to the correct radius. I couldn’t get it the same, but close. If I would have went any further it would have ground all the way through the plastic and made a hole. Test fitted and it works perfect. I then took some Graphite Gray SEM paint and touched it up:

Next is filling in the gaps and making it all look OEM. I used some 1/4″ ABS to fill on each side and along the bottom between the sides:

Then made a center lower piece to match the contour of the sides:

Glued it all in place then test fit it for final inspection:

Rough sanded the entire thing down to make sure it was going to finish off the way I wanted. Note: there is obviously a ton of finishing work to be done… filling little seams, texture, paint etc.

Next up will be the S-AFC mounting in the middle where the climate controls previously called home.

Getting close on finishing up a S14 Climate control panel for a customer. He wanted a very OEM look, which is always my style. This one however I wanted to look ultra OEM and I went to extra lengths to accomplish it. Originally he wanted the three Stack gauges in place of the climate controls, a S-AFC in the location of the vents and a Greddy boost controller mounted in place of two of the buttons along the bottom. However, he got back to me before I started and had me swap the location of the gauges and S-AFC.

So here is what we are starting with:

Unfortunately a friend was borrowing my camera when I did the first few steps of this project. So I’ll try to explain a little since there was a lot of work that went into it, that you would never know I did, by simply looking at the finished pictures. I obviously popped the vents out and hacked out the center support to make one large opening up top for the gauges. Keep in mind “ultra” OEM look here… so I wanted a “flush” look for the gauges and I also wanted to keep the natural contours of the OEM piece. I think most in this case would simply just mold over/fill the top opening in the OEM panel and cut out holes to drop in the gauges. Grant it, it would look nice… but not OEM. If you look at the first pic, you can see how the opening rolls over and fades back to the original vents. If I simply molded over the hole, these contours would be gone. So I ground away all the extra crap on the backside of the opening so I could rear mount a plate of 1/4″ ABS. This would be my new mount for the gauges. However, the original opening was not tall enough to flush the gauges in. So I enlarged the opening on the top side to make room. This in turn made the contour disappear along the topside edge of the opening. I was left with just a flat edge… which meant I would have to go back later and reform the edge to a nice roll over to mimic the original one… FUN! Also, the opening is not flat on the backside even after grinding… the piece has a nice slight convex shape left to right. So when I butt up my ABS to the back side, it only touched on the outside corners. I was left with a 3/16″ gap along the top, bottom and even a little on the sides. So I killed two birds with one magical 3M product. It’s a glue I use from time-to-time that bonds to plastic and can be sanded, painted etc. So I super glued the panel in the corners to keep it in place and then used the 3M stuff to fill in the gaps and provide a “filler” that I would later sand down to help in the aid of re-forming the contour along the top side.

As stated earlier, this is where I started taking pictures. Here are a couple of pics of the 3M glue and the backside of the panel:

I then rough sanded the 3M glue on the front side and finsished off the contour with Kitty Hair and standard bondo. You can also see in the pic that I already used a hole saw to cut out the holes. Unfortunately a hole saw does not exist to get the right size for flushing the gauges. So I had to use a drum sander on a die grinder to get it perfect.

This picture shows the finished contour on the front side along with the finished sizing for the holes:

I can’t wait to see this thing with final sanding, texture and final paint. Stay tuned for part 2… the lower section with Greddy boost controller.