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Dash Top Gauge Pod

Updated: January 12, 2024     CONTACT    
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This page is intended to help and inspire those of you who bought one of the Group Buy Vacuum Formed Gauge Pods.
If you didn't buy one, find someone who has one and do this to it.  
Original Group Buy: https://forums.turbobricks.com/showthread.php?t=332614
Reportedly there were some 45 or more people who signed up to buy them.

Let's get started . . . . .
In 2017 I bought a vacuum formed plastic gauge pod that was made by a Turbobricks member as part of a group-buy.  The new plastic pod was originally intended to replicate (or at least to be similar to) the very rare and expensive original Volvo 3-gauge pod shown in the below catalog page image. This original pod was an accessory Volvo offered at one time for the dash top in a Volvo 240. The new replica was supposed to be the close to the same shape as the original, with a front overhang (like shown on the original).

For those of you unfamiliar with the original Volvo 3-gauge dash top pod, here are some photos below. The pod was to be mounted on the dash over the center speaker grill opening.  The plastic speaker grill gets removed first and the pod gets bolted down, covering the speaker grill hole. 

When the group buy vacuum formed pod was finally presented to the group, it turned out to be not quite what I expected.  There was no front overhang and there was an unsightly flange along the bottom for mounting with 2-sided tape.  While this isn't a photo of the pod I received, the one I got was exactly the same as this. 

I would have never put the above pod on my dash, so cutting or modifying it didn't pose much of a concern to me if it got ruined. 
So I decided to try some modifications.

I began by trimming the front area to create the front overhang found on the original part. I didn't have any fancy saws, so I simply used tin snips and a bench grinder for most of the trimming you'll see in this page.  I just went slow and took lots of measurements. I also had a spare 240 dash so I could frequently test fit this.

As you can see below, I also carefully trimmed off that big OUTER LIP that sat on the dash.  Again, that was done slowly and gradually on a bench grinder with lots of test fits on my spare dash.

Then I needed to beef up the front lip some, so I cut out a piece of PVC plastic that I glued into the front opening.  That PVC plastic can be found at McMaster Carr: https://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/123/3637/=1ajvxvt
PN 8747K114. 12 x 12 inches x 1/4 inch thick. About $10 plus shipping. They have lots of other thicknesses and sizes too.

Most gluing was done using Gorilla 2-part epoxy for plastic.  It says it sets in 5 minutes.  Don't believe it. It actually takes much longer. Most of the time I let it dry until the next day.

I found that there was a warp in the back slope, so I glued on a brace made from a piece of 1/4 inch PVC.

I cut a front face piece out of 1/4 inch PVC. The basic idea here is to cut three holes and bevel them like how the original pod looks.
At this point I had the choice of making this so the gauges would be angled toward the driver, like the 240 Turbo three gauge panel, or leave them facing straight.  I chose to leave them facing straight.  The reason is that this pod sits further from the driver, plus the gauges to the left of the 240 Turbo three gauge panel are
not angled and those look fine.

So I bought a couple hole saws.
I bought a 2 1/16 inch hole saw because I knew it would be needed to cut holes for the the 52 mm gauges to slide into (you'll see that later).
And I also bought a 1 7/8 inch hold saw.

<<< The reason for a 1 7/8 inch hole saw: After careful measurements of gauges and looking at photos like this one (and the relative height of the outside edge of that bevel), I began thinking about how I could replicate the holes and bevels on the front face to look like the original. I decided 1 7/8 inch was the right size hole and it would allow the same amount of this gauge to be seen through the hole. The bevel I would then cut would be based on that size hole and the bevel really needed to fit in the height of the front panel just like the original. 
So measure 5 times, cut once.

I decided that a 30 degree bevel was needed, so I bought this 30 degree router bit.  I don't own a router and didn't plan on buying one for this one-time use, so I rigged a way below with my drill and vise.

So the below pics are of the front face attached to a jig I made for the hole cutting step and the bevel cutting step.
The black marker line I drew around the edge of the front face shows the limit of the area that will actually be visible inside the front frame when assembled.
The recess on the bottom (seen in second and third pics below) was made so that after the holes were cut, the material would be raised off the deck to give that ball bearing room to be guided along the inside of the hole as the bevel cuting began.
These pieces were all 1/4 inch PVC. 

Using the 1 7/8 inch hole saw, I first cut the three 1 7/8 inch holes through both the front face and jig assembly. Then I set up a drill mounted in my bench vise for stability
A drill press would have been a handy tool to have, but I don't own one. 


It took some time to cut these bevels.  Probably 10 minutes per hole.  I had to go slow and gradual because the router bit (made to cut wood) tended to grab too much of the plastic material at once and the entire jig wanted to jump around if I tried to go too fast.  The holes were cut nice and even, but not smooth enough yet.

Then I began sanding the bevels to smooth them out.  Using just a piece of sandpaper, I wasn't happy with the slow progress and I wanted sanding to be precise. So I bought this 60 degree plastic funnel in the first pic below and wrapped sandpaper around it.  The 60 degree funnel has precisely the same angle as 30 degree bevels.

Sanding went much faster this way.
I began with 150 grit sand paper and progressed through 220, 320 and finally 600.  The last pic below is after giving it a quick coat of black paint. 

Creating the vertical cuts on the face.

Then it was time for the two vertical cuts between the holes. I carefully measured as close as I could and stared at the pics I have of the genuine pod. I determined that those cuts seemed to be between 1/16 and 3/32 of an inch wide. So I stacked two 12 inch hack saw blades (24 TPI) on my trusty saw and found they were just over 1/16 inch wide combined. I scribed the lines on the face plate with an awl and put 3 layers of tape on each side to protect the front from getting accidentally scratched. Going nice and slow to avoid a disaster, it took about 5 minutes to cut each line.

The cuts are about 1/16 inch deep in these pics below.  The paint on the OUTER SHELL is SEM Semi Gloss Black (Classic Coat). That's what I used on my dash top the last time I had it out.
The face plate is painted with SEM Trim Black in this photo, but I didn't care for it since it was a bit too glossy.
I later changed the face plate to Testors Flat Black and then used a polishing pad to buff it to the right tone.  Click HERE for that or scroll down below.

I later returned to this and made the vertical cuts deeper (about 3/16 inch). I did the after comparing the 1/16 inch deep cuts to the original pod pic below. The original slots looked deeper. 
You'll see this further below, but I reinforced the back of this face so such deep cuts wouldn't cause a problem.

Creating the mounting structure behind the front face for the gauges.

Here is a series of pics showing two spacers I made using 1/4 inch PVC.  I then made the shown rear gauge holder plate, which will sit BEHIND the front face.  This rear gauge holder plate got three 2 1/16 inch holes to fit the gauges.

If you're curious how I lined up the three holes to  the exact same places as the front face plate, I drilled the pilot hole centers on the back piece at the same time I drilled pilot holes on the front face piece before using the hole saws.

The two spacers are designed to be attached to the gauge holder plate using the shown screws.  The spacers will then be glued to the back side of the front face.  This way the gauges are sandwiched between the two plates and can be removed by removing four screws on the rear.

Here the spacers are being glued to the front face plate.  PVC plastic like this works well with PVC cement. 

After gluing was done, I assembled the pieces to see how they fit.  Looking good.
The final pic below is after the slots were cut deeper. Those spacers served to reinforce the front plate to keep it strong after cutting deeper slots. Final paint has not been done yet at this point.

Front face painting and finishing.

After cutting the slots deeper, I noticed the bottoms of the slots appeared a bit rough.  So I mixed up some epoxy and carefully put it in the bottoms of the slots. This can be seen in the first pic below.  The epoxy leveled out and helped smooth the bottoms of the slots.
Then I sanded and painted the face using Testors 1249 Flat Black aerosol model paint. 

<<< This Testors 1249 Flat Black aerosol was the closest paint I found to get the right black to match the original Volvo dash front plastic. But it was ULTRA FLAT (no shine at all) and still needed some work to make it closer. 

And I bought this three pad assortment of polishing hand pads.
Mirka Mirlon 4.5 x 9 inch pads in grits P360 red, P1500 grey and P2500 gold: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001BKXWLC/

Since this paint was ultra flat, I did some very light buffing with the P2500 fine polishing pad, which slowly added a little bit of sheen to the finish.

Creating a mounting method for the front face gauge assembly.

Here's where I began making the mounting points in the shell to hold the gauge assembly. In the first pic I have glued in feet to hold the back of the gauge assembly tight against the front lip overhang.  The yellow circles in the first pic shows where I would be placing mounting points with screws so it can be removed when necessary.  Two-part epoxy was used during these steps and I found that roughing up the ABS shell with sandpaper where epoxy was going helped.


Mounting the pod to the dash top.

I used an old spare dash for test fitting.  I made a piece of 1/4 inch PVC that fit in the recess for the center speaker grill.
As mentioned before, a bench grinder works well to shape PVC plastic.

I used some threaded rivet nut inserts with some simple 8 mm bolts and 8 mm wing nuts.  This was my original plan, but I changed my mind later because I didn't like how they fit.

Instead I removed the inserts and used a simple 8 mm flange nut and pressed it into the hole I had drilled. That hole is about 3/8 inch.  Then I used different, lower profile 8 mm bolts.  These were a better fit.
Later, I changed my mind about using wing nuts after they tended to vibrate loose too easily. 
The final solution was some nylon lock nuts.


The final step involved making these two angle braces, which were epoxied onto the shell. Then the bottom speaker grill piece was mounted onto those angle braces using screws.  I then cut a notch using my bench grinder into the bottom piece to allow room for wires and a vacuum hose for the boost gauge.

Final Fitting Tests.

I considered buying some black vinyl material with a faux-leather texture to wrap around this pod. In the end I didn't try that, but here's a good vinyl that reportedly works very well for such a project.
Self-Adhesive Vinyl Fabric Faux Leather 56" Wide by the Yard.

Here's the fully assembled gauge pod after installation in my 242.
This mod gave me the opportunity to move my radio up to my preferred top position, which I couldn't have done before and keep my gauges. I hated having the radio down low where it was such a strain to see.
The very first pic below is not my car, but the rest are. You can see what it looked like before with the radio at the bottom. Pretty typical for a 240 Turbo with the radio at the bottom.

Here are pics of my dash before moving the radio up and after moving it up. Being able to actually see the radio when driving is so much nicer now.

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