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New console panel

Neil Potter


Been a while since I posted anything, but while my engine undergoes its rebuild I've been reflecting on the various works done to the interior over the winter.  The dash came out (there are 4 nuts holding it in, and I defy anyone to get them all back in without the aid of extension bars, universal joints, magnets and lots of swearing), along with all the leather panels for reconnolising and repairs.

While all this was out, I:

- put in an electric aerial

- wired in some footwell lights

- wired in Spiyda Design's anti-slosh module to the fuel gauge and light

- fitted a delay box to the circuit feeding the dome light, so it dims to nothing rather than just switching off

- treated some minor rust to the chassis door mounts and the scuttle beam

- refitted the choke control - the little clip that holds it in place is an absolute pig to get in properly and I don't believe it can be done with the dash in situ

- tidied up all the wires with loads of cable ties

- retrimmed the steering column shroud

- put new black leather on the dash below the windscreen

- replaced the rusty steel air vent on the passenger side below the windscreen

- replaced the rusty sun visor pivots

- broke the rear view mirror but sourced a second hand replacement (off a Hillman Hunter apparently)

Hopefully I don't have to do any of these things again for a very long time...

Anyway, the main purpose of the blog entry is to document how I put in a new console piece, just above the radio aperture.  On my car, this is just a blank panel covered with a strip of leather.  For some time I've wanted to put something in there with buttons and lights and things.  As a fan of Knight Rider in my youth, you can never really have too many of these things.

Panel design

Reigning in my desire for a funky but anachronistic air/fuel mix gauge, I realised it needed to not be too crowded to look sensible.  I looked at what I needed in there; and settled on a switch to override the otter switch and control the rad fans, a yellow light to show me that the fans were working (as opposed to the "fan fail" light, which may or may not show me if the fans aren't working, although has been known to come on when the fans do), a blue light to show me that the air con was operating (if I ever get it fixed) and a switch to retract the electric aerial without switching the stereo off.  This last one was needed because the replacement aerial cannot drain properly to the outside, it's just too big.  It has a drain hole at the bottom, but rather than fill up my footwell I prefer the idea of stopping and putting a rubber cap on the retracted aerial if I'm ever listening to the radio in a rainstorm!

So 4 switches or lights.  At this point I decided I wanted rectangular items, which seemed to me to be more 1980s than any of the circular options.  Note that this is a much harder option than going for circular bits, which can have their apertures drilled.


Suitable switches and lights were easily obtained from Car Builder Solutions.

Plastic was much more of a problem, as if plastic is rigid enough not to bend on switch pressure, it's too brittle to work properly when you're trying to make a rectangular hole.  I found this out the hard way after cutting out the required size of black ABS (took numerous attempts with my rubbish jigsaw), using a soldering iron to melt out approximate rectangles, and then setting to work with craft knife and file.  Managed to shatter the thing pretty quickly.

Further research yielded The Plastic People who offer a range of plastics cut to size.  The aperture is 185mm by 37mm on my car, so rather than rely on jigsaw and steady hand I got them to send me this sized piece in a couple of different types.  The best for this purpose turned out to be their "foam board" which is soft enough to have the rectangles cut out with a knife but solid enough (just) to act as a panel.  I did reinforce it with two thin strips of the original ABS along the back of the panel though.

Here's what the plastic panel looked like with the holes cut and the lights test fitted:



The font of wisdom

At this point, I decided that unlabelled switches or ones made from a label maker were going to look a bit crap.  I needed something authentic but which Doing a bit of research on this forum, it turns out the retro-futuristic font in use on the Esprit up to about 1990 when the old HVAC panel was discontinued, was something called Microgramma.  This was also used on the Elan in the sixties, so is a nice link to Lotus history even if the font on the exterior of the car is different!  To try and match my HVAC panel, I downloaded a font file and mocked up a Word document with suitable legends (attached here).  This can then be printed out on sticky paper and applied to the panel.  Finally, I put on a layer of matt self-adhesive film to cover over the whole thing and make it look a bit more plastic than paper.


Meanwhile, I'd managed to identify the wires needed for the switches.  Both lights are currently unwired, as the air con doesn't work and I think I need to run a wire from the rad fan relay to the dash to have the rad fan "activity" light work - a project for later.

The aerial switch just interrupts the 12v signal wire from the stereo to the aerial.

The rad fan override switch interrupts the yellow and green wire which goes from the otter switch to fuse 13 in the fusebox through a large block connector on the RHS under the dash.  It's not any of the binnacle connectors.

Putting it in place

On the home straight now, I used a dremel to cut an aperture in the blank panel forming part of the centre console trim.  This was just wide enough for the switches and lights, as I needed to retain some of the panel to receive 2 self-tapping screws.  This are not very tight (to avoid distoriting the switch panel), but secure it well enough.

Here's the end result - terrible photo, will take a better one when I get the car back...





Control panel.doc


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