Jun 6, 2019 update to the BMW 318is project car

Project BMW 318is: Adding a Dash of Beauty

We cleaned and applied liberal amounts of Armor All to the used dash we scored from Al Taylor Sports Cars.

With the chassis on our Project BMW 318is fully finished and out of the way, we turned our attention to the interior. The dash pad on our car was badly damaged. It was riddled with so many cracks running through it that it looked like scorched earth. There was only one thing we could do: replace it completely.

While new dash pads are not available, BMW breakers have carefully squirreled a few of these dash pads away. And as you might imagine, the price of one of these good used dash pads has climbed towards the $1000 mark. Yikes.

Our friend Jesse Spiker got roped into helping us with this rather miserable job. The steering wheel has to be removed and with the windshield out, this is an easier job. Notice how bad our old dash is.

Thankfully, our buddy Al Taylor (who you may remember also gave us a great deal on our limited slip differential) had a nice one with only one little crack hidden in a spot inside the indent on the passenger’s side where you could store gloves and such, if that was your wont.

Upon receiving our new-to-us dash pad, our first step was to carefully clean and 'Armor All' it multiple times in an attempt to make it a bit more supple again. We then made sure no mounting brackets were broken off and that all of the plastic defroster vent tubes were in place.

Once we were confident that ours was ready for installation, we went online and found directions (plus a video) that were pretty spot on.

We then set about carefully removing the old dash, starting at the glovebox and ending with the gauge cluster and controls. With everything out, we cleaned and lubricated anything we could under the dash and then reversed the procedure per the directions we found on the internet.

While this was an absolutely miserable, time consuming, uncomfortable slog of a job, changing a dash pad in an E30 can be performed at home with simple hand tools. And maybe a personal coach to get you through the bad times.

And yes, it is a bit frightening, once you get the dash out. A couple of tips here: replace the foam around your HVAC controls while you have the dash out. And now is a good time to look everything else over to make sure you don’t have any other problems under the dash.

One last tip that we might offer is that putting the dash pad into place is an arduous task, as it is a very tight fit. And you need to bend the dash slightly to fit it down into its final resting place. You also need to be careful not to crack your nice dash as you do this. This whole job is much easier without the windshield in the car, but obviously that’s not exactly an option for everyone.

To install the dash pad, come down at an angle, be patient and inch the dash into place. While initially it seems like it won’t fit, with some prodding it will suddenly pop into place. From there you can follow the directions and reinstall the gauge cluster, radio and glove box. In the end, it was definitely worth it for us to change the dash pad.

One touchy thing you will need to deal with is VIN transferal. While you cannot legally alter a VIN number, you also don’t want the wrong VIN on your dash board. In our opinion, intent to deceive is critical when messing with VIN numbers. If you are just trying to repair your dash, you should be well within your rights to transfer the VIN number. If you are trying to pull something shady, messing with VIN numbers is a federal offense. You can carefully remove the rivets and reuse them to attach your original VIN to your new dash.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more project updates.
View comments on the GRM forums
Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
6/6/19 3:44 p.m.

The proper VIN is stamped all over the car.  This one exists purely to make it easier to read from the outside.  So it would be deceiving not to change back to the original tag.

Sponsored by

FCP Euro

Our Preferred Partners