Jerry Heasley
March 7, 2017

Cutting a Mustang dash to fit a larger aftermarket radio was all too common in the 1970s and 1980s, and even into the 1990s when the double-DIN style head units came into play. It still happens today by Mustang owners that don’t fully appreciate the originality of their cars, and hack big holes in the dash to accommodate their stereo of choice. Looking at a butchered dash leads many people to shy away from buying a vintage Mustang, but there’s a fix and it’s not all that difficult—if you can weld.

Today, we have dash panel repair plates from most of the aftermarket restoration companies, such as Scott Drake [www.scottdrake.com], National Parts Depot [www.npdlink.com], and many others. The repair plates allow a restorer to cut out a much larger opening in the dash, completely removing the custom hole, and then patch in the repair panel that is fitted with a stock radio opening. Voila, a hole in a Mustang dash can be restored to “whole” again. Installation is not exactly easy, but fairly straightforward, as Jason White of Jason White’s Customs & Restorations [(806) 683-5423] shows us here. Some amateurs may even want to tackle this job.

01. Years ago somebody cut out the center of this 1965 Mustang dash to fit a larger radio and an extra set of knobs – which are the two large holes on either side at the bottom. Every Mustang vendor sells these patch panels, which are designed with a stock radio opening.

02. Use a sharp pointed tool, such as this awl, to scribe an outline of the patch panel onto the surface of the dash. The scribe markings with the awl are thin and well defined, as shown (right).

03. Place masking tape about 1/16-inch inside of the scribe marks. You want to cut the hole a little smaller than the patch panel. You can always grind off metal, but you can’t put metal back. Notice no masking tape is necessary on the left side, which forms the right side of the instrument panel.

04. You will need a rotary tool, such as this pneumatic die grinder with cut-off wheel attached.

05. Be sure and wear a facemask to cut the dash, and then let the sparks fly. You must take into account the width of the cut-off wheel when making the cut. Just be certain you cut the hole a little smaller (about 1/16 of an inch). Take precautions to ensure that dash wiring, heater control cables, defroster vent tubes, and the like are removed or protected from the cut-off wheel and any sparks (including those when welding the new panel in).

06. When cut, pull out the modified center section.

07. Pull off the masking tape and mock up the fit of your new patch panel.

08. Use your cutting tool to trim the curved glove box side of the patch panel for fit.

09. Grind and cut, alternately, for good fit. Jason White said, “Take your time. The more time you spend the better the fit and the easier welding will be. If you leave a little gap like 1/16th of an inch, it would be easy to weld that up. I usually like to overlap it ever so slightly, and then you have no gap at all and it is easier to weld up and it will grind smoother and not require filler.”

10. Satisfied with the patch panel’s fit, tack weld the corners to avoid heat build up. Welding along a line continuously will warp the metal. Jason White said, “In some cases, you need to get a cold, wet rag and tap it and cool it as you go. It all depends on what type welder you have and how low you can turn it.”

11. Even after tacking each corner, White also prefers to “jump around” with quarter-inch stitches to avoid warping the metal.

12. Use a hammer and dolly between welding stints to fit the patch panel as flush as possible.

13. Jason hammered the inside of the panel by reaching through the speaker hole in the top of the dash. Obviously, you can only do it this way with the windshield and dash pad out of the car.

14. This is what our patch panel looked like when welding was complete. Ugly yes, but now watch us make it pretty.

15. Now it’s time to grind the lower welds flush with the panel. Jason used a 50-grit disc.

16. We ground the welding beads on the lower portion and sides of the patch panel. The dash pad will cover the welds along the top of the panel so you can leave them rough if you want to.

17. If you are a perfectionist and want to clean up the upper welds, you will need a smaller disc, such as this weld-grinding disc on the cutting tool.

18. We also like to make sparks, which the edge of the cutting tool does very well.

19. Our patch panel fit very well and is now ready for prep and painting to look 100 percent stock.