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 79-86 Reproduction Dash Pad Review

UPDATE: 9-09-2011

Guys over at FEP are still fiddling with DD's newest attempt.  DD looks to be getting really close this time.

UPDATE: 2-14-2007

From what I have gathered, Dashes Direct attempted a second time to get the correct dash pad tooling from Ford.  For whatever reason, they were unsuccessful so they returned to their original (first generation reproduction) and retooled it slightly.  I have been told it is more precise, more rigid and the speaker holes are very nice now.  I may do a review of the new pad if it is warranted.


Matt from Fox Mustang Restoration was kind enough to loan me the first "2nd Generation" Dashes Direct reproduction dash pad for this review:

Matt Highley
Fox Mustang Restoration
Phone # 772.834.8905
eBay ID:  foxmustangrestoration

All of the reproduction dash pads in this article were manufactured by Dashes Direct.

NOS Ford Mustang/Capri Dash Pad

"NOS" stands for New Old Stock.  The term refers to old dealer or factory auto part stock that is still essentially "new" because it has never been installed on a car.  The parts may be any number of years old, 20, 30, or more.  They often have some shelf wear so they might not be as perfect as they once were.  They can even be aged to the point of worthlessness.  A roll of weather stripping sitting untouched on a Ford dealer's shelf may not exactly be pliable enough to use after 30 years...but technically it's still a NOS part.

Generally, NOS parts are the preferred choice for restorers.  In many cases, you simply can not get very close to factory originality using reproduction parts.  Reproduction parts are sometimes manufactured as good or better than the originals but they often simply fall short due to cost cutting attempts.  Unfortunately In the 79-93 Fox Mustang Restoration game, poor quality reproduction parts have been the soup du jour.  Things ARE slowly changing, however.

The NOS pad I have is a 1984-1986 Charcoal Grey Mustang/Capri dash pad (part number:  E4ZZ-6104282-A8P).  I picked it up on Ebay for a pretty hefty chunk of change.  This is what all other reproduction pads will need to live up to...or exceed.  The pad is nicely made and fits the dash like a glove; as it should.  Even though this pad has never seen the light of day for long, the surface material is fairly rigid unlike most modern dash pads.  Used 79-86 Mustang/Capri dash pads have near zero pliability.  Pressing on them, especially near the speaker holes, simply cracks the top material.  If you have ever held a used 79-86 pad in your hands, you know what I'm referring to.  The speaker holes on this NOS pad are very nice.  They are shaped perfectly with no effect on the surface material surrounding them.  The vinyl material is molded around a hard plastic shell.

Repairing a used pad is possible.  They can be sent out to professional dash pad restorers which will recover them.  Cost is around $450-500 and you will receive a nearly new dash pad.  Fit and finish should be equivalent to a new OEM NOS pad.  Other low buck solutions generally will make the pad look "acceptable" but not perfect.  It is possible to JBWeld the cracks, sand, redrill the speaker holes and repaint the pad.  Loss of texture in areas will be noticeable on close examination.  Another alternative is to completely cover the pad in a very thin layer of Bondo, redrill the speaker holes and paint.

1st Generation Reproduction Mustang/Capri Dash Pad

The first generation reproduction dash pad by Dashes Direct is a decent dash pad for the money (approximately $180 on the street).  It is molded out of a very durable rubber over a metal frame.  This is the kind of replacement you would expect from an outfit like JC Whitney or the like.  It's a good serviceable part that looks a whole heck of a lot better than a beat up and cracked dash pad.  This pad appears to be extremely rugged and will probably provide good service as long as you own it.  As good as that sounds, this pad simply is not good enough to use on a quality restoration project.  When examined closely, the speaker holes are rough and uneven, there are small defects in the texture, it is "bendy" and sags mildly over the gauge cluster and glove compartment and it requires some modification to get it to fit "good enough".  (This version of Dashes Direct's pad is a reproduction part only...it is NOT made from Ford Tooling)

2nd Generation Reproduction Mustang/Capri FAIRMONT Dash Pad

The second generation reproduction dash pad, also by Dashes Direct was eagerly awaited by everyone that had caught wind of it prior to its release.  It was supposed to be a much better reproduction, and made from Ford tooling for a bit more money of course.  Street value appears to be $250-$260.  For now they are black and "paint-to-match".  Additional colors should be available in the future.

On the construction side, it appears to be molded out of a very pliable plastic based foam material.  The outside is covered by a thin sheet of textured vinyl.  There is a plastic internal frame but unlike the NOS pad, it did not make up any of the mounting tabs. 

On the appearance side, initially you see a very nice, well molded pad.  The speaker holes are as good as NOS, the edges look nice....then it hits you that they forgot the "hump"!  There is a hump in all 79-86 Mustang/Capri pads that runs from the left edge of the pad to the center over the gauge cluster.  This new reproduction is missing this "hump".  In effect it now becomes a much less desirable Fairmont dash pad.  I'm sure the Fairmont guys will be overjoyed!  NOBODY makes reproduction parts for them!  If you don't know what I am referring to, pay attention to the "Comparisons" section below.

Perplexed, I shot a note to Matt who loaned me the pad.  Since it was one of the first pads around, I figured it was something of a mistake or aberration.  After all, Dashes Direct got the hump right on the first generation pad!  Matt explained that he had also contacted DD about the pad and they said that the First Generation pad was made from a NOS example.  For the Second Generation pad, they went directly back to Ford and asked what the part number and tooling was needed to make the pad....and Ford provided the information that led them to build an incorrect dash pad.  (THANK YOU FORD!)  Why Dashes Direct didn't double check their information is beyond me....especially when they've previously developed a version for the SAME application!  So now they have developed a nice dash pad for Fairmonts (and Zephyrs) but in no way correct for Mustangs or Capris.  This is very distressing.  Enough of the hump, let's move on.

One last comment before we begin the comparisons.  For those of you that are new to restorations, you will see "made with Ford Tooling" on certain products and not on others.  In general if the part is "made with Ford Tooling" it is a better, more exact part.  But please understand, just because it has the "Ford Tooling" mark, it doesn't mean that the entire product was made with Ford tooling at every step of the process or is constructed in the same way or is made from even the same materials as the original.  As such, some people (myself included) feel that the "Ford Tooling" mark can be somewhat misleading for the end consumer.



All three pads look decent out of the box.  The worst of course is the First Generation reproduction.  It is very very "bendy" and sags in the center of the gauge cluster and above the glove box.  The NOS pad has an ever so slight bend there too and the Second Generation reproduction mimics it exactly.

Other than the missing hump on the 2ndGen pad, both reproductions appeared to be very very close to the correct size and shape as the NOS pad.  The NOS pad did have a little nicer mounting holes along the top defrost vents than the reproductions did.  I don't see this as much of an issue.


The NOS pad has an internal plastic frame surrounded by fairly rigid foam and a top layer of molded vinyl.  It is this type of foam that makes this pad not feel all that flexible.  I was hesitant to press to hard on it, knowing what that normally does to your everyday used pad.  The surface is a bit flexible but nothing as good as the reproductions.  The plastic frame can be seen from the underside of the pad.  It extends throughout the whole pad and also includes the mounting points above the glove box and the sides and top of the gauge cluster.

The 1stGen pad used a metal frame much like the NOS uses a plastic one.  Unfortunately, unlike the internal frame on the NOS pad, this frame did not include the mounting points found on either side of the gauge cluster.  Those mounting points had some of the rubber to screw into.  One additional problem with the 1stGen pad stands out.  On the left edge, the pad "flares" out for some reason.  This turned out to be very minor since it was towards the front of the car and gets tucked behind the A-pillar molding.  Maybe this is a defect with only my pad, I don't know.

The 2ndGen pad appears to not have much of any real "frame".  It does have a flexible internal plastic frame but it is completely covered by the plastic foam material they used to form the majority of the pad. This foam seems to be the perfect material for forming the pad without any need of an internal supporting frame.  It is a similar material that you find in the packing of electronic components.  It is very very pliable and very durable.  The choice of material seems well suited to hold the proper shape without any difficulty.  Overtop of the foam, they have applied a thin sheet of textured vinyl. (EDIT:  Dashes Direct has told me that this vinyl is from the same OEM manufacurer that supplied for with it 20 some years ago)  It appears well bonded to the pad.  I did not find any real defects on the top but at a couple of the mounting points, this vinyl covering had not been bonded to the foam well and it was separating.  This should be no problem really as the installation will pull that together with screws.  Since the internal plastic frame is minimal on this pad, ALL the mounting points are made from the foam that the rest of the pad is made of.


The NOS pad and the 2ndGen pad have a very nice, crisp textured surface.  I could discern no real difference between the two.  The 1stGen pad is textured fine but it isn't as crisp as the others simply due to the rubbery material used to fabricate the pad.

Speaker Holes

The NOS pad has perfect speaker holes.

The 1stGen pad's speaker holes are fine but the material in between the tiny holes is a bit messed up.  Not horrible but not that great either and definitely not show quality.  Basically good enough for a "driver".

The 2ndGen pad has really really nice speaker holes.  I could not tell the speaker holes were any different between it an the NOS pad.


NOS 1st Gen Reproduction 2nd Gen Reproduction


A very noticeable difference is the mounting tabs that are on the left and right of the gauge area.  The NOS tab is a nice hard plastic tab.  The 1stGen repro has flimsy tabs made from the rubber material of the pad.  These tend to have cracks in them.  The 2ndGen repro isn't any better than the previous generation.  It's tabs are just extra vinyl material.

NOS 1st Gen Reproduction 2nd Gen Reproduction

The "Hump"

OK, back to the "hump".  Once you notice the difference between a Fairmont and Mustang dash pad, you will run right out to your car and check to make sure that used pad you got off from Ebay wasn't pulled from a Fairmont (which many are).

The NOS pad and the 1stGen pad have this hump.  The 2ndGen pad does not have it as I described previously.  Just to show you that I am not making this up, here are some pictures of Mustangs and Capris with their proper humped pads (the last picture is from the 1986 Mustang BROCHURE no less):

Likewise here are some pictures of Fairmonts and even a Zephyr (last picture).  The Zephyr uses the same "no-hump" pad as the Fairmont! 


I set the NOS pad on and it fit like a glove.  All holes lines up exactly, the tabs on the dash were exactly in the right spot and it would have bolted right up if I wanted to do it.  But I didn't.

The 1stGen Reproduction pad was a whole other story.  It required quite a bit of modification and a great deal of annoyance.

  • First of all the right most corner above the gauge cluster was pushing the tab on the dash down way too far.  SO I had to take my Dremel out and rework the whole area.  This helped a lot but was still not perfect.
  • The next problem was that one of the brackets over the glove box had it's slot in the metal fram too low.  So I drilled a hole where it should have been.
  • Finally, on the left side of the gauge cluster, the hole was in the wrong place and I had to drill a new one.  NOW things started to fit correctly.

    Stepping back, the final result was good but not ideal.  Needless to say I was very disappointed.  The pad, because of it's rubbery composition, just is not straight when mounted on the car.

  • There was a pronounced bulge on the front left side over one of the defrost vents.
  • There was a sag on the side above the glove box.

  • There was a few waves above the instrument cluster.
  • The 2ndGen Reproduction pad looked like it should go on just about as easy as the NOS pad.  But that wasn't going to be the case.  On the right side, they failed to trim the mounting tabs properly and it REFUSED to go down between the dash hull and the trim.  Uh-oh!  It was OBVIOUS that Dashes Direct did not do their homework on this one.  Shame shame.  If they are making these pads exactly like the one I received, then none of them fit out of the box.

    Here is a picture comparing the NOS tab with the 2ndGen Repro tab.  Notice how the tab on the NOS pad is a THIN plastic tab while the repro has a WEDGE of foam material.   In any case, a knife made quick work at thinning the repro tab.  While I was trimming, I also noticed that one of the center sections on the pad, did not have the hole to be able to put a speed clip in there.  I don't see it as much of a problem with this since it can be cut out with a knife too.  What IS good news is that this pad retains the FOUR depressions for the dash tabs.  In 1983 the dash on the Mustang Capri changed and the center tab moved left a little bit.  The left depression was the one that did not have the hole cut out.  This means that for 83-86 cars, those owners would have to make the cut.  The earlier cars should be good to go.

    Now I have to admit, it fit perfectly.  It fit exactly as well as the NOS pad.  The dash tabs above the instrument cluster on the left side fit perfectly with no force needed to pull any of the mounting points into place.  No bulges, waves or problems.  I did not install this pad with the mounting hardware as I had to return it to FoxMustangRestoration (I did ask him if I could cut the tabs just so I could make it fit).


    NOS 1st Gen Reproduction 2nd Gen Reproduction

    Last Words

    Out of all three, the NOS pad was the best.  No big surprise there.  It simply fits and mounts perfectly to the dash as you would expect it to. 

    The runner up is a difficult decision.  On one hand you have the 2ndGen pad which is nearly as nice as the NOS pad.  The speaker holes are very nice and with a very simple modification, it fits the dash just as well as the NOS pad...but on the other hand it is simply not the correct pad for Mustangs and Capris.  To drop $250 on a reproduction that simply is made wrong just doesn't sit well with me.  If it was priced the same as the 1stGen pad, I would say that it would be worth the loss of the hump to simply get a pad that fits and looks that good.  But at $80 more, I expect better.  It would be nice if Dashes Direct fixed this problem...then I would be the first to snap up one of these newer pads!

    It is plain to see that Dashes Direct really rushed the second generation reproduction pad to market.  Between the missing hump, incorrectly cut right hand side tabs and missing hole for a speed clip above the gauge cluster, it is obvious that they did not do their homework on this pad.

    Unfortunately, by the sounds of it, Dashes Direct is not too keen on making the production change to this dash pad.  I have been told that the excuse that they are using to try to deflect this mistake is that they claim that some "regions" of the country may have received different dash pads.  I hate to tell them but ALL 79-86 Mustangs and Capris were built in one of two factories, San Jose or Dearborn.  San Jose shut down Mustang and Capri production in 1981.  Dearborn was the only location in the world pumping out Mustangs and Capris from 1982-1986. The parts used were all the same and did not change based on the car's final destination.  The ONLY regional differences I am aware of are changes based on emission standards for California and cars headed to high altitude areas got some engine/trannsmission/gearing modifications.  I for one have never seen ANY original 79-86 Mustang or Capri with a Fairmont style dash pad unless it was swapped in as a replacement.

    (Edit: Dashes Direct has told me that they are not happy with the "missing hump" either and are in the process of making a correct dash pad! See their response below.)

    If you have been waiting for a proper reproduction dash pad to purchase I would urge you to email Dashes Direct (BE NICE!) and ask them if they will be reproducing a proper 79-86 Mustang/Capri dash pad.  Explain that you know about the "hump" and that it's a big deal to you!

    A (very encouraging) Response From Dashes Direct

    I just wanted to respond to your write up on our 79-86 Mustang dash pads (1st and 2nd generation).  I would just like you to be aware of some things.  You claim that the words �Original Tooling� are used very loosely in this industry.  I welcome you to come to our factory and see all the original Ford molds that we use.  We are a licensed manufacturer for Ford Motor Company on their Original Tooling Program.  The 1st generation pad you talk about is what we call a reproduction.  That means that it is made from our own tooling and molds.  This is not from Fords molds.  The 2nd generation pad is from Original Ford Molds.  Like I said, you are welcome to see the molds if you are ever in the area.  You can even call Ford (component sales division) to verify this.  The 2nd generation pad is not something that we developed.  These where molds sent to us by Ford.  They claimed that the set of molds and dies where for the 79-86 Mustang dash pad.  We mentioned the problem with the hump to Ford in the beginning.  They told us that their records indicated that the molds where used for producing dash pads for the Mustang.  This did not go unnoticed by us.  After we started shipping dashes out we also started to get phone calls about the hump.  At this point we decided not to listen to what Ford (the people that actually made the vehicles) was saying.  More important to us is what our customers where saying.  Because the 2nd generation pad is made from Fords tools we are not allowed to modify them.  We are currently working another version of the dash pad.  This one will be constructed the same way as the 2nd generation pad but with the hump over the instrument cluster.  I would just like to clear up a few other issues.  The 2nd generation pad does have a plastic frame molded in to it just like the original.  If you try to poke a needle through the material you will see this.  The vinyl cover on the 2nd generation is the exact same vinyl used on the original.  We actually buy this from the company that supplied it to Ford When they made the dash pad.  It is called an ABS vinyl. 

    What did we learn from this whole thing?  You can not always trust the expert (Ford).  They only know what they have been told, and that is the information they relayed to us.  Trust me; we spent a lot of time and money getting this project going.  We are not real happy about it ourselves.  Don't worry,  we are not just going to sit back and do nothing.  We will have an OE quality dash available very soon.  We take pride in offering the very best products to the customer.  I really appreciate you doing the install on these pads.  More than anything I appreciate the feedback you have given.  That is how we have gotten to where we are at today.  We use that feedback to improve what we are doing.  If you would like to talk in more detail about this please give me a call.  Thank you again for the feedback. 

    Justin Ansell
    Sales Manager
    Dashes Direct

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