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1983 300SD
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781 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My dash is cracked beyond belief. Turns out crack free blue dashes are practically non-existent these days. I pulled the trigger on a mint palomino dash with the intention of dying it. However, after talking to the shop handling my upholstery and exterior paint, I'm not sure that's the way.

Thought I'd list my options here and see what you guys think

1) SEM Color Coat
  • Original plan
  • has done a fantastic job on everything else
  • most report it lasts, though I'm skeptical if consistently exposed to sun
  • will not retain original touch feel of dash
2) Wrap in vinyl
  • Will likely last longer and more resistant to cleaners
  • Bottom half of dash is vinyl wrapped anyway, that should be re-wrapped
  • Touch feel will be different from original but possibly closest to OEM of all options
  • Possibility it could warp in sun
  • More sheen than OEM so not period correct
3) Wrap in leather
  • Slickest option
  • No concerns about longevity
  • Not period correct
  • Might look odd without regular door cards
  • Could expand to tops of door cards if I was less tied to period correct... which would be pretty awesome.
Any experience/thoughts/opinions/suggestions?


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1986/1990 W126
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13,419 Posts
I had a similar dilemma and spoke to my very experienced upholstery guy about it. Recovering in car upholstery vinyl is the way forward I would say, but professionally. If the vinyl is really good quality it should last just fine.

I wanted leather but he refused to do this and says that no matter what, it will shrink in the sun. That's probably true as cars like Porsches seem to be queuing out the door of another upholstery place that's bigger, having their leather dashes redone.

I just got another dash without cracks in the end. But you won't find a blue one and they all crack in hot climates. You could just have a replacement black dash and SEM the lower coloured section to be blue?
 

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1983 300SD
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781 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Sounds like a strong vote for vinyl

I've been ordering materials from GAHH. The quality of everything is incredible. I would have the upholstery guys recover the new dash with that vinyl. So the quality of materials and work wouldn't be a concern. Not cheap, but I'm into this pretty deep as is. In for a penny...

I was under the impression that leather was the least likely to have issues. Very good to know. I really appreciate the input.

My initial plan was to SEM the whole thing. Keeping the top black is a non-starter for me. The response I've gotten from professionals is you can go from black to a dark blue but you need to do a damn good job with prep, use appropriate adhesion promoter, etc. One nice thing is if the results aren't to my liking I could just put vinyl on after.

I know there are hot debates about SEM, but do you think there's any concerns if exposed directly to sun on the dash? It looks killer on all of the pieces I've done, I'm just skeptical about long term.

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1986/1990 W126
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Try it and see, I would. Recovery of dash may involve removal of existing top layer anyway so nothing to lose.

The correct stuff may be available. My guy got the correct vinyl for the rear piece above the back window and recovered it. He got it from a US supplier and its exactly the same as the rest of the car, like original. To me it sounded like he used GAHH. (He's used the company before and was ordering other stuff anyway.)
 

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84 500SEL AMG, 90 560SEC AMG, 85 500SEC AMG Widebody
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What's your budget for a crack free blue dash? Assume you need a non-passenger airbag version.
 

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1983 300SD
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781 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Recovery of dash may involve removal of existing top layer anyway so nothing to lose.
@ianrandom are you saying that the dash I purchased on ebay may require removing the top pad? Or you mean the material covering the foam? The black vinyl seems like the door cards where it's vinyl... but you're not getting it off.

Either way, I'll call GAHH and see if they have a different type of vinyl meant for the dash. They've been incredible to work with.

What's your budget for a crack free blue dash? Assume you need a non-passenger airbag version.
@alydon I'll probably wind up spending 450 - 600 when all is said and done. But the primary chunk of that is the palomino dash. Painting is next to nothing and labor + materials for wrapping in vinyl probably wouldn't exceed $200.
 

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1982 380SL
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I recently removed the severely cracked dash on my 82 380SL. Some cracks were as much as a quarter inch wide. expecting to replace it, I thought I would experiment with some repair ideas. I filled the cracks with gorilla glue. the glue will foam up as it dries but it can be sanded to a level surface. I sanded the entire dash and sprayed it with a thin layer of Flex Steel. For less than $20 I have a dash that looks as good as the dash in my new pickup.
 

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1983 300SD
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Discussion Starter #8
The thing that killed that idea for me was when it dawned on me that the dash is a giant piece of foam retaining mildew smell. A... not insignificant amount of effort is going into getting rid of that smell.

Some of these tutorials on fixing dash cracks are intense. I felt like there were probably simpler methods. Did you wrap in vinyl or do anything extra on top of the flex steel?

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1982 380SL
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The thing that killed that idea for me was when it dawned on me that the dash is a giant piece of foam retaining mildew smell. A... not insignificant amount of effort is going into getting rid of that smell.

Some of these tutorials on fixing dash cracks are intense. I felt like there were probably simpler methods. Did you wrap in vinyl or do anything extra on top of the flex steel?

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1982 380SL
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I didn't remove any of the old vinyl or foam, only filled the cracks with the gorilla glue.. The glue expands as it dries and bonds to the old cracked foam. The Flex Steel dries to a black color that is very close to the original. It also dries with texture that is very similar to leather.
 

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1991 500SEC sub 50K mi. 1987 560SEC Now 150K mi. 2018
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4,028 Posts
I didn't remove any of the old vinyl or foam, only filled the cracks with the gorilla glue.. The glue expands as it dries and bonds to the old cracked foam. The Flex Steel dries to a black color that is very close to the original. It also dries with a texture that is very similar to leather.

Have you some pictures?
 

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1983 300SD
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Discussion Starter #15
Definitely going to try this on some of the test pieces I have from the JY. Ship has already sailed on the dash but it seems incredibly useful.

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'87 560 SEC, Pearl Grey/blue; 300,000+ mi; '07 CLS 550, Barolo/stone; 90,000+ mi
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I'm in the same situation. If I was to stick with a vinyl covering, the GAHH period-correct MB tex would be a superior product to what was covering the yellow porous foam originally. It's virtually indestructible. It may match your door cards close enough both color and texture wise. The door card hard vinyl can crack a little too, but not nearly as bad as the dash. In the SEC, the rear card vinyl is thinner and covers traditional cardstock material vs the yellow foam found in the dash/doorcard--you have to look close to tell that it's a different material than the door right in front of it. That rear vinyl can shrink out of the seat belt presenter trim (as though it were aged leather), but if it was MB tex it would hold up better, and look more sumptuous.

On the leather front, if you did redo the dash in it, like you said it would make sense to make it even and do the door cards as well. Several have mentioned shrinking as a problem. While my SEC is being redone, my daily driver for a number of years is a CLS. The entire interior (save headliner, carpet, and pillars) is covered in leather. The dash is soft/padded as is the very top horizontal parts of the doorcards; the rest of the door is leather glued down hard like the vinyl on top of the materials in our w126 cars. Probably thanks to my extreme fastidiousness, I have had no shrinking of the leather dash or doorcard tops in my car in almost eight years in North Carolina with no garage (hot and humid in the summer). I put out the sunshade in the front windshield even this time of year if the sun is out (UV is really terrible) and keep the rear auto shade out permanently. I also cover the seats, rear wood console, and fabric parcel shelf with towels unless I have guests in the car. Others with the factory leather dashes have not always avoided the shrinking, but I doubt they went to such protective lengths.
 

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1983 300SD
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Discussion Starter #17
MB-Tex didn't even cross my mind. The most indestructible material known to human kind. Is that a new idea or have other people on the forum tried it?

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89 560SEC
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I have no horse in the race, but I will say my 560SEC had its dash recovered in leather by a previous owner a number of years ago and it looks pretty nice.

However, the purist in me would always prefer to scour the junkyards for a nice original dash. They have to be out there... just a matter of finding them. and then the labor to swap it. but you'd have to do that anyways to recover it
 

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1983 300SD
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Discussion Starter #19
However, the purist in me would always prefer to scour the junkyards for a nice original dash. They have to be out there...
Oh, I'd definitely prefer original. But I think you're optimistic on how many crack free blue non-airbag dashes exist. They seem particularly susceptible to cracking and blue was the less common interior.

I haven't seen any on eBay in the past four months. That's effectively a huge junkyard with a hefty markup. MB stock in junkyards here in CO is laughable so pulling one is not possible. It was the same story when I was looking for one right after buying the car back a few years ago.

That said, I did see a gasser with one on copart. So there's a least one! Enough to keep the dream alive I suppose.

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'87 560 SEC, Pearl Grey/blue; 300,000+ mi; '07 CLS 550, Barolo/stone; 90,000+ mi
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I have no horse in the race, but I will say my 560SEC had its dash recovered in leather by a previous owner a number of years ago and it looks pretty nice.

However, the purist in me would always prefer to scour the junkyards for a nice original dash. They have to be out there... just a matter of finding them. and then the labor to swap it. but you'd have to do that anyways to recover it
Does it have any stitching/separate panels sewn together, or is it one solid piece that uniformly conforms to the entire surface area?
 
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