Foxbody Mustang Interior Panel Dye Tips

By: Bob Goodson
January 6, 2023

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The recent change in values of Foxbody Mustangs takes a toll on the enthusiast.  What I mean by that is that as prices rise on the really nice cars, that means that the Mustangs which were once nice parts cars will become project cars. The result of that is that the really nice parts for your project become harder to find.  There’s less of them on the market because cars are being kept whole as a project.  That also means that the parts cars that are worse for wear start getting the few nice parts pillaged from them. It’s the old economics 101 supply/demand hard at work.  As demand goes up and supply goes down the price goes up. 

We had this problem with 1989 Saleen #50 because two of the dash panels had holes drilled in them for switches.  This wasn’t uncommon at all because the plastic parts were easy to set a screw into or drill a hole in for that gauge being added or switch being put in. Very common for these cars because of all the aftermarket go fast goods offered for them.  That’s what made them so popular and from the recent price increases, people are trying to relive their youth. 

In the image above we had to replace panels on the dash.  Can you spot them? We can’t either which means our partners at National Parts Depot did their job in recreating interior panels.

You can find them all here:

National Parts Depot 1979-1993 Mustang Instrument Panel Lower Cover/Knee Panel and Steering Column Cover

There was a lot of thought put into making these panels and they are exclusive NPD parts made by them.  The color of the plastic used in the mold, the decals used to complete the kit and most importantly the fit and grain finish that completes the look to meet those OE Ford factory look when it’s all said and done.

In the image above you can see a side by side comparison of the NPD reproduction panels with the originals.  Easy to spot the originals with those holes in them.  And note that the knee panel that goes under the steering column is discolored on one end.  Make note of that.  We’ll come back to it later.

If you take a good close look the grain of the NPD pieces on the bottom are the same design as the OE piece.  We couldn’t be happier with the way it was all done to recreate that factory look. As you can tell from the picture above the color of the molded piece out of the box is likely close enough to make do for a driver quality car or if you’re in a pinch and need to get the panels in while you take it to a show knowing you’re going to come back and dye them later.

Here’s the process we used to get the panels to match perfectly to the interior.

We took the knee panel out of the car and over to a local auto paint supplier.  Our goal was to have them match the color and give us enough ounces of mixed dye and hardener to cover the panels and pieces we needed to dye.

The reason we did this is because we wanted the panels to match the existing color.  Depending on where the car lived will affect the color of the interior. The heat for the southwest for instance or the lack of care from an owner who never kept the car tidy. 

If you aren’t local to a paint shop, not to worry, NPD has you covered. They have worked to have the paint made for your interior.  You can find all of those options they offer here:

National Parts Depot Interior Paint

You’ll notice that there are a couple of options for luster in the finish. Depending on the panel you’re dying you’ll need to take that into consideration.  For instance, the door panels are typically shinier than the dash panels due to them being vinyl.  The sheen on the finish is different.  Keep this in mind if you get into splitting hairs on making it look factory original.  ALSO; you’ll find custom mix paint colors that NPD offers in that link above.  They’ve worked to recreate the Smoke Gray and other colors that closely resemble what Ford offered in the Fox Mustangs.

In the image above you’ll see the end of the knee panel. That end is where the paint shop wiped it off with paint thinner.  This panel was one that was dyed before.  This is one of the challenges with interiors of cars.  Some pieces are molded the color of the interior while other parts are dyed/painted to match.  Due to this, you’ll find that most interior panels don’t perfectly match.  With all the different finishes and types of materials used the panels weren’t a perfect match even when the cars were brand new. So the only way to get a perfect match is to dye all the interior panels at one time from one batch of dye/paint. Just know that going into this process if your’e a perfectionist.

Once we had the paint in hand we also bought a sprayer from the paint shop. This is a great way for guys doing this in their garage to get professional results. The reason for that is because the paint supplier can mix in hardener which offers long term protection to the parts you’re painting from spills, accidents and reduces the potential for chipping/flaking.  

This setup acts like you’re spraying from a paint gun. But without the compressed air and paint gun. 

Once that was loaded and ready we took some Acetone and wiped down the panels.  This is an extremely important step.  You’ve got to get all the surfaces clean from oils and debris.  The acetone will open up the pores of the plastic and allow the interior paint to stick to it. We used an off the shelf acetone that is sold at most hardware and home improvement stores.  This product is weaker than what you would buy from a paint supplier. So it doesn’t hurt the plastic.  Although, be careful as certain products will melt the plastic. 

 Even though these parts are brand new out of the bag you can see in the picture below where there was some debris that came off of this.  The mold has to have a release agent in it or the part won’t come out clean. Some of that release agent sticks to the piece and as the plastic cools the oils can come out of it.  So it is imperative that the part get clean and wiped down with more than just a cloth.  You can also use some plastic prep that NPD sells.  

National Parts Depot Prep Components

After the parts are wiped down, be sure to let them dry for several hours.  The small grain on these parts will hold liquid for quite some time.  Even if it is quick drying like acetone.  It’s best to be cautious so that you don’t get fish eyes in the finish when spraying. Patience is key in this. 

Once the part was dry we hung it up and shook up the paint one more time.  We applied very light coats on the parts.  Think of throwing a pinch of pepper on a white piece of paper.  That’s what kind of coats you need to be putting on in each pass.  It may take 10-15 passes to make an even coat.  

Once a single coat is made let it flash dry for about 15 minutes. (CAVEAT) Something to consider is drying time. Depending on the time of year and where you live that will affect drying time.  Humidity, temperature, and the thickness of the coat of paint all affect drying time.  I’ve found that spring and fall are the best times to work on things like this outside of a paint booth.  That’s when the temperature is right and humidity level is low to where it lays down good and the drying time is in that 10-20 minute range to go between coats.  

Something I have to bring attention to is the decals.  NPD has this all sorted out for you.  They are all in the kit when you buy it.  The fuse layout is correct and is from one of their vendors Osborn Reproductions.  

ALSO, they leave OFF the little “Fuse” label because they know you’ll likely need to dye this to match your interior.  They’ve given great thought to this and I’m sure it comes from the experience of selling more than just one make and model of parts. 

Letting the panels dry for 24 hours is a good thing to do after applying two even coats.  The panels fit great. You can see them in that picture above.  

If you’ve skimmed down to this part and just want a quick highlight in video, here’s a video we put together of just the highlights of what we did.  

Thank you to National Parts Depot and Matt for making these.  We are super pleased and so are the owners of this Foxbody Saleen. 


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