Repair Information About Your Imperial's Wood Interior Trim

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Tips from Donald:

Of all the parts on an old Imperial the one item which improves with age is the wood trim. I just finished refinishing the wood trim on my 1967 Imperial Crown convertible and am real pleased. This is really a simple procedure yet one many may hesitate to try. As a hobby I have refinished antique items and the same principles apply - smooth and clean the surface and apply a linseed oil finish. The steps:

1) Clean and smooth the surface using "Scotch Brite" a cotton rag and mineral spirits.

2) Mix boiled linseed oil 50/50 with turpentine and a small amount of burnt umber color pigment (obtain burnt umber at an arts and crafts type store).

3) Rub in oil mixture with a soft cotton cloth removing any excess (after 15 minutes) with a clean soft cotton cloth. This process may be repeated several times as long as the wood is thirsty Repeat process after two weeks.

This gives the wood a very mellow deep finish with lots of petina....

Question from David (1966):

I am ready to tackle restoring my '66 Imperial dash. That means refinishing the wood trim. I read the excellent how-to article on the topic, but it does not address a couple of critical questions:

How do you get the metal-backed panels off?

What solvent do you use to get the old glue off the panels and their once and future resting places before reinstalling?

I am particularly concerned about not damaging any of the surrounding trim or fabric when removing glue from the dash, seats, wheel, courtesy lights and door panels as well as wanting to do my best to keep solvent off the wood itself when removing glue from the panels.


From Chris:

The wood on the door panels is easy to remove. Take off door panels and bend back retaining tabs on chrome trim that surrounds wood panels. The metal-backed wood panels lift out easily.

All other areas of wood trim - dash, steering wheel - would be removed at your peril. They are on thin metal backing plates which can bend easily - and if they bend they will never lie flat again. Unless the wood is completely rotted, I would suggest carefully masking off the dash & chrome trim, carefully sanding and refinishing the wood without removing it. (Note: the "wood trim" on the seat backs is not wood - it is a decal. Don't attempt to remove.)

From Rob:

Can you take out the supporting piece/trim that the wood is attached to? If so, maybe just a heat gun and apply some heat to the back of the metal. Don't roast it, just enough to soften up the adhesive.

From Chris:

Any solvent might soak past the glue into the wood and damage it. I'd try heat before chemicals...

From Wayne:

You may be able to push the wood panels out from the back - without drilling new holes. Most of the pieces have holes already in them - for the radio and antenna controls - for the glove box door lock, etc. The holes in the wood veneer panels generally don't line up, exactly with the holes in the pot metal. Their is generally some overlap. The glue that holds the wood veneer panels to the pot metal appears to be contact cement. On my car, this glue was very dry, and I was able to "pop off" the veneered panels by pushing the panel from the backside, where the two panels overlapped. I didn't need a solevant.

I was able to remove all the sheet metal (with wood veneer glued on) without damage. However, the wood on my dash needed to be replaced, since some of the wood was damaged beyond repair. If your wood is all in good shape, and merely needs to be refinished. I think you can leave it attached to the pot metal, but merely remove the pot metal from the dashboard. The mild refinishers that will remove the old wood finish, will not hurt the pot metal.

From Mark:

The thing about a solvent is, you can't always control where it goes or what it will do. It could run out around the edges and damage the plastic, or the wood. I'm not saying I wouldn't use a solvent, just that I would be very careful and only use a small amount. Stand by with a towel to wipe up excess.

I used a hair dryer to remove pieces on my '68. Another suggestion is, don't try to pry these pieces off, try to "pop" them off. By that I mean use something with a wide, flat, flexible blade, like a putty knife, slip it in under the edge of the piece and gently rock it back and forth until the glue loosens and it pops off. If you try to peel it off or pry it off it will bend and never look right again.

From Paul:

I believe that the metal plates are bolted to the dash. Those bolts are not very accessible.

From Eric:

Back in the 70's, I owned a '65 Crown Coupe. The majority of the wood veneer was in pretty good shape, the door panels had a little water damage. I tried some wood oil that my mother had for at least a decade or more. I recall the oil had a kind of cherry aroma and had a red hue, but I forget the brand now. I tried it on the veneer pieces on my dash and door panels and was impressed at the restoration of the color of the wood. These pieces of veneer are wafer thin, 'refinishing' could be overkill when a surface treatment restores the color and softens the surface to relieve the raised, dry grain.

From Bob:

I used XXX steel wool and gently removed the old varnish. Then I used a varnish that has UV protection. It took a while and it came out great looks like new. Just take your time and be patience with it .

From Kenyon:

If pieces are falling off, the adhesive might be pretty brittle?

You might try slipping dental floss in under a space created by a miniture screwdriver used to gently pry the wood up a hair from below where a mark would not be visible? Perhaps applying low heat from a hair dryer at the same time (carefully)?

Follow-up questions from David:

Thanks for all the good ideas regarding the wood trim on my '66 project car. Getting the panels out is half the fun. Then I'll have to clean the existing contact cement off them and off the surface where I want to reinstall them after the wood has been refinished. Please keep in mind I have to do this anyway for one dashboard panel that has fallen out of its own accord, so I'm considering doing the same for all the panels.

Since the glue holding the metal panels to the dash, wheel, etc. is contact cement, shouldn't I be able to use mineral spirits and/or xylene to dissolve it without hurting the wood?

Also, should it be safe for the wood, how about the surrounding trim made of chrome and other materials? Are mineral spirits and/or xylene safe to use around them? I don't have a parts car dash to experiment with or use as a source for replacements if I screw up what I've got.

Reply from John:

If your only intension is to refinish the wood, I can't see why you want to risk removing the wood from the car? I've seen a few of these redone on the car & they look just fine.

Reply from Leo:

The best thing touse to dissolve contact cement is contact cement solvent, available at most stores that sell contact cement.

Question from David:

To my amazement, I discovered that Chris is absolutely correct. The seat back "wood" trim in the '66 Crown Coupe is a fugazi. It's a good fake, but it's still fake. I'm crushed. It seems that the "wood" ring around the left and right rear reading lights is also a decal. Now I'm stressing because I want all my real and fake wood to match, and I'm stuck with making the real wood match the color of the fake. Not like I have a lot of wood to play trial and error with. I guess I'll start experimenting with one of the rear door panels and do the fronts, dash and wheel when I've got the formula down pat.

Reply from Wayne:

You should have fairly good results using Watco Danish Oil, in the natural color, on your real wood trim. It should be a close match to the vinyl wood on your seat backs.

Since the seat backs are not immediately adjacent to the real wood trim, a slight color variation will not be noticeable.

This page last updated October 12, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club.