Pontiac’s interior stylists wanted you to say “Wow!” when you saw a shifter console in
What’s one of the first things you admire in a First-Generation Firebird’s cabin? If your answer is the console, then Pontiac’s designers did their job well, for they purposefully created the “seat separator console” (as it’s officially called) with a camera-grain finish, bright trim molding, (and in ’68 and ’69 optional) burled-walnut-style appliqués to fixate your eyes directly on it.
But what if your First-Gen Bird’s shifter console has lost its wondrous luster—be it from wear-and-tear, misuse or mishaps, or interior killers like UV rays and oxidation? Fear not, because you can restore it in your home garage and recreate the eye-appeal it had when it left the factory.
To show us how easy this console restoration can be, we enlisted the expertise of Ernie’s Upholstery in Pinellas Park, Florida, which has restored classic automobile interiors for over 40 years. “You can restore your Bird’s shifter console as a stand-alone project or as part of a full interior-restoration,” Ernie Scalf, the company’s owner says.
Let’s follow along and see how its done, using a ’68 Firebird convertible as the subject.
To remove the console from the Bird, Ernie pulled up on the black plastic button on the T-handle shifter until it came off. Then, he loosened the set screw inside the T-handle on the right side (that holds it to the vertical shaft) and removed it. Using a thin-blade screwdriver, he released the gear-selector indicator plate that snaps into the console.
Next he removed the small screws on each side of the front of the console and the two larger clinch nuts that hold it to the floor. One of the nuts is inside of the console storage area hidden under a round plastic cover. Then he took out the four screws that retain the rear cover in order to gain access to the second nut.
Follow the photos and captions for the restoration.
What is Hydrographics?
Houston, Texas-based Fastlane/H2 Printers demonstrates the hydrographic process.
Hydrographics (you may also see or hear it described as water-transfer imaging, immersion printing, cubic printing, or water-transfer printing) is a way to affix printed designs to automobile interior parts and trim, such as dashes and consoles, as well as exterior body panels like fenders and hoods.
Nick Field, co-owner of Fastlane/H2O Printers, explained the steps his company used to create the burled-walnut hydrographics for our story:
1. Pretreat the part that will receive the graphics—for example the console door—with Scotch-Brite and sandpaper, which removes the original burled-walnut top layer.
2. Apply a basecoat to the part. (For this project, they used a beige basecoat.)
3. Water transfer print polyvinyl-alcohol film with the graphic image to be transferred, and float it on the surface of a vat of water.
4. Let it sit for one minute, and then spray an activator chemical onto the film to release it from its clear backing.
5. Dip the part into the vat through the floating film layer. The natural water pressure from the vat causes the film to wrap around and adhere to the part.
6. Pull the part from the vat and take it straight to a rinsing machine, which removes the leftover polyvinyl-alcohol film, chemicals, and residues.
7. Allow the part to dry for one hour or more.
8. Apply one clearcoat layer to the part. (If needed, wet-sand the clearcoat to remove any imperfections.)
Fastlane/H2O Printers’ retail price to apply hydrographics to the console is $295 and the turnaround time is approximately five days from receipt of the parts.
To watch a video showing how hydrographics is created, visit www.h2oprinters.com/hydro-dipping-process.php.
 As you can see, our console was in need of restoration.
 Here’s the transmission tunnel after the console is removed. Notice the shifter assemb
 The ’68 and ’69 consoles consist of six components: the console base, one-piece trim m
 He then turned the console upside down and removed the 11 nuts that hold the trim mold
 Our Bird’s console’s original burled-walnut applique is dull, worn, scratched, and nee
 We could have opted to have our console’s trim molding replated, but since it only had
 He applied two coats of SEM 15013 Color Coat Landau Black flexible coating to the cons
 Afterwards, he liberally sprayed Castle Big 5 Heavy Duty Silicone Lubricant onto a cle
 Various locations on the trim molding were originally painted black at the factory an
 The console’s components are ready for reassembly. The hydrographic-processed burled-
 Volunteer Huong Nguyen and Ernie carefully install the trim molding into the base, tu
 With the console and trim molding back together, it’s easy to see how the ’67 Firebir
 Ernie reinstalls the front cover, then flips the console upside down and secures it w
 He then shows how the rear cover is reinstalled, but you’ll want to save this step un
 Ernie then reinstalls the lid.
 This photo is a mock-up: You will reinstall the gear-selector indicator plate after m