THE INSTRUMENT PANEL
I started work on the instrument panel in May. I never got much further than fabricating the F-7103C-L and -R (drawing number 24) initially. I knew I was going to make a modification to the panel so I did not do too much to it right away.
The photo above left shows the F-7103B-R and the F-7103C-R cleco'd to the forward side of the panel. Other than a few trial installations to check for fit, this is as far as I went at that time. The photo above right shows a close up of a nut plate on the F-7103B-R. I am not sure why I took the picture .
On September 2,2005, I was browsing on the Van's Air Force website. There was an ad by a small company called Affordable Panels. The design was modular. This is exactly what I had in mind but did not have the time to do R & D on. I called the phone number that was on the ad, (561)-670-7677, and talked to a nice young man by the name of Fabian Lefler. I decided to go with his "Slider XL" package. The photo on his web site www.affordablepanels.com shows the radio stack offset to the right. Talking to him on the phone revealed that he had an option that had the radio stack in the center. This is what I decided to go with. His small company is located in West Palm Beach, Florida and when I offered to drive up there to save shipping he volunteered to bring the panel to my house. The quality of this unit is excellent. He cuts the parts with a Laser cutter of some sort. I need to see this machine. He charged $295.00 for the panel which has 6 total sheet metal parts, a bag of hardware and the kit even includes a few 5/32" clecos. The photo above left shows the panel "skeleton" in place. It fits like a glove. He saved me several days with this piece. The picture at right above shows the new panel overlaid on the one supplied in the kit. This gives you an idea as to how much bigger it is.
There is a drawback to this panel. If you have already made and drilled the F-7103C-l and the F-7103C-R you will have to make them again. One reason is that Fabian made the screw holes symmetrical with the center of the panel. The original had the screw holes for the F-7103C-R the same distance from the center screw hole as the F-7103C-L but the center screw hole is offset to the right slightly. The picture above left shows the holes for the F-7103C-R in the new panel over the old panel. I originally thought about just drilling new holes in the new panel but I didn't. It turns out that there is an added hole due to the design of the removable sections and I simply could not save my original F-7103C-L and -R angles so I made two new ones. The photo above right shows the "new" F-7103C-L trimmed, drilled and cleco'd to the panel.
After the F-7103C-L & -R were drilled and cleco'd to the skeleton I installed the skeleton with a combination of screws and clecos (above left). I then put the F-7106 forward top skin in place with clecos (above right) so that I could pick up the holes where it attaches to the F-7103C's.
Above left is a photo of the old F-7103C-L and -R angles next to the new ones. I spent a half hour on a sheet metal shear and brake making the new angles. I spent a couple of hours drilling and dimpling them. Had I made this instrument panel as I originally thought I was going to do, I would have spent several days and I am sure it would have been less quality. The photo above right shows a closer look at the old F-7103C-R and the new one. You can tell that the outboard holes are a little further in than the original but there is also an added hole so re-making the part is the only logical thing to do.