After nearly half a year of planning and waiting, I found myself switching roles from a behind-the-scenes bystander to the active participant. At long last, the trim panels were complete and all the AiM components were in my hands. One would assume that remaining idle for so long would render me into slow form. Quite the contrary… I was motivated to get behind the wheel again and had the install’s game plan judiciously dissected in my head.

Time to go to work and attack what needs to be done without pause. First up – remove the old interior panels and tear down the interior.



Next, I transferred over appropriate buttons and pieces onto the new trim.


This is where I hit a snag, and hit it hard. Everything was going great until I started swapping the HVAC panel’s dials. The panel I sent to Toby to perform the custom work on was a ’93. The panel originally from my car is a ’94. As it turns out, there is another difference between ’93 and ’94 HVAC panels aside from the paint texture – the blower position indicator dial. The support piece that holds this particular dial’s graphics was not the same. The ’93 uses a clear acrylic pedestal like the other dials, but the ’94 has a black plastic pedestal with a dimensionally different inner diameter that would not fit. Whether this is a cost-cutting move by Mazda, I have no idea.


I was left with a few options, and because I gave myself a compressed schedule of only 2 weeks, I exhausted all of them simultaneously. 1.) I ripped off the dirty dial graphic from the ’93 acrylic support and spent a couple hours slowly cleaning and dissolving all the glue residue and gunk. 2.) I bought a set of reproduction dial face stickers from Black Cat Custom Automotive. They had a long turn around time, but I opted to proceed as a last choice backup. 3.) The only way to buy a new set of OEM dial graphics is to buy the entire HVAC trim panel from Mazda. So that’s what I did. Prioritizing expediency, I purchased it through a local Mazda dealership. They wouldn’t let me pay over the phone for the order and I had to endure traffic after work and pay in person, minutes before their closing. A couple days later, the panel arrived – repeat the after work traffic rush to pick it up.

Although this was a ’93 panel, I soon realized, much to my dismay, that Mazda was simply painting ’94+ panels in the smooth ’93 finish. The position indicator’s pedestal was the exact same black plastic piece from my car, and not the clear acrylic support I needed. I decided to try plan 3-B.) and peeled off the new piece’s graphic sticker and transferred it onto my freshly cleaned acrylic support. This went well, until I noticed a slight factory imperfection on the graphic’s print. When I tried to clean it off, everything went south and the print was quickly ruined. I’m wondering if Mazda used cheaper ink on the newer stuff…

Since that failed, I ripped off the wasted sticker and instead transferred over the original graphic from my car.


I finally had a successful outcome, but maximized my contingencies by leveraging option 4.) and acquired, via overnight shipping, a spare ’93 HVAC panel from a buddy that had a spare one laying around. I ended up not needing it and it was too worn for me to use any way, thus concluding the saga.

Here is the HVAC panel complete with nice, clean dial graphics. I reused the hot/cold graphic from my original ’94. Notice the difference in its design versus the juxtaposed ’93 that I’m holding in the picture below. I backdated my dash to a ’93 and sans passenger air bag, but kept ’94 touches like this… which I think is cool.


I know this post became rather costive and lost to the drudgery of the ’93 vs ’94 trivia, but I feel that it was nonetheless important to highlight. All of this brings into perspective the emblematic difficulty level associated with car work.

Average is performing basic mods on a car to a “good enough” level and feeling satisfied. Average, however, is too boring and facile. The true difficulty is exemplified and exponentially increased when operating at a high level of detail and tolerance. This is the area where I personally appreciate and discern the most, as it signifies a grander scheme and thought.

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