Bob's Component Resto, Part 24: The Instrument Panel

Members Restorations

  1. cruiser

    cruiser Well-Known Member

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    So how have we been sleeping lately? Wonderfully, I hope. Nothing like reading one of my stories to put you to sleep, I know. We have a special request from FABO Gold Member GGs66GT who loves slipping off into dreamsville reading my series, so at his special request we present tonight's component resto chapter, the instrument panel. We all enjoy admiring our finely restored dashboards when we're driving. Like most everything else on my 1974 Duster when I bought it, my dash needed a lot of work. I encourage all FABO members to put a lot of work into restoring their dashes. You'll be happy with the result, and its not a difficult task. An earlier owner of my car had removed the instrument cluster and dash pad to repaint the dash metal structure. Many mistakes were made during the reinstallation of my dash, but fortunately I had access to a very original and untouched 1974 Duster to use as a restoration reference. I first removed the cluster by lowering the steering column and removing the six special screws that hold the instrument panel to the dash structure. Be sure to remove the battery negative cable before you do this to prevent shorting out the ammeter. Once the cluster was loose, I reached around and carefully removed the wiring harnesses and cable for the speedo and dash components, allowing the cluster to be removed from the car. I then removed the dash pad. On my workbench, I removed the front bezel of the cluster and carefully cleaned and detailed it. The metal dash chassis with its instruments then went to a restoration shop here in Minneapolis that specializes in restoring Mopar dashes. They removed and calibrated the fuel and temperature gauges, then repainted the faded orange needles of all gauges and the speedometer. They then calibrated and oiled the speedometer, re-soldered the pins on the circular connector of the circuit board, and installed a solid state five volt voltage limiter. I highly recommend replacing your mechanical voltage limiter with an electronic one. At this point, I considered repainting the instrument faces, but since they were in nice shape I elected not to paint them in order to preserve the originality of the dash. I then replaced every bulb and bulb holder in the dash, then cleaned and dusted the dash chassis. With all the resto work completed, it was time to reinstall the cleaned up front bezel (see photos). I then corrected the many misrouted wiring harnesses and careless installation mistakes from the repaint many years ago. I also relocated the map light to its correct position under the dash and replaced the faulty map light switch with a NOS switch. The map light now works for the first time in many years. Several other issues needed to be addressed before everything all went back together. First, I installed a Meter Match fuel gauge calibration unit under the dash, and replaced the faulty and inaccurate fuel tank sending unit (see photos of old and new sending units side by side). The Meter Match is a necessity if you want your fuel gauge to indicate correctly. I then replaced the faulty and wrong part number temperature sending unit in the cylinder head (again, see photos). Next, I swapped out the 29 tooth factory speedometer drive gear with a 28 tooth gear in the transmission. This corrected the inaccuracy of my speedometer when I installed larger tires in 2019. My speedometer now reads within plus or minus one mph, as checked against the speed app on my cell phone. Finally, I replaced the original dash pad, which had been hastily recovered by a trim shop, with a new one that I vinyl dyed in the correct medium gold color. So with all the under dash brackets and wiring now relocated to their correct places, the refurbished cluster went back in. I made a special trip to the salvage yard to find six of the correct original and uniquely shaped instrument cluster fastening screws, and in they went after I hooked up the speedo cable and all the wiring on the back. So now my instrument panel looks great, all the lights work, the speedometer reads correctly as do my fuel gauge, temperature and ammeter gauges, my map light works and my dash pad looks like a million bucks. So here's the payoff, kids. The other night I went on a middle of the night ride in my car. It was cold and still with a full moon, and I was the only one on the highway. The motor was humming along, the heater kept me toasty warm, and the gauges were all glowing and looking fabulous. Try to picture this scene and I promise you'll soon drift off to sleep. Be kind and keep supporting and inspiring one another. Night night!

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    • CFD244

      CFD244 These pretzels are making me thirsty. FABO Gold Member

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      A good read Bob. Glad you are keeping up the tradition.:thumbsup:
       
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      • royslead

        royslead Well-Known Member

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        Wow, that looks goo...zzzzzzzz
         
      • moparmat2000

        moparmat2000 FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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        Looks great
         
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        • 4spdragtop

          4spdragtop CONGRATS NORTH AMERICA! FABO Gold Member

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          Nice!:thumbsup:
           
        • GGs66GT

          GGs66GT FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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          Looking grrreat !
          Tell me a story about the meter match thingy .
          What does it do and how do you set it up ?
          Good bedtime story , yawn … nite nite
           
        • cruiser

          cruiser Well-Known Member

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          It wasn't that hard to do. But first, make sure everything else about your fuel indicating system is good: Rebuilt instrument cluster and solid state voltage limier on the circuit board. Maybe even a new sending unit in the tank. You then install the Meter Match somewhere accessible - for me that was velcroed onto the top of the left kick panel. You wire up a 12v power supply to it and a good ground. Then you cut into the wire that goes back to the gas tank and splice the Meter Match unit into this wire. Really easy. Calibrating is is pretty simple - just follow the directions. There are several posts in this forum about how to calibrate it. The factory fuel quantity systems are very bad in out old Mopars, and the aftermarket sending units are foreign garbage. But you can calibrate foreign garbage into a very accurately reading gauge. I did it and I'm glad I did. And no, I don't work for them.

           
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