Author Topic: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster  (Read 2438 times)

Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« on: December 23, 2015, 10:57:34 PM »
After staring at the rusty gauge cluster of my 1967 DeVille for two years, I'm finally in a position to do something about it. I'll be updating this as I progress so everything's fresh in my mind. In upcoming posts I'll be replacing the speedometer with a NOS unit, replacing (or maybe restoring) the temp/fuel gauges, repairing the clock (quartz conversion?) and repainting the bezel.

If your dash bezel is in acceptable condition, the instructions for removing just the instrument cluster are in the service manual. The instructions below are for removing the dash bezel with everything in it. It took me 7-8 hours to do this.

Besides a basic tool set (ratchet set, screwdrivers, allen wrenches) I also used a Harbor Freight flexible ratchet and a headlamp (not the car kind, a light with an elastic headband). I should have bought both of those years ago.

Hindsight edit: before you remove the bezel, cover the top of the lower dash pad below the bezel with a few layers of masking or painter's tape. This will prevent scratches when pulling out the bulky and heavy bezel.

How do you get the dash bezel & gauge cluster out?
1 ) Remove the dash pad as per factory service manual
2 ) Remove lower dash cover panel as per factory service manual (you get the idea)
3 ) Remove transmission shift indicator from steering column with allen wrench
4 ) Remove radio
5 ) Remove cruise control unit from dash bezel if equipped.
6 ) Remove 5 7/16" bolts securing bezel to dash. One on each corner and the fifth in the lower center. Flexible ratchet recommended.
7 ) Remove all connectors to gauge cluster, ignition switch and accessories as well as the speedometer cable. Resist temptation to cut any and/or all wires.
8 ) Lift bezel straight up an inch or two and pull outward carefully (in case connecters have been forgotten).

The electrical connectors are the hardest part. I spent half an hour yanking on the top of the convertible top switch thinking it was the connector, but the actual connector was hiding behind the speedometer. The ignition switch connector is by far the hardest one. There are two tabs to depress while wiggling it out. You have to be firm enough to get it out, but gentle enough to not yank out the wires.

Stay tuned!
« Last Edit: May 10, 2016, 08:47:02 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2016, 03:13:16 PM »
After disassembling the entire unit, I got to take a good inventory of what needs to be done to each piece. I got a few slight surprises as some parts that I thought would be easy refurbishment jobs need much more, but a few others turned out to be a bit simpler.

The clock for example didn't turn out as easy of a fix as I'd hoped. I thought the face just needed wiping off and the mechanism only needed the simple oiling and basic service that most web articles describe. It turns out that the face has a small but noticeable whitish corrosion and needs to be repainted and the mechanism will need more than the oiling and points filing I can provide.

The headlight knob and bezel returned to their original luster after a good buffing from my dremel tool using a wire brush polishing bit. The knurling around the edge of the knob has some small pits still visible under close inspection, but I'm okay with it considering that the bright chrome sheen has returned. I also polished the ignition switch and radio knobs with similar results.

The headlight knob can be removed easily by depressing a button toward the rear of the unit (you can't miss it: it has a spring wrapped around it).

Remember the ignition switch with the impossible to remove wiring connector? It turns out that the ignition nut can be unscrewed with nothing but a pair of needle nose pliers!

Instead of spending hours yanking out the connector (and risking damage to the wires), just remove the ignition switch unit from the dash and leave it connected to the wiring harness. Remove the lock cylinder, and take a pair of needle nose pliers and insert the tips into the two notches in the inner rim of the ignition nut. Push outward on the handles while turning and it'll come right off!

Or you could spend $30 plus shipping on the ignition nut socket.

Look for my next update when I detail how to restore the temp gauge, fuel gauge, and shift indicator faces.

I can't seem to caption/embed images uploaded from my computer/phone (apparently I can only include them at the end). The pics in order: the removed cluster, closeup of the speedometer face (rusty!), using needle nose pliers to remove the ignition nut, and the polished headlight switch and bezel.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 05:23:34 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline lou-q

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2016, 06:14:01 PM »
There is a seller on E Bay that sells vinyl covers for the speedo in several colors.
Look under 67 cadillac coupe deville. Item #401049774194
Good luck,
Lou
Lou Quirch    CLC#26694
39-6127 coupe
67 DeVille convertible Venetian Blue
67 DeVille convertible Doeskin
67 DeVille convertible Donor car for parts

Offline savemy67

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2016, 08:17:58 PM »
Hello Evan,

Good write-up on the dash bezel removal.  I will be following your thread and reviewing it when I get to my '67's dash.  Thanks.

Christopher Winter
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2016, 09:35:30 PM »
Thanks Lou, I saw those on eBay and wasn't sure about how those look in person. I'm already in the process of repainting the original faces. The markings on the fuel/temp/shift faces are embossed so it's easy-ish to repaint.

Thanks Chris, I hope it makes it easier for you when the time comes. It's been quite an enjoyable project so far. Make sure to have some Advil or Tylenol handy before pulling the dash out. You have to do quite a bit of contorting to see and get to everything and I really felt it the next day. :o
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2016, 07:52:53 PM »
Well, painting the gauges has proven a formidable task and while figuring it out I'm doing some other miscellaneous things. One of those miscellaneous things is the cosmetic repair of the windshield wiper switch. Mine looked pretty rough, but the chrome was in good shape and the acrylic lens was free of crazing so it looked doable.

It's pretty interesting how the luminescence works for the dial. The acrylic lens is actually L shaped, bending around the corner of the switch to gather light from a light bulb at the rear of the unit. It's sort of an early form of fiber optics. The black you see on the face is just painted chrome.

I used my Dremel tool to grind the three rivets separating the chrome front dial from the black plastic rear housing. I popped the acrylic lens out through the back in the spot where it bends around the corner of the switch to connect to the light bulb housing with the back end of a small paint brush. I repainted the dial inset with flat black Krylon (stripping the old paint off first then spraying a coat or two of primer). In cleaning off the back side of the lens, I rubbed off some of the painted lettering and I had to touch it up with a bottle of flat white Testors and a toothpick with a sharpened point. I bought some tiny nuts and bolts to replace the rivets and it looked great.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 07:58:45 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline savemy67

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2016, 07:36:02 PM »
Hello Evan,

Nice work.  Other than waiting for successive layers of paint to dry, how long did it take to redo the wiper switch?

Christopher Winter
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1967 Sedan DeVille hardtop

Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2016, 08:47:43 PM »
Thanks Chris,

Not too long, probably a few hours spread out over a couple of days. If you learn from my mis-steps and A) remove all of the old paint with a chemical stripper first instead of painting over it, B) use the high quality blue or green painter's tape instead of cheap masking tape and C) are super careful cleaning off the back side of the lens where the lettering is painted it won't take much time at all. Masking it off is surprisingly tedious and the glue of the tape reacted with the Krylon (I think I'll be going with Dupli-Color next time) so I had to scrape the residue off. I'll go into more detail about painting when I do my write up on the rear housing restoration this weekend. I wasn't so lucky with my heater control switch, as one of the lenses has some crazing and the lettering disappeared in a cartoonish little poof with the slightest touch, so I have to search for another one of those.

-Evan
« Last Edit: January 14, 2016, 08:53:30 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline DeVille68

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 02:54:27 PM »
Nice work.
I noticed that your wiper control unit has four small dents around the perimeter?

Mine has no dents, the sides / edges are smooth. Did this happen during disassembly of the unit?
1968 Cadillac DeVille Convertible (silver pine green)

Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 03:57:02 PM »
Thanks! Those little notches were put there by the factory to help hold the acrylic lens in. The power window switches have the same things to hold the back connecter plate on. Maybe they changed it for '68?
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 03:58:47 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2016, 08:51:37 PM »
Like Tom Petty sang, the way-ay-ting is the hardest part. Waiting for spring. Waiting for metal to de-rust. Waiting for paint to dry. Waiting for the pile of parts on my workbench to turn into a beautiful instrument cluster.

Today, Iíll be talking about possibly the most frustrating part Iíve worked on so far with this projectÖ the instrument cluster housing. Mine had some rust, mostly a thin coating of surface rust. There were some areas where it was more oxidized. It didnít look horrible, but it needed work.

To remove the rust, I primarily used Naval Jelly. The longest I let it marinade in the jelly was 6 hours checking in on it every 2 or so hours and reapplying any where needed. If you apply Naval Jelly with your bare hands, youíll remember the location of every single cut or sore very quickly. For that reason I recommend thick gloves (that wonít tear on jagged edges) and a paint brush. The heavier rust had to be ground down with the trusty Dremel tool. I wound up alternating between the two (jelly soak, then grinding, then jelly soak again, etc.).

Donít waste your money on liquid rust solvents for this as youíd have to buy $300 worth to dip the whole thing- the soaked paper towel method didnít work well at all. Sandpaper might work for you but it frustrated me. When I tried sanding, it looked like I was scratching the hell out of it and Iíd rinse it off with water only to find the whole area turning orange 15 minutes later!

After the rust was completely gone, I rubbed the whole thing with steel wool (00 grade) to remove all the loose paint and other old coatings. I broke my own rule and didnít remove all the paint, as these pieces canít be seen by even the pickiest of concourse judges. As long as the loose stuff is gone and the rest of the paint is suitably roughed itís good to go. For stripping paint on other items I used a cheap chemical stripper.

For primer, I used Krylon Rust Tough Enamel Primer from the local parts store, but any rust inhibiting primer should do. I gave both front and back a few good coats, especially where the rust left some pitting. I didnít bother painting the back of the housing, but you could use Krylon Stainless Steel or even Eastwood Silver Cad if you have $10 or $20 respectively burning a hole in your pocket.

As far as paint goes, it is possible to get a decent (not perfect) job from a rattle can if you follow the instructions to the letter. I tested paints on an old Altoids tin. You can use anything, of course, but I liked the Altoids tin because it had the raised lettering on the cover that sort of indicated how paint would affect the embossing on the gauge faces. I found mixing paint from different brands (Rustoleum vs Krylon) is riskier than mixing types of paint (lacquer over enamel for instance) but your experience may vary. I thought regular Rustoleum went on too thick and took too long to dry however I didnít try their Painterís Touch series, though.

I went with Krylon Short Cuts Bonnet Blue enamel for the light blue color. I donít endorse Krylon, itís just what I happened to go with and worked out well enough for me (read: it was in stock at the closest hardware store and it didnít wrinkle). Any baby blue should work fine. I found the purpose made painters tape (blue green or yellow) to be better then masking tape.

For the darker stripe around the clock area, I used Model Masters AMC Big Bad Blue (watch out- itís a lacquer). It worked well for me and it was the closest color I could find off the shelf. If youíre mixing enamels and lacquers, definitely use a test object first. I sprayed the lacquer 1-3 hours after laying down the base enamel, maybe doing it well before the enamel cures helps the two interact better. Who knows. Then I ďprimedĒ it by spraying down the finest dusting and waiting a few minutes for the main coat.

When shopping for spray paint, be aware that most decent hobby and hardware stores donít let you return a can once itís been used and the cap isnít always the best indicator of how itíll look on the part. I couldnít find any at my local stores, but Krylon Bahama Sea looked very close online to the darker blue instead of Big Bad Blue.

I understand that it is best to have a flat or matte finish to the paint so there arenít any unwanted light effects. Iíll be laying a top coat of clear matte finish before I screw it together for a nice even glow.

Iím not saying that the paint I used is perfect, it was merely good enough. If you find a place near you that can custom mix spray paint, Iíd do that first. Finding the perfect color worried me a bit, but even the speedometer shop guy said itís not critical. Good enough: itís an important phrase to remember when doing things like this yourself. Iíve learned that I need to accept a certain degree of imperfection in some circumstances to keep things moving along. Some things do need to be as perfect as possible, this isnít one of them.

Pics from the top down: the original colors of the housing, the repaint with Model Masters Bright Light Blue which I didn't like, The re-repaint with Model Masters AMC Big Bad Blue which I do like, a close up just showing the Krylon Bonnet Blue, and a shot of the whole thing.
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Offline savemy67

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2016, 10:05:11 AM »
Hello Evan,

Did you consider some type of media blasting for the rust removal?

Christopher Winter
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1967 Sedan DeVille hardtop

Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2016, 11:31:09 AM »
Hey Chris,

I called a few places for media blasting/acid dipping, but they wanted $50-$75. The local parts store/machine shop said their booth wasn't big enough. One place said there's no guarantee the rust would be 100% gone (?). One place could do an acid dip, but then they oil coat it afterwords which I'd have to strip off before painting. Being on the phone with several different places with no obvious solution was a bit aggravating. I wound up getting the rust off myself with Naval Jelly: I 'll just chalk it up to impatience. The bottle says to paint/coat within 24 hours, and I waited just about the full 24 hours to see if any orange-ness returned. Some people blame the cluster rust on the paper gasket, but I'm more convinced it's just low quality steel reacting to humidity.

I suppose powder coating is also an option. If you're doing a show quality job, go for it. Looking back, I'm not entirely sure the hassle of doing it myself was worth the money saved, but it got done. I look at this as a good piece to do some cost control. Spend money where it counts on the actual gauges/instruments and save it for unforeseen expenses (if your clock doesn't work you can almost count on your printed circuit being fried). Take painting the back for example, I saw on the Corvette Forum that somebody used Eastwood Silver Cad to paint the back. It looked great, but the only people who will know are you and the next owner to take the dash apart.

For someone like yourself who is planning on doing this in the future, the best option is to slowly accumulate parts when you can before tearing it out. Unless you're buying a like new part (gauge/face plate/speedometer/etc.) from a trusted source, everything else is basically a core to rebuild/repaint.

What's next for me? I'll be having a relative repaint the face plates (he has an airbrush and is highly skilled model builder) since I haven't been able to reproduce the exact sheen of black. Bob's speedometer can re-calibrate the gauges for $25-50 apiece (turns out I don't need to do that myself, after all). Re-chroming the dash bezel won't fit within my time frame/budget so i'll be polishing, resurfacing, and repainting it myself.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2016, 06:25:55 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline blugg

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2016, 02:17:43 PM »
well said on all the tips an details above  ^^

Offline savemy67

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2016, 08:01:29 PM »
Hello Evan,

I lean toward doing most repairs myself, so I built a media blasting cabinet from materials at hand.  For iron and steel parts I use coal slag.  For aluminum or softer metals I use glass beads.

Your instrument panel housing looks like it turned out well.  Thanks for the post and pictures.

Christopher Winter
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1967 Sedan DeVille hardtop

Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2016, 08:45:28 PM »
Chris,

A blasting cabinet would be a great thing to have, I sometimes wish I had the wherewithal to build one. Someday, maybe. Your work is definitely done with a higher level of thoroughness and skill than I can usually muster.

Sorry I gave you an answer in essay form.

P.S.- If you ever need/want your bezel to be re-chromed, I hope you have better luck than I did finding a place that can/will do it.

-Evan
« Last Edit: January 19, 2016, 09:18:53 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline www.eldorado-seville.com

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2016, 10:40:44 AM »
Great report - thanks for sharing this with us!
Gerald Loidl
1958 Cadillac Eldorado Seville
1966 Cadillac Coupe deVille
1967 Cadillac DeVille
1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille
1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2016, 11:02:09 AM »
Thank you! I like your website, great information.
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2016, 08:09:36 PM »
Todayís (lack of) progress report:

Itís funny how some days are just luckier than others. Iím not a superstitious person, but the day itself seems to control the progress I make. A random Google search leads to a great tip. The guy that happens to be working the day Iím stopping by the parts store knows what Iíll actually need. A day when my mind is clear and my hands are steady. That sort of fortunate coincidence. I hate to spend a post complaining about the doldrums of the project, but I like to think that I've already saved anyone contemplating attempting this enough time and money that it would be unfair of me to deprive you of an important aspect of my experiences ;D. True, everybody has felt this at one time or another, but this is the internet and I shan't let my soapbox go unused.

Thereís that old Edison quote about how he didnít fail when hundreds of his lightbulb filament experiments were unsuccessful, but instead had succeeded at discovering what didnít work. Or something like that. Today, I can talk about what hasnít worked.

I bought a stainless steel scratch eraser kit for the dash bezel insert from the hardware store. It primarily included a tiny piece of sandpaper and a few tiny pieces of Scotch-Brite. It did get the scratches around the ignition cylinder area out, but I was unable to replicate the factory grain to any remotely close level of satisfaction. It wound up looking like an old sink in a greasy spoon and I probably sanded half of the metal away. God help the person who tries this on their Viking or Sub-Zero appliance. There's no way you could get away with a spot repair, you'd have to buy ten of these to do an entire refrigerator and even then the whole thing'd look like it was dragged behind a truck. There may be a top coat on the piece, like a clear coat or some other finish, which may have complicated things. Maybe a clear coat pen (as seen on TV!) may work sufficiently for others. In my experience so far, you either turn to an expert or turn into one. Thusly, my next step is to find a professional shop to refinish the piece. Plan C is to somehow obtain a replacement. I know getting just the stainless steel (Edit: I since dicovered it's aluminum) appliquť in mint condition from an old dash bezel just wonít happen.

As you may have read in my rant post about the í67 interiors (http://forums.cadillaclasalleclub.org/index.php?topic=139471.0), I have been unsuccessful in finding a local plater willing to take on my dash bezel. So far, Iíve been to four or five shops. They either donít plate pot metal, or they do but they don't use the appropriate process (street chrome), or they do plate pot metal with the correct process but they canít do mine because itís too complicated.

The reason I want to re-chrome my bezel, despite the fact that 95% is painted flat black, is that it would be much easier to repaint. The piece is currently in good shape on the most part, but does have those pits and other age/oxidation related issues that chrome often develops. Iím hesitant to send it out of state. A Pebble Beach-quality job is out of my budget, especially since itíll be repainted.

My next course of action on that is to Dremel/sand the bumps out and  resurface the painted portion with Bondo Spot Filler before painting. I havenít attempted that yet, as there are a couple of platers I havenít tried, and I donít feel very capable following the fiasco with refinishing the trim piece.

The rest of the project is moving glacially slow. Iím not discouraged, but Iím overdue for that ah-ha moment that keeps me moving forward. While I've been slow with this project, I've been toying with the possibility of reupholstering my seats. Just the thought of the logistics and cost of that has my head spinning. You really don't make yourself feel better about what you are doing by thinking about what else you could be doing. I suppose it's just another way for project creep to rear its insidious head.

To end on a positive, Iíve polished my new-take-off replacement speedometer faceplate to its original luster. In case you missed it, or if youíve come across this page from a Google search, see the details at the end of this post http://forums.cadillaclasalleclub.org/index.php?topic=139325.0. Also, I did get to visit some parts of town that Iíve never been to before. In one day, I was in four counties! Theyíre not really the places Iíd ever go again, but itís something different. There's nothing quite like driving for miles through an industrial and/or desolate area on a steely January afternoon.

EDIT: The trim panel is actually aluminum and not stainless steel.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2016, 01:59:05 PM by Evan Wojtkiewicz »
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Offline Evan Wojtkiewicz

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Re: Restoring My 67's Gauge Cluster
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2016, 09:37:19 PM »
At long last, my project has finally been completed. In order to keep things simple and clear, I'll still detail each part of my project in separate posts. I'll primarily be discussing the clock fuse here.

I had my speedometer rebuilt and my clock replaced with a rebuilt Borg unit by Craig Wood at McVeys. I sent him my entire instrument panel along with the new speedometer face and a brand new OPGI printed circuit, and he sent it back to me redone in about a week. Be advised that if you do send your cluster to McVeys, that they don't do cosmetic restorations of gauge faces. In addition to rebuilding the clock and speedometer, he replaced a few missing small parts (set knob, bulb holder, screws) and replaced the bulbs.

The fuse was actually very easy to install. I bought a fuse holder, a 1 Amp fuse, ring terminals, and alligator clips. I attached a ring terminal to one end of the fuse holder wire and an alligator clip to the other end. I attached the ring terminal to the clock's power terminal, screwed the nut down tight and pressed the plastic cover on. Conveniently, the hole on the new printed circuit fits perfectly over the nub of the plastic cover. The final step was just to attach the alligator clip to the circuit. Presto! It's been working fine for the last few days now.
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