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When Your Hell Project Needs a Gauge Panel RIGHT NOW

Murilee Martin October 29, 2010 Tech 14 Comments

Since I dragged the Hell Project ’66 A100 home and swapped in the “new” 318, the project has sort of bogged down into a miasma of Rust-n-Varnish Fuel System Hell. Once I get the tank cleaned and installed, I need to drive it to the inspection station to get registered… and not a single gauge or warning light functions. What to do?

Well, the obvious solution is to rig up a temporary gauge panel with an oil-pressure idiot light and a water temp gauge. Thing is, the dash on the A100 is so cool that I can’t bear to cut or drill any holes in it; my plan is to restore all the original gauges to working order and make a complete new wiring harness from scratch. For now, however, I need to know if the engine is overheating and/or down on oil pressure. Fortunately, I’ve been to more than thirty 24 Hours of LeMons races, which means I’ve seen every possible variety quickie gauge panel. Plywood, street signs, cardboard, you name it.

The first step is to find a nice piece of metal for the gauge panel. How about the trashed front California license plate from my Civic, which just got new Colorado plates?

Some rummaging in my box-o-junkyard-gauges-and-lights and a few minutes of work with Sharpie, tinsnips, and hole saw, and the electrical water-temp gauge and oil-pressure idiot light are mounted.

Sharp-eyed readers may recognize the light as a Land Rover 4WD indicator lamp, which I pocketed during a recent junkyard expedition.

A few more minutes and the wiring is in place. I’ve learned to make all my gauge panels, no matter how temporary, with connectors that let me remove them quickly. Four wires coming out of this rig: Ignition power, light power, oil pressure idiot-light sender, and water-temp sender.

Here’s how I managed to avoid drilling any new holes in my super-original Dodge. The bracket has a notch for the steering column and bolts to the column bracket mount. A little bending and it fits fine.

I still need to put a few more minutes into running two wires to the engine compartment and one apiece to the ignition and headlight switches (neither of which work very well at the moment, but I’ll kludge them to life). Then, once my new fuel pickup/sender arrives, I’ll be driving the van a couple miles to the City And County Of Denver Inspection Station, where it will be smog-checked and its VIN verified (I’m hoping that the somewhat shaky 11-year-old expired out-of-state registration won’t lead to a Kafkaesque downward bureaucratic spiral). After that, I’ll do the 984 little repairs that need to be dealt with before the van is fully functional… and at some point the temporary cluster will go away.

  • buzzboy7

    So if you start driving in 4wd, that's when it becomes a problem.

  • dmilligan

    Well done Murilee! Necessity can be a mother, but you handled it well.

  • MrHowser

    Just as long as you don't end up like my grandfather-in-law. I've heard so many stories (and seen several examples) of his "temporary" fixes that are still in place years later. If it sorta works, why fix it all the way?

    • Lex

      My boss has made a career out of it. He owns a successful business that he built from the ground up that requires a fair bit of infrastructure (20+ 30'x90' greenhouses with gas, electric and plumbing) and the whole place is kludged together. One of my jobs is to keep it all running…which i suppose makes me some sort of kludge master. It's gotten to the point where i see no challenge in doing a job with the right tools and the right material, where's the adventure in that?

      If he's not looking i do things right. Then again, when nobody's looking i build in the metric system just to confuse anyone who comes after me.

  • Hoonage at its best. Welcome Your Highness.

  • There is a bar in Las Cruces, NM that accepts license plates for $2 discount off your bill.

    Needless to say, what Murilee did here is the second best thing to come from a California license plate.

  • Manic_King

    It's now 4 am here and I'm not too sober, but I do understand that we have something especially hoon-ish here. To spent what, 1-2 hours just to create all this for a short drive to inspection station (where it's not needed at all) is something I really can appreciate and respect.
    Great to have You here, Murilee.

  • Charles_Barrett

    That crumpled and battered front license plate directly in front of the driver's seat is an ominous reminder of the potential fate of any and all pilots of Forward Control trucks/vans/pickups…

  • Alff

    Old plates are very useful. I know from experience that two of them cut, bent and bolted together properly make a very serviceable front license plate mount, even if the techs at the Jeep dealer laugh at you. They are also excellent for shielding wall studs from a torch when sweating pipes.

  • Texan_Idiot25

    <img src="http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e321/texan_idiot25/CST10/IMG_0239.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

    I pray this pic works, but fuck yeah I've had to deal with nasty fuel. Our 1st step was to run a recirculating fuel pump that ran fuel from the sending unit, through filters, through a fuel pump (which was pulled off the truck actually) and back into the tank. Main goal was to wash the smaller contaminants out. Didn't wok, however. Still had a load of rust inside.

    • Han_Solex

      I guess I'm not up on my truck fuel tank geography – was this a common location for the fuel tank? Or is this an aux tank?

  • Van Sarockin

    Now that's confidence in your vehicle – putting a water temp gauge where the tach ought to live! I hope you both make it home safe.

  • Bah, too many gauges.

    A friend of mine had a Series II Landie, it never went on the road, used solely for hauling boats out of the water. The interior had more-or-less gone, eaten over the years by mice, salt water and sunshine. There was one gauge though, a clock. Not just any old clock, a brass-plated, quartz-fired, roman-numeralled carriage clock. It was totally in keeping with the Heath-Robinson nature of the rest of the machine.

  • mechimike

    I've been skirting legality with my flock of Volvo amazons and a rotating license plate. Luckily around my house police presence is usually limited to domestic altercations so the occassional spin around the block to check if the brakes work on my non-regged car is typically safe.