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.