This year my only resolution is to drive my old truck, creatively and appropriately named Project Redtruck. For anyone uninitiated, this is a '56 F100 that my grandfather bought some number of years ago that never actually worked for him and after a few years of frustration he gave it to me. For over 2 years I have been in the process of fixing pretty much everything that isn't structural on it.
I had been lax in working toward my resolution this year but after my grandpa suffered a pretty serious accident earlier this year I decided to jump back on it - if he is ever able to come back to this side of the country I fully intend to have this truck on the road by then. My last post on the subject was finally getting the truck to run with the turn of a key after nearly a decade of that not working; today is one of those times where it is finally starting to look like a whole vehicle again, and it starts with the dash.
When I got the truck the dash looked like this
The cluster was basically original, possibly a repop bezel but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary for a '56. The gauges below, however, just make blood boil. Clearly the gauges in the dash didn't work or whoever did the pseudo-resto previously could not figure it out, but his solution as just so god damn sloppy. At the very least he could have made the holes line up?? No, apparently not. Lets take a closer look....
Yeah, that's no good. Not shown is the radio slot that's also a bit of a mess.
But no matter, I'm going to fix it. Eventually....
First step is acknowledging you have a problem and realizing you have to fix it. For this I ordered 6 new gauges - Tach, MPH, volts, oil, water, and fuel should cover it. In an effort to modernize I went with all electric gauges, no point in running hot fluids into the cab. The specific gauges are Equus 8000 series, they look somewhere between modern and retro and don't cost a fortune. Gauges are funny like that, they're either cheap and questionable or WAAAYYY too expensive for a project like this. I went cheaper, we'll see how that works out.
Gauges purchased and I have to start modifying. I gutted the cluster and trimmed the bezel to fit a pair of 3 3/8" gauges
I then used my powers of CAD and my little CNC machine to cut a test piece for fit inside the bezel
That fit pretty well so I made a couple adjustments, added some features, and made my final part
Then did some assembly
That'll do nicely
Next I needed to fix that irritating array of holes in the lower dash.. Some of them were original holes for fun knobs and switches but mostly it was a hack job. My plan, unfortunately, was to make it a bigger hack job then hide the evidence. But that hide job would be EXCELLENT!
So again we go back to CAD and the CNC. I designed up my parts and did another test cut, then mocked it in place.
Then a test fit of all the bits and bobs that it needs to house
Again, I made a couple modifications but nothing that anyone but me would notice, and cut up some metal
And ran another test fit, just to be sure
Next I had to locate it in the truck to mark where to drill and cut
Then I drilled the 10 holes to hold it in place and make sure it would be self supporting
And then.....it got worse before it got better
Yikes. An air knife made quick work of the dash but the carnage is....well, it's carnage. Not my favorite thing I've ever done but the result is better than I hoped for when I started.
Not all the hardware is in at that point, and I promise the cluster is not crooked it just looks that way. If I may toot my own horn on this one it's a pretty stunning outcome especially when you consider where it started.
I spent the past couple days doing a bunch of wiring behind it all and sorting out the harness that's left in the truck. I plan to have that put mostly together this week.
Rarely when motivation hits me this hard do the results look so good