The gauges in my 49 Ford could hardly be seen at night. Not to mention only half of the original 6 volt ones worked.I know that the common solution is to pull one of the little violet domes off of the lights, but I could not see changing away from that sweet phosphorescent UV display the car came from the factory with. I mean how cool is it to have a funky blacklight glow display? I also didn't want the cobbled look of some cheap aftermarket clocks hangin' off the bottom of my pretty dash.
So what did I do? Well after a good deal of head scratching and some research I found someone on the message boards of shoeboxford.com who had swapped some 12 volt gauges into the original cluster. Exactly what I wanted to do! After I got the part numbers from him I ordered the gauges. When I got them all in I realized that the water temp gauge was mechanical, and the 49 was wired for electrical. Boo. So I ordered an electrical unit. Unfortunately the closest thing the supplier had was a top sweep unit and I needed a bottom sweep.
The water temperatue gauge posed its own unique problems. Since it was a top sweep I had to paint over all the numbers and invert the information for use upside down. This was accomplished with a 6 pack of inspiration and some patience. I am not and artist, and I'm not tooting my own horn, but I think the results are pretty passable.
To mount the new gauges in the original gaue positions the factory gauge backing plate had to be modified slightly. I did this by marking the backing plate in the areas that needed to be removed, clamping them in a vice and then getting after them with a dremel tool. Easy as pie I had modified mounting plates. All needed to be modified except for the ammeter.
I slapped it all back together, hooked the whole mess up to my battery charger and turned out the lights. I was blown away, the iphone pics just don't to them any justice at all. I just sat and stared at the glow for a good 30 minutes, happy that it all actually worked. Very cool.
This project was a time consuming endevor, but I'm happy with the results. It was also a nice project to do indoors on days too cold to turn wrenches outside. I now have a set of brand new, modern, reliable, 12v gauges to keep an eye on my old flathead with. Plus I have managed to retain the original look and feel of the car's unique display. This is something anyone can do, and a viable alternative to the glass dome removal method. I can't wait to get these babies plugged into their respective new sending units and watch my new needles convey tasty info!
If you'd like to try your hand at this project here are the part numbers. Click on any one of them to find them on Amazon.
Electrical Ammeter - Sunpro CP7981 CustomLine - Black Dial
Electrical Oil Pressure Gauge - Sunpro CP8212 StyleLine - Black Dial
Electrical Fuel Level Gauge - Sunpro CP8219 StyleLine - Black Dial
Electrical Water/Oil Temperature Gauge - Sunpro CP8211 StyleLine - Black Dial
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