Gauges, explained (part 1)

Getting Bridget’s dashboard right has been an ongoing project for about 10 months. I knew when I first started driving her that she needed some electrical work, as the tach bounced around and the “dynamo” meter (amps) never moved at all. Looking at pictures of TD’s I could readily spot differences in gauge dimensions and in the look of the center cluster. I also wanted a glove compartment.

At first I thought I’d figure out a way to adapt real TD gauges to Bridget. That turned out to be impractical, both because the real items are rare and expensive and because, in the case of the tach, the drive is mechanical, not electric. For a while I toyed with the notion of buying TD gauge faces from Moss and then making housings that would fit them and adapting cheaper mechanicals to those. Yes, I was that crazy.

Came on the idea of using a stock VW speedo with a white face. The requisite speedo was available for about $45 on Ebay. Quite a leap from the $450 Moss reproduction TD speedo. A Classic Instruments speedo would work too, but their default max is 140 mph, which means Bridget would be using about half of it. Getting one made to read 100 mph would also cost about $400, factory reps explained. So, $45 for the gauge the car came with seems right. Just a matter of lightening it up a bit.

for under $20 they give you the faces for many years–so I get a couple tries at this.

Putting the new faces on is easy, once the trim ring is pried off (I bought my speedo already apart, so I did not have to find an eyeglass screwdriver and carefully pry the thing off myself. Making the shade the right color seemed prudent.

matte finish seemed right for this

For larfs, I modded the new gauge face, blanking out “tank” and adding “petrol” on the fuel gauge (this is done with a tiny dab of paint thinner, a bit of white spray paint, then an inkjet printer–tape the gauge face to a piece of paper exactly where you’re printing the new word. Afterwords, a coat of laquer should fix it.)

that should keep 'em guessing
Tried to simplify the V-dub face and ended up with a nasty smudge. Fixed with a Sharpie:

Printed “SMITHS” on the front…

’cause “Jaeger” was just not believable with the fonts I had available

Sharpied the pointer too, as a white pointer on a white face is not pleasing to the eye.

Put it back together; painted the rim silver. It’s far from the genuine item, but a lot closer than the Classic Instruments model that was there before.

Addition of a non-stepped chrome bezel from an early Karmann Ghia will bring it that much closer to the look I want. That part is on order.

Getting the speedo done was a multi-step process. The center cluster was no less so, but for different reasons. Begin with this: $324.95

Moss needs too much for just about every part it sells. This instrument cluster panel is just a case in point. Ebay eventually rescued me. I picked up a full cluster–including two pull switches, both indicator lights and some other junk, for $120. The catch? Some knucklehead had installed a cigar lighter in the middle of it.

this’ll buff out.

I wanted the two-hole electrical socket.

Got one on ebay. $45–which is more than they go for here, but I didn’t know that.

Fixing the panel up was a matter of making a bit of metal in the shape of that ragged hole

and getting it to stay put.

The “correct” bronze paint color is also a Moss item–$20 a can. I used some handy copper spray paint and some wheel silver–both left over from previous projects. Two coats of the copper followed by a light misting of the silver and no concourse judge would dare question it. Laquered it clear afterwards too, for good measure.

New indicator gauges will fit neatly into the two inch holes up top. I chose an oil pressure and a volt meter, both from VDO. These are good quality and the white face is right, but the “old tyme” numbers don’t match the other gauges. VDO has a plainer look model but those don’t have the chrome bezels. I figure more people would notice the bezel than the font. Compromises, compromises. (The company has since come out with a “cockpit white”–chrome bezel series. Dang!)

Picked up a genuine TD ignition switch on ebay–$70 (Moss has ‘em for $150), but had to buy the horn dipper new for $75. I figured my existing light, wiper and emergency flasher switches would be usable, and the three indicator lights in the existing panel could be reduced to two (original style) ones indicating generator and oil pressure. I left the high beam and turn signal indicator ports open in the VW speedometer housing and will put lights there.

Wiring all this up is going to be a bear. And that’s before I disconnect my existing, perfectly good, VW ignition key switch and column lock and try to make the old TD item functional with the addition of a rubber-tipped starter switch. More on that as it happens.


About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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