Right now we are in the teardown stage of the rebuild. But sometimes when I don't feel like getting into a big project or just want to play a little in the garage I will do a small part or assembly. Such is the case with the dash gauge panel. I figured I could do most of it in one night and then store it for assembly.
The original ranger gauge bezel is a fancy chrome plastic unit. I'm not really partial to it's design and prefer round gauges instead. Some of the other Ford truck owners of this era are using the round gauge cluster used in larger Ford trucks. So I went on a search at a local salvage yard. I found only one of the big trucks with a cluster that certainly wasn't pristine but restorable. If you go this route, try to get the entire wiring plug by cutting the wires of the dash harness. I haven't tackled the wiring yet but it may not just plug in.
Originally, the bezel I pulled from the big truck was all chromed and the accented with black paint. Some of the chrome is not that great so I've decided to use the good chrome edges and paint the rest of the bezel a titanium color. If the chrome was excellent I think I would just strip it and use it that way.
After disassembling by removing a few screws, I cleaned the dust from the gauge faces carefully with a Q-tip. The gauge cluster has a tin cover that is painted black. Mine was showing some rust so I beadblasted it and painted it with SEM trim paint. I think most clusters would just need a dusting though.
After cleaning the gauges and glass, I concentrated on the bezel itself. First, the areas that I wanted to leave chromed were cleand with rubbing compound. I wanted to be sure the chrome would be good enough before I got to far into the project. The areas I wanted to keep were the edges all around and the raised areas around the center gauges. The raised areas make the gauges appear to be seperate round units with chrome bezels. That's the look I like.
The next step was to cut out the large metal inserts that were left for future gauge istallation. A drill and small grinder were used to remove the unwanted metal. Luckily, one side was already cut out and just needed some touching up with the grinder.
The chrome edges were taped off with fine line tape. Then I sprayed the entire bezel with SEM Ford truck light titanium in a spray can. This paint looks really nice when dry. It dries quickly and I could unmask within 15 minutes.
The center gauge cluster was the reinstalled using 4 new chrome screws. Then I installed a new tach and vacuum gauge into the large side openings. It was difficult to find two similar gauges that large but I finally found them at JCWhitney. My original thought was to use all new white faced gauges but after I priced them I am satisfied with what I have! The two new gauges are held in by a bead of windshield urethane adhesive on the backside. They aren't meant to be installed in dash but if that adhesive can hold a windshield in, I'm sure it will hold these gauges in.
That's as far as I can go with the dash project for now. The holes on the upper left will be covered with a new AC duct opening that has not arrived yet. The lower left holes will be covered with an emblem if I can find one. I think it looks better than the original setup and is almost as cheap as purchaseing a new chromed plastic bezel for the original Ranger gauges.
The Vinatege Air system arrived with the vent I need for the dash. So I cut another hole and installed the vent. The wiring was reattached to the back. I was able to find a nice Ford oval emblem to cover the lower holes at the Ford garage. So the unit is now complete and ready for installation when the time comes.
I was able to use the gauge wiring harness that came with the round gauge unit. It is different but most of the wiring is the same and the plug is the same. The only real difference is an extra orange/yellow wire in the plug and a seperate light blue wire that is missing. These operate the surn signal flasher. I was able to pull the orange wire out and attach it to the new harness. Now the wiring appears to match correctly.