Better Dash Lights for '58s
A few days ago I ran into another '58 owner and he was talking about the poor dash lights in his car. I have had the same problem and fooled with various aspects over the years, so I promised him I would write some notes up.
Causes of the problem:
1. black faces - note 59's and 60s have white faces
2. poor design - the chrome plated enclosure blocks too much light
3. scratched/cloudy lenses - age, wear and tear
4. modest bulbs
First, the Temp/Fuel gauge is the worst culprit, IMO.
It being winter (soon) you can work on any of these with little cost or time involved.
1. black face - nothing here short of a trade in!
2. the chrome enclosure sits too close to the instrument. Sit in the car in the dark with the parking lights on. Grab the enclosure (it is a push-in fit) and pull it out a little. Notice how the instrument light improves!! You can then remove the enclosure and trace out a gasket on some plastic, or almost anything, to act as a spacer. I used a white lid off of a food container.
3. Take the lens out of the enclosure (easily removed). Go to your local glass repair shop and buy a small piece of something approximately the same thickness (or more) , trace your old one on it and cut a new one. A sabre saw and a round file will do it. Imperfections ok as the edge is covered up. The general appearance of your dash area improves, along with the vision.
4. Ford and most others (even Lionel trains) used #57 bulbs for instruments. Your Fuel/Temp has 2, the speedo 3 and the clock 1. Make sure you have the right bulbs in there - people tended to put in anything that fit.
For an improvement you can try #1893 instead. It has the same base, voltage but a longer globe and more wattage (about 4.6W instead of 3.4W for the #57). Easy to buy boxes of 10 on Ebay
Working on the instruments:
The enclosures on the speedo and Fuel/Temp push into the dash via pins coming out of them, so you can pull them right off. The instruments are held in by small, Phillips head screws (#1 tip - a magnetic screwdriver helps alot!). Put a white towel on the floor for when you drop them. The sockets just push into the rear of them.
Results: you can get the lighting all the way up to Good. You won't be roasting marshmallows but you can read everthing properly. Essentially attention to details. Alot easier than trading the ol' girl in on a '59 or '60!
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