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Dash Facia & Support Restoral, Gauge Cleaning

9/8/02 -- Well, we've been down this road before with my last incarnation of Mrs. Jones. But, new project requires new parts and more cleaning, so off we go!

Part of my parts acquisition necessary to complete my project included finding the correct three-position main headlight switch that goes on the dash facia. I found one, along with the rest of a tired, but intact dash facia panel, on eBay and I used "buy it now" to close the deal at $65 -- or so I thought. Whoops. U.K. seller. That's Pounds Sterling. Between currency conversion, wire transfer fees and the expensive shipping, I wound up blowing about $165 -- a lot more than I should have or cetainly wanted to spend, and learned a valuable lesson in the process. I will never again purchase from overseas if I cannot use a credit card. The package took roughly three months to arrive. For the last two months, I was all but certain it was never going to...

The good news is that the facia panel, though the veneer is beyond repair, will make an excellent basis for my woodworking craftsman of choice, Gordon Peterson, to start with a new finish. I shipped the panel and lower dash support to him two days ago, with the instructions that I'd like to go with a slightly darker-toned, richer wood this time, in order to better compliment the Triumph Formula wheel I picked up last year. Though I loved the tiger maple treatment on my last car, it seemed to clash with the wood wheel. The period wood wheels need a warmer tone like the original facia panel finish in order to look like it belongs on the car. At least, that's my opinion.

Though I already have a used speedometer in the cabinet from a different car and not this project which came with no speedometer when I purchased it, I decided to make a go at restoring the one that was fitted to the U.K facia assembly. As you can see, the instruments look frightfully bad. The inner gaskets melted into hardened goo years ago and the chrome is in a very sad state.

So why not just go with the clean speedo I already have? Well, since the actual mileage of this project car is unknown to me, and there will be no record of it to acquire, I decided that I wanted to reset the odometer to all zeros to better reflect the current state of the car (all new or refurbished parts with no miles driven on any of the moving parts). I have never attempted anything like this before and if a mistake was to be made, I decided I'd rather risk it on the already-thrashed instrument. Makes sense, right?

A very unnecessary and nasty dispute erupted between myself and a long-time enthusiast that I have always held in the highest regard. This took place almost immediately after I made the inquiry on the Spitfire e-list about resetting the odometer.

In a private e-mail, this gent made some rather incredible statements which I considered inflammatory at the least, bordering on hostile. He implied that I had criminal intent, and flatly stated that my "morals, ethics and integrity" must be lacking (and that's paraphrasing it politely) to consider rolling back any odometer to zero, even if it was never attached to the car in question (with unknown original miles) to begin with.

This was where our argument intensified. My logical contention (which was later revealed as legally correct, the other fellow admitted after checking the California DMV code to bolster his assertions, I'm assuming) is that since the actual mileage of the frame is unknown, the drivetrain is from a different vehicle all together, and the project arrived in my driveway with no speedometer or documentation that would be useful in determining the actual mileage to begin with, it would simply make no difference WHAT the odometer read on this particular speedometer, since ANY reading would be incorrect. Good grief.

My desire was to reset the odometer to zero to reflect the re-birth of this formerly abandoned project car, with no intention of ever attempting to pass off the ensuing new mileage as "original". Setting to zero will also help be more easily keep track of maintenance schedules.

I only share this story to underscore my honest, responsible and reasonable intent, in the event that I ever do sell this car someday. If and when that day comes (okay, when), the odometer will be represented just as it will be expressed to the California DMV when I drive the car down to register it: The odometer reflects the total miles driven since total restoration only - original total mileage unknown." After checking the laws, my accuser learned that I am within my legal rights to do exactly as I had intended. Case closed, but after some harm to the once cordial relationship I fear. I was very insulted by the accusations and insinuations leveled against my character and intent. Too bad. The entire controversy was very unnecessary.

Last evening, I dismantled the speedometer after reading this excellent tutorial and reset the odometer without too much difficulty once I was able to pry up the bezel tabs and remove the bezel and glass. There was no way that I was going to be able to un-twist the bezel as designed. The inner gaskets, no matter how much lubricating oil I used, were not going to budge. Fortunately, the seal was good enough to preserve the face of the gauge nicely. After removing the rust from the case, I decided to paint it with silver Hammerite for future protection. I then scraped out the caked, baked and crusty o-ring gasket with a screwdriver, and set out to see if the chrome was salvagable. First, I used plain white vinegar. Encouraged by the results but still laboring, I turned to CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust remover) and it cleared the remaining film from the chrome quickly and with very little effort. After rinsing in water, I polished with Simichrome and I think the results speak for themselves.

The difference between how the gauge started out (see the tach and speedo side by side below for comparison) and how it looks now is very satisfying. I've got an NOS fuel gauge, but I'll go ahead and clean up the tach, fuel and temp gauges, also. There may be some fading on the face of the temp gauge, however.

Ironically, after setting the odometer to zeroes, the gentleman who sold me the tub and chassis (but retained most everything else including the gauges), e-mailed to say that the clock showed 35,575 miles on the disconnected speedometer when he purchased the project. So could that be the original mileage? Just 35,575 miles? Or was it 135,575? Perhaps 235,575? Who really knows? But more importantly, who really cares? There's simply no way of accurately gauging the total mileage on a frame that has been removed and taken off the road for an undetermined number of years. Or even if it's the original frame, for that matter!

3/25/03 -- The dash facia panel and lower support came back to me in September, and have finally been fitted in the last month. They turned out beautifully. Unfortunately, the speedometer failed my road test in that after half a mile, the odometer stopped advancing. I've put less than 20 miles on the finished car so far, and a NOS replacement speedometer has been ordered. The tach was also a bit out of whack, registering higher RPM's than normal in the upper range, but that has already been sorted.

4/20/03 -- I dismantled the speedometer and fixed the problem. It performed flawlessly for about 60 miles, then suddently quit. Time to check the cable again before any more driving is done.

Please. Always wear your seatbelt while driving -- and that goes double for your children if you have any.

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