THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business - April '15

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50 n Performance & Hotrod Business n April 2015 HOTROD in a red car, because the two reds are likely to clash." Grain matching is yet another issue. "Most of these veneers do not come in gigantic pieces, so you can't lay out an entire car from a single sheet, like you could if you were using plywood. Smaller pieces have to be book-matched: Just like a book has a right and left page, you match the grain so each side of a joint is a mirror image of the other. You have to make sure the grain in the dash flows around into the door pan- els. Otherwise, when the customer looked at it, they'd be able to tell that something was wrong, even if they couldn't say what it was. If you look inside a Bentley or a Rolls Royce, you can see that all the woodwork is laid out that way, that they've taken the time to do that. And we try to provide that same high-end quality." While Williams prefers to work with real wood, where appropriate he turns to "a vinyl product from 3M. That offers a big advantage when working with cars from the 1940s, where the vinyl can conform to the compound curves of those big steel dashboards." A similar 3M product provides the look of carbon fiber. "We recently made a fiber- glass dash and window frames for a '37 Ford, and covered them in the carbon- fiber-look vinyl, but that's unusual. It's mostly the tuner crowd who want carbon fiber, not the old-schoolers or the muscle- car enthusiasts." Restore, Replace, Upgrade Hot rodders have been hanging acces- sory gauges below their dashboards, screwing them down to the tops of their dashboards—even radiator-clamping them to their steering columns since, well, for- ever. Today, however, it's easier than ever to integrate new and additional gauges into a stock or at least somewhat stock- appearing instrument panel. Trucks and Roadsters by Bill, located in Gainesville, Missouri, manufactures a variety of fiberglass parts for selected Ford and Chevrolet models, among them a '41- '46 Chevy truck dashboard that looks basi- cally stock, but integrates air conditioning ducts and subtly enlarged openings for the instrument cluster and (for symme- try, then) the glove box door. "The gauge panel is widened four inches," explained owner Bill Phelan, "and that allows us to fit a six-gauge panel." Trucks and Roadsters makes those, too, from aluminum billet, and in mul- tiple variations involving the finish and the specific arrangement of the gauges. Most are flat, like the original; but the company's flagship design is what Bill calls the Dome, which is curved to fit flush into the stock contour of the dashboard. Recessed gauges are angled toward the driver for enhanced visibility. Trucks and Roadsters also makes a fiberglass reproduction of the '40 Ford Deluxe Coupe dash. Except for the mate- rial, it is absolutely stock, but its fiberglass construction makes it easier to cut down to fit an earlier roadster, or modify with polyester filler. Easy as Pie "In some older cars," said Hampton, "the instrument clusters were contained within a single bezel frame. That makes it easier to replace the whole cluster as a unit." We've all seen upgrades for the 1955-'56 Chevrolet cluster that fit six modern gauges into the same pie-wedge binnacle. To make this work space-wise however, and perhaps to retain some hint of the original design theme, all of the gauge faces are often printed on a single flat panel, visually separated from each other only by the implied shapes of their sweeps. But Hampton Engineering offers what struck us as a unique and clever alterna- tive. "We designed a new cast aluminum bezel, which allows us to fit six full-size gauges into our cluster—while still looking similar to the stock panel." Similar, yes, but also strikingly different, as each round gauge now looks like—and in fact is—an individual Auto Meter unit. In fact, an overlay panel helps visually separate each gauge from the others. Hampton offers a variety of contrasting color combinations: white-faced gauges on a black panel, black- faced gauges on chrome, and many more. You can even have black gauges on a black panel, or platinum on chrome, if you prefer a little less contrast. CARS Inc. of Rochester, Michigan, offers a wide range of restoration parts for post- war Chevrolets, including both stock and custom gauge clusters, dashboard trim panels, knobs, switches, and related compo- nents. "If we have a catalog for a car, then we sell every dashboard component that's available," said sales representative Cole Quinnell. "We have reproduction parts, for people who are restoring their cars to 100-percent original." And of course CARS offers upgrade packages as well. For the '55-'56 Chevrolet passenger car, for example, CARS sells a Classic Instruments kit that "has the original chrome trim around the outside, and then a new six- gauge cluster, with the modern gauges that most people want, set into the same area that housed the factory speedometer." Upgrade kits are popular even for more muscular models that came with a more complete set of factory gauges. "People want a voltmeter instead of an ammeter," Quinnell added, "and a tachometer with a sweep that's more relevant to what a mod- ern engine can do." That is, when they want an upgrade at all. It surprised us to learn that CARS sells "many more strict reproduction com- ponents for the dashboard than upgrade components"—and that that's true for Auto Meter's Sport Comp is all business, white- on-black, with red pointers. (Photo Cour- tesy Auto Meter Products Inc.)

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