Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
September 1, 2001

Step By Step

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The refurbished gauge cluster breathes new life into our 37-year-old monitoring system shown here in our partially assembled dash.
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Removing the steering wheel isn’t necessary, but the few minutes of work involved make it far easier to get the gauge cluster in and out. Drape a towel around the steering wheel and remove the cluster mounting screws and the speedometer cable. Make sure you identify where the wires go before you remove them.
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Don’t take any chances and create double work. When removing the cluster, purchase a full brace of 1895 bulbs for the complete cluster and replace them all.
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To test the bulbs, simply touch the socket to the metal dash for grounding purposes.
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Here’s our original cluster as it came out of our hardtop. Even with the layer of dust wiped off, this cluster is shot. The needles are faded, the chrome has peeled away, and the lenses have been scratched with dry towels.
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Flip the cluster over onto a padded work surface and remove the back plate mounting screws. These screws are all the same length, so there’s no need to keep them in positional order; just set them aside for now.
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Carefully separate the back plate from the cluster bezel and lens assembly. Lift the back plate straight up to prevent snagging the gauge needles and damaging them.
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With the back plate assembly set aside, you can now remove the gauge mask from the old bezel. The cardboard tube shown is a light-retaining device for the turn signal. These should be fabricated if yours are damaged.
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Even though we’re not using our old cluster bezel or lens, the lens mounting screws and lens bumpers (found around the gauge rings) should be used on the new parts, so remove them from the old bezel and set them aside.
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The original bezel had a foam lining around the turn signal opening to seal the light from the surrounding gauges. Since the new bezel doesn’t come with a foam lining, we used small sections of adhesive-backed dense foam to make our own seals. Notice the rubber lens bumpers in place as well.
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The new lens is carefully laid into place. Notice how the turn-signal light area seals to the foam we installed.
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Also, notice how the lens seats to the bezel with locating tabs. Make sure these tabs are seated within the notches on the lens before installing the screws to secure the lens. Watch out for fingerprints!
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Clean the gauge mask in soapy water, then dry it completely before installing it. If the mask is rusty, you can mask it off with tape and repaint it. When laying the mask into place, make sure you don’t touch the lens previously installed. Discovering fingerprints on the inside of the lens once everything is completely reassembled is a bummer!
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Before reuniting the back plate with the new bezel and lens assembly, carefully clean the gauge faces (a can of compressed air works well for this), then block off the gauges with paper and repaint the indicator needles with high-visibility orange paint. You can buy a small bottle of this paint from a hobby shop and use a fine brush to apply it.
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After waiting for the paint to completely dry, the back plate and bezel assemblies can be reassembled. Be very careful when lowering the back plate into place so that an indicator needle doesn’t get caught and damaged.
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Our completed cluster is a far cry from what it looked like a mere two hours ago. Not only are the gauges legible and sharp-looking, but the upgrade to the woodgrain cluster (for our Deluxe interior conversion) makes the cluster look richer.
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Reattach the wiring carefully, following the diagram or notes you made during removal. The instrument cluster IVR (instrument voltage regulator) should be tested and, if need be, replaced now before reassembling everything. Stay tuned for our complete interior installation.

During any restoration, there's the inevitable lull in progress. While you're waiting for the paint shop to finish the paint job or the back-ordered part to arrive, you can still make progress. These baby steps in the restoration aren't monumental achievements to check off your master list of subsections, but they culminate into a finished restoration.

Perfect examples of these baby steps are such tasks as rebuilding your heater case, carburetor, or steering column. Small one-day projects such as these help to complete the total picture. When it comes time to reassemble the interior, the heater case can be pulled from a box, fully rebuilt and sealed, then easily reinstalled.

Since we plan to assemble our interior and dash areas soon, we thought we'd better complete these baby steps on the interior to prepare it for the final installation. The headliner has already been installed ("How-To: Install a '65-'68 Hardtop Headliner," page 40, Mustang Monthly, June '01), and we just rebuilt the heater case ("How-To: Heater Case Rebuild," page 35, Mustang Monthly, Aug. '01). The seats received new Pony seat upholstery in Mustang Monthly's Feb. 2000 issue ("How-To: '65-'66 Deluxe Interior Pony Upgrade," page 30), and the Deluxe steering wheel was restored in Mustang Monthly's June 2000 issue ("How-To: '65-'67 Woodgrain Steering Wheel Restoration," page 34). The gauge cluster and the steering column were all that needed assembling for the interior. In this issue, we tackled the gauge cluster, and we'll assemble the steering column when our final interior assembly takes place in the next few months.

All the gauge cluster items came from Virginia Classic Mustang. The project took only a few hours, and the new bezel, lens, and detailing make all the difference in the world now.