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50's engine compartment wiring?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Rocket88, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. Rocket88
    Joined: Jul 11, 2001
    Posts: 911


    Bigcheese's engine compartment post has got me thinking about wiring back then.
    How did guys "clean up" their wiring?
    Were there any types of covering?
    What about hiding the wiring?
    Or did they just re wrap it with good old electrician's tape?
  2. I've read in the "little books" that some guys used spiral telephone cable (from the base to the handset). On that note I went to Radio shack and bought spiral loom. I love this stuff and the way it looks.
  3. Slide
    Joined: May 11, 2004
    Posts: 3,022


    I'm not sure how accurate this would be, but it would be believeable: They had a cloth-based black electrical tape back then, and I have seen it wound around groups of wires in a spiral fasion (as mentioned above).

    I have also seen it done where they would wrap a couple rounds of this tape around a group of wires at an angle perpendicular to the wires themselves, repeating every few inches. this leaves wires exposed in between the wraps, so you could trace wires by the color of their insulation. Very similar in concept to the modern use of nylon zip-ties, but with tape.
  4. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Lots of early rod wiring was insanely bad, cut-spliced-taped-rotted original wiring...
    popular good ways involved early plastic spiral stuff, probably available by 1960 or so, careful wrapping with electrical tape, and an aircraft technique--brain cells dead--can't think of word--but essentially plastic strip like used for bad craft projects at camp run along wire and tied around it every few inches, with the exposed wires carefully arranged. Also, careful geometric layout of wires against panels, as with groups of wires leaving voltage regulator or terminal strip--wires carefully run exactly parallel, then brought together with exactly matching angles, etc.
    Terminal strips, Adel aircraft clamps were basic.
    Drop me your address and I'll send you the Spotlight wiring book from Petersen--this oughta be scanned into the HAMB somehow! It's a hot rod wiring Bible from about 1962.
    Tom Mcmullen of magazine fame sold probably the first hot rod wiring kit about this time--I bought one for my '48. It taught me all about the wrong way to do everything, actually a good teaching technique, since car and I survived the fires and darkness and melted plastic and learned better together.

  5. PurHell
    Joined: Dec 17, 2004
    Posts: 375

    from So Cal

    Eastwood sells the stuff "Cloth Harness Wrap " That stuff is period ... I have also seen photos of guys running the wire thru chromed tubing as a race way ... I think one of the biggest things is not to use " new style wire " Most of the old wire is darker ... black with a colored stripe ... not bright red with blue connectors as an example .....
  6. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,757

    Member Emeritus

    We called friction tape (cloth tape)...tar tape as kids. It's sticky on the out side and picks up dirt like crazy.

    The quick and dirty way was to wrap the harness in plastic electrical tape. It works well, is easy to keep clean and lasts very well. I think most cars were done this way. Most of the guys I knew were scavaging wire from junk cars which called for several segments joined together for the long runs. All the taped soldered connections were covered up with the final decorative tape layer.

    One of the guys used to work for Western Electric. He showed us how they bound all their wires with a waxed thread making half hitches every inch or so. (this was when a transistor was as big as a dime and a chip had salt on it.) Multicolor wires and different gauge wires bound this way really looks cool if you take the time to keep everything neat and straight. It actually makes trouble shooting easier with the wires exposed. To get the desied effect the wires need to be straight and the spacing of the hitches consistent. I don't know if the waxed thread is still available. The wax keeps the thread from loosening as you go down the harness. This meant that you needed to buy wire in bulk.

    Yes they sold plastic spiral wrap. I hated that stuff ALMOST as much as I DETEST todays plastic wire loom in the god awful loud colors. Even the black looks like shit to me.

    I think it may be to due to the fact that every johnny-know-nothing would wrap the stock wires with this shit, pop on a chrome air cleaner and open the hood to show off their custom engine!
  7. Rocket88
    Joined: Jul 11, 2001
    Posts: 911


    Does anyone have any pics?
    I've been looking through some of my old books but the pic quality isn't very good.
    I've been thinking quite a bit about this lately as I'll hopefully be doing the wiring on the Olds this summer.
    Bruce, sent you a PM.
  8. dan c
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 2,290

    dan c

    jeg's lists "flex braid wire cover," which i like a lot. it looks like the old-timey covering but is made of a modern material.
  9. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 50,261


    8 years it took to get the aftermarket to catch up? :)

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