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Technical 55-59 Chevy truck gauges

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by Jeff56, Dec 10, 2020.

  1. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Hey guys, I haven’t been on here in a while. I’m hoping I can get some opinions and pics on what you guys recommend and used. I’m building a 56 Chevy truck and I’m to the point where I need some gauges. I’m debating on using my stock gauges and just cleaning them up and figure how to convert the amp gauge to volt. Or go with a Autometer style gauges, or go all out and use the Dakota digital stuff. Hope you guys will chime in. I appreciate it. Thank you
     
  2. harpo1313
    Joined: Jan 4, 2008
    Posts: 2,186

    harpo1313
    Member
    from wareham,ma

    Going all out to me would be S Ws
     
  3. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 6,399

    Budget36
    Member

    Anything wrong with the original cluster?
     
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  4. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 48,672

    squirrel
    Member

    I use the original cluster in the trucks I've had over the years. It's a pain sometimes to get them all working....although I've collected a bunch of spare clusters over the decades, dirt cheap.

    I still have the ammeter in my 59, it works ok. I don't have too many power robbing accessories, though. If you are running a 1 wire high output alternator, and don't want to run that much current through the ammeter, then you can just not have any gauge at all for the charging system. You can tell when something's wrong from other symptoms.

    There is a fellow on the HAMB who repairs speedometers, you might need to send him yours, as they are usually in bad shape.

    The original cluster on those trucks is beautiful....I would not change it for anything else.
     

  5. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Well I had a guy here locally look at it and he tested mine and said they were in good shape? But obviously won’t know that until they are hooked up. I also love the looks of the stock ones. But I also want them to be close to accurate. I don’t want my motor to get hot but the temp gauge not let me know that. Something like that
     
  6. 302GMC
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 6,815

    302GMC
    Member
    from Idaho

    Use a '55 temp gauge. Still mechanical ....
     
  7. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 48,672

    squirrel
    Member

    I use the electric one in mine. With the Standard Motor Parts TS-6 sending unit. It's pretty accurate, once you get to know what it does...when it gets up to the H line you don't want to be driving, you want to shut it down.

    I've been impressed with how accurate the gauges really are. The speedo in mine is within one or two MPH
     
  8. If you have good ones, which you said you do, then use them. They fit and look right.
     
  9. fortynut
    Joined: Jul 16, 2008
    Posts: 1,038

    fortynut
    Member

    When I built my '56 Chevy Panel, I bought a chunk of aluminum, then put a fresh tungsten carbide blade in my table saw, and after laying out the shape as reproduced from the dimensions of the original, using Prussian blue Dykem, a protractor and scribe put on a leather apron, gloves and a face shield and cut out a blank that I massaged with files, and various abrasives. I created the necessary lip over the front of the dash so it could be held in from the back. I re-blued it and laid out the spacing for a Stewart Warner Speedometer and four gauges using a ruler, and a small plastic 90degree/45degree square and a compass. Using a drill press with an inexpensive adjustable fly-cutter, I cut holes the same dimension as the outside raised ring on the bezel of the SW gauges, going down far enough to guarantee the gauge would stop just inside the hole from the back and so the face could be seen. I then turned the blank over and cut holes just a fraction larger than the outside of the outer part of the rim of the gauge. This allowed the gauges to be held in from the back with tabs I made and drilled for cap screws that fitted into holes tapped alongside each gauge using a Craftsmen tap and die set. I made tabs to hold the insert into the opening of the dash from the back. Maybe this is not something everyone wants to try but, at the time, as they say, it seemed like a good idea --- being bucks down. Once upon a time, SW mechanical gauges were standard issue on heavy equipment and big trucks. At the time, I was able to source the SW gauges from a Mack Dealer, (before the Old Dog was neutered by multinational corporate conglomerates). My point in posting this is not to endanger those who might slice off their fingers, or lose an eye in the process of trying duplicate what I did, because there was a lot of shrapnel, (and this is a disclaimer that I accept no responsibility for anyone who tries this at home because, although I am not a professional, I grew up on a farm where necessity is the mother of invention and Luck can be counted on all your fingers if you still have them.) No. I posted this as a means of expressing my belief that making your own parts is as much in keeping with the tradition of Hot Rodding as any other aspect of the process. If I did something like this, today, I might use any number of other ideas using plastic, or maybe laying up carbon fiber in a mold that I made from the green modeling clay I ran across in sculpture class when I was in art school, or out of balsa wood and using resin and hardener, because how you approach solving any of the problems that are encountered in building a Rod makes it your own. Brainstorm first, sketch and model, and I have come to think in making stuff that the 'third one' is one I'm looking for.
     
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  10. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Wow that’s pretty impressive, that was nice of you to take the time to write all that, I really appreciate it. Unfortunately there’s no way I could accomplish something like that lol. I guess my hang up on the stock gauges is, are they close to reading what they are supposed to read or are they not. I mean in all reality if the gauges do work and say for example the trucks been running for 10 minutes and the needle is in between the C and the H on the temp, how do I know if it’s not actually hot? Or are these gauges really not that bad and I’m just over thinking it
     
  11. fortynut
    Joined: Jul 16, 2008
    Posts: 1,038

    fortynut
    Member

    Another old school trick is to use a couple of hang-on gauges for the important stuff: Temperature and Oil Pressure. Both can be had as mechanical gauges, so if those don't work on you OEM cluster. Just sayin'. It can save your radiator/engine, and keep the rods inside the crankcase without making that gut-wrenching knocking sound!
     
  12. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Lol for sure. I don’t want that sound
     

    Attached Files:

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  13. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    That’s mine. It’s ugly lol
     
  14. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Here’s the motor
     

    Attached Files:

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  15. nunattax
    Joined: Jan 10, 2011
    Posts: 2,576

    nunattax
    Member
    from IRELAND

    [​IMG]
    if these are the gauges you have why in the world would you change them.ita beautiful gauge.id get them overhauled professionally,convert to volts at the same time.when you get them back they will fit the dash perfect just like they do now.
     
    e1956v likes this.
  16. Bob Lowry
    Joined: Jan 19, 2020
    Posts: 572

    Bob Lowry

    I've done a lot of 40-60's street rods, and have always kept the stock gauges. In my opinion,
    the factory did a pretty good job laying them out and making them beautiful. Whenever I
    wanted extra assurance, I have added a period correct set of SW temp and oil pressure set
    under the dash, which could be removed to put the car back to original. In a couple of
    my cars I still use the idiot lights, which always thrills people when they see the green "cold"
    light come on. Just me.
     
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  17. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 48,672

    squirrel
    Member

    If you want to see what the temp gauge is doing, you can use an IR temp gun to see how hot the thermostat housing, the heads, or whatever other part of the engine is, and look at the gauge at the same time, and then you'll know what the gauge is telling you.

    I've been driving my 59 truck with a few different engines and the original temp gauge for decades, and never have overheated the engine in it, although it's gotten pretty warm several times. When it gets up to H, it's hot. That's around 230-240 degrees on mine. Yours might be slightly different, but you can check and see.

    As for the ammeter vs. a volt meter....if you think you might be running too much current through the ammeter, you can do a few things to deal with it. First is to just not have any meter at all for the charging system. I've never had any issues with the charging system on my 59 in recent memory, although I did have the alternator go bad in my 57 Suburban, and the ammeter told me something was wrong right away.

    Another approach is to use a "shunt" for the ammeter. That means you wire up the truck as if the ammeter was not there, then run some wires to either end of the wire that the ammeter would be in, and connect the ammeter in the middle of this extra circuit. This way, part of the load will be taken by the main wire, but a small part will be taken by the ammeter as well. I've never tried this, but it was a technique that Chevy used in trucks starting in the 1960s. I expect the ammeter was calibrated differently, though, and that might make it so that the meter deflection with the stock 1950s ammeter is too small to see under most conditions. Also, the wires to the ammeter need to be fused appropriately for what size they are, (ie. 20 amp fuse for 12 gauge wire, etc) to prevent burning things up. Chevy had inline fuses where the ammeter wires connected to the main harness.

    Or you could just get some ugly add on gauges and hang them under the dash, like most guys do. It's a lot easier than taking the time and effort to make the original stuff work.
     
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  18. Jeff56
    Joined: Jul 22, 2012
    Posts: 73

    Jeff56
    Member

    Thank you. I love the style of the original gauges but just didn’t want to have issues with them when I have the wife and kids in the truck lol. I have a new speedway wiring harness installed so I’m not sure how that would work with the ammeter or converting it to volt
     
  19. e1956v
    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,694

    e1956v
    Alliance Vendor

    Here is a diagram of a shunted ammeter on a 49-50 Olds and one from a GM manual. s-l1600.jpg s-l1600 (1).jpg
     
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  20. Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  21. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 9,013

    jimmy six
    Member

    Find a GMC dash... they look way better than a Chevrolet especially with modern gauges.
     
  22. 59Apachegail
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,381

    59Apachegail
    Member
    from New York

    I re-conditioned mine wasn’t too much work, just a bit of patience. Someone cut down another gauge and put it in the place of the ammeter. I’ll try to find it.
     
  23. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 6,399

    Budget36
    Member

    Been ages since I’ve seen a GMC dash, the cluster was square, right? I don’t recall
     
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  24. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 9,013

    jimmy six
    Member

    Yes with 6 individual gauges. 5 for most and a dummy where a tachometer went in the 450-up...
     
    Budget36 likes this.
  25. 302GMC
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 6,815

    302GMC
    Member
    from Idaho

    ^^^^
    There's a clock option for that blankout, too. '54 GMC used a '54 Chev clock, don't know what the '55 up used.
    '55 - '56 GMC DeLuxe cab dash may very well be the best looking factory truck dash ever made.
     
  26. PhilA
    Joined: Sep 6, 2018
    Posts: 1,042

    PhilA
    Member

    The 35A ammeter on my dash (suitable for the original generator), calibrated in "CHG" and "DIS" reads just under the first halfway mark at 20A with a short piece of 10ga. wire connected between it's terminals on the back. Full deflection is about 55A, which I've never seen it hit with the 10si alternator (63A).

    Headlights on it'll show just over the width of the needle into DIS so it's still useful enough to show a discharge situation.

    Hope that helps

    Phil
     
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  27. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 6,399

    Budget36
    Member

    There’s no numbers on the stock amp gauge, but I never pegged it with an alternator. I just have a heater and stereo though. Alternator is whatever would have come in a ‘70 BBC Vette
     
  28. PhilA
    Joined: Sep 6, 2018
    Posts: 1,042

    PhilA
    Member

    I guess it depends on what the gauge is calibrated to read.
    After leaving the lights on for a while then starting the engine, the stock configuration on mine would peg the meter to CHG, and in the past I think it was hooked up like that because it's become hot enough to craze the clear plastic face of the gauges; when I got the car it was disconnected so I'm guessing it got to smelling a bit hot!

    Even rewinding those gauges if they're burned isn't too hard, I rebuilt mine because GM did good with their 50's dash designs.

    But yeah.. blah blah too much current through an ammeter, fire, etc. - truth to this, but you can remedy the problems fairly easily and still retain the stock gauges without having to get a replacement gauge face to read volts.

    Phil
     

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