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Projects Save The Gauges

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Speed~On, Mar 15, 2020.

  1. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,415


    I am admitidly a bit of a vintage gauge buff. Gauges from the 1920's through the 1950's were built with great quality and have a lot of character. Although the majority of my vintage gauge collection is dominated by the Stewart Warner line there are other manufactures that produced amazing gauges, such as MotoMeter, US Gauge Co NY, Rochester, National Gauge & Equip. Co to name a few.

    While at car shows I make it a point to look at the dash and gauges hot rodder's are using since gauges are of special interest to me. An observation I have made is many are using modern gauges. Most of the time hot rodder's are choosing a modern gauge set with vintage aesthetics on the gauge face. I can appreciate why many choose this route. Let's face it, for one it's just easier to order a new set. Second, we all want an accurate reading from our gauges as we somewhat rely on them for important info. Finally, many do not trust older gauges. However, I can attest that I have many gauges from the 1930's that still work great today and provide accurate readings. I know for certain the quality and character of my relics are far superior to what is manufactured today. I often wonder why hot rodder's frequently go to extraordinary lengths and expense to find period correct parts for their entire build, only to order new gauges from a catalog.

    So take a ride with me for a moment, perhaps I can twist your arm ever so slightly and encourage you to save an old gauge or two. They are cool....and they want a home in your hot rod. They're also a lot of fun to bring back to life.

    A few months ago I found this old (and quite large at 2 7/8") US Gauge Co. NY temp gauge. The curved glass was broke, it was filthy and had been sitting for some time. I made an offer and the owner accepted. I got lucky as the line was in great condition and the capillary tube still had a charge. These gauges are built like a brick chit house.


    I carefully separated the bezel from the casing.


    The bezel's on these old gauges (and from many manufactures) comprise of several parts. The bezel, retainer, gasket and glass. I then carefully removed the retainer from the bezel. I ordered a really cool piece of convex glass that has a very nice curve to it.

    Then I gave the gauge face a little attention.

    When my replacement glass arrived I simply put the gauge together. I polished the bezel and cleaned the casing. This gauge was pretty straight forward and it turned out quite nice.

    I gave it a test and true to it's quality it provides an accurate reading.

    There are still guys out there that can replace the line and/or capillary tube if needed.

    To my astonishment a few months later I stumbled upon the matching oil pressure gauge (US Gauge Co. N.Y. 2 7/8") I certainly was not expecting that to happen as not too many of these exist. The
    gauge was in much worse condition than the temp gauge. I made an offer and the owner accepted.
    This is what I saw when I pulled it out of the box. As you can see, I had my work cut out for me.



    My first step was to test the gauge. It works however the needle only returns to 4. That is ok, as It's something that can be fixed.
    **See Page 3 of this thread**

    This gauge was in need of plenty of love. Both the rear mounting studs were broke off, the glass was heavily clouded, it was missing the mounting bracket and the bezel looked horrible. The first job I wanted to tackle was fixing the rear mounting studs. As I stated before, the line of US Gauge Co gauges are built like Fort Knox, so I knew the case was thick enough that I could tap new threads. I took a hack saw and cut off the broken studs, then I filed them down and drilled them out. I bought (2) 10/24 32nd bolts and 2 kep nuts. Then I tapped new threads into the casing. After cutting the heads off the bolts I screwed them into the casing completing my new studs.

    Then I carefully removed the bezel to clean the inside of the glass.

    With a little glass cleaner and use of a microfiber towel, all the clouding immediately came off the glass. My plan was to remove the black faded paint from the bezel and polish it. I thought I would find chrome or plain metal under the paint; but as I began to rub on the paint to my amazement, a beautiful brass finish began to emerge. I quickly grabbed my brass polish


    I used 0000 steel wool in an attempt to remove a few scratches at the center of the glass.
    I have to say I was pretty amazed at how well this old diamond in the rough turned out in the end!



    HAMBer @fleetside66 is a great friend and fellow gauge connoisseur. I shared with him my latest gauge nerd session...I mean restoration project. I told him I was looking for a 2 5/8" 2 pod gauge panel. Of course he had one and said he would get it in the mail. Thanks Greg!! Within a few days it was at my place.

    My plan was to remove the paint and engine turn the panel. In hindsight I completely underestimated the resilience of the paint on this panel. It was a battle of wills and in my corner was a bottle of paint stripper, lacquer thinner, steel wool, sand paper and Scotch Brite pads. In the other corner was a panel that wanted to keep it's paint. So I went to work...

    After an epic battle I gained the upper hand....


    Once I had the paint removed I wanted to see how it would look with a gauge.

    I decided to finish it by rubbing it down with a Scotch Brite pad. This panel was not going to be a good candidate for engine turning.

    It was time to mount the gauges. I wish I could take a photo that truly captures just how great this set looks. It really turned out beyond my expectatins and photos just don't do it justice....but here goes.....



    These are quite large at just slightly over 2 5/8"

    Not too bad for 2 gauges that were basically written off. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute while working on these two. It was a simple task and something that anyone with a little desire can easily accomplish. They served well over the past 80 years and I'm confident they will continue to do so for the next 80.
    They look pretty good and work great. Not only that they are true to hot rods as they are from that era. How killer would these look in a traditional hot rod!

    So the next time you're looking for a set of gauges, perhaps you will consider giving an old set of gauges another chance at life. I can promise you they will serve you well.

    My initial plan was to fix and sell. I must admit that I've grown a little attached so I may hang onto them for a little while longer.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
  2. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 7,498


    Very nice work!

    On the OP gauge, what is "RETARD" referring to?

    You knew someone would ask.
    loudbang and Speed~On like this.
  3. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,415


    Thank you @Budget36 I am curious about that as well. I have collected a lot of vintage gauges over the years including many oil pressure gauges. I have never seen one with "retard" on the face. We all know we can either "Advance" or "Retard" the timing on an engine.....but I'm not sure how that correlates to oil pressure. I am hoping a fellow HAMBer has the answer.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
    OFT, loudbang and Budget36 like this.
  4. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,882


    Very nice!
    loudbang and Speed~On like this.

  5. Phil P
    Joined: Jan 1, 2018
    Posts: 359

    Phil P

    In a retard gadge the scale is not the same through the sweep of the needle. Notice 60 to 80 is less than 0 to 20, 20 to 40, etc.

  6. NAES
    Joined: Dec 24, 2008
    Posts: 485


    Awesome little tech thread. You mentioned the oil gauge reading 4lbs was an easy fix. Can you go over that?

    On my '53 Chrysler wagon I have OG gauges in the cluster. The temp gauge had the copper line cut but there are new gauges available from Napa for arounf $30 that have the capillary tube and bulb. I put the bulb in an ice water bath (dry ice would be even better), cut the copper tube off the new gauge and silver soldered it to the OG gauge with a copper sleeve over each cut tube end. If you're halfways good with soldering, this is an easy fix as long as you don't wick solder into the capillary tube blocking it. The ice water bath keeps the ether in the bulb while doing the splice.

    Wow, I feel like I actually contributed something useful to this site! Lol


    Sent from my SM-N950U using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    bchctybob, brEad, woodsnwater and 8 others like this.
  7. hudson48
    Joined: Oct 16, 2007
    Posts: 2,952


    Shame about that name on the oil pressure gauge "Retard"
  8. Almostdone
    Joined: Dec 19, 2019
    Posts: 629


    Guilty as charged. I’d be happy with old gauges, but admit I didn’t look very hard. I bought a new S-W set for the speedo and engine info, but went with an old Sun tach for my A.

    Thanks for the info.

  9. dumprat
    Joined: Dec 27, 2006
    Posts: 3,184

    from b.c.

    Nice tech. I love old gauges.

    I have two glow in the dark Stewart warners , I would love to get the whole set.
    loudbang and Speed~On like this.
  10. Old is new again.Nice work on the restore,thanks.
    loudbang and Speed~On like this.
  11. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,415


    In this instance it's nothing derogatory....
    As Phil explains
    Thank you for the explanation! Thumbs up.
    kidcampbell71, 48fordnut, Tim and 2 others like this.
  12. Kan Kustom
    Joined: Jul 20, 2009
    Posts: 2,689

    Kan Kustom

    The Sun gauges are my favorite. If I had a Stewart Warner, I would ask you to trade in a heart beat. I don't actually know why I love them so much. I just do.
    catdad49, loudbang and Speed~On like this.
  13. Speed~On
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,415


    We completely understand! This accurately sums up my infatuation with vintage gauges:D

    loudbang likes this.
  14. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,456

    from Minn. uSA

    Hey, Dumprat;
    Possible to drop a couple of pics of the glow-at-night gauges? TIA, if you can. Never seen those before, except in post WWII Studes, & usually the effect is gone, due to the luminescent paint being bad. Kinda back-burner project looking for a supplier of that stuff. Use to be available for watches, n models, haven't seen it for a very looong time. ;( .
    kidcampbell71 and loudbang like this.
  15. dumprat
    Joined: Dec 27, 2006
    Posts: 3,184

    from b.c.

    Sure I will dig them out and get a pic tomorrow
    loudbang likes this.
  16. Could not agree more, nothing beats the look of the early 2 3/8 and 2 5/8 Stewart Warners in my eyes ;) Great thread about the restoration process !
    Speed~On and loudbang like this.
  17. I don't think it would be too hard to get a repo sticker made for the oil pressure gauge. I have a few Stewart Warner, Rochester and US Gauge also....but the smaller ones.
    Tim and loudbang like this.
  18. 392
    Joined: Feb 27, 2007
    Posts: 1,206


    Great post. Thanks for sharing.
    nunattax and Speed~On like this.
  19. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 22,259

    Staff Member

    E1FEBB22-23A1-429E-941D-00835BD76EF8.jpeg 0178772F-7D6A-4208-A1CC-C928975BD202.jpeg 2C28C2B9-63AF-45F0-A201-8A17865E92B2.jpeg 807F1FF2-5D36-4D6E-BB55-A4C9E623C280.jpeg DDB53441-425C-40B8-9BF8-3A6C4C6C7084.jpeg 8262E792-B4BE-4B3B-A7DC-6C3C9DA8C40E.jpeg 84EC39DD-2EEB-4FAF-A7C9-9C7BCDA3126B.jpeg 6B8DF601-D030-4EBF-B9C5-F3BE1E709329.jpeg 7AF0EBC4-84A5-497B-8F0B-EA9F8AFDC40D.jpeg 14ACC23C-8137-4270-B36F-688B63E5388F.jpeg 06E3A78F-98DD-4D4F-B49D-8249E6F90122.jpeg D39D6090-9136-4D11-8439-879205DD4C66.jpeg 0657D5C4-9E46-492C-9FB9-21146A1A6F89.jpeg awesome man, I love old gauges and have been buying them at swap meets for decades. I probably have more than I will ever use, but it is nice to just "grab a set" out of my display case when I am putting a car together. In the meantime they are works of art and great to look at.
  20. wvenfield
    Joined: Nov 23, 2006
    Posts: 5,400


    This is what we need more of on the HAMB. One of the coolest things about an old car is the gauges. I never have understood replacing them with new.
  21. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,543


    Nicely done! Once again Moriarity demonstrates why I want to be his neighbor!:D
  22. guthriesmith
    Joined: Aug 17, 2006
    Posts: 5,813

    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    Very cool! Thanks for taking the time to go through that. I also am a fan of fixing just about anything on these old cars and not just replacing with new stuff. At least in my opinion, the new stuff isn't as good of quality and also just doesn't have the same feel and character of the old stuff. Although a little different, a buddy just gave me a gauge cluster for my pu yesterday since he swapped his out for a digital one. I don't really need another one, but also couldn't let him throw it away especially after someone took the time to clean it all up and make it look new again. I can't remember the last time I bought new guages...
    Speed~On likes this.
  23. continentaljohn
    Joined: Jul 24, 2002
    Posts: 5,050


    255674A8-0BD2-494A-951C-560095DC1F62.jpeg E4B64CA4-1282-492B-9128-5C1B2AB3431B.jpeg TJ thanks for the great tech and for saving the gauge and starting the post. I found that 1935 1936 ford gauges have the same size convex glass that fits the 2 5/8 gauges as your resto one. I too love them early gauges and even went out and bought a box of early gauge needles . I was looking for the Stewart warner 2 5/8 crescent needles . Do you have a source for them needles?
    Gasser 57, Speed~On, GordonC and 3 others like this.
  24. e1956v
    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,793

    Alliance Vendor

    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
  25. fleetside66
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 2,722


    Old gauges are the way to go, for sure. And like T.J. said, it's amazing how they will work after so many years. For example, I have a 100 year old mechanical temp gauge that still rises to the occasion. I can't remember finding an old mechanical oil pressure gauge that did not work, be it S/W, U.S. Gauge, Rochester or MMG&E.

    It's great to see some of Rusty's Colorado Springs vault. Especially with the old speedos & tachs, he's helped me & many others here save our old instruments & set us up with the proper cables for it all to work. Here are some of my goodies.

    IMG_4951.jpg IMG_4953.jpg IMG_4952.jpg
  26. Neighbor? It makes me want to know if @Moriarity wants to adopt a 40 y/o son:)
    Chavezk21, brEad, Speed~On and 3 others like this.
  27. flat 39
    Joined: Dec 31, 2007
    Posts: 244

    flat 39

    Could you go into more detail on how you remove and reinstall the bezel?
    lostmind, Speed~On, 49ratfink and 3 others like this.
  28. vtx1800
    Joined: Oct 4, 2009
    Posts: 1,377


    I'd like to see the OP solution to a mechanical oil gauge that doesn't work.
    I have two Studebaker Hawk dashes and neither oil gauge would register. I squirted carb cleaner in the orifice and drained, applied air off and on and finally got them to work. Sorta. 40# indicated when it should have been 60# but I will live with it.
  29. I found this patent description on the 'net using my Ninja Master search skills. (Note how the spacing gets closer together on your gauge at the high end of the range.)...........

    "The present invention relates to gauges and has special reference to retard gauges in which mechanism is employed to retard the movement of the gauge mechanism whenever the normal operating range of the gauge is exceeded.

    More particularly this invention relates to a retard gauge having provision for controlling the exact point at which the retard mechanism comes into operation, and also for easily and accurately adjusting the retard mechanism to increase or decrease its retarding force or elect.

    In a vacuum and pressure gauge such as that illustrated, the normal pressure range may be from 0 to 50 pounds. When the pressure exceeds 50 pounds, the mechanism is retarded so that the indicator moves a relatively small distance while indicating a relatively large change in pressure.

    An object of the present invention is to provide a retard gauge having means for readily and accurately adjusting the retard range of the gauge.

    Another object is to provide a retard gauge which may be quickly adjusted to control the exact point at which rthe retard mechanism comes into operation."
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
    Tman, kadillackid, Speed~On and 2 others like this.

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