Monday, May 16, 2016

1964 Plymouth Barracuda – Dash Restoration

It has been a couple of months since my last post and it is not that I haven’t been working on the car, I have.  It’s just that wiring is a tedious, boring, time consuming job. Also spending hours on your back working under the dash is a pain in the ass, neck and back.  Also this particular project was not very photogenic so I don’t have a lot of pictures to show.  To keep the post from being long and boring, I am just giving a quick summary of the work and the parts involved. I will probably touch on some items from previous posts so some photos and description may be repeated here.

Wire Harness
The wiring in any 50-year-old car is going to be brittle and worn out.  I was lucky that my car did not accumulate many wiring changes over the years.  My plan was to replace only wiring as needed and to make any repairs to visibly damaged wires and connectors.  Several aftermarket companies offer wiring kits but they are really just long lengths of wire attached to a fuse box and you pay a lot for them to package it up for you.  Only a couple of companies make replacement under dash harnesses and these cost well over $600.  Since I was installing new aftermarket gauges and a new stereo and to save a few bucks, I decided to custom wire everything.  I wanted to match the stock wire color so this led to purchasing many spools of wire.  All the wiring and most of the connectors were purchased from Del City Wiring.  

Dash Refinish
Long, long ago, I disassembled the dash so I could repaint it.  Stripping the paint was quite a job since the dash was coated in original primer, original gold, an off-white sticky paint and a quickie black coat.  Eventually, I got the dash painted.  You can read the post Floor Pan Replacement – Part 6 – Prime and Paint but here are a few pictures too.

Organizing Parts

All the parts from the dash were bagged, labeled and stored.  As usual, I did not take nearly enough pictures.  You think you will remember how things go back together but after two years, heck after two days, I have no hope of remembering.  Also, it was sometimes difficult to find some of the parts.  In some cases, I searched for days for a part I knew I had.  Sometimes I found the part sometimes not.  Luckily, most of the missing parts were bolts or screws that were not too difficult to replace.

Fuse Block
Next up was to install a new fuse block.  The original was really ratty looking.  I bought a BlueSea Systems ST Blade Fuse Block - 12 Circuits with Negative Bus & Cover from amazon.  The fuse block was set up for switched (power with ignition on) and non-switched (hot all the time) power.  I first labeled all the wiring going into the old fuse block then disconnected them.  One bolt and the old fuse block was gone.  Next, I added a couple of mounting brackets to the new Blue Sea Systems fuse block.  Then, I needed to drill a couple of holes under the dash to allow mounting. Finally, I bolted it in place.  It is bigger than the old one but is still tucked up out of the way.

Ohhh, 5 circuits

Ahhh, 12 circuits

The biggest part of the dash restoration was adapting the new instruments to the old dash.  Although I love the gauges, I’m not that fond of the look or the quality of the back plate I fabricated.  I would really have loved to mate the new gauges to the original plastic bezel.  I even attempted the project by cutting the center out of my original plastic bezel.  It was a complete disaster that I don’t even want to talk about.  You can check out the back plate fab on my previous post at Gauges Part 1. With a future modification to the gauges in mind, I wanted to make the install and, more importantly, the removal of the gauges simple.  So instead of directly connecting the gauges to the wiring harness, I planned on installing connector plugs on all the gauges with mating connector plugs on the wire harness.  This way if I eventually decide to redo the gauges, they will be easy to remove.

Then the real fun began.  To keep things straight, I labeled every wire sometimes in several locations since they became buried in the dash.  All the new gauges were wired to plugs.  Unbelievably, I did not take any pictures of the new gauge wiring.  Trust me, it’s a masterful job.  Then, every wire that originally went to the old gauges needed to be wired to a mating plug to match the new instruments.  Also, extra wires had to be run to the fuse block to power the electric speedo and the lights to the meters.  I needed more play than was available so I had to add extra wire to almost every existing wire.  Oh, since I don’t trust crimped connectors, I spliced wires by soldering and all crimped connectors were also soldered.  Try soldering under a dash sometime!

Another issue I ran into was that the original ignition switch could not be used with the back plate.  I ended up buying a new ignition switch from Ron Francis Wiring.  Then I had to adapt it to the larger hole already drilled in the back plate.  Another fix, I don’t really like. 

Defrost Vent Ducts

Long ago, I rebuilt the heater and you can read that post at 1964 Barracuda Heater Rebuild.  Somewhere along the way, I installed the heater in the car but never connected the two ducts that feed the front defrost vents.  And of course, no controls were installed since the dash was apart.  A previous owner used oversized, plastic accordion-style dryer duct.  This was squished down to the connector size with hose clamps.  Also, the screw holes on the original plastic vents were stripped out.  The vents were easy to find.  I picked up a pair at Vans Auto.  The hoses were more difficult. The two hoses were different sizes.  One was 2” while the other was only 1-1/2”. The different sizes are used to balance the air flow to each vent.  The 2” hose goes to the furthest away vent on the driver side; path of least resistance and all that Bernoulli stuff.  I don’t know how effective this is but it was a nuisance for me since 1-1/2” hose is not that common.  I first ordered hoses from Dantes Auto Parts.  These hoses were probably close to stock-looking but they were stiff as radiator hoses and were the incorrect inside diameter.  Next, I purchased some 2” hose from Nostalgic AC Parts (they did not have 1-1/2”).  I ordered enough to do both vents and I ordered a reducing adaptor so I could mate the 2” hose to 1-1/2” connector on the heater.  Even with all these parts the puzzle still did not fit.  I finally tracked down some 1-1/2” hose at Auto Zone and it all came together. Sheez!

After the heater work was complete, I installed a new radio from RetroSound.  That was a big enough project to warrant a complete post so I will cover those details in the future.

Other Dash Parts and Controls
The Barracuda has a pushbutton transmission.  The buttons were quite worn out.  I cleaned them up and used a white paint pen to re-letter them.  Inside the pushbutton housing is a small light bulb that illuminates the buttons.  I replaced this bulb with an LED bulb from  The pushbutton housing and its trim bezel were reinstalled.

All the control knobs were cleaned and polished using 0000 steel wool and buffed with metal polish. The steel wool does a nice job on the chrome but watch out for all the tiny slivers of metal.  I was plucking them out of my fingers for days.  The three heater cables were cleaned and lubricated. Most of the accessory knobs had black surround bezels. I also brightened up the letters on the bezels with a white paint pen.  The heater controls were threaded through the dash and connected to the heater.  Somewhere along the line I misplaced one of the clips that hold the cables in place.  eBay to the rescue!  I found a couple stock clips on the site which allowed me to finish the under-dash heater project.

The ashtray was cleaned, painted and reinstalled. 

All the chrome dash trim was cleaned, polished with 0000 steel wool and buffed with metal polish.  The trim attaches to the dash with self-tapping nuts on small plastic tabs that are molded into the back of the trim pieces.  I was lucky that none of the tabs were snapped out which would have made installation difficult.

The glove box door and hinges were cleaned and painted.  The original glove box liner which is made out of a cardboard-like material was crumbling away so I ordered a new one.  Unfortunately, it did not fit correctly and was returned.  I am still trying to figure out what to do.  I think I will purchase another replacement from another source.  If that one does not fit, I might have to somehow repair the original.  Maybe Papier-mâché?  You may notice in the final picture; the glove box door is misaligned.  It is just sitting there temporary until I solve the liner problem.

Lighter.  Remember those.

Heater controls

So close but not quite finished yet.  Since the battery is out of the car, I have not actually put power to all this new stuff.  I am almost afraid to power it up.  I am sure to find some problem.  I still need to install a glove box liner and adjust the glove box door.  I also have some wires hanging down that need to be neatly tucked up out of the way.  It's getting there.

Here is the parts list for this post: - New Vintage 1967 Series Gauges
Ron Francis Wiring - Part #IS-02 Ignition Switch W/Plug
Ron Francis Wiring - Dash Indicator 5/16” Lights Blue/Green/Yellow
eBay – Custom Machine Components - Mopar dash switch nut bezel tool
Vans Auto – Dash Defrost Vents
Nostalgic AC Parts – 2” Dust Hose
Nostalgic AC Parts – 2” to 2-1/2” Dust Hose Adapter
Auto Zone – 1-1/2” Dust Hose
Dantes Mopar Parts – Dash Vent Hose 62/65 – DV3H-62/65
eBay – Mopar Heater A/C Cable Clips (2) - BA9s LED Bulb
RetroSounds - RC900C -Retro Classic Radio