One time consuming part of our 1963 Corvette project is the gauge cluster restoration. The gauge cluster is fully removable from the Corvette which makes the restoration easier, but it is a process that takes a lot of care and time. Our gauge cluster restoration is made slightly more difficult because after marker gauges had been installed and the lens retainer was damaged when they were installed. In order to fix this a little sheet metal work needed to be done. Upon fixing the retainer, we painted the housing, cleaned the guages, and installed new lenses.
Here you can see where the lens retainer was damaged from someone installing aftermarket gauges. Disappointing, but nothing that cant be fixed.
Using various tools, we reshaped the retainer and got it to fit back to it’s normal location.
After finishing the retainer, we removed all the parts off the cluster and got it stripped down to just the housing.
Here you can see the lens retainer, speedometer head and tachometer, and the gauge retainer.
Here is the backside of the cluster housing after all the extra parts are removed.
After running the cluster through the parts washer to clean it up, most of the silver paint on the gauge bezels was gone. After using a little steel wool to remove the last little bit of paint, we masked off the chrome and prepped the cluster for blasting.
We blast the cluster with walnut shells. The walnut shells remove the paint while not damaging the chrome.
We painted all the bezels the stock silver color.
Here you can see the silver up close on the bezel.
The tops of the bezels need to have the chrome exposed. To do this, while the paint is fresh and soft, it can be easily cut off with a razor blade.
Here you can see the chrome.
After finishing the silver and letting it cure for a few hours, the housing was ready for black paint. Using some caps and some paper cones the silver was masked off and black paint was sprayed.
Here is the finished housing, all painted back to stock.
Next up was to repaint the lens retainer to fix all the paint that was damaged.
We bead blasted the retainer to remove all the old paint.
Here is the retainer all repainted and ready for install.
This is a key thing to notice and fix before reassembling the cluster. Notice the center cone on the gauges. The one on the left has been cleaned, the one on the right is as removed from the car. Over time the center cone turns a goldish color and this was not how they were from the factory. After cleaning they look like the factory bright silver.
Here are all the guages after cleaning.
Here is another common gauge problem on the 63 Corvette. Notice the red-line on the Tachometer is orange. They weren’t orange from the factory, they were red. A little touch up paint and this will be remedied.
Here is the gauge cluster all reassembled with new lenses. You can see the red-line is now a distinct red. The cluster is now going to go to the speedometer shop to have all gauge functions checked and fixed if necessary.