1964 Ranchero Wiring Work
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Dash and Electrical Work

I wanted better and cooler instrumentation since the first time I sat in the truck. A single turn signal indicator, no oil pressure gauge, and a general lack of coolness were all things I could do without. I found an article elsewhere on the web about converting a 1964/1965 Mustang to the later 1966 style gauges and it got me thinking that the 1964/1965 Mustang gauge panel is the same as the Falcon unit, which meant the 1966 Mustang gauges would likely bolt right in. Based on this I went ahead a bought a used 1966 Mustang cluster off eBay and waited for the right time to begin this process. I also had a delay wiper conversion ready to go - you need to remove the cluster to get at the wiring, wiper switch, and wiper motor - so I figured I might as well do that at the same time. I also decided to remove the black vinyl at the same time since I would be removing 1/3 of the dash anyway, and it was starting to peel off. While I was in there I knew I would be doing some wiring work - Dad was a good mechanic, but the electrical work was done with crimp connectors and lots of splices, and it's showing it's age. I'm going to remove whatever wiring I can, update it as needed, and tape it all back together with the right harness tape. It'll be a bit of work and planning, but I think I can pull it off. Below are the first shots after pulling most of the dash apart. The final shot is the pile of vinyl I removed form the dash itself.

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The first real surprise came when  I found out that Dad had drilled a few not-so-small holes in the dash to mount the plastic factory "upgraded model trim" to the dash. It can be patched, but it was a bit of a bummer. Especially since the radio trim piece cannot be reused. After I clean off the glue remnants we'll see how bad it looks. Interestingly, I found a bunch of metal shavings in the glue from when Dad drilled the holes. I can only guess that the vinyl went on first, then later on the holes got drilled and the trim put on.

Another gotcha in here is that some of the wiring is defunct - Dad apparently made a series of upgrades over the years and things got changed over time in no particular overall plan. I've done it too on my cars, so that's not a huge deal by itself - but Dad didn't write up any wiring diagrams and a few of the switches were no longer connected to what they were supposed to operate, so the wiring details involved a bit of "head scratching" for a while. At least Dad tried to do a good job when he did wiring work - I may not like the crimp-on connectors in the harness, but it was all done in a neat and workmanship-like fashion by someone who obviously took pride in what they did. In short, I've seen worse - a lot worse. Some of it done by my own hands in years past. :-)

Three other details conspired against me here -  all from Ford. First is that the wiring harness in most Ford vehicles of this era uses molded rubber ends over each individual connector - they can't be taken apart and rewired like the GM connectors can. Second is that Ford wasn't a big believer in wiring diagrams in some of it's manuals. Third is that Ford liked to use single "bullet" style connectors in various places in the harness, and the only way to tell what goes to what is via wire colors. For example, some 7+ wires come out of the steering column for the turn signals and the horn - and there are 7 individual bullet connectors that have to be disconnected. The whole thing feels much less "engineered" and much more hacked together than the GM systems I've dealt with. It turns out that just a year or two later in 1965/1966 Ford realized the error of their wiring ways and switched to multiple-contact connectors in key places like the steering column disconnect.

Two other things I learned were that the Mustang style glove box door does not bolt onto the Falcon dash, and that a Mustang-style dash pad may not be a direct bolt-on. I was also hoping that Dad had laid the vinyl over a padded dash piece, but he had not. This means that to do my idea of using a Mustang dash pad (with the molded "eyebrows" over each side) will take more re-work than I had hoped for. Oh well. Maybe I can splice in a bit of a Mustang dash from the radio over, or perhaps just leave the Falcon glove box door in place. I really wanted the Mustang dash to use a center Shelby-style gauge pod to mount a large tach and a second smaller gauge next to it, in my case I was going to put in a vacuum gauge. I did find a neat system recently that allows you to mount two large aftermarket gauges and four smaller aftermarket gauges into the original space, but I've mostly decided against it. I really like the look of the original '66 Mustang gauges.

I started cleaning up the glue residue on the dash, and it's going pretty well. The old dash paint is a bit worn and chipped in spots, but overall it's looking pretty good after cleaning the goo off of it.

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Up next is carefully removing all of the under-dash wiring and cleaning up various "loose ends". I created a full color baseline wiring diagram - it's on the wiring diagrams page I created to hold those details. Later on I'll create a full wiring diagram for what I want to do. The plan is to add enough wiring to hook up all the stuff I eventually want to hook up, and leave some stuff not connected until later - similar to how I did the wiring work on my 1975 Suburban. The trouble is those darned connectors. I at least have to add in new connectors for the new stuff, but should I tie any of it into the original harness? Or keep them totally separate? What about cleaning stuff up like the taking the 7 bullet connectors that connect to the steering column and replacing them with one single connector? I'm still deciding what I want to do. Part of me wants to rip out all of the crappy Ford-style wiring and replace it with a more generic harness, but many of the connectors are hard to hook up to. Plus, if I did that I'd have to handle all of the wiring in the entire truck - engine compartment, interior, and all the way back to the tail lights. That requires removing a lot of other stuff in the interior to get to it, but maybe I should just bite the bullet and do it. I need to remove the interior anyway to find the source of the water leaks (so I can figure out how I want to go fix them) and to get the moldy carpet out of the truck... Another idea is to see if I can graft a 1965 or 1966 Falcon wiring harness onto the car in place of the original one. Maybe even a Comet harness to get the gauges. I would use a Mustang harness, but it looks like they moved one of the two bulkhead connectors from by the hood hinge to just above the gas pedal, so it won't fit into the earlier Falcon without some firewall surgery.

While I'm doing all this work and have the wiring harness removed, I needed a way to move the truck, so I built a very basic wiring harness to power the new alternator plus start and run the truck. I bought a cheap-o replacement keyed ignition switch, a small indicator light, diode, and a resistor for the alternator feed, and an ignition resistor to keep the coil from overheating. I put it all in a small project box from Radio Shack and left a really long set of wires on it so I can pull it inside the car and use it. I even left a a lead for the accessory wiring so I could test stuff like the new wipers out.


I created a separate web page for the various wiring diagrams I have along with some descriptions to help understand them. Some are scanned in, others are hand-drawn.

There is also a separate web page for how I added delay wipers to the truck.

I started a separate page for my EFI Swap plans.

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM