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Brightening the repro Rally Pac (and other RP stuff!)

Brightening the repro Rally Pac (and other RP stuff!)

Old December 9th, 2009, 10:52 AM
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Brightening the repro Rally Pac (and other RP stuff!)

I have received several request on how to do this, so i would like to share with everyone.

Since I think real gauges should be a requirement in EVERY car, i wanted to install the Rally Pac in my 72 Cutlass to keep it looking factory... I went with the Parts Place repro kit but I think they are all the same thing, regardless where it was bought.

It fit well, despite having to make a custom wire harness for it. On the downside, the night backlighting is VERY substandard. In fact, the lights inside the tach are useless. You cannot see the numbers for clock or tach - just the tach pointer. The blue tint is missing, too. The gauge cluster has better lighting and has the blue color, but still not as good as the original speedo.

First I experimented with the light bulbs. The gauges came with the (incorrect) very dim 161 bulbs, so I tried blue 168's and regular 168's. The blue ones were still too dim and way too blue. The regular 168s were brighter but still looked bad.
I had pulled the speedo out also and took it inside for cleaning, lubing, and lens polishing. I then noticed the ring just under the lens of the speedo is black on the outside and light blue on the underside (to reflect a bluish light on the gauge markings…)

I opened up the tach and the new gauge cluster (bend out the tabs) - the rings were black on both sides! THAT was the main problem with the lighting. I ran over to Hobby Lobby to get model paint in light (sky) blue and white. Using the blue color in the speedo as a reference, I mixed up some white and light blue paint to match the speedo colors. (I actually made the color a little more blue, as the speedo paint was a bit faded.

I painted the rings light blue in both gauges. I now set up all three clusters in the back room and hooked them up to a bench-top power supply. The gauge cluster was much brighter and bluer and the tach was better but not bright enough...

I then realized the inside of the tach's housing was not painted at all! (The gauge cluster WAS painted light blue from the factory). So I painted the whole inside of the tach housing gloss white and some other internal surfaces with the light blue paint mixture. Here is what it looked like after then:


To color match to the speedo, more white was applied to the outer gauges to give the desired color. I left the 168 bulbs int here, but 194's could have worked, too. I put 168s in the speedo to match the gauges and all were close enough. Nice! Now all three clusters have 168 bulbs. The floodlights for the A/C controls were upped to 194 bulbs to match the brightness of the clusters.
They are very readable and the brightness is enough that I use the rheostat to turn them down.
Here they are installed:

Reinstalled, lit up, and working!
Remember the speedo was NOT repainted inside - just cleaned up. Ket think on the speedo is to not use liquid to clean the face - it can lighten the lettering and remove its ability to reflect light.

The other pods were painted to help match the speedo. The left pod appears dimmer, but there are less markings. Any more light would make the aluminum center too bright...
--Now you might be thinking the gauges and the floodlights are WAY different colors, but they do match closely (at least through my eyes). Either the camera sees them very differently or my eyes see them as close to the same...
Here is another shot with different camera settings:


The real color is more between the two; go figure... (yes, I should have pulled the shifter down before taking this shot...)

Now the repros YOU might get could differ than the ones I have, so adjust your procedures as needed. Also keep in mind that this could void the warranty, if one even comes with them in the first place.
Hopefully the factory will paint them like they should.

NOTE: My gauges fogged up after cleaning - must have been residual moisture in the cases when reassembled and installed in in the car when it was cold out. After a day or two, it was gone, never to return.

Picture 1 - The guts of the speedometer. Note the light blue paint in the case. The underside of the black ring was this color, too. The speedo was cleaned up, but NOT painted. It looked too good and made the reference for the other gauges.
Picture 2 - To open, bend the tabs as shown, simply moving the screwdriver towards the top of the tach to avoid damaging anything. No servicable parts inside, but we sure can paint it!
Picture 3 - Painting the ring for the tach. I could not get the **** off, so i used a paper towel to keep paint off the lens.
Picture 4 - This tach case inside needs to be painted light blue, or even white for better results.
Picture 5 - The gauge cluster was already painted light blue inside, so I was in the process of just painting the underside of the ring. (Paint the whole ring, of course.)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
Gauges - speedo rework 6010.jpg (102.2 KB, 847 views)
File Type: jpg
Gauges - tach opening.jpg (84.5 KB, 799 views)
File Type: jpg
Gauges - tach inside 6017.jpg (64.7 KB, 742 views)

Last edited by Lady72nRob71; January 13th, 2011 at 07:29 AM. Reason: Add'l info, bigger picture.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 10:55 AM
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Thanks Rob,

You must like to do the under the dash work upside down on your back.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Jamesbo View Post
Thanks Rob,

You must like to do the under the dash work upside down on your back.
The 70-72 gauge pods come out the front...
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Old December 9th, 2009, 11:02 AM
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Well thanks Joe, I didn't know that.

Rob, Please disregard stupid post.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Jamesbo View Post
You must like to do the under the dash work upside down on your back.
Not at all. That is NOT fun, especially in cold December.

That was why I liked this particular painting job. I did it all in a warm house, under warm flood lights, in the kitchen next to the beer fridge, eating homemade Christmas cookies, drinking eggnog, while wearing pajamas and a bath robe... How much more comfier could I have been?

I did this two years ago and from what I remember, the gauges all came out from the top, too.



Hmmm ---- maybe THIS is what you were refering to during reinstallation...

" I carefully reinstalled the speedometer and tested its lights. One thing to be careful of is to drop the shift indicator linkage way back in the open area. When I dropped it down the first time, it fell into a tight area between the column and a support bracket and got so stuck that it took me about 40 minutes to free it... After finally freeing it, I dropped the linkage WAY back, secured the speedo and adjusted the shift indicator. "

Last edited by Lady72nRob71; December 9th, 2009 at 11:28 AM.
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Old December 9th, 2009, 12:33 PM
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Nice write up Rob
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Old December 9th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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Thumbs up

Originally Posted by lady72nrob71 View Post
i have received several request on how to do this, so i would like to share with everyone.

since i think real gauges should be a requirement in every car, i wanted to install the rally pac in my 72 cutlass to keep it looking factory... I went with the parts place repro kit but i think they are all the same thing, regardless where it was bought.

it fit well, despite having to make a custom wire harness for it. On the downside, the night backlighting is very substandard. In fact, the lights inside the tach are useless. You cannot see the numbers for clock or tach - just the tach pointer. The blue tint is missing, too. The gauge cluster has better lighting and has the blue color, but still not as good as the original speedo.

first i experimented with the light bulbs. The gauges came with the (incorrect) very dim 161 bulbs, so i tried blue 168's and regular 168's. The blue ones were still too dim and way too blue. The regular 168s were brighter but still looked bad.
i had pulled the speedo out also and took it inside for cleaning, lubing, and lens polishing. I then noticed the ring just under the lens of the speedo is black on the outside and light blue on the underside (to reflect a bluish light on the gauge markings…)

i opened up the tach and the new gauge cluster (bend out the tabs) - the rings were black on both sides! That was the main problem with the lighting. I ran over to hobby lobby to get model paint in light (sky) blue and white. Using the blue color in the speedo as a reference, i mixed up some white and light blue paint to match the speedo colors. (i actually made the color a little more blue, as the speedo paint was a bit faded.

i painted the rings light blue in both gauges. I now set up all three clusters in the back room and hooked them up to a bench-top power supply. The gauge cluster was much brighter and bluer and the tach was better but not bright enough...

i then realized the inside of the tach's housing was not painted at all! (the gauge cluster was painted light blue from the factory). So i painted the whole inside of the tach housing and some other internal surfaces with the light blue paint mixture.

to color match to the speedo, more blue or white can be applied to give the desired color. I lef tthe 168 bulbs int here, but 194's could have worked, too. I put 168s in the speedo to match the gauges and all were close enough. Nice! Now all three clusters have 168 bulbs. The floodlights for the a/c controls were upped to 194 bulbs to match the brightness of the clusters.
they are very readable and the brightness is enough that i use the rheostat to turn them down.


reinstalled, lit up, and working!
remember the speedo was not repainted inside - just cleaned up. The other pods were painted to help match the speedo. The left pod appears dimmer, but there are less markings. Any more light would make the aluminum center too bright...
--now you might be thinking the gauges and the floodlights are way different colors, but they do match closely (at least through my eyes). Either the camera sees them very differently or my eyes see them as close to the same...
the real color is more between the two; go figure... (yes, i should have pulled the shifter down before taking this shot...)

now the repros you might get could differ than the ones i have, so adjust your procedures as needed. Also keep in mind that this could void the warranty, if one even comes with them in the first place.
hopefully the factory will paint them like they should.

picture 1 - the guts of the speedometer. Note the light blue paint in the case. The underside of the black ring was this color, too.
picture 2 - bend the tabs as shown, simply moving the screwdriver towards the top of the tach to avoid damaging anything.
picture 3 - painting the ring for the tach. I could not get the **** off, so i used a paper towel to keep paint off the lens.
picture 4 - this tach case inside needs to be painted light blue, or even white.
picture 5 - the gauge cluster was already painted light blue inside, so i was in the process of just painting the underside of the ring. (paint the whole ring, of course.)
gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!
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Old December 10th, 2009, 04:12 AM
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The 194 bulbs are 2 CP and the 168 bulbs are 2.5 CP
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Old December 10th, 2009, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by HolidayCoupe View Post
gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks - it looks even better while cruising a dark desert highway!

Originally Posted by Yellowstatue View Post
The 194 bulbs are 2 CP and the 168 bulbs are 2.5 CP
And I think the 161's are 1CP (these are the bulbs that come with the repro set).
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Old December 10th, 2009, 08:33 AM
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Thanks for the great information Rob. At some point, I would like to put in the Rally Pac setup in my 71.

I was kind of hoping that when I purchased the aftermarket setup that it would be a simple installation. But no, there's always more to do. Especially when your a perfectionist because I would want all the lights to look the same too!
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Old December 10th, 2009, 08:50 AM
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wow, nice job, they look awesome - hope mine look that good. I did the same to mine but did not test them yet as they are at the body shop waiting to be put in. I have original gauges, the ones from the Parts Place are pretty darn close the only real difference is the thickness of the needle on the tach and the thickness of the font - Also you can use a orange sharpie to color in the needle if that was faded like mine.
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Old September 14th, 2010, 02:14 PM
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Rally pac wire rearranging

There would be a small hole (or slot) in the gauge-side of the connector.
Push wire upwards and hold, insert suitable tool (big paper clip or jeweler's screwdriver) into the small hole from the connector top side and push it in firmly (usually you can feel it 'pop' a little), and pull wire out from the bottom. When the wire comes out, use a small sccrewdriver to re bend the tang that was pushed in during removal. This will ensure wire will lock in again when reinserted.

Here is a demo of wire removal: (disregard my post-it-note cheatsheet)...



Below is how the connector should look (for rally gauges) when done. (Tape or heat shrink the black seat belt light wire, as it is not needed. Rally Pac equipped cars have the seat belt light mounted on the top of the dash pad.)


If changing to gauges, replacing the sending units will be required. There will be one small green wire to disconnect from the ignition switch to disable the temp light bulb test feature to prevent pegging of the temp gauge when cranking the engine.

Right tool for the right job is right! I have one odd-sized skinny long nail i set aside just for terminal releasing!

Here are some more wiring diags:
Attached Images
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72 Cutlass gauges wiring.jpg (71.8 KB, 2284 views)

Last edited by Lady72nRob71; June 3rd, 2012 at 10:42 AM. Reason: added last wiring diag
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Old November 7th, 2010, 02:09 PM
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Nice pics, and the quality of the gauges look great!
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Old November 8th, 2010, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by joesw31 View Post
Nice pics, and the quality of the gauges look great!
Thanks!
I do have to say the gauge set is pertty good. The only problem with mine was the poor lighting, resulting in the above operation.
They were a bit costly, but I do not regret it.
I think all cars should have gauges...

Here is more info on the repro sets:
https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums/other/30263-rally-pack-quality.html#post236324

https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums/electrical/18886-aftermarket-rally-gauges.html#post133199

Last edited by Lady72nRob71; January 5th, 2011 at 09:16 AM. Reason: added info
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Old April 12th, 2011, 09:45 AM
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I havent attempted removing the gauges or any part of the instrument panel. is it pretty self explanatory? care to share any tips? I dont want to damage any parts of my dash by doing something stupid. I have a 72 cutlass convertible which is my first classic car and I dont want to somehow do something dumb to damage it.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 09:51 AM
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Most confusing part is removing the plastic bezel around the instruments.
There are two screws at the top and the two screws that hold the blue lamp lenses above the AC and wiper controls. Pull your shifter down (column shift only) and gently pull the top part out and it should slide out. Gauge removal is self explainitory, just don't drop any screws.
The connectors pull straight off and the speedo cable has a clip that you have to push or pull to disengage (forgot the details on that one...)

When reinstalling, do NOT overtighten the screws to avoid stripping threads or breaking the plastic. They could be brittle from over the years.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 12:45 PM
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Same can be done for the area under the console that illuminates the driving status (Park..R,N,D etc.) The bulb in this area also has the light blue background. When I removed my console this past weekend to paint it, I noticed, as Rob did that the blue area was INCREDIBLY dirty and virtually covered with a black film. I cleaned out the area so the blue shows through and things are brighter and clearer.
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Old April 17th, 2011, 09:02 PM
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Robs right, installed my rally pack from the parts place could hardly tell that the lites were on , followed Robs instructions what a difference. Also installed all new 168 bulbs. Anyone who is planning to install a rally pack should just go ahead and follow these instuctions BILL
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Old April 17th, 2011, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Lady72nRob71 View Post
and the speedo cable has a clip that you have to push or pull to disengage (forgot the details on that one...)
Squeeze clip and pull away from Speedo to disengage it.

A real PITA design since there's not alot of room to do it.
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Old May 1st, 2011, 08:59 AM
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Fuel gauge troubleshooting

Due to high demand of this info, here is the service manual's approach:



This process applies to rally pac or granny pac gauges.
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Old May 13th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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Here is some details on my Rally Pac installation, woven into this thread:
https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums...e-jumping.html


For those who installed the repro rally pac and found that the temp gauge reads high, it does!
Here is what you can do about it...
https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums...html#post26717
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Old April 1st, 2012, 09:37 AM
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Rob - thanks a million for your step by step and pics on this.

I just did it with my '72 442. Replaced the bulbs with LED and painted the guage cans a little darker then yours, a sky blue. I did all three and also got some correct thickness lexan and replaced the scratched and hazy plastic lens covers too.

Its incredible and looks like new.

Heres a pic....not great but have a look.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 01:12 PM
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I like that one
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Old April 1st, 2012, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Hot 442 View Post
Rob - thanks a million for your step by step and pics on this.

I just did it with my '72 442. Replaced the bulbs with LED and painted the guage cans a little darker then yours, a sky blue. I did all three and also got some correct thickness lexan and replaced the scratched and hazy plastic lens covers too.
Looks good!
As you found out, you can alter the paint colors and the bulb colors to get just the look you want. Practice on one gauge, then when it is just right, repeat it on the others!
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 08:03 PM
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Thanks!

Yes, the colour is sweet when you see it in person. The pic doesn't really do it justice and is taken without the engine running....I suspect it would be a tad brighter with the engines fired and the system charging.

Those little plastic bulb holders are coming apart tho. Chintzy plastic that's forty years old. I hope not to have to change bulbs anytime soon.

As a side note, I took some light sandpaper to the circuit boards where the each of the bulbs screw into place and make contact with the board. Just to remove the corrosion or tarnish from the surface and ensure a good contact.
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Old April 6th, 2012, 09:57 PM
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Rob - thanks for all the info you have posted about the gauges. It's helped a lot. I got mine in the mail today and got the stock gauges removed before the sun went down. Install will happen tomorrow. I just wanted to verify on the wire harness for the gauge cluster before I tackle it though. On another post I read you only have to swap two wires. Their finished picture didnt look like yours though. Your first picture looks like mine but it appears that you swapped pretty much all the wires around in the second picture. Is that how I should do it?
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Old April 7th, 2012, 07:57 PM
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Rob, disregaurd my question above. I installed the gauges today and followed your example in the pictures and everything turned out great. These gauges are awesome!
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Old April 24th, 2012, 04:52 AM
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Looks good. I have heard people making side lit gauges even brighter by using bumper chrome touch up paint in a can.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by NOTDADS View Post
Rob, disregaurd my question above. I installed the gauges today and followed your example in the pictures and everything turned out great. These gauges are awesome!
Sorry I missed this question - I was out on vacation that weekend. Most of the wires did have get moved - glad you got it working!

Originally Posted by 72olds442 View Post
Looks good. I have heard people making side lit gauges even brighter by using bumper chrome touch up paint in a can.
You can do this, but one has to be careful to not change the colors or brightness too far from the target goal. A little change can make a big difference. Some experimentation on one gauge will needed to find just the right look to use on all of them. One can be very creative doing this!
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Old August 21st, 2012, 09:48 PM
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And remember, the painting of illumination reflectors can go well beyond the car hobby.
I just restored an old 1980 GE clock radio (that I had always admired when I was a kid) that had poor illumination.
This model uses an LCD clock and is lit up with a GE259 incandecent bulb. User replaceable, too!
Notice the plastic has yellowed from years of constant heat and light - compare with the new paint being applied...

I first painted it all white with two coats of model paint.
As that was drying, I replaced the drfective blue-capped grain o' wheat lamp in the dial pointer...

At this point, the display was brighter but too orangy when compared to the dial pointer.

So then I added enough blue to match the clock display to the dial pointer. The bottom cover is white painted already and was in perfect condition.

Due to the operating temperature of the bulb, you can see why blue is needed to give a whiter appearance. Note the new white paint looks yellow with the lamp on. The dimmer the bulb is, the more yellow there is.

So here it is, with display colors better matched than from the factory.


Turn out the lights and the whitish light really pops!

And that is in the middle brightness setting.

I love it when I am successful with a project!

So why this radio? Well it works, looks good, is easy to use, sounds great (4" speaker), and I can see it easily at night.
My newer one's night light died, its buttons were next to impossible to use or even identify, volume control touchy, and it sounded like crap. I am slowly replacing my broke 'new' stuff with good old stuff...
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Old August 23rd, 2012, 07:58 PM
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I like that. Great work.
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Old September 20th, 2012, 07:48 PM
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Rob, anyone else....you got any good engine harness, front lamp harness, etc diagrams you could post? (CSM\ASM are helpful but need more nitty gritty with wire colors) I got some diagrams Ive collected that arent so readable once you zoom in- too blurry...yet normal size they are still unreadable. Doing all the wiring in the whole car, except dash...for now that is!

adding original Tick Tock tach, too. The existing wiring has been hacked and parts of it are no longer reliable to use as a guide, not to mention the gremlins in the system before I tore it all down. I labeled all I could, but new harnesses have way more wires. I figured out some of them, but still unsure on some others here and there.
Thx.
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Old September 20th, 2012, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by JCMC64 View Post
Rob, anyone else....you got any good engine harness, front lamp harness, etc diagrams you could post? (CSM\ASM are helpful but need more nitty gritty with wire colors) I got some diagrams Ive collected that arent so readable once you zoom in- too blurry...yet normal size they are still unreadable. Doing all the wiring in the whole car, except dash...for now that is!
I think I have a spare front wiring harness from a 72 in the shed in really decent condition. If you want to go that route LMK and I can send you pics to your home email. The only wire that is cut on it is the yellow lead for the radio.
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Old September 22nd, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Hey Al. Thx for the offer. Could you label the cnx points, where they go to as that is what I need ...just the few wires I cant figure out that is. I figured out a few more yesterday.
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Old September 22nd, 2012, 09:34 AM
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Jim I don't know if you noticed but Rob has those already labelled on permalink 12 of this thread. See the bottom pic with the sticky.
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Old September 25th, 2012, 12:39 PM
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Al, yes I did catch that post. It's just I cant make out the details of the pic. But it looks like a good diagram he has there that you can only see partially. Be nice to have a copy of that diagram, or a full hi res pic of it, or any other legible full or partial wiring diagram thats out there on engine and front lighting harness.
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Old December 28th, 2012, 06:54 PM
  #37  
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Rob thanks for this info. I ordered the Ralley PAC for my project today. I estimate that you have saved me at least a weeks worth of frustration. Thank you for the valuable info.
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Old December 28th, 2012, 09:15 PM
  #38  
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For those experiencing temp reading that seem too high with the new repro RP,
see here to calibrate it to the sender you are using.
https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums...rally-pac.html



Originally Posted by Sampson View Post
Rob thanks for this info. I ordered the Ralley PAC for my project today. I estimate that you have saved me at least a weeks worth of frustration. Thank you for the valuable info.
Great - glad I could help!
Let us know how it goes. Apply 12V to the lamps in the gauges to see what they look like out of the box. I am curious if they will ever fix their illumination issue.........
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:41 PM
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Hey Rob.
Thanks for the great post. I ordered my Rally PAC yesterday. I am sure you saved me 3 or 4 days of frustration!
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Old February 25th, 2013, 07:49 PM
  #40  
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Do these problems exist for the repro 68 gauges too? How do you tell which bulbs are in there? My rallye gauge bulbs are marked 12v 3.4watts. The tach bulbs aren't marked at all.
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