Part 09-Electrical Systems


Well to say this was a challenge is an understatement.  I would say I spent three weeks at least trying to figure everything out.  The wiring harness was in three boxes. The thing is absolutely nothing was marked . Nothing, Nothing, Nothing. Anyway, with the help of the schematic from my 58 manual it finally started to fall into place.

I first divided it into four groups, ” the front end lighting, the engine compartment, under the dash and rear lighting “. The front end lighting was fairly straight forward
as you can identify the headlight connections and by placing the harness in place and gradually working backwards you work your way until this harness connects to the engine
compartment harness. The one thing ,I will say is that no one had cut or chopped into any of these harnesses and thus the colour coding matched that of the schematic,which helped a great deal.

I then moved on to under the dash. This was much more of a challenge but I need this in place with the connectors going through the firewall before I could do the engine compartment.  In the end, I was able to get the fuse block mounted and the right connectors through the firewall.   Using the schematic and colour coding things gradually started to fall into place.

The engine compartment was the real challenge as not only was I converting it from a distributor  point system to an electronic HEI system but also converting it from a generator to an alternator system.  This is were MR. Goggle came in real handy. I started at the starter and again worked backwards using the schematic and colour coding. There was a fair amount of new wiring that had to be done as the heat and years had rendered some of the wiring insulation brittle and useable. However, the connectors of
these older GM harnesses can all be taken apart and reused.  This allowed me to clean all connectors on all the harnesses and reuse so that everything would fit
together as original. I soldered all connections.. Gradually, the engine compartment fell into place.

The rear harness was basically non existent. As the floor had rusted out, so to had all the wiring going to the back disappeared. Thus using the schematic and colour coding I totally built a new harness.

I put all harness in place using the existing clamps etc. that held the wires.  It is all hanging fairly loose, so that when it comes to testing everything , I can still get at it
and make sure everything is as it should be. Here’s hoping.


For a change of pace, I decided to work on the instrument cluster.  The instrument cluster on the 58 consists of the speedometer,odometer,fuel gauge,
temp gauge,PRNDL,oil light,gen light, high beam,light switch, lighter  and signal light arrows. This is what I really like about older cars.
Everything comes apart and you can get at every thing including the glass, plastic etc. to clean and or repair it. Fortunately, no major repairs were required,
just a bit of touch paint here and there and much cleaning and polishing. It came out quite good.

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For Xmas I was fortunate to receive a gauge trio and tach. This is them hooked up and in situation.

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The 58 came with an original standard radio. It was not the deluxe pushbutton radio but rather the manual tuner type. Before I dismantled it, I had to see if it still worked. Hooked it up to a 12 volt battery, antenna and speaker in place and what do you know, sound. Over the years the thread that moves the tuner identification behind the faceplate had broke and must be replaced. This radio was built at the time when tubes were going out and transistors were coming in. This is a combination of both tubes and some transistors.  Mind you, one still has to wait for the tubes to warm up, remember those days. So I took the radio all apart and cleaned everything.
Next, I tackled the tuner thread which was broken. I used some heavy duty fishing line, that looked to be of the same weight as the original. This is not the easiest job to do. You need and extra pair of hands. Luckily, my daughter Pam was home for Xmas and with her nimble figures we were able to get this done. Tested radio again, to make sure the indicator matched up to the correct station on the faceplate. Some adjustment was required but with a little fiddling everything worked out fine.

The original speakers were no good so I looked through my junk and came up with two that would work. I tried some newer speakers that I had (large magnets on the back) but the radio just doesn’t have enough power to drive them. So, I decided to use the two form my junk until such time as I can find some new old style speakers. These speakers required some repair, as you will see in the photos below. I found that ” Brush on electrical tape ” works great for this job. It repairs the tear and is very flexible.

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Next came the face plate, over the years the white lettering identifying the stations had become unreadable. I have used the following process before with good results. First clean the faceplate with Windex or soap and water. DO NOT use any type of harsh chemical as it will likely etch the plastic. Now, using white model paint and a very fine brush do the numbers one at a time. After you have finished the first number, use a Q-tip with most of the fuzz removed, dip into regular household paint thinner, wipe most of the thinner off and then with the Q-tip gently go around the outside of the newly painted number ( this will leave a nice crisp number). Don’t worry about the haze that is left
( we will take care of this later).  Proceed with the following numbers, going left to right if you are right handed or the reverse if left handed. This way you are not working over the newly painted numbers. Once finished set aside and let dry for a day. Now, using extra fine rubbing compound and the tip of you finger rub the faceplate gently and the haze that was left will be lifted off and once polished will give a nice smooth, clear surface. I did both sides of the faceplate, this gets rid of the grime and small scratches that the front of the faceplate acquired over time.  NOTE – this process works only if the number or letters are indented into the plastic , otherwise you need to be very good at freehand.

Now the radio was reassembled and looks pretty darn good.

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As part of the electrical, I altered both the front park lights and the rear tail lights. As you can see in the first photo, the inboard light on the parks was not used but merely cosmetic. I changed this so that both the inboard and outboard lights would work. I did this by simply adding another  double pronged light socket and doing the necessary wiring. In the case of the rear lights, the inboard light was used for back up lights. Again, I changed this by removing the single prong back up socket, replacing it with a double prong socket , the necessary wiring, and now both are red lights for stop, tail, and signal lights.

The back up lights were moved to the rear bumper insert which holds the license plate and license plate light.

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