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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

'59 Slow Progress

I've barely seen my truck in the last ten days or so.  I've had some other things going on.  For example, last weekend, my only real goal was to clear out some space in the shop so that I could move some of our "project" furniture being stored in the garage out to the shop.  It has been getting cold here in the Ozarks and I was determined not to spend another winter morning scraping the night's precipitation of my car windows.  Up until this last weekend, we have had this oversized two-car garage with only one car and a whole lot of stuff being stored in it.  Though, I'm happy to announce that after just 367 days of owning this place, I finally have spaces for both our main vehicles indoors.  :)

With that not-so-little project out of the way, I'm happily back to doing '59 stuff. Yesterday, I worked out a deal with a guy who was selling this front bumper on Craigslist.  It's for an 87-91 GMC van but it fits beautifully across the front of the '59.  Those vans were called a "square body" which works out perfect on the very flat front end of my truck.  Before I bought it though, I wasn't sure how it would look on my truck.  There was no way I was going to drag my truck to Springfield to dry fit it to see and it was highly unlikely that the seller would let me borrow it until I made a decision.  It's in situations like these that GIMP comes to the rescue.

I went online and found a photo of one of these vans that was taken at roughly the same angle as another photo I found of a '59 without a front bumper.  With GIMP, I copied the front bumper from the van and superimposed it on the '59.  I had to do some resizing, rotating, and perspective shifting to get it all lined up and believable.  With the end result looking fairly convincing, it was easy for me to make a decision on whether or not I thought this bumper would be a good look for my truck.  I decided that it was and proceeded to wheel and deal for a good price.

I also found a nice chrome rear bumper yesterday, as well.  It was priced to sell for sure but I was the first one to contact the guy and still managed to knock the price down a bit.  The guy I bought it from couldn't remember which of his many vehicles he's owned in the last several years that it came from.  I don't really care, I guess.  It's in great shape.  Most of the '57-'60 model Fords didn't come with a rear bumper.  It must have been an option at the dealerships because I've seen several online that do have uniform rear bumpers, but the vast majority of ones that I see in person or online have no rear bumper.  Some people even go without a front bumper.  I don't like the look of the front without one, though.  It's a bit too cartoony and feels lacking.

I like the rear without a bumper just fine but I have a good reason for why I wanted one anyway.  When I drove the '59 it was at stock height.  I was able to reach over the side of the bed and touch the bottom with ease.  I could grab almost anything out of the bed without getting in it.  But, now, with it's lift on the '84, the top of the bed comes up to my armpit.  So, not only will the rear bumper provide some balance of chrome from the front to the back, but it will also make getting in and out of the bed a world easier by providing a step.  And, of course, it will serve its actual purpose of protecting the truck from potential fender benders, I hope won't happen.

So, in the above's poor example of a well-lit photograph, I've got the bumper being propped up to almost the height it will be when installed. I couldn't get it all the way in place because I have to notch out the bumper on each side as indicated by the blue line in this photo.  This cutout will make the bumper appear as if it were custom for this truck.  Once cut, I can slide it up another couple inches and there won't be any gap left between the bed and the bumper.  That will make it look a lot more natural.

The rear bumper already has brackets that appear like I can just bolt them right on to the back of the truck's frame.  I'll know for sure once I make the aforementioned notches in the bumper.  The front, on the other hand, is going to need brackets.  I removed my OEM '59 brackets and they won't fit.  However, I think that I can modify them.  More on that later, I'm sure.

'59 DIY Instrument Panel

Example of a '59 instrument panel
One big challenge I was sort of dreading even thinking about with the 59' body to '84 frame/drivetrain, was how I was going to get the electronics to work.  Obviously, the '84 wiring harness wasn't going to just plug into the '59 gauges.  And even if it did, then I'd still have the minimal information that the '59 had: gauges for speed, fuel level, engine temperature, and two dummy lights for the generator and oil pressure.  That limited knowledge would leave me guessing what's going on underneath the hood more than I would like.

Forum photo with four new analog gauges accompanying the OEM speedometer
I found a forum online where a guy shows how he kept his original speedometer by buying an adapter to the sender, and then replaced the other four gauges with new gauges from Summit Racing.  His OEM dummy lights were replaced by proper analog gauges and looked great.  I loved the finished look and quickly rushed over to Summit Racing to look for some gauges.  I found them.  And, they added up quick.  I am not prepared to spend $350 on replacement gauges.  My original plan of keeping everything one can see looking like a '59 has been tossed out in favor of getting everything working properly and functional on a nickel & dime budget.  I just couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money when I already two perfectly operational instrument panels.  Surely, there was a low budget alternative.

My solution was to make a new instrument panel plate to match my '59 dash from scratch and insert the gauge cluster from the '84 in it.  This way, I can simply plug in the '84 wiring harness to it and BOOM, working gauges!  I took a piece of thick aluminum plate that was left in our shop by the previous owner of the property.  I traced out the shape of the '59 instrument panel plate on it and cut it to size with metal shears.  I cleaned up the edges afterwards with an angle grinder, cut out the holes by drilling 3/8" holes in all the corners to the "windows" then connecting those holes with a metal blade in my jigsaw.  Then, I used a steel brush in my drill to give it a brushed aluminum look.  It's a little rough and I'll spend some more time on it cleaning up the cutouts.  By no means is this the finished product.  I also, haven't decided if I will leave it like this or if I will paint it.  It's pretty reflective right now which may hinder visibility of the gauges while driving.  But, due to the angle of it while installed, I don't expect direct reflection of sunlight to the driver's eyes.  So, I'll probably leave it unpainted and try it out.  I can always pull it off real quick and paint it later.

I also have 5 indicator lights that were part of the '84 dash.  These were in the rectangular holes above the gauges shown in the photo here.  My issue is that the little plastic pieces with the words on them were long gone when I bought the truck.  I'm fairly certain that the outside ones were for the left and right turn signal indicator lights.  I know for a fact (because of a photo I saw online) that one of them is the seat belt indicator lamp.  I will refrain from installing that one.  I don't know what the other two lights are for.  Perhaps, engine light and high beam indicator?  That sounds logical.  I'll figure it out somehow.  Either way, that means I have four more little holes to cut in my DIY instrument panel plate.  I'll put the turn signal indicators near the top corners and then put one of each of the remaining indicators (whatever they are) centered on each side.

I like that I chose to use the OEM '84 gauge cluster because I'll like having a tachometer and analog gauges in place of no tachometer and the '59 dummy lights.  I think that the gauges will look a lot better in the '59 than they did in the '84, too.  Ah, the 80's and its love affair with wood grain paneling as far as the eye could see.

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