Feb 282014

Fortunately the vinyl covering of the dash fascia was in a reasonably good condition and just needed a good clean. Even though only a very mild detergent was used, the cleaning couldn’t bring back the lost sheen and depth of colour. After cleaning, it had an almost whitish appearance in the lower areas of the textured finish.

Apparently vinyl can ‘dry out’ and harden over time so I applied some trim restorer (Gtechniq T4) to see if this would help. The product is simply wiped on and left to dry. It worked a treat in restoring a deep black colour and satin finish. The photos below show the difference in appearance with and without the trim restorer (although the treated areas appear slightly glossier than in the flesh).

The rears of the facia were treated to a clean-up: Brasso for the copper plated central instrument panel and paint for the outer facia panels. The outer panels were showing signs of rust through the plating in places but it’s not possible to re-plate due to the vinyl coating.

The heater, demister and choke controls were also all looking rather shabby as areas of the wrinkle paint had been worn away. Rather than go down the route of powder coating these, like the cooling fan shroud, I decided to try to get a decent wrinkle finish using an aerosol can ….

…. well four in fact! For the first attempts, Halfords own brand of wrinkle paint was used. Utterly useless! The nozzle failed on the very first application, leaving paint spewing out around the nozzle until the entire can had discharged. I should have opted for the refund but foolishly decided to persevere instead. I’d got through almost the entire can (and my patience!) trying to get anything near to either an even or a wrinkled finish. Both? Forget it.

Common sense returned and I took great pleasure in hurling the remainder of the can into the bin. The next Hycote branded can came from an Auto Factors and wasn’t much better. In a final attempt, I purchased a can of VHT wrinkle paint as I’d found their products to be quite good when painting the alternator and back of the heat shield.

A mock up bracket for a boot light switch was used as a test piece. The instructions were followed to the letter: 3 coats of paint with exactly 5 minutes between applications. The paint goes on with a smooth glossy finish but soon wavy ripples appear. VHT recommend curing the paint by heating to 93 0C for an hour. Two test applications were made: the first left to dry naturally for several days before being cured while the second was left for five minutes before being placed in the oven.

A gloss finish initially Dried in ambient temp Oven dried finish

I preferred the more wrinkled finish produced by immediately curing the paint in the oven. It was easier to spray and cured one side of the levers and knobs at a time. The heater and demister levers simply pivot on the mounting bolt. However the movement of the choke lever is given an incremental feel by a leaf spring pressing a ball bearing, located within a hole in the lever, against a plate with evenly spaced ball bearing sized holes.

Oven curing Heater & Demister levers Choke lever, less leaf spring

A couple of practical but discreet enhancements require holes to be cut into the cardboard glove box. So, rather than butcher the original, a replacement glove box was fitted although like most reproduction parts it wasn’t a brilliant fit.

The top of the glove box is held in place against the facia by a retaining bracket while the bottom edge was originally secured with bifurcated rivets. The only suppliers of these types of rivets sold them by the 1000 and were based on the other side of the world. So standard 3.2mm pop rivets with washers were used instead.

There needs to be a gap between the facia panel and the bottom of the glove box in order to slot in the under-dash cardboard trim panel. Therefore suitably size spacers were needed over the rivet – 5mm thick M3 nylon washers were just about spot on.

Securing bottom of glove box USB and Megajolt sockets Connections hidden from view

As almost all modern gadgets are now powered/charged via the ubiquitous USB socket. I thought it sensible to tuck a double USB socket in the glove box to power phone chargers and Sat Nav while being out of sight. The sockets will be powered once the ignition is switched on.

The EDIS Megajolt unit for the electronic ignition can be programmed by connecting it to a PC via a serial port connection. To avoid needing to remove dash trim to reprogram, I’ve also put a 9-pin serial socket in the glove box. This is permanently wired to the Megajolt unit so any future programming of the electronic ignition system should be a doddle.

The outer heater and demister cables are clamped to a bracket mounted on the bulkhead. The only error I made was to connect up the interior heater valve cable before routing the inner cable through the valve’s trunion in the engine bay. It’s then impossible to fit the trunion onto the heater valve.

The positioning of the USB and serial sockets had to take into account the rear clearances as well as the routing of the demister tubing. With the dash fascia completed, next I’ll have to tackle the LED lighting for the various instrument gauges.

A while back I had been looking at adding either intermittent or even automatic wipers. However I’d shelved the plans as I hadn’t come across anything that could easily be reverted back to the original setup.

Once again a couple of the main protagonists on the E-Type forum had investigated suitable units and worked through how to incorporate it into each of the E-Type variants. So other owners wishing to do likewise have detailed fitting instructions and needn’t go through the pain of trial and error installing it. It even covered various mounting positions; either using a blanked off hole in the dash or more discreetly under the dash.

I decided to mount the intermittent wiper module, manufactured by Hella, in the hole in the dash above the Handbrake/Brake Fluid warning light. I’m not sure what this hole was originally used for. I assume either something specific to the FHC or an optional extra. However it was just blanked off on my car.

The unit works by producing a power ‘pulse’ which mimics switching the wiper motor switch on and then off. The wipers start to operate but, as the power is removed almost immediately, the wipers will stop the next time they reach the parked position, ie after performing a single wiping cycle. The frequency of the intermittent wiping is simply varied by turning the unit’s potentiometer knob. I’m not sure about the style of the knob so it might be replaced with a plain black one at a later stage.

Feb 012013

The map light on the underside of the dash isn’t that bright and so is being replaced by a string of three pure white LED strips; two outer 15cm lengths and a central 10cm length.

I added the middle length in an attempt to make sure the central area, where the standard bulb fitting is located, had equal illumination. The strips are backed with a 3M adhesive tape so it is simply a matter of removing the backing, pressing into place and connecting to the wiring loom via bullet connections.

Heatshrink tubing was used to tidy up the connections between the three strips and hide my dodgy soldering. All that remained was to temporarily fit the dash top to test.

Testing of the Map Light

The minimum order for the pure white LED strip was 2 metres so I had more than 1.5m left over. It seemed a waste not to use it so I looked to see if it could be used ‘tastefully’ elsewhere but was mindful of avoiding making the car look like a victim of a fight with the Halfords aftermarket department!!

A discreet light in the boot, operated when the bootlid is opened, will be covered at a later stage ….

Jan 012013

The backlighting of the dash gauges is provided by incandescent bulbs inserted into the rear of the gauges and is fairly poor by modern standards. The green hue of the backlighting is achieved by coloured plastic covers within the gauges and green plastic tape behind the switch legend strip. However the heat produced by the bulbs had melted several of the covers.

The backlighting can also be set to Bright, Dim or Off via the 3-way Panel Switch. The light produced by these bulbs is almost linear to the applied voltage. When bright is selected, 12 volts is applied across the bulb terminals. While switching to Dim introduces a resistor in series with the bulb. This produces a voltage drop across the resistor and therefore the voltage applied to the bulb and the emitted light is reduced.

One popular ‘upgrade’ is to replace the bulbs by LED strips mounted around the perimeter of the inside of the gauges. LED strips are available either containing a single LED colour group (eg white, red, green, blue, yellow) or all three of the additive primary colours; red, green and blue.

The latter, for obvious reasons referred to as RGB LED strips, can output different light colours by adjusting the relative intensity of each LED colour group. The LED strips also have the advantage that they are more efficient and do not generate a large amount of heat.

The upgrade is well documented in Stéphane’s guide on the E-Type forum. One of the members had tried the upgrade with blue LEDs and I thought this would suit my car, being Opalescent Dark Blue, but I was undecided whether I wanted to lose the original green.

I couldn’t decide which I preferred so I investigated the possibility of being able to switch between the two. In the end I decided to use the RGB LED strips and somehow try to use the spare dash switch (used for the heated rear window on the FHC) to toggle between green and blue. This would lead to numerous problems that would only become apparent as work progressed.

The LED strips currently on offer vary in the number of LEDs per metre; typically 15, 30 or 60 LEDs per metre but also in the strip width; either 8mm (3528 chipset) or 10mm (5050 chipset) and with or without waterproof covering. The aim was to increase the brightness of the backlighting but with the constraint of space within the gauges. So I thought the thinner strips with the waterproof option would be sensible, so I ordered the following:

  • 2 metres (min order) of 3528 Pure White 60 LEDs/m – for the dash map light
  • 5 metres of 3528 RGB 60 LEDs/m – for the gauges

The strips with 60 LEDs per metre can be cut every three LEDs, ie every 5cm. This was ideal as the inner circumference of the smaller gauges would allow a 10cm strip. However the first problem came to light, excuse the pun, when I tested the 3528 RGB strip. This chipset used has one LED for each of the three primary colours in a 5cm strip. When either blue or green is selected, only one of the three LEDs was illuminated. So in the 10cm strip possible, lighting would only be provided by two LEDs – hardly an improvement!

After a few calls to suppliers, it became clear that I needed the wider 10mm strips for the multi-colour option. Each LED in the 5050 chipset is effectively made up of three LEDS; one for each of the red, green and blue colours. So all six LEDs in the 10cm strip would provide light. If the additional width caused a problem I would give up on being able to switch colours and revert back to a single coloured 8mm strip.

While I was planning how to incorporate the upgrade into the existing switch layout I noticed something really odd in the wiring diagrams which I couldn’t understand. The power for the dash illumination is only provided when either the side or main headlights are on. This made perfect sense – if it’s dark enough to need lights then you’d always want to illuminate the gauges. So why did the Panel switch have three settings: Bright, Dim and Off? Why on earth would you ever want to have the side/head lights on and not the dash?

I started to doubt the wiring diagram and so posted the question on the forum. Apparently in the 60s it was a legal requirement when parking at night to have the side lights on. In which case the dash illumination was turned off to conserve the battery. I don’t think I’ll ever need his feature so I’m considering swapping to a two state Panel switch – Bright and Dim.

With the planning done, the next step was to start to dismantle the gauges ….