Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kicking Up The Volume

Back in February I installed a RetroSound brand radio.  It worked fine but I was only able to squeeze so much sound out of the single dual voice coil speaker in the dash when the top was down on the highway at 65 MPH with the traffic, wind, and exhaust note.

Fortunately, CJ Pony Parts (CJPP) had one of their 20% off sales in March so I set out to examine their offerings in kick panel speakers, the simplest speaker expansion option available for a convertible.  The others being door speakers requiring special, deluxe, interior door cards as well as cutting into the door panel's sheet metal.  The other option is to install speakers in the rear interior quarter trim panels which would also require much modification to install and make look stock.   CJPP offered two kits for the 68 convertible.  One kit featuring Pioneer speakers and the other with generic speakers with every thing else remaining equal.  After some deliberation, I was able to rationalize the purchase of the cheaper of the two kits with the following arguments: 1) How bad could the cheap speakers be?  and 2) If they truly are that bad, I could always upgrade the speakers from a 3rd party such as Amazon for potentially less money than CJPP was charging for the pioneers.  So, I pulled the trigger and awaited their arrival.

A few days later a largish box arrived at my door which I ferreted down to the garage and tore it open.  Inside was a pair of black (you could only order them in black) plastic kick panels and a set of el-cheapo speakers (Pyle).  I immediately noticed the complete lack of instructions and the lack of any discernible way to mount the speaker in the kick panel.  I searched the web and stumbled across a video on YouTube posted by CJPP on how to install the speakers.  This proved to be VERY helpful but not to go too lightly on them, a note in the box would have been nice.  Long story short, the grill of the speaker pops off and you just drive 6 screws through the edge of the speaker into the plastic.  The speaker kit comes with 3 screws per speaker and some clips but I opted to use 6 of my own #6 sheet metal screws to secure that sucker down so there's no rattling or such.

After affixing the speakers to each of the panels, I removed the speakers and then scuffed the crap out of the plastic with a scuff pad.  Why would I mistreat my brand new, shiny, kick panels like this?  To remove any shine from the panel as well as any errant release agents so that the 68 Light Parchment paint from NPD would stick to them!  Next, I sprayed them with "Prep Clean" and gave them 4 - 5 coats of paint and let them sit.  Additionally, I painted the speaker grill covers.

Shiny new black kick panels and el-cheapo speakers

Back side of the panels.  Speaker grill removed.

Scuffed up in preparation for paint

After paint

Speaker mounted with 6 screws.

Grill affixed and side cowl mounting holes drilled.

The speakers were then screwed back onto the panels with their 6 screws and the grill covers replaced thus completing the assembly of the speakers.  Before they could be installed, however, one more task needed to be completed first.  Wiring!  I pulled the console radio panel out of the car and removed the speaker harness from the back of the radio.  I had previously installed two connectors for the dual voice coil dash speaker but now need to solder on the remaining two connectors for the kick panel speakers.  I had ordered a couple more pairs of the wiring extensions from Jegs because they contain the retro-style dual pole connectors.  I cut a pair of them in half and soldered one to the speaker lead and one to the radio harness and repeated the process for each harness/speaker pair.  The speaker leads were then plugged into the speaker contacts.

Radio speaker harness "before"

The two-pole extension chosen for it's connectors

Extension cut in half and soldered to the speaker harness

Other end of the extension soldered to the speaker lead.

Business end of the speaker wire jacked into the voice coil leads

Ready to install

To remove the original, speaker-less, kick panels, the sill plate first has to be removed from under the door followed by removing the two screws holding the panel to the side cowl.  The new panels were then slid in taking care to keep the wires projecting from the top of the panel to allow them to be routed across the firewall to the back of the radio.

I ran into a snag with the passenger side as the kick panel was too tall to fit between the dash and the top of the inner rocker so I had to remove about 1/4" from the bottom.  After that, the height was okay but the speaker contacted the cowl side and didn't allow the panel to lay flatly in position.  Instead, it bows out slightly but the plastic is flexible enough to allow the installation to continue.  I'm unsure what happened other than needing an even narrower speaker.  I did not encounter the same problem on the driver side which confused me even more.  So, this mystery still remains to be solved but until then, the install is usable.  Regardless, the screws were driven into the side cowls and the speakers were affixed in their new positions and the sill plates replaced.

Remove the sill plate

Remove two screws

Exposed side cowl

Speaker doesn't sit flush

The passenger side panel is too tall.

Cutting off about 1/4".  Should have done this BEFORE paint!

That's better.  Speaker installed.

There's a slight gap between the sill plate and the panel that wasn't evident with the original panel.

Driver side ready to route the wire

I then crawled up under the dash and carefully routed the wires along the top of the firewall to the back of the radio.  The radio's speaker harness was then reinstalled and the speaker leads plugged into their counterparts appropriate for LEFT and RIGHT.

The nest of radio wires.  See if you can find the new wires for the kick panel speakers

Passenger side done.

Driver side done.

Finally, the radio panel was reinstalled into the console.   I nervously (yeah, things go POOF when wiring is done incorrectly) turned the ignition key to "accessory" and was rewarded with the radio coming on and tuning into 105.1 (the BUZZ) to the tune of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons.   I fiddled with the radio fade and balance controls and confirmed that both speakers were functional and in their correct "left" and "right" settings.

I must admit that the sound quality is not exactly blowing my mind or anything but it is definitely possible to crank the radio much louder than I could previously.  I hear some rattling during times of heavy bass but generally, this will do fine for Summer cruising.

Regarding the physical projection of the speakers out into foot well, I don't find them obtrusive at all.  I think this is partly due to the fact that the car is an automatic so there's no whacking the speaker grill with my foot when I attempt to press the clutch.  There is some obstruction of the windshield washer pedal but I don't use it all that often.

I think they look "stock enough" for my tastes.  If the sound of the speakers begin to annoy me, I'll just pick up a pair of Pioneer or similar if I need to.  The nice thing is that to remove and replace the speakers, all I need to do is remove the grills, remove the 6 screws, unhook the speaker leads from the speakers and replace them with the pioneers.  No need to pull the kick panels again.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Getting My Signals Crossed

This blog entry started way back in March with VMF user "Robsan" posting a request for anybody whom has been able to rewire the 68 Mustang's front marker lights to work as one might expect them to.  Before this question makes any sense to those of us that either don't own a 68 or simply haven't noticed the eccentricity of the front marker/signal lights let me give a refresher course on the factory function of these lights.

When the headlights are off, the front side markers are off and the front markers under the bumper act as turn signals.  When the headlights are switched to the parking position but with headlights off, the side markers come on steady but do not act as turn signals whereas the front markers under the bumper turn on stead AND act as turn signals.  Finally, when you turn on the headlights, the unexpected occurs; the front markers under the bumpers turn OFF but still act as signals but the side markers remain lit and still serve no signal function.

Long story, short, Robsan developed a wiring harness that is installed between the factory engine compartment light harness and the front marker lights that would supposedly solve the issue.  He had gone on to post a link to a couple of videos where he demonstrated the functionality and sure enough, the harness allowed both front marker lights to act as signals AND markers that were constantly on while the headlights were on... exactly as one might expect them to function.

This appeared to be well thought-out and completely reversible modification so I requested more information at which point he made me a customized harness which included a tap for my halos to allow them to remain on solid while allowing the front markers to act as signals.  He posted a video for me to demonstrate the new harness and it's functionality and I was sold.  I purchased a harness set with which he also included a pair (3 actually) dual filament, amber bulbs modified to fit the Mustang side marker socket.

The installation would normally, literally, be "plug and play" but due to my halo headlights, I also needed to modify my halo power leads to utilize the new connector that he provided to tap into the adapter harness.  This was a matter of cutting the connector off of the halo power lead and de-soldering and repairing the side marker lead where I had previously tapped power for the halos.  To provide power to my halos I simply soldered the connector that was provided with the harness and plugged it into the provided lead of the adapter.

The installation of the adapter itself, sans the halos, would have been to

1) Unplug the front and side marker leads from their factory supply connectors.
2) Plug the harness input connectors to the factory supply connectors as marked on the harness
3) Plug the side marker lead into the appropriately marked output lead of the adapter
4) Plug the front marker lead into the appropriately marked output lead of the adapter
5) Screw the the ground lead of the adapter to a ground point on the chassis (my side marker housing)
6) Replace the side marker single-filament bulb with the provided dual filament bulb.

Then button everything up and use the headlights to confirm that everything does indeed work as advertised, and it does.


Side and front marker leads removed from their supply connectors and replaced with the harness input leads.

Adapter ground lead attached.

Side and front marker leads plugged into the harness outputs

The new dual filament bulb (in hand) and the soon-to-be-replaced single filament bulb.

Dual filament bulb in socket

Wires buttoned-up.

Success.  Not really possible to show the signals in operation but both the side and front function while headlight is on or off and both lights also come on when headlight is on.
So that's all there is to it.  I recommend that you shoot Robsan a PM if you want this mod on your own 68.  He does some top-quality work.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Carpet Diem

My task of lowering my seat pan was complete but I just couldn't put my old carpet back in the car.  A couple of years ago, I had dyed it black.  Also, the carpet pad "jute" backing material was long gone.  So, I set about doing some research on which carpet would be the best bet.  Back in the 1968, ford had installed nylon cut pile in these cars.  Prior to that, they had used an 80/20 (nylon/rayon) loop.  However, my research showed that the 80/20 "raylon" proved to be the best fitting and wearing carpet.  NPD was the consensus for the best dealer but I had some credit with CJ Pony Parts that I wanted to use plus they were running a 20% sale at the time so, giving into my frugal side, I bought the ACC Carpet Original Style Molded Convertible 1965-1968 after first e-mailing their sales team to confirm that this was indeed the preferred "Raylon" type of carpet.  For the concours aware among my readers, the CORRECT carpet would have been ACC Carpet Cut Pile Molded Black Convertible 1965-1968.

Regardless of which type of carpet I would have chosen, both were also available with the optional "mass back".  This is basically a heavy rubberized compound that is meant to replace the asphalt underlayment sheets that were used as the car came from the factory.  However, I already had the factory style underlayment in addition to RAAMmat so I opted out of the "mass back" option.

My new carpet had arrived rolled up in a moderately-sized box which I tore open with an eager aggression normally reserved for a medium well sirloin.   The carpet unceremoniously plunked out of the box looking fairly pathetic, all rolled-up and wrinkled.  I managed to unroll it and separate the front and rear segments, neither of which contained any kind of obvious markings or indication of where the shifter, seat mounting, dimmer switch, etc holes should possibly go.

Upon further inspection, the driver foot pad was rather nice and consisted of a tunnel section that was lacking on my original carpet.  The trailing edge of the front segment also sported a nice trim although it was made up of stitching rather than a nylon strip as with my original.

Carpet Underlayment/sound deadener installed

A new box has arrived!

Doesn't look like much.  A burrito maybe?  An egg roll?

Ah there it is.

Nice heel pad.

A close-up of the loop carpet and front section edging.

Compared to the old carpet.  Note the smaller heal pad and vinyl edging.

A close-up of the original carpet.  Note the difference of the original "cut pile".  Also, here's the dimmer switch trim.

Close-up of the original vinyl edging.

Original carpet overlaid on the new carpet to mark the shifter hole

I laid my original carpet over the top of the new after expanding the foot well pockets to determine how closely the cut and fit match and found them to be nearly identical.  I then used a white grease pencil to transfer the hole locations from the original to the new carpet although the only hole I cut in earnest was the shifter hole.  From there, I fit the front section of carpet into position and then marked the remaining holes for the front seats and the dimmer switch as well as finishing the cut for the shifter hole to extend to all four corners of the shifter housing.

After I felt good about the general position of the front carpet, I laid the edges over the inner rockers and marked lines to the top weld flange of the inner rocker on each side.  I then removed the carpet, trimmed it to the marks and laid it back in.  However, I didn't make the trim cuts all at once but rather in 2 or 3 test fits taking a little off at a time since I could never put it back.  Also, as I was test-fitting, I could more accurately place the location of the dimmer switch hole.  I found that the rubber trim for the dimmer could also be removed from the original carpet and fitted to the new.  Nice!

UPDATE: 04/07/2015: The consensus in this VMF thread regarding the dimmer switch grommet is that they were not original to 68's nor was the "cut pile" carpet that came with the car.  68's factory carpet were loop pile with no grommet.  So this is the second time that this car has had new carpet installed.

Finally, when I was happy with the placement of the front section, I glued the carpet to the side and top of the inner rocker at each side but pretty much left the carpet loose everywhere else.

Holes transferred from the original carpet.

Shifter hole cut and front section in for first test fit.

Checking inner rocker overlap.

Marked for inner rocker trimming and finish cuts around shifter hole and actual dimmer switch position.

Driver side inner rocker edge trimmed and original dimmer trim transferred from old carpet.

Front carpet installed

The rear section really just needed to be fit under the edge of the front section and then aligned to the foot-well pockets.  The seat belt and seat anchor points were then located and cut.  I used a box cutter type knife to cut openings for these holes and found the jute padding to be rather difficult to cut through compared to the carpet itself.  I'm sure there's a pro method in doing this but I hadn't looked it up at the time.  One thing I had read later is that a soldering iron could possibly melt the holes in the carpet a lot easier than cutting them out.

Rear carpet section marked for various hole locations.

With the carpet laying down on the floor the way I wanted it, I replaced the door sill plates and then worked to install the floor console.  I had done this before but failed to take pictures and document the procedure of installing a 68 floor console so here we go!

Wiring is run from the fuse box on the firewall back to the shifter hole.  Ground line is attached.

Shift indicator plate laid upside down with indicator rod (C-shaped stick on the plate) attached to the shift light assembly.

The shifter stick is fed through the it's hole in the plate and the indicator rod is placed in the shifter eye-hole.

Shift indicator light plugged into it's connector on the light-feed harness.

The console base is laid over the shift plate and plugged into it's connector on the light harness.

The console top is aligned with the indicator plate and the wiring tucked away under the console base.

The console base is screwed onto the indicator plate.

I just wanted to write down an extra note here about installing the side tunnel screws.  This should be a fairly simple job of drilling holes and then driving the screws down into them but it's anything but simple.  The drill will catch the carpet thread and rip a run into it before you realize what's happening and in addition, the carpet backing will pack up the drill bit and extrude itself back out the hole.  I had a terrible time with this and finally managed to cut enough carpet and padding away at the screw hole locations to get the task done.   So, for anybody else attempting this, THIS is the place to use the soldering iron idea to melt your way through the carpet and maybe burn a hole through the padding.  Otherwise, you need to cut clearance for these screws before you permanently fit the front carpet section.  What a hassle that would be.

The four side tunnel screws are installed.  Read above about how to possibly avoid damaging the carpet here.

This hole didn't go well.  I pulled a run into the carpet.

The padded top of the console is screwed onto the console base through the rear ashtray opening.

The padded top is screwed onto the front of the console with two screws as shown here.

Okay, I failed with taking a better pic of this step but see that radio bracket in the middle of the radio opening to the right of the ash tray in the dash?  That bracket also has ears that stick down at the sides of the console.  The console sides are screwed to that bracket to support the front section of the console base.

The chrome bezel for the "garage door" and radio assembly is wired into the power and speaker leads in the dash.  See those two tabs at the top of the bezel?  See those clips behind the bezel in the top of the radio cut-out hole in the dash? Keep those in mind when reading two pictures down.

The radio/garage door bezel is then inserted and two screws hold it to the base at the lower right and left corners.

The front bezel pad is snapped onto the bezel and two screws are driven up through the padded front, through two tabs on the top of the bezel and into clips in the dash (remember those from two pics above?)
Like a cherry on an ice-cream sundae, the T handle can be replaced on the top of the shifter arm thus completing the installation of the console.

After installing the console, the interior kick panels were installed followed by the seat belts, the seats and, finally, the steering wheel.

Install the kick panels

Install the front seats

Just a shot to show the new seat level.

All done!

At last, the car could once again be taken out on the open road.  Let Summer begin!