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"R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort

12010 Views 28 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  AthruC
This has been a project I have wanted to embark on since before I purchased my car. I had an "OE" look gauge in my last car, and the lack of an "OE" looking solution for our car has left me high-and-dry. MightyQ's IMP Concepts gauge comes the closest, but I am still yearning.

So here we go: I have found a 'donor' gauge that has very similar backlighting to the OE cluster. It is available in:
-boost (30 in/hg to 30 psi)
-oil temp (100 to 300 deg. F)
-oil pressure (0 to 100 psi)
-water temp (100 to 300 deg. F)
-voltage (8 to 18V)
-A/F (Lean/Stoich/Rich)

All of the ranges are 3/4 of the gauge, meaning I can make a 'trim ring' that will fit all of them. The challenges have been/will be:
-finding an 'affordable' way of having the trim ring CNC'ed (will continue w/ this later in this thread)
-finding an acceptable way of 'recreating' the lettering (will continue w/ this later in this thread)
-reproducing the "Volvo" needle (will continue w/ this later in the thread)
-recreating the effect of the "R" face

First, let me preface this a bit. There have been a number of SS folks who have contributed to this project thus far and I'd like to thank them all for their help and continued support!

Now, I think I have figured out how I can come pretty darned close to reproducing the effect that the face has using thin aluminum sheet metal, some fancy sanding/polishing skillz, and a tinted clear, or cleared paint. I'm going to be experimenting further, but this is what my first attempt looks like. The center section is simply a "candy coat" cover over bare, untreated aluminum. After a LOT of coats and a wet sanding, I think I figured how to make reflect like the OE cluster - your thoughts on the color/finish at the moment:

Here is an OE needle and trim ring on the 'donor' gauge, along with the larger speedo needle taken apart. I'm not quite sure how I will make the needle happen at the moment, but I was thinking of making a mold that I could fill w/ clear epoxy and just paint the 'blue' section of the needle:

Next, we have the trim ring... The factory rings are painted plastic and the tick marks actually protrude OUT from the face! I was thinking that I could have a trim ring CNC'ed w/ a cutout for each tick mark. I was possibly considering filling the ticks w/ some sort of opaque epoxy of plastic, but less is more in terms of work/cost/time/etc. I could also try to create a mold and make it from epoxy/plastic as well and then paint it like the OE cluster? Thoughts:

THEN, we have the lettering. The 'ticks' and numbers on the faces are pressed in from behind, left as 'polished' aluminum (not anodized) with a minuscule empty border and then white paint over top. I was thinking I could have a VERY thin piece of polished or chromed aluminum laser-cut and then put in an overlay, but I'd love to find a simpler, 'creative' solution to make these things 'pop'. I have used some fancy paper that gets 'cut' in an ink-jet printer - I was thinking I could do a two-piece overlay - one w/ chrome/silver, and another w/ the white lettering and 'press' it on, similar to what you could do w/ vinyl. I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on this whole process!!!
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1 - 20 of 29 Posts
"And I will do any, thing for my R........but I won't do that"

I hope you get it to work out man!
Re: (juve021)

Quote, originally posted by juve021 »
"And I will do any, thing for my R........but I won't do that"

I hope you get it to work out man!

Lmao ..Freakin Meatloaf!

Looks pretty good to me http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (AthruC)

i wish i had my R so i could put those in. they look so good
Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (rossmelvin)

the color looks like blue anodized to me? maybe an easier way ?
Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (98glt)

The gauges are blue anodized. I'm trying to reproduce it w/ tinted paint...

Here are some additional shots (the best I can get w/ the camera I have access to for the moment) of the speedo surround and the way the letters are 'embossed' into the aluminum.

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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (AthruC)

Mostly I just want to send you money I'm so impressed...
Quite the project you're tackling there Adam.
Don't let it steer you away from completing your retrofit!
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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (AthruC)

Try Tapeworks for various overlay options...
What about instrument insert rings like the ones from Carbon Fiber Works?
Looks really good so far, LMK if I can help any.
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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (MightyQ)

Adam, I totally see what you were talking about when we were discussing before. I think for more of a metallic sheen, though, let more of the substrate come through. Awfully close. http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (Forced5)

Will, you've already been a HUGE help (gauges and all
)! I'll definitely look into the overlay you mention. The trick I want to keep is the fact that the letters are raised ever-so-slightly as well. The "MAX" and fuel pump, as well as the water temp are painted directly onto the faces, however the 'ticks' are embossed out. The same goes w/ the numbers on the tach/speedo. I want to have (from vac. to boost)
30, 20, 10, 0, 10, 20, 30
all embossed, then have "inHG" and "PSI" flat. Maybe I'll throw my logo on there? (kidding... or am I?

Joe, it's going to be a very difficult job 'fine tuning' the paint! Between having enough of the substrate show through, as well as having the face look dark enough when not directly lit, it'll definitely be a challenge. I think we can get close though!

To take that further, I didn't 'prepare' the surface of my rather 'dull' aluminum, other than washing it with a mild soap. I think if I do 'polish' it properly, along with 'coaxing' the grain, painting and treating the paint properly, I think the appearance of the cluster could be reproduced fairly well. I think it's pretty close even with my first 'test' piece here!
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how much does it cost to get things anodized? seems like a lot of work to paint and wetsand over and over again, unless you're just doing this for yourself.
Re: (TGO)

I was only wet sanding after all of the paint was put on (not between sprays). I'd want to use compound as well (don't have it w/ me now, oh well) and leave it w/ a dull finish to match the gauges.

Anodizing might work as well - this was my first try at matching it, I'm still experimenting. Most of the anodized stuff I've seen is just flat and matte with none of the 'pop' that the gauges have, but I've got a few ideas as to how to make it work. Forced5 and I will probably get together in a few days to try to see how close we can get it http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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Re: (AthruC)

You can anodize it and then perhaps put a clearcoat over that.
Re: (mike_c70)

I'm not worried about a 'clear' - I believe the effect that we see is from being able to see the substrate through whatever finish. It's polished AND brushed in such a way that we see it through the finish. I think it's anodized with a 'flat' clear with a blue tint that allows you to see the substrate in direct lighting. If I were to go w/ anodized, it'd be a matter of finding the right 'blend,' as most anodizing I have seen is just a straight-up color, taking away any of that 'see through' effect that we have here. It would not be an 'off the shelf' color - it'd have to be mixed in.

The faces are a lot more complex than I originally anticipated, but spending some time up-close and personal with them, I am seeing the method behind Volvo's madness. There is really a LOT more to these things than I had originally thought!

I might be going a bit 'too far' with each aspect, but after going through all the length to get it 'right,' there's no reason to cut things short. Granted, I do want to be able to reproduce the effect as quickly/cost effectively as possible, I also want to see how close I can get at the same time. I think it's do-able, with the right support/research/resources/etc. http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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Re: (AthruC)

...for example:

You lose the dimension that the faces have. It's just a dull color on these examples. They do have 'polished' finishes, but that's not what give our cluster the neat effect. It's actually the way the aluminum is polished and finished UNDER the coating. The surface is actually rather matte, which is what makes it look so dark when the light is not directly on it, and then the brushing under it is what catches the light and give it the 'swirls' we all know and love.
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Now you're on to something, I was going to say the substrate is either mirror polished or machined very finely. Your blue looks dead on, with a better substrate prep you can probably layer it on darker and get the right finish. http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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Re: "R" Replica Gauges - A Forum Effort (AthruC)

http://********************/smile/emthup.gif http://********************/smile/emthup.gif
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I think I just peed my shorts...

Let me check...





Yep I did, this project is that cool!
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Re: (AthruC)

You mentioned the flat matte look, hence my suggestion for a clear. But I understand what you are talking about. You want the color but you want the brushed look of the metal. Anodizing will just cover that up.
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