Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S

So we solved the throttle-linkage problem on our V8-ized Volvo race car, but what about electrical stuff? The factory wiring, switches, and instruments weren't going to work with our new engine. In fact, we'd torn out every scrap of wire in the car, preferring to start with a blank electrical slate. As the creator of the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox, I figured whipping up an all-junkyard instrument panel on a shoestring budget wouldn't be too much hassle. I was able to scrounge up an old Auto Meter temperature gauge and a few toggle switches in my Boxes-O-Car-Crap™, and a street sign nice piece of sheet aluminum materialized in the garage, but what about the rest of the stuff?

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


The only really important gauge in this kind of race car is the tachometer. Sure, we could clamp a big ol' aftermarket tach on the steering column (and, in fact, the team members were able to produce a couple of high-quality tachs from their personal stashes), but we'd get dinged for such an extravagance by the flinty-eyed LeMons judges, who will be looking to add up all the nickels and dimes in each car. No, it would have to be a junkyard tach, preferably from a V8-equipped Ford product. And looky here- an 80s Mustang GT, and it's Half Price Day today!


Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


Sure enough, it's got the perfect tach for our 302, and the junkyard vultures have already torn the cluster halfway out.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


A few brutal hacks with a big prybar carefully removed fasteners and the cluster is ready to yield up its treasure...

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


Look at those easy-to-wire connectors on the back of the tachometer. Perfect!

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


With tachs going for just $5 on Half Price Day, I thought about getting this Camaro tach as a backup, but decided to pass.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


You can find plenty of high-quality toggle switches in the junkyard; just look for cars with aftermarket security systems or extra fog lights.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


When we performed a wiring harness-ectomy on the Volvo, we saved all the wire and connectors. Hundreds of feet of high-quality Volvo-grade wiring just ready to be reused. Yeah, we're being cheap beyond belief, but that stuff costs money!

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


Next, out to the workbench for some cutting and drilling. I decided to make one panel with the tach and a pair of idiot lights (for added "You better pit RIGHT NOW!" urgency, we're using side marker lights as oil pressure and temperature idiot lights) and another panel with switches and the less important gauges.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


The Mustang tach needed some slicing and grinding to go from the factory cluster to our aluminum panel, but it wasn't too difficult. Note the Volvo harness connectors; both panels need to be easily removable for troubleshooting and repairs during construction.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


A little black spray paint (left over from making the last batch of PCH Tipster T-shirts) to reduce the glare problem, and it's ready to install! Not exactly show-car quality, but I think this tach/idiot-light panel captures the spirit of the 24 Hours of LeMons.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


I found a nice pocket-sized reasonably priced VDO voltmeter in a junked Rabbit, and the clock and fuel gauge from our free 242T parts car (more on that über-score later) made a total of four gauges when added to the water temperature gauge. Six switches, a Fiat power-on light, and a starter button from an old Gillig Phantom bus round out the controls.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


How to attach the panels to the rollbar behind the wheel? Muffler clamps! This way the panels are adjustable with a few turns of a wrench.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S


"That wiring is more complicated than the Space Shuttle!" grumbles a teammate, but compared to the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox it's practically austere! Now that it's all zip-tied and protected by split looms, it looks pretty clean. However, I'm pretty sure my teammates will be pulling all my toenails out with rusty pliers (or, perhaps even worse, start calling me "Joe Lucas") if the car DNFs due to electrical problems.

Welcome To Low-Budget Race Car Wiring Hell!S

Somewhat crude-looking, but effective... and built for next to nothing!