Building a project car with limited money and skills forces you to find creative solutions to basic problems. But sometimes finding the dumbest “solutions” end up making me feel like a goddamn genius.
I spend a lot of my free time tinkering with my 1975 International Scout, which means I spend even more time in auto parts and hardware stores. I have a huge wishlist of things I want to do to the truck and have adopted the strategy of biting at it in small projects I think I can handle in a weekend or two.
Since my last list-item, replacing the stereo head unit, took an embarrassingly long time (the previous owner’s wiring was incredibly janky, okay?) I thought I’d try something easy to raise my spirits by adding a dome light.
A dome light is the kind of normal car thing you stop taking for granted when you drive a Scout. There are two weak little bulbs that are supposed to come on under the dashboard when you open the door, but they’re pretty much on their own schedule. So I had to pull their fuse.
Like most of my schemes the plan to put a bright, switchable, light in the cab and cargo area of the truck quickly evolved into lofty ambitions. It should be LED! It should have white and a red mode for night use! There should be another one under the hood!
With all these ideas hastily scrawled on a strip of notepad paper, I lumbered toward the tool store at the Scout’s maximum comfortable cruising velocity. That basically means I hugged the right lane of the 405 highway like it was the edge of a cliff and white-knuckled the steering wheel while the speedometer waved between reading 20 and 55 mph. Which it pretty much does no matter how fast you’re driving.
At the store I paced around the electrical section, considering wiring, switches, and the potentially detrimental effects of running football stadium lighting off my truck’s battery until realizing the solution was right in front of me.
In a massive pile, for three bucks a piece, I found these triangular magnetized AA-powered LED work lights. White mode, red mode, and a flashing red distress beacon mode? Not only had somebody already invented my “great idea,” they’d mass-produced it for short money and it now here it was in the “crap nobody needs” stack at the end of a shop.
Since almost every flat surface of my Scout is straight metal, I could mount them anywhere. And move them around! LED uses such little power that the batteries would last plenty long, and I could just keep a stash of extras in the glovebox for headroom.
I hear you haters, though: “So you stuck a flashlight to your roof and are calling it an invention, huh?”
That’s the beauty of it! A pair of magnetized work lights gave the truck a dome light and cargo light in two colors, which can also work as underhood lighting or hazard lights. These stupid things rule so hard.
The takeaway is this: start looking for solutions in the cheap junk rack at the cash register of the hardware store. At least, as long as your project car is primitive enough to look fine with tools stuck to it.