Cluster Bomb Part 2: Sorting My Clusterf*ck
So, in part 1 I bored you to death with crazy details on the R32 instrument cluster. This time I'll tell you how I fixed up the one in my car that had been subjected to a nice helping of fail by the previous owner.
First off, what was the problem with mine? Well, it worked fine but the previous owner had stuck on this ghastly faux carbon fiber sticker that looked as convincing as me preaching about Catholicism in a nudie bar. It also had an aftermarket Tomei speedo that was nice but I preferred to have one that had that holy five-letter name that starts with an “N” instead – Nokia...no, sorry, Nismo.
|I'm sorry for subjecting you to this horrible sight again.|
First I had to find a Nismo speedo. I went off to that wonderland of rare things and haunted everyday items called eBay to look for one. I managed to snag a cluster with a Nismo speedo already installed that had low mileage and looked clean. Unfortunately the cluster looked good but the three-toed ape that had removed it from the car had broken the mounting tabs clean off. At least the seller was apologetic when I informed him (her?) about the issue and gave me a nice refund that made it a good bargain to get the speedo at least – and some spare gauges if I ever need them.
|You can see here where they had managed to break off the mounting tabs on the eBay cluster.|
I mentioned in my first post that there are black and rarer white Nismo gauges. I like black so I stuck with the “standard” Nismo version – besides, I had other plans in place to liven up the color scheme.
You may be wondering about the odometer – the new speedo I got had only about 11K on it. Sweet! I can install this in my car and it'll be like new again. Maybe the new car smell will come back too! Yeah, I wish.
Anyway, using the new speedo unaltered would mean an odometer discrepancy since my original speedo read about 74K and my scruples meant I didn't want that. So, I installed the new speedo and went all Ferris Bueller by running my car in the garage with a brick on the throttle. Yeah, that's a dumb idea so instead I sent it to a specialist that a friend of mine knew who does cluster restorations on vintage cars. He was able to check out the speedo to make sure it worked and then set the odo to a number nearer to what I had.
After getting it back the first order of business was removing the old cluster from the car. I'll talk about that process in a future post about dismantling the dash and interior. Once I had it out I now had to swap the speedos. Removing the speedo and re-installing it isn't hard at all. First you need to separate the transparent plastic cover. You do that by pressing down on two plastic tabs on the top and four on the bottom. Gently push and the cover should pop off easily.
|Here you can see I've pushed in the two top tabs for the clear cover|
|Cluster minus the clear cover|
Once you have that off then you have to separate the black gauge surround from the white plastic main body. Just like with the clear cover you just have to push on some tabs around the unit, four each on top and bottom. Again push gently and the surround should come right off.
|These are some of the bottom tabs. The one's in the rear of the photo are for the clear cover. The ones in front of them are for the black surround.|
|The cluster after removing the gauge surround.|
This opens the innards of the cluster for you to mess with. Resist the temptation to poke around and see if a badger has crawled in there and made a home – badgers prefer domestic cars silly. To remove the speedo, turn the cluster body around and find the two screws around the speedos drive hub. Just undo those with a Philips screwdriver and then you can pull the speedo out gently. There's a portion of it on the right side (the side with the higher speed numbers) that plugs into the cluster but gently pulling on the tripmeter reset pole should free it.
|Remove those two screws beside the speedo hub.|
|Pull out the speedo gently and you're left with this.|
Congrats! You've just removed your speedo and can swap in the replacement by simply reversing the process. Put the old speedo on your mantle to remind yourself of old times.
After I removed my cluster surround it was time to tackle that awful sticker. Luckily it pried off with the application of ever reliable elbow grease. It left marks all over though where it took some of the black color with it. I had foreseen this issue and ordered a better replacement from Japan. This company called CyberStork (gotta love English names coined by the Japanese) makes dress up pieces for various cars including the R32 and one of them was a carbon look panel. It's still not real carbon fiber but it at least looks more convincing and is a a thicker piece so it doesn't look uneven like the old bubbled sticker. Another company called Fujimura Auto makes a stainless steel panel if you prefer the look of metal but as you can see from my R35 I have a bit of a carbon addiction.
|Fujimura Auto stainless panel. Image source: RHDJapan|
|The CyberStork pieces from Japan|
|Without the clear cover you can see how poorly the vinyl sticker was applied.|
|Tomei and Nismo speedos for comparison|
I also ordered CyberStork's gauge rings. To give the cluster a more modern look I was hoping for something more like my R35s gauge cluster.
|My R35's gauge cluster|
Modern Nissans have black gauges with a silver surround so since CyberStork had rings like that for the R32 I picked them up too. Unfortunately on receiving them I noticed they were a bright chrome. Since they were just stick on rings they looked cheap IMHO and would look like just some gaudy foil stickers applied to my car's cluster. I toyed with just using the CF-look panel but it looked too monotone and I long ago learned a little contrast helps make a lot of things look much better and more visually interesting.
|Mocking up the cluster with the CyberStork rings in their original chrome finish. It looked too gaudy for my taste.|
|In contrast, just using the carbon-look panel looked too plain.|
Rather than scrap the CyberStork rings I decided to recolor them by simply picking up a cheap spray can of Krylon Maxx paint in Aluminum color. A few minutes later the rings looked more subdued and nowhere near as cheap and gaudy. After letting it dry overnight it was time to apply everything.
|Spray painting the rings tones down the look nicely|
First I cleaned off the surround with some rubbing alcohol and then I peeled off the covers for the glue on the back. Being careful to line things up as best as possible I stuck it on. After letting that sit for a bit it was time to do the same with the rings. I started with a couple of the smaller ones to get a feel for it and then did the rest.
|Getting the panel to line up properly can be difficult but it's vital for a clean look and proper function.|
Before I reassembled everything I took a bottle of Meguiar's PlastX I had from my detailing supplies and cleaned up the marks on the clear cover. Reassembly was just a simple matter of reversing the takedown process.
|Comparison photos of the stock cluster's appearance on top versus my dressed-up cluster on the bottom.|
I think the end result looks pretty good for the work of an unskilled peasant like me. I still need to swap in some LEDs to replace the old bulbs and further modernize my cluster but haven't had a chance to do that yet. Once I get to that I'll do another post about it. Until then, I hope this was another informative post and thanks for reading!