Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
August 2004

Columnist — Allen Wright

The Magic of the Number Three

4:15 a.m. on Sunday. Denny's on Lakewood Blvd. at the 91 freeway. The weather is clear and it looks like another great day in L.A.

The reason this writer is here this early is the Long Beach Swap Meet is today — and the Hanson Distributing 50th anniversary picnic is this afternoon.

I really like driving in Los Angeles early in the morning. When I hit the 91 Freeway at 3:30 a.m. this morning it was wide open. Driving the '72 Monte Carlo on a wide open road, listening to oldies, is a pretty enjoyable activity.

The 91 from Anaheim on Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m. is an 80 mile-per-hour California Autobahn. Driving at 80 with most everyone passing me relieved the tension of potential speeding tickets.

Time also seems to fly by and I have been way behind on most things this week. The automotive projects are moving at a snail's pace.

This brings me to what I call the magic of the number three. Some think that good luck or bad luck happens in multiples of three. I have seen it happen time and time again.

For example, on a recent trip from Houston to L.A. first the plane had mechanical problems. Then there was bad weather. Then there was a crew change problem. The result? I got a free room and breakfast for the night because I was stranded in Phoenix.

About three months ago while driving the '63 Plymouth one of the dash lights burned out. This is a bit strange as all were replaced during the restoration. Then, when I was driving the Monte Carlo to Pomona, the dash lights started blinking prior to the heater panel dash lights going out. And, finally, my trusty '97 Dodge van gas gauge and temperature gauge panel went black. The magic of the number three had struck again.

The decision was to fix the daily driver Dodge van and if all went well maybe do the other two cars on Saturday. I checked the automotive bulb inventory and was ready to go.

I was warned that the Dodge van was a bit difficult to replace the bulbs but how hard could it be? I started out with the removal of the lower panel under the steering column. That went pretty well. Six screws and only two were tight.

The dash pad had another six or seven screws but could not be removed until the driver's windshield trim was removed — another four screws. The dash pad had two broken clips that held it on and that might answer a couple of rattles that are common in the van.

I was now in sight of the cluster where the defective light could be found. Another five screws and two electrical clips and I thought it was ready to remove. One more cable remained for the transmission selector.

At this point in the project I thought that it might have been smarter to wait until I had two or three lights burned out to take a task like this on.

Out came the cluster and one by one I removed the bulbs. Being cautious, I decided to replace them all. However, there were nine bulbs and I only had six in stock.

Unfortunately, Orange Engine was closed so I had to go to Kragen Auto Parts. They were out of stock of #194 bulbs. I went to another close Kragen store and purchased four bulbs.

Now I was ready to finish this and move on to another project. I installed the bulbs, checked them to make sure they all worked and put the whole deal back together. I drove the van to a shady spot and checked all the dash functions. Everything seemed okay — except the dash lights seemed awfully bright. And they lacked the green color that backlit the dash normally.

The problem was easy to figure out: one or more of the bulb shades in the cluster had probably come loose. Six screws were removed for the lower dash. Six or seven screws for the dash pad, four screws for the windshield trim, five screws and two electrical clips and the transmission connector cable and the dash cluster was out again.

Now I was ready to take apart the cluster and repair the bulb shade. Six really small screws removed the printed circuit board. An aside: does everyone reading know that Chrysler started the circuit board in the dash in 1962?

Back to the cluster. I next removed the gauges — two screws each — and the trouble was spotted. One green light shade had somehow broken loose. The repair was simple: super-glue it back in place.

While I was there I super-glued all the other green shades in the cluster. I put it all back together and everything worked fine.

What about that rule of three? Well, the cluster had to be taken out a final time because I routed the shift selector incorrectly, forcing me to bring out the cluster for the third time.

There were three things I learned from this job. Number one: the Dodge does not have a speedometer cable and it appears the speedometer is electrical. Number two: removal of the dash pad is a pretty large job. Number three: the kind of circular plug used on the '97 Dodge is almost identical to the '63 Plymouth.

Many other things happened in threes this weekend. I went to three car shows: Garden Grove, Donut Derelicts, and Long Beach Swap Meet. I noted that three cars were leaking oil or transmission fluid on the driveway. My wife went to three different musical performances at the Hollywood Bowl: one Friday night, one Saturday night, and one Sunday night.

Maybe the magic of the number three is my number and others have different magic numbers like four or six or seven.

One big magic number this weekend was 50. Hanson Distributing had a picnic celebrating their 50th year in business. I was included in the invitation along with my wife and had a great afternoon. There is really a noticeable difference in a firm that treats their customers, employees, and friends well. I believe this difference is why they are in business with their magic number of 50 years.

Originally published in the August/September Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2004 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.