Custom Electroluminescent Gauge Faces


The above picture was taken with just the EL light, the bulbs that cast light to the front of the gauges are not on. The needles glow nicely once the bulbs are on as well. You can see this in the picture at the bottom of the page.

I have always found the stock gauges a bit boring (the picture says it all), and tried several things to make them look a little more lively. Painting the frame around the gauges with a steel metallic paint helped a lot by adding some contrast. At night it gave the whole dash a green glow when the light hit the metallic paint. I later used a blue translucent paint on the bulbs to make them glow white. Again this improved the look, but it still wasn't anything special. I thought about getting some of the indiglo gauges, but no one makes them for a GT-Four (All-Trac), and even if someone where to make them, they would probably be for the left hand drive model, which wouldn't work on mine.  I also thought about getting a custom set made, but this would set me back about U.S. $300.00, take a few months, and it would still have to be one of the existing designs on the market. Finally I decided I was going to do it myself.

The first step was to source an EL kit. After searching the web a bit I came across, Being Seen Technologies ( click here to go to their web site). The kit was about U.S. $95.00, and came with a 6 x 16 inch of EL sheet (you can choose from several colors, I needed white), the copper bars, and the 12v inverter. I found Being Seen a pleasure to deal with, and I would recommend them. I don't plan to go into to much detail, but I will say that the kit comes with instructions, and you can always call Being Seen Technologies for help. I will offer a couple hints and warnings. The copper bars are provided so that you can solder the wires to them FIRST, then stick the bar onto the bus lines on the sheet. I don't believe the EL sheet will take too kindly to the heat of soldering. I made a newbie mistake, that you should be aware off. I placed my template on the back side of the sheet, and forgot about the black portion running around the edges which does not light up. Worked out good anyway, cause I used that one piece for experimenting whenever I was unsure about something. In case anyone is wondering, yes the sheet in the picture is pink, but it lights up white. Pink off/white on EL sheets give off a slight hint of magenta (reddish). For gauges like mine where the white is only small portions, i.e, dashes and lines you do not, or should I say, can not notice the slight magenta, and it appears totally white. There is supposedly a white on/white off EL sheet available now, but from what I have read, while it does not have the slight magenta hue, it is about half as bright.

The second step was to design the gauges. I luckily had an old spare instrument cluster, so I took it apart and removed the gauge faces (and the needle stops), so I could scan the gauges. I scanned them at 600 dpi resolution into Photoshop, and from there created the new design. I will tell you that this step takes a long time, depending on how much you want to change up the stock design. I spent about a month and half playing with a protractor, a measuring tape, and Photoshop.

The last step was to actually make the gauge faces. I will not go into much detail here, as it would take too long. To make the gauge faces, I first cut the outlines from EL sheet and then made all the necessary holes, and sealed it up. I wanted to use backlight paper for the gauge faces, but there where two problems. The first problem was easily solved with some Testors Dullcote. The backlight paper is very glossy and as such not good for gauges, cause when the sunlight hits it you will not be able to see the gauges. The second problem was getting the normal color and the illuminated color to look the way I wanted it. When the illuminated color was correct the normal color was to pale, and when the normal color was correct, the illumination was not very bright. To solve this I printed the same gauges on a sheet of transparency. The transparency looked just the way I wanted it to look when I placed the transparency over the backlight. This gave the perfect off and illuminated color. I soon found out that the transparency ink is not very strong and even your fingers will ruin it. Latex gloves solved this problem, but it was still a pain to work with it, and i had to be "very" careful installing the gauge faces over the needles. Long story short, if I had it to do over again. I'd get a raw (the sheet supplied with the kit has the top laminated) sheet of EL, print the backlight, print the transparency in mirror image (this way you can easily work with it), and then try and find a good quality matte self laminating sheet, and laminate the EL sheet, backlight, and transparency together. In case you decide to take on this project, you'll need to find some backlight paper, which can be hard to find. You can get backlight from http://www.microformatinc.com/

Below is picture of the gauges without illumination. Unfortunately the clear plastic lens over the gauges reflects the flash.

Below is a picture of the inside of the car at night. The actual shot looks similar to the real thing, but again, it looks much better in reality.

This page was created by Dennis Heath.
If you should wish to ask a question about the GT-Four/All-Trac, you can join the GT-Four Mailing List, where I, and many others with GT-Four's, might have your answer. For information on joining go to http://www.yahoogroups.com

Please note that I am not a mechanic by trade, and that any information offered on this web page is free and without guarantee. Should you choose to perform any of the procedures listed on this site, you will be doing so of your own free will, and I will not be held responsible or liable for any damages that might occur from using information obtained here.