Topic: Broken 1936 speedometer

Grant    -- 04-17-2011 @ 5:49 PM
  The speedometer in my good friend Dale's '36 Ford broke last October on our way home from the St. George meet.

It was a cold morning, about 40 degrees F, and as soon as we got out onto I-15 there was a loud squealing noise. The speedo needle was swinging back and forth, and fell off after a couple of miles.

Was the squealing noise the speedometer cable ?

Can we take the speedometer housing apart ourselves and simply epoxy the needle back on ?

Should the speedometer cable be replaced ?

What sort of lubricant is correct for use on a 1936 Ford speedometer cable ?

Would it be a better idea to have the speedometer professionally rebuilt by a specialist ? If so, can someone recommend a competent repairer ?

On page 106 of the March/April V8 Times, under "Services", Norm's Antique Auto Supply in Iowa is advertising speedometer repair and restoration. Have any of you club members dealt with that shop ?

supereal    -- 04-17-2011 @ 7:14 PM
  We send speedos and other instruments to Bob's Speedometer in Michigan. You can get their address by putting the name in your browser. They will give you an estimate when they get the unit. Repairing a speedometer is not an amateur job. Norm's is just a few miles from us, but we have never used them.

MG    -- 04-17-2011 @ 7:53 PM
  supereal said:

"Norm's is just a few miles from us, but we never use them."

Why is it that you have never used "Norm's", given his close proximity to you? One would think that to save shipping charges to Michigan, you would use "Norm's". Is it that you have had a bad experience with "Norm's"? One could interpret from your post that avoiding "Norm's" is wise, the thing to do. Or, is it that you are just promoting "Bob's" Speedo Repair? ?

ford38v8    -- 04-17-2011 @ 8:08 PM
  MG, Super's name is Bob, so he must feel an affinity with the Bob of Bob's Speedo Repair. I'm sure that must be the case, aren't you?

On the other hand, perhaps Bob used Bob's repair before he found out about Norm, and anyway, I wonder if it's the same Norm from "Cheers"? The Cheers Norm never seemed capable of doing anything so mechanical, did he? It just makes ya wonder sometimes, huh?


MG    -- 04-17-2011 @ 8:21 PM
  Alan said:

"I'm sure that must be the case, aren't you?" - No,...
need to hear from supereal.
Bob (supereal) - "he must feel an affinity with the Bob of Bob's Speedo Repair".....???

& Norm from "Cheers" etc. etc. etc......???

Have another 'toddy' Alan :o)........MG

This message was edited by MG on 4-17-11 @ 11:20 PM

supereal    -- 04-18-2011 @ 9:23 AM
  Alan is just jerking my chain, as I do his, on occasion. I recommend vendors and services that our shop has used and found reliable. I visited with Norm at our big semi annual swap meet, and wasn't particularly impressed. He may be the best in the world, but we tend to stick with sources we have experience with. The site for Bob's Speedometer is, or 800/592-9673. Their turnaround time was short. They are not cheap, but what that is good is?

37RAGTOPMAN    -- 04-18-2011 @ 11:26 AM
  it might have been a bad or dry cable that made the excessive vibrations to cause the needle to drop OFF,
I think they are pressed on,and can be reattached in the same manner, you can remove the speedo and take the bezel off and press back CAREFULLY by hand,using a tweezers, DO NOT GLUE IT ON, it will render the speedometer maybe useless
and preload the needle so it rest against the needle stop,
and you can use a drill and a square cable end[ this can be made out of a piece of scr*p ] and test the speedometer, going slow at first and in the right direction, looking at the back of speedo , counter clockwise,
if it is ok, take the speedocable out and check to see if frayed or is excessively dry,
if not the best get a new one and lube with graphite lock lube , hang it up and lube from the top and do this a few times,so it is completey lubed,let it run down the cable,,
also lay the speedo face down and use very light oil and lube the drive from the back,make sure this is also lubed and is not sticking,3in 1 oil would be good
let hear how you made out, this might save you a few bucks, 37RAGTOPMAN and KEEP on FORDIN,,,!!!!

This message was edited by 37RAGTOPMAN on 4-19-11 @ 7:01 AM

joe b    -- 04-18-2011 @ 12:32 PM
  I have also used Bob's Speedometer with good results. Their policy is, send them the speedo. Before they do any work they will give you an estimate. If you don't want them to do the work they will send it back to you.
They also will answer questions on the phone.
Highly recommend.

1932BB    -- 04-18-2011 @ 1:25 PM
  Another vote for Bob's Speedometer. He will work with you. His service also repairs other automotive widgets.

Grant    -- 04-19-2011 @ 12:01 PM
  Thanks to everyone for their comments and recommendations. As always I very much appreciate the advice from fellow EFV8 members.

Looking back through this month's Forum topics, I see that on April 5th pretty much the same subject came up under the title "Jumpy 36 Speedo". Apparently we aren't the only ones with 1936 speedometer problems. I suspect that our malfunction was related to a dry cable.

In the Jumpy 36 Speedo thread, Supereal commented that he had acquired a very pricey NOS speedometer for his '47.

If the unit in our car cannot be repaired, should we be looking for an NOS unit ?

Does anyone know what a fair price would be for an NOS 1936 speedometer ?

Is there a difference between the open car and closed car speedometers in the 1936 Fords ?

supereal    -- 04-19-2011 @ 6:03 PM
  I sent the speedo to Bob's for evaluation.. I knew it was in very bad shape, and the cost to rebuild and reface it was quoted as five hundred dollars. I was also given the option to buy a NOS speedo for $940. That is a lot of money, but I needed it immediately. It is a beautiful instrument, well worth the cost which is a fraction of the total spent on the car, a '47 convertible, given that the speedo is the focus of the dash. It did make my clock look terrible, by comparison, and I later found a NOS clock. No one said that a thorough restoration would be cheap, and it wasn't. No one is sorry they bought the best of something, in my opinion.

ford38v8    -- 04-19-2011 @ 6:57 PM
  Grant, Yes, there is a difference between an open car and a closed car speedo, but not a difference in design, rather, a difference in color. A closed car will have had its dashboard in shade virtually all its life, while an open cars instruments will have faded dramatically in comparison. When shopping for a replacement gage, keep this in mind.


drkbp    -- 04-20-2011 @ 10:21 AM

The color is determined by what you have for '35 and '36, Deluxe or standard. The open cars are all Deluxe and will have the "brown" shade speedometer. For instance, 710's and 760's have different dash but use the same "brown" speedometer as they are both deluxe.

The '35 and '36 dash boards are the same for the respective body styles. If your car is a standard, I would use the "silver" tint instruments. That being said, I would look for the same color that is in the car you have. If you have browns for the gas/oil and temp/amp gages, I would look for a brown speedometer even if the car is a standard. Why start over unless you are going for show?

If you have a radio, it is brown and you will be looking for browns.

Others are correct however, fading is a problem but I see it mostly on the needle and numbers on the odometer and trip meter on the examples I have. The brown and silver seem to hold up good.

Ken in Texas

Grant    -- 04-20-2011 @ 10:05 PM
  More great input. Thank you.

I totally agree with your decision to go with a correct NOS speedometer, and later on an NOS clock to match. The quality will always be there and likely you will never regret how nice that convertible's dashboard looks.

Excellent point. The possibility of fading had not occurred to me. Maybe a good-working but unrestored speedo, with a nice slightly faded appearance would be preferable to restored or NOS.

Dale's '36 is a roadster, so we are looking for "browns".

This is definitely not a show car. Nonetheless it's proven itself to be a pretty reliable highway driver.

Probably the '35-type speedometer would not be a good idea, because the trip odometer would have only three numerals instead of the '36 which, I think, has four (i.e. up to 999.9 rather than 99.9).........does anyone disagree with that ?

Grant    -- 04-20-2011 @ 10:30 PM
Whether the car gets a repaired, totally restored or NOS speedometer remains to be seen.

We will proceed as per your advice with respect to lubrication.

How we make out will be reported, but maybe not for a little while. It is going to take a bit of time before the vehicle is up and running this year.

drkbp    -- 04-21-2011 @ 6:35 AM

Good point. Mine has the 3 digit trip, 99.9 then it zeros. The '35 oil/gas has the hydrostatic gas gage so the only one that may be the same is the temp/amp gage.

Does the '36 temp gage have any numbers on its face? Mine just has just the word "normal" between two marks, no numbers. It's a combo with the amp gage which has "30" on both sides of the center mark.

Sounds like you know what you are looking for.

Ken in Texas

Kens 36    -- 04-21-2011 @ 12:51 PM

I was hoping Don Rogers would chime in here because he would have definitive answers. If I read the Early Ford V-8 35-36 book correctly, the differences between speedometers have not exactly been correctly described in some of the posts above.

According to the book, which anyone working on a 35 or 36 Ford should have, Standard cars had the three-digit odometer while Deluxe models had the four-digit. Also, if I understand the book correctly, early 36 speedometer dials were silver-faced while late models (after May 1936) were shades of brown.

If you don't have the 35-36 book, I would strongly suggest you purchase one, available on this site.


drkbp    -- 04-23-2011 @ 5:59 PM
  Kens 36,

You're probably correct. This has been an interesting thread. I guess I call my double gage for fuel "brown" because it seems brown to me but that could be silver to others. Matches my speedo and amp/temp gage. Gas has to be '35 because it's hydrostatic. I have another single hydrostatic gas gage and it is the same color what ever it is. It does seem to make sense that the deluxe trip would be 4-digit.

I found I had a beautiful 4-digit trip speedometer hanging in the Ford shop. Cleaned it up, lubed it and put a new bulb on one side and hooked up to the dash switch. I should have put that speedo in back in the seventies! Drove it for about ten miles this afternoon and works like a champ. Didn't zero the miles so I started with 97519 on it. It will zero itself pretty soon.

I saw in an old copy I have of "The V8 Affair" that they noted all '35s had silver instruments. Bruce McCalley worked with Ray Miller on that one. If Bruce says they are silver then that's what I have! <grin>

While reading the "V8 Affair" they have a good plate on thermostats for the early years. Ray Miller says that Ford added the thermostats to the upper hoses in the 1933s and continued up to and in some '37s. I took quite a bit of heat on the "thermostats question" on an earlier thread. Seems like I find something when I am looking for something else. Part of the joy of getting old.

If someone finds the real answer, be sure and post it or the source. I would like to know what is correct even if I don't change the set of instruments I have. It's part of what makes this fun.

Ken in Texas with silvers, I guess

Grant    -- 04-24-2011 @ 12:23 PM
  Ken in Texas:

There is no radio.

I spoke to Dale in Alberta yesterday (I'm in Ontario, about 100 miles east of Detroit). From your description and his, it sounds like the roadster's temperature and amp gauges are the same as in your car.

Is yours a '35 ?

What color is the background of your speedometer ?

Is the tail and the pointer of your speedo needle red ?

Are there small red rectangles around the outside edge to indicate each five miles per hour of speed ? (i.e. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and so on).

Does your indicated speed end at 100 mph ?

Kens 36

Since I don't own a '36 (....yet), I haven't purchased the club's '35/'36 book. Nonetheless that's probably an excellent idea.

Your information about the changeover to brown 1936 speedometers is interesting. The November/December 1972 V8 Times contains a very detailed eleven-page article about '36 Ford accessories.

On page 35 there is a photograph of Ford Control Replacement Kit Part No. 68-18820 which was

"for sales through Service in May 1936 to update earlier style 1936 radio dial faces and control knobs to agree with the new interior finishes (brown)."

drkbp    -- 04-24-2011 @ 7:09 PM

I have a 1935 cabriolet. I cannot say for sure which speedometer was in the car when I got it. It was more than thirty-five years ago. It was always a complete car. I called Ford in about 1974 or so and he had the serial numbers. I gave him only the serial number and he told me what it was. Told me it was built with 17 other 760s and 18 roadsters in a group late in the model year. I don't know if they have someone doing that any more. Fellow asked me about the firewall supports because of an arguement in California. I learned how to tell late '35 open cars by looking under the hood.

Now that I am looking at the speedos close, I have several styles. All go to 100 mph. Two have the "red" rectangles you talk about and two seem to be the same color as the numbers and other marks. All seem to be gray/silverish brown. The other gages are the same.

One is a Waltrip, which is a reverse out of the screen just under the odometer on the face. It's rectangles seem to be the same color as the other marks. Four digit trip.

Another that is unmarked on the face and it has the red rectangles with 4 digit trip.

Two others with 3 digit trips. One has red rectangles.

The needle on one is red but it has been painted by someone. Doesn't appear to be original unless it was red under it and they painted it again. One looks like it has a pointer that may have had a tint to the tip.

I would look at the '36 gas gage. It would not be '35. Also, the marks on my other gages are red but the numbers are darker colors of the gage.

Ken in Texas

drkbp    -- 04-25-2011 @ 6:10 AM
  I should have said Waltham, not Waltrip in the above post. Sounds like you can use what matches the hydro gas gage for '35 and either the silver or brown for '36. Add 4 digit speedometer for deluxe and 3 digit for standard.

If you wish to go into the speedometer:

Your original question was can you get to the needle and the answer is yes. However, I would use a cable that is new. The bezel is spot crimped to the case. Loosen the crimps, take the bezel off and the two screws let the case come off. You may have to take the trip meter knob off to get the case off. I cleaned the inside case, glass, light ports, polished the rim and lightly lubed the speedometer before I put it in the car Saturday.

As super and others have said, it is a delicate instrument and the post may be broken. I have not put a needle on one so I will stop here. I send my speedometers on my earlier cars to a speedometer man whose specialty is just that.

Ken in Texas

Grant    -- 04-27-2011 @ 4:25 AM
  A new old stock Waltham speedometer has been located. We are in the process of purchasing it.

From the photo,I would describe the colors as follows:

In the center circle, around the odometer numbers, golden brown.

Around the very outside circular edge of the speedo face, about 1/4 of an inch wide, the same golden brown.

The rest of the speedo face, in between the above inner and outer golden brown areas, is a yellowy beige shade which surrounds the markings for miles-per-hour.

Red rectangles mark each five miles-per-hour of speed.

The tail and pointer of the speedometer needle also appear to be red.

The trip odometer has four digits. Its last zero is red.

Waltham's number on what appears to be their original box is 5380.

Handwritten by someone on the Waltham box label is "DeLuxe", "1000 m. trip" and "1935".

Although it appears to be in lovely condition, I suspect that a 75 year old speedometer which has sat in a cardboard box on a shelf all its life is going to be in need of proper lubrication and a good check-over before installation.


You have said: "lay the speedo down and use very light oil and lube the drive from the back, make sure this is also lubed and not sticking, 3 in 1 oil should be good".

This sounds like an excellent recommendation which makes sense. A sticking problem inside Dale's speedometer itself might definitely have been what happened on the cold October morning. If I remember correctly, the squealing sound seemed to be coming from there rather than from the cable.

Would there be a danger that light oil like 3 in 1 could drip down onto the back of the NOS speedometer face and cause damage to the brown colors on the other side ? Am I wrong to be concerned about that possibility ?

Ken in Texas

Regarding the speedo which you put into your '35 last Saturday, which was "lightly lubed" first and seems to be working very well, could you please advise what lubricant you used ? How much ?

Also, did you lubricate the steel gears as well as the drive which 37RAGTOPMAN recommends ?

With respect to the new speedometer cable which we are also going to install, I see that a fellow named Drake in Oregon is advertising new reproductions for $20.00.

Has anyone used that product ?

Is there an alternative supplier of a high-quality cable which would be a better choice ?

37RAGTOPMAN    -- 04-27-2011 @ 8:32 AM
you can also use graphite lock lube, you only need a little, the 3 in 1 oil will work itself it but just a little so it does not run all over,
just oil laying down and as soon as you see it enter the back pickup and try moving the square drive on the back, till it is smooth,
I think it would take quite a bit of oil to get inside,
but just be carefull,
hope this helps 37 RAGTOPMAN an KEEP on FORDIN,,!!!

drkbp    -- 04-27-2011 @ 10:31 AM

If the glass is absolutely clean inside and it cleans up outside, I would be tempted to put a little 3 in 1 oil in the hole provided at the rear where the cable goes. I think 37ragtop is on the mark. Not very much but just a little. When you turn the drive from the back you will be turning it counter clockwise and the needle will move in the proper direction a little. I'm with 37ragtop, if it turns smoothly I would put it in the car and go.

What I would do is this. Put the new cable in and attach to drive gear under the car. Drive the car a mile or two and be sure the cable is turning smoothly. Then attach to the speedometer head and do the same thing. Stop if the needle jumps or if the speedo head makes ANY kind of noise. If it doesn't, mount the lights and put it in the dash. If it works correctly, the needle action is very smooth going up in speed as well as down. When you stop, it almost floats down to zero from 5 mph.

I don't think I would go inside unless it's dirty behind the glass or you can see "stuff" laying inside. If you decide to, be very careful. The worm gears have a touch of grease and the shafts have a touch of oil. I put just a touch of oil on the ends of the shafts in the case and the trip reset shaft. It disengages the odometer from the trip meter so you can reset the trip. Clean off the excess oil so it doesn't run. I would not attempt to oil anything else. Do not touch or try to clean the face of the instrument.

I found a contact in Ohio that does the speedometers. pm me if you decide to talk to someone that really knows what he is talking about which is not me <grin>

I take it that it matches the other gages?

Ken in Texas

Grant    -- 04-28-2011 @ 10:22 AM
  Thanks again, everybody, for all the assistance which you have provided.

We will be very careful during the installation process.

And, I'll post an update on Forum when the job is done to let you know how well the NOS speedo works.

With respect to color, the gauges in Dale's '36 roadster are the same as the ones in Jeff and Henry Horrocks' '36 phaeton which was featured in the January/February issue of the V8 Times. You can see an excellent photo of that speedometer on page 58.

As noted by ford38V8 in this thread on 04-19-2011, there probably will be some fading in the old gauges as compared to the new speedo.

If you are interested in seeing a photo of Dale's '36, take a look at the shots of the St. George meet which are posted here on the EFV8 site. One of them is a pretty nice close-up of the car.

Henryat1140    -- 04-28-2011 @ 4:38 PM
  Interesting discussion.

In re the speedo in my car (36 Phaeton mentioned in above post) I really do not know enough of the history of the car to make a judgement that it is the original speedometer, so would suggest caution in concluding it is actually correct for the car.

It has the three digit odometer. OTOH, the mileage reads 62,000 and that squares with the overall condition of the car. There wasn't a whole lot of parts switching in the rest of the restoration so it may be the correct one.


Henry Horrocks

Grant    -- 04-29-2011 @ 7:09 AM
  Thanks for your comments, Henry.

The NOS speedometer which Dale will be installing has four digits in the trip odometer rather than three like yours.

And, according to the original box, the NOS speedo is for a 1935 Ford rather than a 1936.

Using a magnifying glass on the photo of your speedometer on page 58 of the January/February 2011 V8 Times, it is clear that its colors are definitely the same as that NOS 1935 speedo: two tone brown and yellowy beige background, red tail and pointer on the needle, red tenths digit in the trip odometer, red rectangles for every five miles-per-hour, and a Ford script oval logo at the bottom in the six o'clock position.

Perhaps the new speeedometer which we have just purchased is a 1936 model which someone has put into a 1935 Waltham box at some point over the years. Who knows.

Searching through my old V8 Times, the only other photograph of a 1936 Ford speedometer which I could find is a black and white shot in the July/August 2010 issue of the one in Doug Downie's '36 pickup. It has a three-digit trip odometer like yours. The background colors are not identifiable.

Maybe the authors of the EFV8 club book about 1935 and 1936 Fords could advise what "correct" is as far as speedometers are concerned.

Our goal is to get a speedometer that looks right and works properly into the '36 roadster so that it can be driven from Edmonton to Auburn in time for the National Meet in August.

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