HOT ROD to the Res­cue

Hot Rod - - Contents - Mar­lan Davis Brett Tur­nage


Tevete (“T”) Usumalii and his 1998 Ford Bronco have re­ally been put through the wringer. It all started when a miss­ing

25¢ oil-gal­ley plug cost him his 349ci stro­ker small-block Ford en­gine. L&R En­gines fixed the short-block (June 2018 is­sue). In the July 2018 is­sue, Mark Sanchez at Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing West (AEW) as­sem­bled the en­gine top-end only to dis­cover val­ve­train ge­om­e­try and lifter prob­lems, a wrong dis­trib­u­tor gear, and se­ri­ous is­sues with the fuel-sup­ply sys­tem. Fi­nally home-free? Not on your life! The en­gine front ac­ces­sory drives, fuel tank gauge, and cus­tom in­stru­ment panel im­ple­men­ta­tion were still screwed up. We’ll fix them this month, then put the Bronco on Westech Per­for­mance’s chas­sis dyno for a quick tune and test.


The orig­i­nal builder had butchered the front ser­pen­tine drive sys­tem. “There wasn’t

“I’m so grate­ful! I’m over­joyed to fi­nally see my Bronco up and run­ning.” — Tevete Usumalii, Owner

enough belt-wrap around the wa­ter pump and crank pul­leys,” Sanchez ex­plains. “I hold to the fac­tory spec: The belt needs to con­tact ¾ of the pul­ley grooves’ sur­face area. I was able to round up the miss­ing parts from the lo­cal Pick-A-Part yard, eBay, and Au­toZone. The air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem had been re­moved, so we also added a Dor­man A/C com­pres­sor by­pass kit to per­fect the setup.”

An in­ad­e­quately sized elec­tric fan had been in­stalled in place of the Bronco’s orig­i­nal me­chan­i­cal fan setup. Sanchez found and in­stalled a kick-ass 1994 F-150/F-250 pickup truck 302/351W seven-blade me­chan­i­cal fan, clutch, and shroud. Also needed was a heater hose fit­ting to ac­cept the en­gine coolant temp sen­sor. Lastly, Sanchez re­placed the wa­ter pump: “It was full of sil­i­cone. At this point I didn’t trust any­thing on or near this truck.”


The orig­i­nal builder tried to fab a cus­tom dash with in­di­vid­ual Au­toMeter gauges. But they were par­tially blocked by the steer­ing wheel. Worse, they weren’t work­ing and the orig­i­nal in­stru­ment panel warn­ing lights and turn-sig­nal in­di­ca­tors had gone MIA.

Un­bolt­ing the dash panel re­vealed the ma­jor wiring is­sue. On a stock Bronco dash, the wiring plugs into a com­mon cir­cuit board that dis­trib­utes power to the var­i­ous gauges and warn­ing lights. But af­ter­mar­ket Au­toMeter gauges must be hard-wired— which the orig­i­nal builder lamely tried to do with so-called self-strip­ping T-taps that in­vari­ably cause volt­age drops.

The bud­get ap­proach would be clean­ing up the ex­ist­ing wiring, leav­ing the orig­i­nal gauges and their lay­out as-is. Au­toMeter of­fers a wire and con­nec­tor har­ness for wiring up most of its in­di­vid­ual gauges that makes for a clean, id­iot-proof in­stal­la­tion that elim­i­nates any pos­si­bil­ity of cross-con­nec­tion. As for the warn­ing, mes­sage, and turn-sig­nal lights, Au­toMeter’s stan­dard bulb and socket-with­pig­tail pack­age just hap­pens to screw right into the orig­i­nal fac­tory dash holes.

But that doesn’t solve the vis­i­bil­ity prob­lem. The pre­mium fix as im­ple­mented by Sanchez on the Bronco was to build a new cus­tom in­stru­ment panel us­ing Au­toMeter’s trick combo gauges: one dual speedo/tach gauge plus one quad combo that dis­plays coolant tem­per­a­ture, oil pres­sure, volt­meter, and fuel

level. Th­ese two gauges cen­trally mount in a new Sanchez-fabbed dash panel, right in the driver’s line of vi­sion. The panel it­self was cut and shaped from ABS plas­tic sheet. ABS sheet is sold through art and hobby-shop re­tail­ers, cus­tom stereo shops, plas­tic dis­trib­u­tors, and even Ama­ Cut it to size with a scribe tool and hole cut­ters.

Next, Sanchez built a quick- con­nect cus­tom har­ness for the two com­bos. At the gauge end, he used Au­toMeter’s avail­able eight-cav­ity, Molex-style gauge con­nec­tors and ter­mi­nals in­stead of er­ror-prone in­di­vid­ual blade-and-spade hookups.

At the other end, four- and eight-pin Ford OE Wedge­lock con­nec­tors hookup to the main fac­tory har­ness. You can find the four-pin mat­ing con­nec­tor bod­ies used on many Ford O₂ sen­sors, but scor­ing both halves of the eight-pin vari­ants is dicey (Sanchez has used ones for sale). The har­ness also uses cor­rect Ford fac­tory col­ors and strip­ing, al­low­ing any Ford tech to trou­bleshoot the wiring, and

(if the orig­i­nal wiring wasn’t butchered) even bolt the orig­i­nal stock panel and its cir­cuit board back into place.


Af­ter the wire-up, the fuel level gauge worked but was in­ac­cu­rate. Like many af­ter­mar­ket units, Au­toMeter’s fuel gauge is de­signed to work with a sender hav­ing a 240- to 33-ohm fullto-empty re­sis­tance range. A 1987-and-later Ford in-tank send­ing unit

“I call T-taps ‘vam­pire splices’ be­cause they suck the life out of the car’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem.” — Mark Sanchez/AEW

01] Tun­ing the Me­gaSquirt port EFI sys­tem on Westech Per­for­mance’s chas­sis dyno: The tough­est part was per­fect­ing morn­ing cold-start per­for­mance. It could only be tweaked once a day, af­ter the ve­hi­cle sat overnight. Pre­vent­ing morn­ing in-gear stalls re­quired adding more air via the IAC mo­tor plus pulling some fuel out of the ECU’s cold-start en­rich­ment table.


[ The gauges in the ex­ist­ing cus­tom dash panel didn’t work, plus they weren’t fully vis­i­ble.

The in­stru­ment panel wiring was to­tally borked.

[ T wanted a pow­er­ful, off-road fun truck. We ended up fix­ing the en­gine, the fuel sys­tem, the in­stru­ment panel, and the front drives.

[ Slip­shod me­chan­ics had nearly turned “T” Usumalii’s 1988 Ford Bronco into a dead horse. But af­ter the lat­est fixes, he’s over­joyed!

02–03] The “street racer” in­staller never both­ered make the ser­pen­tinedrive sys­tem work ef­fi­ciently with­out an A/C com­pres­sor ( 02). In­suf­fi­cient “wrap” around the wa­ter-pump pul­ley caused belt slip. “Ford specs says the belt must con­tact ¾ of the pul­ley groove’s sur­face area,” Sanchez ex­plains. He scored a com­plete 1988 Bronco front-drive setup from the lo­cal Pick-A-Part, but with­out the A/C com­pres­sor, a Dor­man com­pres­sor by­pass kit was also needed ( 03, ar­row). Au­toZone sup­plied a new belt and wa­ter pump, while the 1987–1992 Bronco ten­sioner is new from Jeff’s Bronco Grave­yard. “Never re­use a high-mileage ten­sioner,” Sanchez in­sists.





04] Sanchez put in the sev­en­blade me­chan­i­cal fan, fan clutch and shroud used on 1994 F-150/F-250 302/351W-pow­ered pick­ups with air con­di­tion­ing.

“It’s the most ef­fi­cient cool­ing pack­age Ford ever of­fered, with the heav­i­est and tight­est clutch.” The fan and shroud were wreck­ing yard parts, but the clutch is new. Used clutches are sketchy, in Sanchez’s opin­ion.

[ No more buck­ing Bronco; fixed at last, it now gal­lops hap­pily down the road. Says T, “I can’t wait to take it home and show it to my fam­ily!”

[ AEW’s Mark Sanchez fixed the gauges, wiring, and front drives. Westech’s Is­mael Can­dia ( shown) and Eric Rhee tuned Me­gaSquirt’s EFI.

[ Sanchez built a new ABS dash panel to hold Au­toMeter’s trick combo gauges that are eas­ily vis­i­ble from the driver seat.


BEST 07–09] The sloppy builder used quick and dirty push-to­gether splice clips that clip over and through ex­ist­ing wires ( 07). They’re death on 12-volt cir­cuits, caus­ing re­sis­tance re­sult­ing in a volt­age drop. The bud­get so­lu­tion: Wire-in the ex­ist­ing in­di­vid­ual Au­toMeter gauges us­ing its PN 2198 wire har­ness ( 08) that sup­port an in­di­vid­ual speedo, a tach, and up to four more full-sweep elec­tri­cal or LED gauges. The high-end method: Sanchez’s cus­tom wiring har­ness with “plug-and-play” Au­toMeter Molex and Ford mul­ti­pin Wedge­lock con­nec­tors ( 09). Au­toMeter bulbs and sock­ets ( ar­rows) re­stored the fac­tory warn­ing lights and turn sig­nal func­tion­al­ity.

10–12] Cor­rect Ford color-coded and striped wires ( 10) con­nect to the gauges. Del Mar Wire will stripe 100 feet of any sin­gle color it sells for a nom­i­nal ex­tra fee; most other wire out­fits re­quire 1,000 feet per color and stripe. Ford con­nec­tor bod­ies are hard to find, but its 0.062-inch di­am­e­ter pin-and-socket Wedge­lock ter­mi­nals are widely avail­able ( 11), and you can in­stall them on the wires us­ing generic crimpers for typ­i­cal fac­tory-style open-bar­rel ter­mi­nals ( 12).



06 05–06] The Bronco’s OE dash had been re­placed by a cus­tom setup with in­di­vid­ual Au­toMeter gauges. But they didn’t work, weren’t fully vis­i­ble when in­stalled ( 05, A), and ac­cess­ing the speedome­ter ad­just­ment knob on the new unit was blocked ( B). Sanchez solved the vis­i­bil­ity is­sues with Au­toMeter combo gauges—a dual speedo/tach setup and a quad coolant temp/oil pres­sure/volt­meter/fuel level unit—that mount in a new panel built with 0.118-inch-thick ABS plas­tic sheet ( 06).











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