Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dissect A Dash: The Norm Wallace 1932 Ford Stewart Warner Panel

This is the first of a continuing series called "Dissect a Dash", where we'll take a look at some of the famous dashboard gauge panels in hot rod and race history, and examine the components that went into putting them together as a whole.
The Earl Wallace Deuce roadster was built in the late-Fifties, and the pictures here are from the 1960 HOT ROD ANNUAL. 

1960 Hot Rod Annual, published by Trend Books

The roadster is a beauty, with cycle-style fenders, spinner caps and nerf bar bumpers. Really a prototypical build of the era. It's a style that looks great today, and not dated in any way. That timelessness is really the mark of a great builder.

The Earl Wallace 1932 Ford Roadster

Lets take a closer look at the dash itself. The first thing that jumps out at you is the Stewart Warner "Straight Five" or "Ensign" gauge panel planted smack in the middle of the dash. It has the signature engine-turned fascia finish. What makes it eye-catching from a distance is the surround that Earl has smartly rimmed in white (echoing the whitewall tires and interior trim), giving a border-within-a-border look to the SW panel. The shapes are very complimentary to each other.

So what did Earl use to make this striking arrangement?  Let's do the breakdown...

Here is the central panel, with four SW "Wings" insignia accessory gauges. There is definitely an amps and a water temperature gauge to the right hand side, to the left I'm assuming a fuel and an oil pressure. The center is interesting, because instead of an expected speedometer, Earl has planted what looks to be a six or seven-grand RPM Sun "Football" insignia tachometer. This model is referred to as the "Football" model because it has a red, football shaped emblem smack in the middle of the face. It was an electric model, and it's very telling that of all the gauges in this dash, it was the only non- Stewart Warner one. This speaks heavily to the issues that SW had with their electric tach line, one of the rare SW missteps in their development history.

And here's the Stewart Warner speedo, tucked down below in a custom 3-3/8" chrome holder. This is not a "Wings" insignia gauge like the accessory gauges; this is what I refer to as the "Big Block" insignia, a white square with the SW letters in black. The insignia was introduced in a smaller graphics version a few years later, the "Small Block" series. This was a mechanical speedometer.

Again, Stewart Warner gauges, in the larger 2-5/8" front-mount style. Another pressure gauge, and a vacuum or air pressure gauge. Also a couple of pull switches (Lights? Throttle?) and a Cole Hersee style indicator light.

And more of the same on the drivers side, with an ignition key as well. 

Again, the set-up is simple, yet striking, clean and balanced. The fact that he stuck the tachometer up top lets us know that this car was built for go as well as show. 

The Earl Wallace 1932 Ford Roadster: A Study in Smooth Styling

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