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  • 51 champion wiring

    boy, fabric-covered wires were a bad idea!

    got just about all the behind-the-dash wiring completed... but there are some wires not connected to anything...

    first of all, there's a long wire that goes from behind the dash on the drivers side (by the heater knob) all the way to the front of the car. neither end was connected to anything.

    i found the horn wire, finally. decided not to replace the wire in the steering column because that's probably fine, but replace from the end of the steering column forward. not sure where it connects. middle terminal on the horn relay has nothing connected to it.

    on the firewall, to the left of the main wiring through-hole, there's another one with about 5 wires in a tight rubber gasket. two of those wires were taped together and went all the way up to the front of the car. not sure what those are even for. front turn signals?

    while replacing the wiring for the rear interior light, there is a wire going down the catch side of the passenger door frame. i tried to find what that went to, to no avail. i was finally able to pull it out and it was wired to a small rectangular metal piece with a hole on the end. any idea what that is for? do i need it? how to reinstall if i do need it?

    bulbs: i found comparable bulbs to the interior lights (88 to 1004) and the gauge lights (51 to 1145) at autozone today. is there going to be a problem using 12v bulbs in a 6v system? i'm considering converting to 12v possibly next winter and i figured since i already have bulbs to replace, might as well get the 12v ones.

    under-car wiring will come later. might buy a harness for those. also want to rig up backup lights, but have no idea how to connect those to the reverse gear. maybe would opt for a beeper instead, but it's the same problem.

    also will have to do the slight bit of headlight/signal rewiring that the previous owners didn't do.


    hasn't been a hard project, but not necessarily easy, either. but i'm having tons of fun with it!
    Last edited by pyrodork; 09-28-2010, 11:25 AM.

  • #2
    I am away from my 51 for a few more days so this is from memory. If you need more info I will be home mid to late next week. First I think the wire to the horn relay goes to the middle position. The bundle of wires (5) should be RF and LF signal lights, RR and RL brake/signal lights and the fifth wire should be from the brake light switch. The wire on the passenger side door is for the rear interior light switch. It connects to a switch that is available from SI among others. It screws to the door frame with 2 screws. I use the stock 6 volt system and have no problems. Using the 12 volt bulbs may be too dull a light to be of any value. I would strongly suggest you replace the rest of the cloth covered wires as as possible. They will cause shorts (and even fires). Studebakers West makes most of the wiring harness for the car. If you have factory signals lights, the harness inside the steering column should be replaced. Easier to do than it looks. Good luck and if you need more info, let , me know.

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    • #3
      any help is appreciated!

      yeah, i discovered today that the 5 wire cluster is coming from the steering column. i agree that it does look like a PITA to replace, but i haven't attempted it yet. i didn't get a whole lot of daylight hours to work today, so i just got a little done. those little bullet connectors do not like to stay on the wire (the NEW ones)!

      i know the wire on the passenger side is for the interior light. i have the button that connects on the hinge side of the door. but on the other side of the door, it splits and a wire trails down the jamb on the other side to this tiny mystery piece. i'll take a picture tomorrow. i did replace the wires that go above the passenger and drivers doors to go back to the interior light.

      while disconnecting everything, i labeled all the wires for the instrument panel, but forgot to label the wires for the lights! it'll be easy to figure out (if they work after all this; they didn't before). i assume the little red light between the turn signal indicators is for the high beam headlights, correct? the 12v lights will be dimmer than the 6v lights on the 6v system? i went to 5 or 6 different auto parts stores today, and although they had variety in their bulbs, nobody had the 51's or 88's. i will check ebay later. i plan to replace them all now so i don't have to worry about an antique bulb burning out soon. UPDATE: found both types of bulbs on ebay for cheap. bought a 10-pack of each.

      about the front turn signal wires... i'm not sure where they attach. do they wire up directly to the lamp, or go through the connectors under the horn relay? the rear turn signals, lights, and brake lights work; as do the headlights. the bright/dim switch on the floor is touch-and-go between dims, highs, and nothing at all. there are 3 wires coming from it that already have been replaced, so i assume it's the switch itself. eventually, i'll either replace it or try to open it up and clean it out. the floor starter button isn't hooked up right now. there's a button installed on the dash (which i am fine with), but i think i'll end up wiring them both up just for the sake of doing it. probably will have to end up replacing that button, too.

      when i end up installing my radio in a few months, do i attach the fused wire to the keyed ignition switch and ground one to the body? this one never had one installed before, so i have to start from scratch. come to think of it, there is only one wire coming out of the radio, and that's the fused one. where do i put it?
      Last edited by pyrodork; 09-29-2010, 02:19 PM.

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      • #4
        crap! i have an extra bullet connected wire that i can't find a spot for! it's connected to the headlight switch, and has the two wires coming off of it for the door switches for the interior light. there's one more short tail that i don't remember where it attaches to!

        also realized that i need to replace the turn signal flasher connector. the old one just won't let go of the old wires. i think i found one online at napa. auto zone was no help today. my other option is ebay, but i already have to wait a week for light bulbs. don't want to wait longer for a vital part of the wiring.

        for the behind-the-dash wiring, i really only have the turn signal wiring and heater wiring left to do... and maybe one or two more stray wires.

        oh, where do i connect the wiring for the cigarette lighter plug? i didn't have one when i bought the car, but i bought one today and i want to wire it up while i've got everything apart.

        and while i'm talking, i don't have a knob for the headlight switch. there is a knob on the heater switch, but it's marked with an L in the middle and an M and I on the left and right sides of the L. i assume that's supposed to be the headlight knob, but what does it mean? Light, Main, and Interior? and if that's the case, what's the lettering on the heater knob?
        Last edited by pyrodork; 09-29-2010, 10:38 PM.

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        • #5
          When I did my '51 commander I just used some heat shrink insulation on a couple of the short wires that were hard to get apart. I think it was on the dash lights and such. I just put the tubing over the cloth wrap wire and shrunk it. I would recommend replacing the horn wire. Mine looked good but when I removed it the insulation inside the column tube had started to break down. I attatched the new wire to the old and pulled it into the column. I then soldered the old end button to the new wire.
          Rob

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mapman View Post
            I would recommend replacing the horn wire. Mine looked good but when I removed it the insulation inside the column tube had started to break down. I attatched the new wire to the old and pulled it into the column. I then soldered the old end button to the new wire.
            Rob
            how did you connect the new to the old? it seems like a tight fit for anything aside from a solder or a butt-to-butt connector.

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            • #7


              here's the wire i can't remember where it connects to. this is the underside of the headlight switch. the red wires on the upper right go to the door dome light switches. these connect to the top connector on the headlight switch, and the loose tail... i don't remember. i can't find anywhere where it would go. i'm pretty sure it was connected to something. i can't make head or tails (no pun intended) out of the wiring diagram in the shop manual; everything's too close together and in a hodgepodge of locations. i need someone who has theirs wired up to tell me where it goes.

              according to the wiring diagram, though, the cigarette plug attaches to the ammeter gauge on the instrument cluster (from what i can make of it). do i need to connect the ground wire, or is it grounded just being on the metal dash?

              and where do i connect the wire coming from the radio? ammeter, too?

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              • #8
                come on, people! lots of viewers, but few answers! i don't mean to be a jerk, but i really need help here! i'm trying to get this done before the weekend is out!


                Originally posted by dong View Post
                If you have factory signals lights, the harness inside the steering column should be replaced. Easier to do than it looks. Good luck and if you need more info, let , me know.
                took out the turn signal arm today and found a mess of dilapitated wiring connected to it. doesn't seem like a problem replacing it, but all the wires look to be the same color. i thought about labeling each wire from the column and which wire it connects to on the coupler, but it got dark too quick today before i could do that. is there an easier way?

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                • #9
                  To pull the wire through I cut the butt connector off and wrapped the wires together. the only tight spot is going through the bottom of the column. I made sure to carefully align it and pulled the wire with one hand while feeding it with the other. Kind of a long reach but you just want the wire to not catch on anything as it goes in.
                  When I started I took the diagram to kinkos and blew it up huge. I was then able to mark a wire I needed to. I did end up with one extra black wire but everything works. I have an automatic so I also needed to build some seperate harnesses.

                  I may be sorry later but my turn signals weer in great shape so I left them alone.
                  Rob

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                  • #10
                    There are two kinds of replacement wiring harnesses available.
                    One is the original cloth wiring and one is the plastic wiring.
                    The cloth wiring is braided over plastic wire for looks, it has the correct wiring color code etc.
                    It looks just like it did when it left the factory!
                    You can order the harnesses with the turn signal wiring included.
                    Robert Kapteyn

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                    • #11
                      I always pull the old horn wire out the top and tie a string to the bottom end
                      Replacement plastic wiring with the correct contact and bullet connectors are available from vendors.
                      these pull in easily with the string.
                      Robert Kapteyn

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rkapteyn View Post
                        There are two kinds of replacement wiring harnesses available.
                        One is the original cloth wiring and one is the plastic wiring.
                        The cloth wiring is braided over plastic wire for looks, it has the correct wiring color code etc.
                        It looks just like it did when it left the factory!
                        You can order the harnesses with the turn signal wiring included.
                        Robert Kapteyn
                        not bad...
                        maybe it's just me, but i don't see much difference between the color codes on the cloth wires. it makes more sense to me to go with colored plastic wires because you can tell them apart easier. not as clean of a look, but i'm not expecting it to be.

                        to clean it up under the hood, i was considering buying a few feet of flexible metal conduit and running the wires through that. the plastic ones always ended up melting in my other cars when i used them. of course, i'm open to other ideas, too; as that step is probably a few months away. i noticed there's some considerably thick fabric sleeves (for the heater wires, for instance; to protect from the heat of the engine near the firewall). is there a source for that?


                        i'm still stumped as to where that bullet-ended tail goes. i'd appreciate if someone could do research on theirs and snap some pictures for me of their wiring job.
                        Last edited by pyrodork; 10-02-2010, 08:59 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pyrodork View Post

                          and while i'm talking, i don't have a knob for the headlight switch. there is a knob on the heater switch, but it's marked with an L in the middle and an M and I on the left and right sides of the L. i assume that's supposed to be the headlight knob, but what does it mean? Light, Main, and Interior? and if that's the case, what's the lettering on the heater knob?
                          That's the knob for the lighting switch (L). It should be located between the hand brake and the ignition switch. Pulling out to first position gives you park and tail lights, second position (all the way out) gives headlights and tail lights. Turning left to 'M' position powers the map light, to the right (I) powers the instrument lights. The map light is located on the dash above the instrument cluster. It should also come on when the doors are opened.
                          Another thing about wearing a mask......I don't have to shave before I leave the house!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dwain G. View Post
                            That's the knob for the lighting switch (L). It should be located between the hand brake and the ignition switch. Pulling out to first position gives you park and tail lights, second position (all the way out) gives headlights and tail lights. Turning left to 'M' position powers the map light, to the right (I) powers the instrument lights. The map light is located on the dash above the instrument cluster. It should also come on when the doors are opened.
                            thanks! i don't know why everyone used abbreviations in those days (well, i guess we still do today... or r u nawr?). it makes a lot more sense now.


                            regarding the wires with mystery destinations, i found another (why didnt i label these things before i went to bed?!). it has one end of the map light socket and one other one (i didn't bother looking where it went tonight. dome light?) going to a 2-to-1 coupler. where does the 1 wire FROM the coupler go? in the picture, it's on the left. the whitish cloth colored wire goes to the map light.

                            oh, and about bulbs... i know the map light and the dome light are 88's. i took out one instrument bulb and it was a 51. yesterday, i took out the other instrument bulbs while rewiring them and noticed that all the other ones are 55's. the 51's and the 55's have the same connection, but i assume there's a wattage difference. can anyone clarify which bulb is correct? i don't have a chassis manual yet.
                            Last edited by pyrodork; 10-02-2010, 06:41 PM.

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                            • #15
                              The 51 bulb is for the high beam indicator. The 55's were used for the gauges. Have you ever seen one of these dashes at night? They don't really 'light up', but all the letters, numbers, and needles glow brilliantly in the dark! At least they did when these cars were newer. Most will need restoring now to be readable.
                              Another thing about wearing a mask......I don't have to shave before I leave the house!

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