Since we’re going through all of the effort to make this Roamer a nice boat it seemed reasonable to do something about the gauges. The boat hadn’t been used since the mid-1980s, so I was pretty sure the OE gauges weren’t worn out. But with Cummins 430 Diamonds going in as part of this refit, a few folks suggested that new gauges were the way to go. Cummins engines use oil pressure and temperature senders with a different output range than the Stewart Warner gauges that Chris Craft used. The OE tachometers are cable-driven “clickers,” and since the boat originally came with 427 Ford gas engines the RPM range was 0-5,000. The Cummins engines are wide open at 2600, so 5,000RPM gauges would be kind of goofy. There was also pitting in the chrome bezels for the OE gauges. New Cummins gauge panels are ~$800, and would plug right in to the wiring harness on the engines. But they wouldn’t look right, to my eye anyway.
All of the OE gauges appeared to be functional, with the exception of the Roamer Cruise Control (trim tab) gauge. New senders that are compatible with Stewart Warner are commonly available and relatively cheap. And this set of Cummins engines just happened to have a pretty rare factory option: cable drive outputs for tachometers. The OE wiring harness to the engine room was still in very good shape, though I’ll probably cut back the wires 2~3 inches and replace the connectors with modern ones with shrink & glue terminals. So connecting the OE wiring to the Cummins harness shouldn’t be terribly complicated. It will almost certainly be easier than rebuilding the helm station so it works with a Cummins panel or new gauges that are compatible.
Back in January 2013, I asked around about gauge restoration and heard very good things about Dale at Kocian Instruments.* So I sent the sent the original Chris Craft gauges off to Dale for refurbishing. Not surprisingly, the instrument shop was busy and my gauges fell into the queue; they’d be done sometime in June-July. Not a problem, I thought, since by then the mechanic would have the engines in.
It turns out that the mechanic made lots of promises he didn’t keep. The engines were originally contracted to be installed by September 2012, then November 2012. In March, he even promised he would take a plasma cutter to his nutsack if he didn’t get them installed by April 2013. In spite of the nutsack promise, the engines weren’t in by April or even by July 2013 when I finally fired him. Near as I can tell, the plasma cutter never went near the mechanic’s nutsack, but I heard recently that he’s been hit with a devastating case of hemorrhoids or something like it. The goddess of the seas once again demonstrates that she loves old Chris Crafts and turns her vengeance on those who do them wrong…
Anyway, last weekend a box arrived from Kocian — right on schedule. Cost-wise, the restoration was more than new Cummins panels would have been. But since everything fits into existing holes in the helm station, I won’t spend time or money adapting new bits to an old boat. And the OE gauges are just so darned pretty…
- 2016 Update: Dale Kucian sold Kucian Instruments in 2014, and the company under new management is not one I can recommend. The full story from July 2016 is here: Trim Tabs & Gauges
Chris Craft used the same basic tachometer for their diesel and gas-powered motoryachts. The mechanisms inside just have a different gear ratio. I knew this from my experience with the Detroit Diesel 6-71n-powered 1967 Chris Craft Constellation with 2350RPM WOT that I used to own. So after talking it over with Dale, he just swapped out my mechanisms for a set from a diesel boat, yielding a set of 4,000RPM tachs. 🙂
I’ll need to adapt the engine harness to accommodate a shunt, which is required for the Stewart Warner Amperes gauges. But I’ve still got the old ones.
OK…enough staring at the shiny bits. I took the week off work because we got a bit of a weather window, with temps less than 90* all week. Back to the boat.
Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Aft enclosure windows