Friday, May 31, 2013

Not enough of a Bad Thing

I'm fussy about my 911. When working on it I try to do things well, make sure the work is functionally correct, and above all it must be neat. Sloppy doesn't cut it. This is a big order, so sometimes it is best to hire a professional to do something for me when it is a job involving precision, specialized tools, or clearly defined expertise. It makes sense to do so, because otherwise, in my ignorance, I'll get it backwards, upside down, or inside out. And then there are jobs where neatness is front and foremost, in my face, and central to the whole issue. I'm not talking about an exact adjustment of a crucial internal engine part (where neatness counts a lot), but something I have to look at every time I drive the car. The speedometer.

There was an issue with my trip meter. Often with older Porsches the plastic gears that drive the odometer will break, so a repair to this general area is commonplace. Not wanting to attempt this repair myself and, more importantly, because I have always been annoyed by the fact that the steering wheel in my older 911 blocks off two-thirds of the view of the speedo dial, I wanted to get a new dial installed  - one that would be rotated so that zero would be at the bottom (instead of at 8:00), thereby offering me a view of a larger portion of the most often used part of the dial; 0 to +/- 90 mph. And, I wanted to have a kilometres-per-hour scale, too, because I drive in Canada as much as the USA. This is not a new idea and there are shops that do this work routinely.

In order to illustrate what I wanted, I searched the Web to find helpful pictures. One image showed a rotated dial, with correctly reprinted numbers, a good starting point. This image was of a 160 mph scale, whereas I wanted a 150. Next I found a picture showing the process of removing the speedo needle, but it had a dual scale with nice blue kph numbers. OK, those two together would work, but with the 150 scale.

After quite a few emails and phone calls to a well-respected speedo shop, to whom I sent these pictures, an agreement on the work was reached and I pulled out the speedo and shipped it to the shop. The speedo returned a second time (there was a functional glitch the first time around that needed resolving) and I installed it into the instrument panel. It looked like this before refinishing the panel into which it is mounted.

Wait a minute. What about the blue km/h scale with the round line? The thing just looked funny to me otherwise, too. Therefore, I did this. I superimposed a transparent disk over an image of the 'new' speedo. Start from zero and notice where the little squares are relative to the edge of the transparent

Click to make it larger.
disk. They are 'off' right from the start, and their placement gets especially wonky above 120 km/h, but more importantly the spacing between the squares is inconsistent and some are not correctly aligned to their mile equivalent. For this I paid top dollar? Did I mention that I was fussy? We're talking about hundreds of dollars for this work, after all, and does the finished product resemble the 'blue-line' example I provided above? 

One thing that needs to be remembered is that correspondence about this job began in the middle of March. Tomorrow is the first day of June. Part of that time was consumed for other reasons, but this was no rush job. 

I'll use the thing as it is, just because I don't want to have my car off the road dealing with this issue when we have such a short summer for driving. 

The km/h numbers are somewhat smaller than in the blue example shown above, so I find that I can't easily read the km/h numbers while driving, anyway. At least they are there for some demanding traffic policeman to look at.

So, after a lot of consultation, illustration, et al, it is disappointing that the result is really short of what I hoped for, and paid for. The shop said in an email, "Please keep in mind that these custom dial layouts are done by hand in our shop and we are trying to be as precise as possible." Well, I hope they are still trying, but today's computer design programs, when attentively used, can produce a better product than this example.

I try to be neat and do a proper job. I don't like sloppy work, and I tried as hard as possible to be sure I got the result I wanted. I didn't get that. But who else will notice? I can read a larger part of the usable portion of my speedometer's dial and that's important. Maybe this is not enough of a bad thing to be upset about, but it will remain an unresolved disappointment, nevertheless.

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