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What Does Working on a 1966 Chevy C10 Fleetside Pickup Have In Common with Upgrading a Vintage Test Set?

Just because something is vintage doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t add a lot of value.

December 12, 2015

6 Min Read
What Does Working on a 1966 Chevy C10 Fleetside Pickup Have In Common with Upgrading a Vintage Test Set?

OK, I admit it, I just wanted an excuse to talk about our sweet pickup, but really, there are similar decisions to be made in both cases. Regarding our pickup truck, we are not after a full restoration, which we can’t afford, so we are combining elements of restoration with preservation. That sounds suspiciously similar to what we do with old test sets that are still in production but need to be revamped for various reasons.

Regarding our truck, we are not looking for show-truck perfection, but we do want to make it look great (it already runs great) and be able to use it as it was intended -- to haul stuff when needed. So we have to ask ourselves a series of questions. To break it down so that we can prioritize, we need to ask: What is critical for the truck to function correctly? In the case of our truck, we got a really good deal on it but there is one major area of concern. The truck was parked next to a structure that had caught on fire and had experienced some heat damage on the passenger side. The damage is mostly cosmetic, but rust will begin to prevail if we don’t do something soon. Preservation is a high priority so this must be addressed. We need to prime and repaint to protect the body, and will need some body shop work to repair some existing trouble areas where rust has started to eat away at the metal. Fortunately this is minor and in areas that are easily addressed. However, due to the possible consequences to the body over the long term, this must be a priority.

The engine is a 283 ci V-8. It was rebuilt a few years ago but the previous owner kept it as original as possible with matching serial numbers intact. We recently had the brakes redone including the master cylinder and the slave cylinders. There is no bed, so we need to get it painted before putting a new bed in. The previous owner had oak planks cut to size, along with the metal strips that go between and the cross pieces that go underneath. It also needs new rubber all around. Stuff we would also like to have done: Fix the choke cable (it’s frozen) so currently you have to let it warm up a little bit before you can go.

Upgrading decisions: Replace the radio so it has a classic look but converted with modern technology -- right now there is an off brand AM/FM radio cassette deck residing where the original radio used to be. Being an older truck, we are OK with no power steering and no AC and choose not to upgrade for both financial and restoration reasons.

True restoration, bringing it to its original condition, can’t happen with our budget. Partial restoration and preservation can and will. We have determined the necessity of painting our vehicle for preservation. Choosing the color falls under restoration or not: Selecting a color that was not the original at the factory is not true restoration, but neither is our project. Therefore, we will give ourselves some latitude by choosing one of the colors that was offered for the truck in 1966, although not its original color. Why? Purely personal preference, we want a flashier color than white. We’ll focus on paint quality to help make up the difference. Ultimately we are in this for the fun factor and don’t envision selling it for a profit.

In the case of our test set, management has informed us that the customer wants two additional parameters tested and expanded data-logging capability. Affectionately known as the dinosaur, we will have to do some digging to come up with parts for this beast to be able to do what we need. One of the additional tests can still utilize the existing GPIB interface, but the other test will require an 8 bit A to D converter ISA card. Where the heck are we going to find that? Well, in this instance I have good news. A quick Internet search brings up several companies that still deal in ISA buses. As one company called ACCES I/O Products puts it on their web page, “ACCES has been designing Data Acquisition and Control (DAQ) products for more than 20 years, and in that time has seen many changes. Technologies that were once dominant fade into near oblivion, and the trend continues. This page lists all of the products we're still proud of, but which time has, for the most part, rendered less-than-suitable for new customers. ACCES will continue to support these products for many years to come, but we can't recommend them for new projects.” You can visit these folks at http://accesio.com/. USB support may be another option -- ACCES also carries and supports USB modules that can be used in place of an ISA card if your computer has that capability. Given the availability of what is referred to as legacy products in this specific instance, it seems one of these products can be a good choice, as long as you can make the software work. We just need to be careful and do our homework, which means checking the test system for both hardware and software compatibility as well as being able to still meet throughput requirements by using vintage (legacy) products.

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Of course we want to save money if possible which is why we are going down this road rather than designing a completely new system, but where do we draw the line? We foresee at least a three-year window before budgeting becomes available for a new system, so we need to determine what is critical for the test set to function correctly and if we can reasonably expect it to last three more years. The test set in our example is truly vintage: first built in 1997. The computer that is running it has a Pentium II processor running Windows 95. This translates to an obsolete operating system and a program that does not take full advantage of 64 bit systems. However, the test software is 32 bit and even if you decide to upgrade the computer, your 32-bit program should still run OK. If management has decided that all computers are to be upgraded (I wish that would happen to me!) and they expect compliance in all departments, than yes, a new computer would work. But that Pentium II workhorse may have many years left -- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! However if you are going to a different OS because your new program requires it -- than a new computer may very well be in order -- a Pentium II runs well in Windows 95/98 and although you hear stories of folks getting it to work in later operating systems, this is a production test set; you want reliability and you don’t want your computer resources maxed out or be prone to unexpected glitches.

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