There was a time when a hot rodder copied a basic wiring diagram out of a motor's manual and bought the switches, relays, and connectors at the local auto parts store. The wire was what was available that day on the revolving rack of small wire rolls. Most budget-conscious guys only bought a few colors, which often made tracing a problem tougher later on. You didn't know if this one yellow wire was for the wiper or the starter solenoid.

Kits and components aimed at such rodders building their own cars have been around for three or four decades. Considering that the evolution of wiring kits and the competition between many new companies vying for the customers, for the most part we now have many choices for quality kits and components. The instruction materials are decent, and the modern high-temperature, cross-link PVC insulation on today's wires is far superior in strength and heat-resistance to the wire-by-the-roll of the past.

As good as most kits are today, none so far serve the growing but admittedly smaller group of rodders building today's retro rods. The kits try to be applicable to all kinds of cars, so unless you're wiring a "modern" car, you always have to tie off lots of wires that aren't used. Most traditional rods do not have cruise control, power windows, power seats, stereo gear, A/C, backup lights, dome light, electric fan, third brake light, etc.

Traditional builders hide their modern plastic fuse panel, and disguise the too-colorful PVC wiring as best as possible with black tape; the better to maintain that '30s, '40s, or '50s vibe. Now, Sacramento Vintage Ford (Sacramento, CA) has provided just the solution for this group of young and old fans of the "way it used to be."

Outside of the world of original Ford Model A and V-8 restoration, most rodders have been unaware that inside the Sacramento Vintage Ford warehouse is a section called "production." This is where a staff of three men utilizes ancient machines to produce concours-stock, cloth-covered wiring harnesses for early Fords that feature all the correct terminals, brass bullet connectors, and other OEM details. Over the years, those "crossover" guys (lucky stiffs with both a restored Ford or two and a hot rod) would come to the counter at Sacramento Vintage Ford and ask why they couldn't get an old-school wiring harness for their hot rod.

Now it happens that one of the people who make the Ford harnesses is our friend of 40 years, Bud Bryan, one of the pivotal editors of Rod & Custom, a man who was part of the R&C team that got '70-era rodders to start thinking about Flatheads, traditional cars, and long-distance driving to events. After a rod hiatus of eons, Bryan is finishing off a '29 roadster pickup full of collected old-school goodies. Bryan and Ron Palmer (the guy who keeps the harness machinery functional) were the most recent and final voices to be heard about making hot rod wiring kits with the cloth-covered wires and looms. The results are shown here.

Its name is the Vintage Hot Rod Wiring Kit (PN 17500), with an introductory price of $295. The beauty and practicality of the wires is that they are colored by the threads woven over the wires, so wires can be differentiated not just by garish plastic insulation colors as with other kits, but by a wide range of subtle designations, such as a pale yellow base with light green threads woven in as a tracer. The possible combinations of the basic thread colors and the tracers result in a wiring kit with little confusion. For instance, the horn button wire to the horn relay is a Yellow/2Green (two green tracers that cross) and there is no other wire used in the kit that is the same. With most other wiring kits, there could be half dozen red wires, but every wire in this kit has a different color, and can be told apart from any others without having to print the name of the destination all over the wire.