1954 Bel Air 6V to 12V conversion

brodiewsbrodiews Member Posts: 2
edited August 2014 in Chevrolet
Hi, a few years ago I purchased a 1954 Chevy Bel Air as a project car. I'm trying to finish what the previous owner started and change the system to a 12V system. However, I am very new at things like this but am very interested in doing the work myself. I just need to know everything that must be changed over to ensure a working electrical system. Any and all help would be appreciated. Thanks.


  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    1954 Bel Air huh? I've had two of these and I loved them.

    If you want your car to stay original, I think you'll find the 6 volt system will work fine for you.

    there are places that can redo your generator from 6 to 12 volts. You will have to change all of your lightbulbs, voltage regulator etc. You can leave your 6 volt horn but MAN will it be LOUD and if you use it much, you'll burn it out. You have vacuum wipers so those will be OK.

    Anyone ever hear a Model A horn hooked to a 12 volt battery? WOW!
  • brodiewsbrodiews Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for your help. It's not a numbers matching car and a lot of things have already been changed on it, includeing engine, rear dif, steering column, wheels and tires, etc. I'm looking to do more customization rather than restoration. Perhaps in the future a restoration project may appear but I've got a certain vision for this car and original does not happen to be it. Thanks again and anymore info about the conversion or problems I may run into would certainly be helpful.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    You'll also have to protect some of your dashboard instruments, like the fuel gauge and ammeter. I think your oil pressure is a mechanical gauge if I'm not mistaken. You can probably let the 6V starter spin on 12 volts, but don't crank it for more than 4-5 seconds.

    I believe you can also buy 8 volt batteries, which are a compromise, giving more punch from the battery but not requiring any conversions. Model A Ford people do this all the time.
  • 54mainline54mainline Member Posts: 1
    (this thread is old, but it ranks high in Google search so here is my response, hope it helps)

    I have a 1954 Ford Mainline and I've done a bit of research as i'm about to do the conversion myself. Parts that need to be replaced are:
    -Headlights, Taillights, Blinkers
    -Dome light, any interior dash lights
    -Generator/Alternator can be replaced with a 1-wire self regulating alternator, thereby removing the voltage regulator all together.
    -You'll need a new 12V battery,
    -New gauges (or voltage reducer for stock gauges)
    -12V Coil
    -12V starter solenoid
    -Starter can be replaced but not necessary as the change in voltage should not damage the 6V one.
    -Heater blower motor
    -If the car was changed to Solid State ignition (aka, you don't have points) then you'll have to get a 12V version as well.
    -Horns and Horn relays
    -Possibly overdrive solenoid if your car uses one

    In general you'll need to replace anything with a light in it or a motor.

    I'm moving to 12V because, I want a deep cycle 12V battery, can install a modern stereo, brighter lights, car starts up easier, removing the generator means not dealing with brushing and maintenance, 12V car charger for cellphone, etc. The current system produces 30 amps at 6 volts for a whopping 180 Watts of power, thats hardly enough to power this laptop I'm using to write this post. A 12V 110 amp alternator produces 1320 watts.

    Really you should evaluate your goals, and you want out of the car. My goal for my Ford is to have it look as much like a classic from the outside, and use whatever does the best job on the inside. You loose some of the 'classic' feel moving to 12 volts and putting a nice stereo, but it makes the wine tasting trip a bit more fun.
  • dryholedryhole Member Posts: 1
    I clicked this because I want to hook the fuel gauge back up on a truck converted from 6 to 12 volts. I was reading the posts and thought I'd put in my 2 bits. I believe if you're going to stay with the breaker type distributor you're going to have to change a few more things. The condensor is supposed to be 12 volts. A resistor needs to be installed before the coil (changing the coil was already mentioned). This increases the life of the contacts. To make the engine start easier a 12 volt jumper wire bypasses the resistor. It connects to the R terminal on a later model GM starter solenode. On a 12 volt Ford solenode it connects to the small terminal towards the large starter terminal. I'm working on a 54 GMC truck and it has a manual operator for the starter drive and switch. The switch (which bolts on top of the starter) has an extra terminal for the 12 volt system, the jumper wire it connects to it. I think you are going to have problems if you connect the jumper to the starter terminal, it needs to be isolated. I also have an old Ford truck converted to 12 volts, I replaced the breaker system with a Mallory electronic Unilite system. The engine starts much easier with the wiring configured like this than following Mallory's schematic. A resistor type coil may negate the need for much of this, but Mallory was still asking for the resistor.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Thanks for jumping in on this. The original poster might have left some months ago, but this will be available for all new comers to read.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Anyone ever heard a Model A horn that's hooked up to 12 volts?

    A buddy once did a 6 to 12 volt conversion on a Volkswagen bug. He didn't bother with the horn or the wiper motor. Before it burned out, the horn could be heard for blocks and the wipers were hyper!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    some 6V components can take 12V for short bursts, like starter motors. Most other parts will succumb to frying, however.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Yep, 12 volts will sure get a sluggish 6 volt starter's attention!

    At least for awhile.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    They do make 8V batteries for this purpose---gives the 6V starter a bit more spin but doesn't stress it too much.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    I remember seeing a lot of those 8V batteries in Mercurys for whatever reason. I think they wouldn't blow the 6V bulbs.
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