well, i took it all apart and went through all the connections much more thoroughly.
I cleaned up and polished as much as I could find, and found a couple dead and missing bulbs (how? Where did they go? who would just take them out and not replace them?), and got all the lights on gauge cluster in the center, towards the passenger seat containing the 4wd lights, fuel, oil, temp, and volt gauges working. The problem is now just in the main gauge cluster above the steering wheel. The speedometer is now the only gauge that still doesn't illuminate, and the top row of warning lights do not work.
What I found when inspecting the plastic circuit board was heavy corrosion on the copper in the circuit board leading to the speedometer and upper row of warning lights. Anyone know how to repair something like this? Or where to get a replacement, and how much it might cost?
It seemed like a good idea at the time...