In the force-inducted EFI world, proper gauges are a must. Your ride has too much happening with boost, fuel, oil and electricity to rely on inaccurate, factory-style idiot lights. Speaking of your ride, you Turbo Buick guys out there will agree with me when I say that whoever signed off on the horrible LEDs for engine RPM and boost pressure must have seen Tron too many times--God-awful. Throw in that 85-mile-per-hour speedo, and we've got a dash that only a grandma could love. So it's all in favor of better gauges, then?
Along a similar line of reasoning, if you're going to upgrade to new gauges anyway, you should really consider investing in the proper tools needed to accurately and safely tune your ride. A scan tool, while invaluable in keeping your engine together, can only do so much for precise tuning. That's why an exhaust gas temperature gauge and a wide-band oxygen sensor gauge should be standard-issue. Pricey, yes. Absolutely necessary? That depends--how many tuning-related engine repair bills have you paid lately?
GMHTP's in-house Turbo-T is equipped with a factory, analog-style dash, as well as four small gauges that were manufactured sometime after the Paleozoic era. I grudgingly admit that they kept me as informed as they could for the last 11 years. But for the ultimate in style, toss those A-pillar and console pods and look at the dashes offered by Performance Instruments.
Some Internet gauge research brought me across PI's website (www.gnxdash.com), and two things struck me about the dashes: the seemingly effortless fit into the stock dash location, and the limitless amount of options available to the buyer. Each conversation with Performance Instruments' Tom Houser got me more into the idea of dash customization, and Tom was happy to suggest the kinds of options that would work well in my specific application. Although Sacramento-based Performance Instruments has several dash layouts to choose from, I like the X-Treme--with holes for eight 2 1/16-inch gauges, you might run out of parameters to measure before you run out of room. And frankly, the big 3 3/8-inch speedo hole looks money right in the middle of everything.
When it came time to fill those holes, I contacted Auto Meter for a full serving of its Phantom electric gauges. In the 3 3/8-inch size, I requested the 160-mph speedo (part No. 5888, $285). And in the 2 1/16-inch sizes, I went with the 5766 dual-channel EGT ($333), the 5777 30-pound boost/vacuum ($247), the 5763 electric fuel pressure ($300), the 5727 oil pressure ($82), the 5737 water temp ($62), the 5714 fuel level ($54), and the 2698 tachometer ($137). This Z-Series tach obviously isn't a 2 1/16-inch Phantom, so Performance Instruments offers a service to convert it to a Phantom look to blend in with the others.
And finally, anyone who loves the idea of a quality wide-band oxygen sensor and 2 1/16-inch gauge combo should look no further than Powertrain Electronics. It sells the G100 Air Fuel Ratio system, an all-inclusive wide-band setup manufactured by ECM (Engine Control and Monitoring) in Los Altos, California.
Need references? General Motors has utilized ECM for the last 10 years to provide air/fuel ratio instrumentation for new car and truck calibration. When I heard that, I knew that my overboosted little LC2 would be in good hands. Powertrain Electronics sent out the G100-RAC ($995 list, $895 if you mention this article!). It ain't cheap, but quality never is.
All gauges were sent to Performance Instruments where they were installed and wired up. Soon afterwards the 9-gauge Racer X-Treme was shipped to my door, and not long after that, I was at Ron's Custom Auto in Kenilworth, New Jersey for the install. So how did it turn out? Read on.