Dashboard Logic

Installing Covan's Carbon-Fiber-Look Plug and Play Cluster

There's more to bringing a 20- or 30-year-old Chevy back to life than drivetrain and suspension upgrades. Sure, those may be the main focus of a rodstoration, but there are also a lot of other things to consider. One thing we'd like to focus on here pertains to this particular vehicle's cockpit--actually its dashboard and instrument cluster to be more specific.

If you read SUPER CHEVY at least occasionally then I'm sure you've seen many-a-feature-vehicle sporting some really nice instrument clusters that were manufactured by Covan's Classic Automotive Specialties. Well, so did our Publisher, and he decided that he'd just have to make one of these cool clusters a part of the rodstoration of his '79 pickup. Well, being the nice guy that I am, I stepped up to the plate and volunteered to do the install for him. He accepted my offer, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Within a couple of days, deliveries began to arrive at my home shop. First came the cluster assembly from Covan's, a really nice looking piece in a carbon fiber design. Now when I say assembly, I mean assembly. Covan's cluster's come complete with everything you'll need to do the install, including a full complement of Auto Meter instruments, sending units for said instruments, and even a complete plug-and-play wiring harness manufactured for Covan's by American Autowire. Next came a replacement dash pad, a couple of A/C registers and billet insert from Chevy Duty, a cool digital gearshift indicator from Lokar, and an awesome steering wheel and billet adaptor from Lecarra.

The install was actually easy in all respects. The components fit the way they should and there were no hiccups along the way - in fact, the hardest part of the upgrade for me was finding the spare time to live up to my installation offer. Given the space allotted here the following will give you a good idea of how you'll spend a portion of a weekend if you choose this or a similar install for yourself. Check it out.

4

The original dash actually doesn't look too bad in this image but believe me, under that dashcover and up-close-and-in-person this thing needed some serious help.

The whole process starts with the removal of the existing cluster assembly and dashpad. Since this particular vehicle was equipped with a tilt column, I didn't even have to loosen or drop the column to tear it down--that's one less step to worry about.

A dozen or so screws release the factory cluster bezel from the dash. And allows access to the dashpad for removal.

The factory pad is held in place with a combination of sheetmetal screws and spring-steel clips. Removal is a piece of cake as there aren't any hidden screws or clips--all the attachment points are in plain view.

The stock cluster assembly is a piece of cake to remove, as well. There are just a few screws, and the factory harness just plugs into the back of the cluster with two male jacks.

Here's the dash mostly stripped of its main components. I removed the panel below the column to access and R&R one of the air conditioning ducts so I could replace the lefthand A/C register.

This shot shows the original dashpad being relieved of any savable components you'd wish to transfer to the new pad. These ducts were pretty shaky, as was the original dash molding. No worry for us though--I'd be replacing the molding with a billet dash insert (featuring milled A/C ducts) anyway.

The new dashpad from Chevy Duty attaches in the same manner as the original: A combination of spring-steel clips and sheet metal screws. It slid right into place, and was attached in about a minute. You'll note that I didn't pre-attach the dash molding as the new billet insert is installable from the outside surface alone unlike the molding, which requires access from both the inner and outer portion of the pad.

It's kind of a shaky shot but this (shown through the cluster opening) is one of the steel clips that hold the top of the dashpad to the dash. The clips (five of `em) slide into openings up front where the pad meets the bottom of the windshield.

With the pad in place and ready, it was then time to assemble the Covan's insert. This shot shows the insert as it comes out of the box. Covan's offers an array of finishes but for this particular vehicle their carbon fiber design was chosen.

I think the coolest thing about using Covan's cluster kits (aside from the fact that they look great and fit well) is the fact that they come complete with a full complement of Auto Meter gauges and all the wiring and instructions you need to mate `em to the factory harness. Talk about one-stop shopping!

The instruments come with a top-of-the-line harness assembly manufactured for Covan's by American Autowire...

...and feature special spade terminals that allow each individual instrument to plug right into the supplied harness, making the install that much more user friendly.

Due to lack of space, I've left out a step-by-step of the wiring portion of the install, but never fear; the illustrated instructions supplied with the package spells everything out in a clear and uncomplicated manner. This image shows the new dash-side plugs and the severed factory plug, which they replace. Chopping up the factory harness may sound intimidating, but all you need to do is follow the instructions and it's a breeze.

Here's another shot I took while lying flat on my back under the vehicle. What you see here is the hall-effects sending unit for the speedo. This threads right into the tranny where the speedo cable goes and has only a three-wire hook-up that powers it and sends the signal to the speedometer.

I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the cluster installed in the dash opening. The oval item you see between the speedo and tach is the Lokar digital gearshift indicator, which again because of space limitations, you'll have to wait patiently for a stand alone install story on in future issue. Let me just say this: The gearshift indicator is really a nice piece and would be a great addition to just about any performance automobile.

Here is an image of the finished product--pretty darn nice isn't it? The Lecarra wheel was the perfect finishing touch to the upgrade and adds even more class to an already classy upgrade. The billet insert from Chevy Duty goes well and adds a bit of a race car-look to the cockpit, as well.

If you're looking to make an interior upgrade that's not only cosmetic but actually functional, then I highly recommend this is one.

COMMENTS

TO TOP