They say knowledge is power but when it comes to horsepower, you need to know what’s going on underhood at any given moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a race car or your daily driver, having vital engine temperature, oil pressure, rpm, speed, and other important vehicle information can help you maximize performance and quickly diagnose potential problems. However, a cluttered instrument panel can also be distracting, and can actually make it harder to monitor multiple engine functions with a single glance while you’re driving.
Digital gauges offer one solution, as they can be programmed to display multiple functions at one time and show actual numerical readings. Auto Meter took this a step further with its digital Pro-Comp Pro Street Dash that has the capability of monitoring multiple engine functions, including your speed and engine rpm, as well as oil, water, fuel pressures and temperatures, lap times, and battery voltage. It also features programmable warning lights for low pressures or high temperatures, and incorporates them all into a single compact unit that eliminates the need for multiple gauges.
Because our project F73 Camaro is destined to see some serious road racing and autocross events, the Auto Meter Street Dash seemed like a perfect fit. It allows for all of the Camaro’s engine functions to be displayed in a single unit that features a large backlit analog tachometer and a digital display screen. It also gives our Camaro’s dash a pretty sporty look. But more than just the look, the Auto Meter dash was originally designed for racing applications, so it features a very durable wiring harness that plugs into the main display unit, which can also withstand vibration, dust, dirt, and water … yes, even water!
Installing the Po-Comp Street Dash is relatively simple to do on a race vehicle that normally doesn’t have any sort of dash or instrument cluster. But for our Camaro, it required a new blank dash panel, which we ordered from Classic Dash in Carson City, Nevada. The panel is a direct replacement for ’70-78 Camaros and features the factory headlamp switch and washer holes that are precut into the molded, UV-resistant ABS panel with a black finish. Classic Dash also manufactures these panels in billet aluminum and carbon fiber, allowing you to customize your instrument panel with any assortment of gauges you like.
Fortunately for us, we would only need to insert the single Auto Meter unit into the dash panel, but to do so still required some custom fabrication. This is one of the reasons why we asked Bruce Monroe of A&E Motorsports in Santa Fe Springs, California, to assist us with this install. Monroe began by measuring and trimming the center of the Classic Dash blank gauge panel to house the Auto Meter unit. The instructions that came with the Auto Meter Dash give the unit’s dimensions, which makes it easy to cut out the triangular-shaped hole to fit it perfectly into the new dash panel.
The Pro-Comp Street Dash also comes with four push-button switches that allow you to change the display for various values, as well as program and set alarms for peak and low values, such as high coolant temperatures and low oil pressure. Monroe had to drill the ½-inch holes, one for each of the four switches that were installed. He decided that two switches should be on each side of the dash panel so that the driver could easily access the switches with one hand and keep the other on the steering wheel. Later on, we may change the layout of the switches and mount them on the steering wheel, which would make accessing the various screens on the dash even easier; for now, having them on the dash would suffice.
Monroe started by removing the screws that hold the factory instrument cluster onto the dash and pulled out the front panel; then the OEM instrument cluster. The wiring harness is unplugged from the printed circuit board behind the cluster, leaving the open space in the dash where the new system will be installed.
The Classic Dash panel has factory holes for the headlight and wiper switches but before these are installed, the wiring to all of the vehicle’s sensors, such as the speedometer and tachometer, must first be attached. The Auto Meter harness uses a MIL connector, a very durable and robust racing-style connector that won’t jar loose from severe vibrations. The wiring from the harness is clearly marked and Monroe installed the harness behind the dash and routed it to each of the sensors that were attached to the Camaro’s engine. Some of these included water temperature, oil pressure, oil temperature, and more. Other sensors for the Auto Meter Street Dash include a VSS (vehicle speed sensor), gearshift warning light, fuel sender, and an optional fuel pressure sender.
Once all of the connections are made, along with attaching the harness to a 12V ignition source and ground, the harness was plugged into the Street Dash. The new panel was then installed onto the Camaro’s dash and the Auto Meter unit was ready to be programmed. The number 3 switch on the instrument panel (top right for us) allows you to switch the unit to one of the five display layers. For example the first display layer shows mph, fuel level, trip odometer, and odometer. The second display layer shows oil temp, mph, oil pressure, and the third display layer shows water temp, mph, and oil pressure. The fourth layer displays the optional fuel pressure, along with mph and battery voltage. The fifth layer displays lap information and time, mph, and best previous lap time.
So you can see how many vehicle and other functions the Auto Meter unit can display. Following the directions, you can preset the system alarms that will set off one of the two LEDs on the main unit, as well as set the gearshift indicator light. You’ll also have to calibrate the fuel level and the vehicle speed sensor by setting the appropriate values and calculations. It sounds complicated but the instructions make it easy to follow, and you’ll only have to set it once.
With all of the vital information at our fingertips, and clearly displayed in the center of the dash, it only takes a push of a button and a glance to know what’s going on at any given time. Either way, with the Auto Meter Pro-Comp Street Dash, our Camaro is primed for some serious track duty, and we’re sure it’ll turn a few heads during a weekend cruise night.