How to Install a Classic Thunder Road Series 2 Gauge Kit

Vital Signs - Upgrading the interior of a 1971 Chevrolet Camaro with a budget gauge cluster

Evan J. Smithx Mar 24, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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No matter what type of Chevrolet you are building, if you've spent any of your hard-earned cash on the engine, you'll want to keep track of its vitals. A drop-in oil pressure or hot runner can lead to overheating, blown head gaskets, or worse. And it goes without saying that you'll want accurate info on engine rpm and mph as you cruise or rip it up at the track. With that, a quality set of gauges is a must. In addition to providing real-time data on essentials, a hot set of gauges can bump up the style of your interior.

When we set out to rebuild Project Back To The Street, a former drag car turned road carver, we wanted improved power and performance, but to maintain a stockish look throughout. Well, as the Camaro has progressed, we've gone further from stock than we imagined. The original buckets gave way to stylish Corbeau chairs, and now our stock cluster and gauge fascia have been traded for a modern-looking unit from Classic Thunder Road. Best of all, we didn't break the bank.

There is an endless list of aftermarket gauges and dash inserts for old Chevys, and choosing the right stuff for your ride can be overwhelming. Do you go classic or modern? Do you try to maintain a stock look or do something wild? Do you add extra gauges or keep it to a bare minimum? We went with this modern set, including a 33/8-inch 10,000-rpm tach and same-sized 160-mph speedo, plus 21/16-inch fuel level, volt meter, oil pressure, and water temp gauges. We also added the sleek carbon-look, direct-replacement cluster, which retails for just $599.95. We also added the optional wiring harness, which cuts a major amount of time and difficulty from the install.

Note: If you plan to wire the unit yourself, always use 20 AWG stranded or heavier wire, and be sure to keep your wiring clean and away from moving parts. And we always recommend using fuses.

In many cases, you'll select a package that complements your build style. In the case of second-gen Camaros, it's tough to stray far from stock due to the design of the dash, as most people stuff aftermarket gauges in the stock cluster. We like a clean look, so for this build, the gauges had to be kept in a stock-style gauge pod.

As you can see, we also installed an earlier-model Chevy wheel. Unfortunately, it's out of place, so it will be traded for a modern wheel designed to work with the PCS paddle-shifts we plan to install. While we love the '69 wood-rim wheel, it's just too big for the interior of our '71 Camaro. We expect a modern wheel will look at home with the Classic Thunder Road gauge package.

While stock can be good, there are many advantages to going aftermarket. For starters, they introduce a fresh look to your dash. Second, they are likely to work better since they use modern internals. And third, they utilize all new wiring with nice plug-in connectors.

Now, take a look at our install and hopefully you'll be inspired to hop up the interior of your classic Chevy.

Classic Thunder Road Seres 2 Gauge 2/20

1 The Classic Thunder Road Series 2 gauge kit is relatively easy to install and will add a modern, sporty look to your Camaro. The kit comes with the gauges and cluster—we added the optional wiring harness and speedo sending unit.

Speedo Prong 3/20

2a The speedo and tach use integrated prong connectors that simply plug into the harness. The speedometer is electronic (meaning there is no speedo cable) and must therefore be calibrated as per the instructions. The tach must also be calibrated, but it is done with DIP switches located on the back of the tach.

Gauge Plastic 4/20

2b

Speedo And Tach Plastic 5/20

3 Speedo and tach are retained with the plastic brackets that screw in place.

Gauges Metal 6/20

4 The smaller gauges use metal brackets and tabs to connect the wiring.

Gauge 7/20

5a Our Super Chevy Tech Center manager Darrell Kunda handled the install, but first he read all the instructions and paperwork that came with the kit. Then he got to work linking up the harness to the gauges.

Link Harness To 8/20

5b

Gauge Wiring Connections 9/20

6a Following the wiring diagram, he made the proper connections. The design of the kit makes this a snap.

Gauge Wiring 10/20

6b

Gauge Led 11/20

7 The harness kit comes with four small LED bulbs and wiring to be used for high-beam and parking-brake indicator and turn signals. It was necessary to mark and drill the 5/32-inch holes. Then Darrell slid the LED lights into place.

Classic Thunder Road Series 2 Gauges 12/20
Gauges 13/20
1971 Chevrolet Camaro Gauges 14/20

8 Here's the home for our new NPD dash and Classic Thunder Road gauge cluster.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Install Gauge 15/20

9a Once assembled, the cluster simply slides into the dash and is secured by the factory screws.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Install Gauge Clustor 16/20

9b

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Cluster 17/20

10 The new setup looks pretty tight, but it will be better once in the Camaro.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Reinstall 18/20

11 Darrell laid the dash into place and fitted it, but didn't mount it permanently since we still had some wiring to finish up.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Dash Harness 19/20

12a We went underneath and made the two connections from the dash harness to the new wiring harness from American Autowire. Next, we'll be installing a new battery, completing the wiring job, and powering up the systems needed to get our Camaro rolling.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Dash Harness Wiring 20/20

12b

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