Forty-five years ago the world was a simpler place. If you don't believe me then crawl behind the wheel of an early Camaro and behold the utter lack of information provided by the instruments in the dash. In comparison, today's cars seem like road-going versions of a space shuttle in terms of instrumentation. Back then, especially on the base models, the only two pieces of info deemed necessary was how fast you were going and how much petrol was sloshing around in your tank. Everything else was considered "optional." There was no oil pressure, water temp, or voltmeter to concern yourself with. Instead, they armed the dash with big red lights. The concept was simple; if the light was off, you were good to go (unless the bulb was burned out) and if the light came on, you were most likely screwed. At some point they were dubbed "idiot lights," but we're not sure if the derogatory part was intended for the light or the person behind the wheel. In any event, it's 2013 and modern cars have spoiled us. With what we have invested in our engines, we want to know little tidbits of information like oil pressure and if the alternator is still pumping out a sizable charge.
Aftermarket gauges have been around for a long time now, but the main problem was where to mount them so they didn't look tacked on. Up until the last few years, they were slung under dashes, sequestered in gloveboxes, hung off A-pillars, or hole-sawed into unfortunate dash metal. But Dakota Digital came up with a better way. Their new line of VHX gauge pods stuffs a ton of high-tech informational goodness into the confines of the factory gauge area. With this kit you can have the full complement of analog engine status gauges and, with the dual digital displays, a ton of other data points commonly found in new cars. For this install we found a '67 RS, but Dakota Digital offers the VHX system for all first-, second-, and third-gen Camaros.
01. Aside from being old and worn-out looking, the stock gauges provide very little information to the driver. There's speed, fuel level, and an odometer. The three critical engine health indicators (oil pressure, water temp, and volts) are covered by "idiot lights." These come on once a problem is so bad that you'll most likely be stuck on the side of the highway.
02. 1967 and '68 Camaros have one of the easiest dashes to remove. The first step was to unscrew the perimeter bolts from around the dash bezel using a Phillips screwdriver.
03. To get enough wiggle room to remove the dash, we had to drop the steering column down a bit. After removing the plastic covers, we were able to pull the three nuts holding the column to the dash.
04. With the column lowered we were then able to remove the dash. Before doing this, we had to reach behind the unit to unscrew the speedo cable and unplug the main harness from the back of the OEM gauge cluster.
05. Here you can see where we had to unscrew the speedo cable and the plug that had to be removed. Back in the day this was high-tech stuff!
06. With the dash out of the Camaro, we could then remove the cluster, inner bezel, and plastic lens.
07. The VHX kit from Dakota Digital (PN VHX-67C-CAM, $760) includes the display, control box, CAT5 cables, and a universal sensor pack. This system will definitely bring our '67 into the 21st century while still keeping the car's classic vibe. In addition to the speedometer and tach, the dash incorporates water temp, oil pressure, fuel level, and voltmeter. It also has two digital displays that can cycle though a host of information screens that include odometer, two trip odometers, engine hours, high-speed recall, digital rpm, high rpm recall, and a clock. They also offer a version that incorporates console gauges.
08. The new VHX dash was simply bolted to the factory gauge bezel. We did find that our bezel was pretty beat down and cracked, so we ordered up a replacement from Camaro Central.
09. The Dakota Digital control box made wiring up the system a snap. We simply had to run the various feeds from the factory harness (turn signals, high beam, etc.) to the appropriate terminal on the control box. We used two self-tapping screws to mount it under the dash. The spot was chosen so that we could access the wiring and view the LED status indicator.
10. The VHX kit comes with a ton of cool features, but if you want more, Dakota Digital is more than happy to hook you up with even more bells and whistles. One of them is this compass and temperature module (PN BIM-17-1, $95) that gives, you guessed it, the direction your car is pointing and the outside temperature. We mounted the unit under the dash, facing down, using the supplied bracket. This bracket is bendable so that the module could be made level to the ground using the built-in bubble level. Just make sure your car is on a level surface. The temperature sensor was mounted up near the grille of the Camaro and we connected the compass module to the control box using the supplied cable.
11. On the back of the VHX gauge cluster there are three plugs for the included CAT5 cables. The first step was to use the shorter one to connect the two display halves. The longer cable was used to connect the gauge cluster to the control box. The included cable is a few feet long, but if, for some reason, you need to place your control box farther from the gauge cluster, longer CAT5 cables are available at your local electronics store.
12. With the main wiring done, we could then put the new gauge cluster back in the dash and reattach the steering column.
13. These two buttons are what allowed us to set up the dash and scroll through its various menus and displays. One wire from each button was hooked to a common ground while the other wires were run to the appropriate spots on the control box. The instructions from Dakota Digital are very detailed and contain all the necessary wiring diagrams.
14. The sensors for the VHX are all plug-and-play deals, which made the install even easier. The water temp sender had a 1⁄8-inch pipe thread, and the kit came with a set of adaptors for various intakes. If you're installing this in an LS engine application, you'll need a fitting (12mm) to adapt this sender to the port on the back of your passenger side head. For our small-block, we were able to use one of the supplied brass adaptors.
15. Like the water temp, the oil pressure sending unit was also 1⁄8-inch pipe. Here you can see it next to the old GM sender that was mounted near the rear of the block. We did need to go buy a small extension fitting since the new sender hit the intake manifold, but your results may vary. Our other option would have been to mount the sender to one of the other oil-pressure ports on the engine.
16. The speed sensor is a pretty slick deal. We simply removed the old speedo cable from the car (note that where the cable passes through the firewall makes a perfect spot to feed the new wires through) and screwed this into the transmission. We then plugged the harness from the control box into the plug. If you have a transmission that already has a VSS signal, then this sensor isn't used and instead you'll run a signal wire from the VSS output on your trans to the control module.
17. The other popular option these days is to get your speed by using a GPS module. Dakota Digital offers one (PN GPS-50-1, $190) or you could pick up this easy-to-wire GPS speedometer signal generator unit from Eddie Motorsports (PN MSEI-520, $175).
18. The illumination on the VHX dash can be adjusted using the menu system, but if you want to be able to change the lighting level easier, then there's a dimmer switch option (PN DIM-1, $29). The wires simply run to the control module, and the billet knob can be mounted anywhere on the dash.
19. Once we powered up the system we were rewarded with a little surprise. The kit ships with a few really neat functions that we were unaware of, including 0-60 mph, ¼-mile time, and ¼-mile speed. Sweet!
20. Once we set up and calibrated the compass we were able to pull up the information on the VHX dash. Again, it's just a nice modern feature that can now be had on our classic cars.
21-22. And with that, our installation was done. It took a full eight-hour day to wire it all in neatly, but the results were well worth it. In our case, we opted for the silver face and red backlight, but they also offer combinations with a carbon-fiber look and blue lighting.