Let's face it, no matter what make or model, early style dashboards contain a certain "cool factor." Back in the '30s, '40s
and '50s there was just as much steel contained in the dashboard as there is in an entire late-model vehicle (at least it seems that way). Not too long ago I was sitting in an all-original '39 Chevy with suicide doors. As I sat there I began to think, "If this car could talk, I'm sure it could tell a story or two." Who knows, maybe it was once driven by the "wiseguys"--you know, brimmed hats, pinstriped suits, and Tommy guns (OK, I'm getting a little carried away now, but you get the idea). Anytime I stare into an old dash it brings me back in time.
Fast-forward 10 or 20 years to when plastics were introduced into the equation. While they looked good when new, plastics were prone to fading and cracking over time. Thanks to the strength and popularity of vehicle restoration, the aftermarket has provided us with replacement parts to repair our faded, worn and cracked dashboard and instrument cluster components.
For this particular installation we hunted down the final pieces of the puzzle in order to complete the cockpit of this '72 Malibu to Chevelle SS conversion. While much of the conversion was performed to re-create the period-correct "SS" style, portions were done in retro rod style.
After much debate it was decided that we would use Dakota Digital's '70-72 Chevelle SS digital gauge cluster. For over 20 years Dakota Digital (located on the outskirts of Sioux Falls, South Dakota) has manufactured high-quality digital instrumentation and specialty electronics for cars, trucks, motorcycles and other custom applications. Dakota Digital vows that you will receive the best products, service and support, even beyond the sale.
The Dakota Digital Super Sport gauges are a bolt-in package, which provides parameters such as speed, tachometer, voltage, oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel level, all in the existing SS locations.
Additional attributes include high-speed recall, high-rpm recall, quarter-mile timer, quarter-mile speed, turn signals, high-beam indicator, check engine light, parking brake indicator, and cruise control (when properly equipped with these options).
In order to begin the conversion we needed to order the Dakota Digital instrumentation, floor console/shifter kit, and SS style dash components. We proceeded by calling upon Original Parts Group in Huntington Beach, CA. Ordering the necessary components were a snap with the aid of the knowledgeable staff at OPG. By explaining our goals for this conversion, the staff at OPG was able to put together a complete list of necessary components along with expedited shipping services. OPG has been voted ARMO's (Automotive Restoration Market Organization) "Dealer of the Year" at the prestigious SEMA show. This award is given in recognition of outstanding service and dedication to excellence in the restoration parts business.
Once all the parts were received we quickly laid them out on the floor in a mock-type fashion in order to be sure nothing was missing. Once all was accounted for, the battery was disconnected for safety reasons (as it should be before beginning any project), and our quest towards "SS" stardom had begun.