In our special, coddled cars, the treatment or appearance of the dashboard and instrument panel becomes one of the prime focal points of the interior scheme. Though digital readouts are here, by and large our community prefers the visceral drama of analog needles sweeping past familiar numbers, stuff ingrained since early childhood. Until recently, we'd have to mount the tachometer in one spot and the ancillary meters in another. Then some bright bulb figured he could put all the dials in front of you-stable, easy to read numbers-and maybe a shift light to keep you honest. Case in point: John Morrell's carbureted 427ci LS-powered '80 Malibu. Although a dedicated radial tire racer, it's licensed and insured to be driven on Florida public roads, but rarely turns a tire anywhere except Sunshine Dragway. This conversion was completed at John's RMP Auto in New Port Richey. Right off, you'll notice the Auto Meter rev counter and a spray of gauges depending from the dashboard. Nothing wrong with that, but John wanted the engine vitals right there in front of him, hence the Classic Dashes backdrop. The Classic panel is precision-hewn from ABS plastic sheets that are vacuum-formed at 320 degrees F. Accuracy is the key feature. A Thermwood five-axis CNC high-speed router consistently trims the dash panels to within 0.005-inch, plus or minus, and the material is impregnated with a UV inhibitor to combat those nasty rays. Choices include pure black, a carbon fiber pattern, and brushed aluminum, with or without instruments, and with or without holes for the receptacles. Experienced thinkers and fabricators John and fellow racer Justin Brayman spent 12 hours making these changes, but say that the changeover (instructions are voluminous) in a completely stock vehicle would have taken less. They checked their work several times and used the directions as a guide whenever they hit a snag. They also recovered the severely heat-checked dash padding with a new veneer. John bought the new shift light separately. All the usual suspects: oil pressure, coolant temp, volts, and fuel level. Wiring is specific; the harness is complete, wires are labeled and color-coded to match OE bundles. Bottom section of instrument panel conversion becomes the receptacle of the Classic instrument pack and is attached via OEM nacelle studs. All the usual suspects: oil pressure, coolant temp, volts, and fuel level. Wiring is speci The first step is to kill power, then remove the steering wheel. Elbow room gained will do wonders for your temperament. John's racer was already equipped with some critical monitors prior to the Classic install. The first step is to kill power, then remove the steering wheel. Elbow room gained will do John begins to remove the trim and dash panel with a Phillip's head. Remember that lame slogan "55 SAVES LIVES" and those begging-to-be-pegged 85mph speedos? Remove the antique to expose the main factory wiring. Color-coded factory harness corresponds to those in the Autowire assembly. Here, John and Justin have unplugged the factory bezel. Color-coded factory harness corresponds to those in the Autowire assembly. Here, John and Also remove A/C vent to access original wiring. Disconnect the headlight switch and windshield wiper switch from bezel. Tan wire is fuel gauge; pink is hot lead, white primary lead is for lights. Fit the Series 1 gauges, tachometer, and speedometer in the Classic dash panel. Loosely tighten the fasteners and level the gauges. The white wire is power for the gauge lights; the black wire is ground. Fit the Series 1 gauges, tachometer, and speedometer in the Classic dash panel. Loosely ti All gauges in place and all the portions of the Autowire-to-OE harness are plugged in respectively. All gauges in place and all the portions of the Autowire-to-OE harness are plugged in resp Tighten knurled knobs and you're ready to put the panel in the dashboard. All wires are color-coded to match the OEM scheme and each is labeled for use. Handy. Now, trial-fit the instrument panel receptacle. Holes on perimeter at the rear of the panel match up with OE studs and will settle gently into place. On the right side of the receptacle, ascertain where holes for wiring and connectors are needed. Now, trial-fit the instrument panel receptacle. Holes on perimeter at the rear of the pane The top hole is for water the temp sender; middle for mechanical oil pressure gauge line; bottom is to access factory wiring. The top hole is for water the temp sender; middle for mechanical oil pressure gauge line; Black wire from steering column hole is auxiliary ground for volt gauge. Wire bundle to left is for headlights and wiper switch. Black wire from steering column hole is auxiliary ground for volt gauge. Wire bundle to le Speed clips for attaching gauge pack with flat-head Allen screws dot the perimeter of the Classic receptacle. Speed clips for attaching gauge pack with flat-head Allen screws dot the perimeter of the Connect OM wiring with new gauge wiring, pull the headlight switch through; make sure wires are not apt to chafe on anything. Turn on power to make certain gauges and lights are operative. Secure the new panel (in increments) to the receptacle with Allen screws provided. Connect OM wiring with new gauge wiring, pull the headlight switch through; make sure wire Power on. Engine running. Note the shift light tacked to the side of the instrument bezel. 1 | 2 | » | View Full Article By Ro McGonegal Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!