When building a car, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made--sometimes even before you turn a single nut. Is it going to be a drag, street, or autocross-type build? These are the kind of things you should know before you start. One thing all of these builds will have in common is gauges and the ability to keep track of all the engine and car vitals. While aftermarket gauges have been a staple of the Super Chevy realm, they have evolved leaps and bounds from their initial offerings. Gauges are getting smarter, faster, easier to read and more precise. So now we don't have to decide on one set of gauges to another when there is something available that can do it all.
Once upon a time, Dakota Digital, a well-known name in the gauge game, had only digital offerings. Until now, that is. With the release of the company's VHX line of analog/digital gauge systems, the company now has both, and this new stuff is killer. The idea of the VHX was to create a gauge system that would offer all the parameters the new-school gearhead could want, yet still mount into the stock dash or bezel. The VHX systems are manufactured at the Dakota Digital facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The systems blend needles and digital displays just like a new car. Analog gauges included with this instrument system are a 0-160 mph speedometer, 0-8,000 tachometer, 0-80 psi oil pressure, 140-220–degree F water temp, 0-17 voltmeter, and empty-full fuel level. Even though all these gauges have a dedicated needle, each one can also be viewed in one of the two message center displays and some, like the speedo and tach, can actually read much higher in the message center.
Also shown in the digital message center are the following: odometer, trip odometer, resettable service odometer, clock, hour-meter, 0-60 mph (0-100 kph) timer, quarter-mile timer, quarter-mile speed display, high-speed recall, and high rpm recall. Much like you'd find on a new car, there are a bunch of little lights that magically appear when engaged. The VHX is no different, offering turn signals, high beam, check engine, parking brake, cruise control, 4x4, and wait to start lights.
Another great thing the VHX offers is the ability to be expanded with Bus Interface Modules (BIM) to display a bunch of other things, like boost, fuel pressure, gear indicator, oil temp, trans temp, and many more. The system comes totally complete with all the necessary sensors, wires and adapters for standard and LS engines. The fuel level gauge can read either OEM sensor, or any aftermarket style currently available. The fully programmable speedometer can be adjusted for various tire sizes, rear-end gearing combinations, and so on.
The first design was made for the first-gen Camaros, with the promise of more applications to follow. So when we found out the second-gen Camaro system was available we were excited to say the least. Then when we saw the price of $795.00 and we thought that was kind of expensive. That faded away very quickly when we sat down to find out what our other options might cost.
Using Summit Racing as a guide, we searched for a 5-inch speedo and tach and 2-1/6-inch oil, fuel, volts, and water temp electric gauges. The cheapest matching set of gauges we could find was $434.76 and those are normal black face with old-school flood lighting, plus, you'll still need to figure out how to cleanly mount them. There are molded plastic dash panels available that can be used to integrate aftermarket round gauges into the car. The bezel itself costs $169.95, which you could load with the cheap gauge set into for a total of $604.71. Upgrading from that would be loading the bezel with a better set of gauges, but the best price we found on those was $879.95.
1 Here is the recently released VHX Analog/Digital Gauge System for the '70-81 Camaros. I
2 We picked up a new dash carrier/bezel, headlight knob, lighter knob, lighter housing an
3 The Z28 we are working on features a pretty decent gauge cluster with a 150 mph speedo
4 The carrier or bezel is attached to the dash with four screws and simply pops out once
5 Since this car's dash is predominately made of plastic, there are ground wires on both
6 Four screws, two on top and two on the bottom, hold in the cluster.
7 Here's all the stuff that needs to be unplugged from the bezel and cluster. The wires i
8 Before we get to the neat looking stuff we have to get a few engine bay things out of t
9 A pulse-generator/speed-sensor and a new three-wire harness replace the factory cable.
Then, just for the heck of it, we looked at what it would cost to rebuild our cluster buying replacement components from Classic Industries and that ran upwards of $1,261. Plus, we would have to live with a lower top speed on the speedometer and a lower redline on the tachometer, as the Z28 stuff isn't available.
So all of these options are available, but none of them offer the factory-style integration or expandability as the VHX, and until you get into gauges that cost much more do you get to the dial lighting--LCD message centers, micro-controlled precision stepper motors and solid-state sensors. To us, the VHX system was looking like the best choice for our build because of all the things it offers, the middle of the road pricing, and the fact that it just looks awesome. There are two different face color options available (silver or carbon-fiber) and two lighting colors, (blue or red). We went the carbon-fiber route with red lighting. To complement the installation, we picked up a new bezel, headlight knob, and lighter assembly from Classic Industries. All these new components will add some more flash and cleanliness to the completed package.
Parts and Prices
Dakota Digital VHX Analog/Digital
Dash Carrier With Chrome Trim
- PN: VHX-70C-CAM-C-R
- Price: $795.00
- PN: 7028146
- Price: $29.99
Headlamp Switch Knob
- PN: 7028056
- Price: $21.95
- PN: 3954210
- Price: $16.95
Wire Color Breakdown
|Control Box Port||Factory Wire Color|
|Fuel SND||Tan w/Black|
10 Dakota Digital supplies a 0-100 psi solid-state pressure sensor and harness. We chose
11 We installed the 100- to 300-degree temp sensor in the manifold where our aftermarket
12 We routed the three sub-harnesses--speed, temp, and oil--together and then stuffed the
13 The control box should be mounted away from things that give off electrical noise like
14 The three sets of wires that are provided in the kit are pretty self-explanatory thank
15 As you can see, the control box is clearly marked. We have created a table at the end
16 The kit also comes with two micro switches that need to be installed. These will be us
17 Once all the wires were attached to the control box the CAT5 network cable is snapped
18 With everything wired to the box, Lucky attached the control box to the metal structur
19 Time to wire up the cluster and it doesn't get much easier than this: one simple snap-
20 The cluster is now mounted in the dash with the stock hardware in the stock position.
21 The stock ground straps and switches were transferred to the new bezel we got from Cla
22 The bezel fits right over the top of the cluster and screws to the dash completing the
23 We hit the key and sent power to the cluster and just like a brand new car, everything
24 We also adjusted the day and nighttime lighting levels. Here it is at level 10. All of
25 And here it is maxed out at level 31.
26 Once we had all the settings stored we exited set up mode by simply releasing any butt
27 The Dakota Digital VHX system is a pretty sweet piece and looks killer inside the Cama
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