A couple months ago we installed a set of gauges in a '70 Camaro that were fully integrated into a stock cluster. While these gauges are cool in their own right, they don't have a race-inspired look that a round-style Auto Meter gives off. This story will be just that, what goes into installing a full selection of electronic Auto Meter gauges into a '69 El Camino. There are a few ways you can get the gauges into the dash, but we are going with the easiest route. Instead of spending a day or two fabricating a dash panel or tweaking the factory piece, we are going to use a Classic Dash panel. The Classic Dash panels are molded from UV-resistant ABS plastic designed to replace the factory panel/cluster and give you a clean base to install gauges. The panels can be ordered in blank or pre-drilled configurations in three different finishes: black, brushed aluminum, or carbon-fiber. Classic Dash also offers all the accessories you might need to complete your installation like, sending units, LED's for the turn signals, and wiring harnesses. Classic Dash has panels for Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, Monte Carlo and Corvette along with full-size truck applications from 1960-1987, so if you have a Chevy the company most likely has you covered. To fill our panel, we picked up Auto Meter's American Muscle short sweep gauges. These gauges feature a sweet stainless face with through- the-dial lighting, and 90-degree air core movements. All are an electrical style, so all but the speedo come with the necessary sending units. The speedos will work with most electronic transmissions, but a pulse generator/speed sensor will be needed for older cable-style transmissions. The speedo features a 160 mph top speed, LCD odometer with two resettable trip meters, and Auto Meter's E-Z Cal calibration system. The E-Z Cal makes calibration easy: Push a button, drive two miles, and push a button again. The other gauges are pretty standard in their functions volt shows volts, tach shows rpm, etc. But one thing to note is the fuel gauge. It is made to work with our '69 El Caminos 0-90ohm fuel sending units rating so we won't need to drop the tank or come up with some sort of resistor. With these products, the job is pretty dang easy and will only require a basic understanding of wiring, hand tools and some time. We also added a new dash pad and steering wheel to complete the overall interior package (for details, check the captions). Part NumberDescription 120-69-50921Gauge Panel 500626LED kit 200-00-1000Speed Sensor 1288Speedometer 1298Tachometer 1294Voltmeter 1214Fuel 1226Oil Pressure 1236Water Temp 9114Dimmer PD00089BKDash Pad K620Steering Wheel Kit 1 Here is the drilled ABS panel we ordered from Classic Dash. It comes with the lower cover and screw kit included. We opted to purchase the LED lighting kit and speed sensor as well. The panel has provisions for the stock stuff, like the switches and heater controls along with the new gauges area. An added bonus to the panel is now we have a nice flat area to mount a modern head unit. 1 Here is the drilled ABS panel we ordered from Classic Dash. It comes with the lower cov 2 The American muscle gauges from Auto Meter are pretty much the coolest instruments this author has seen in a while. The brushed stainless face combined with the bright orange needles and black numbered area just looks mean, but still refined. All the gauges in this line are electric so the needed sensors are provided except the speed sensor. The speedometer and tachometer measure 3-3/8-inch diameters while the other gauges are 2-1/16-inch in size. We also added the LED lighting dimmer so we can adjust the brightness of the new LED gauges. 2 The American muscle gauges from Auto Meter are pretty much the coolest instruments this 3 This is what we are starting with and empty dash with just oil and temp mechanical gauges zip tied in. The wheel is just a factory one we had laying around, but it served its purpose. By the end of this story, the El Co will have an awesome new cluster stuffed with those Auto Meter gauges and a comfort grip steering wheel that will really improve the functionality and style. 3 This is what we are starting with and empty dash with just oil and temp mechanical gaug Factory Wiring Color Guide 12v (all)Pink Ground (all)Black High BeamLight Green Left TurnLight Blue Right TurnDark Blue Dash lightsGrey FuelTan Temperature Dark Green Oil PressureDark Blue Tach (if factory equipped)Dark Brown 4 The Classic Dash panel will completely replace the factory piece so it needs to come out. Dropping the column gives enough clearance to remove the panel once all the Phillips screws around the perimeter are out and the wiring is unhooked. 4 The Classic Dash panel will completely replace the factory piece so it needs to come ou 5 Since the new gauges are electric, we needed to install all the sensors. Here we are installing the water temp sender in the manifold. The sender came with the appropriate adapter for our 383ci small-block application. 5 Since the new gauges are electric, we needed to install all the sensors. Here we are in 6 The oil pressure sender proved to be a bit more difficult. The sender is so large that it hit the Holley Street Dominator manifold. We scrounged around the shop and luckily found a fairly tall 90-degree fitting that worked for us. Keep that in mind when you go to install yours. 6 The oil pressure sender proved to be a bit more difficult. The sender is so large that 7 The last sensor to install was the pulse converter we got from Classic Dash. It simply threads right where the factory speedo cable went. This will convert the mechanical spinning of the transmission into an electrical pulse that the gauge can then convert into needle movement. Even though this is not an Auto Meter product, it is fully compatible with the gauges. 7 The last sensor to install was the pulse converter we got from Classic Dash. It simply 8 The gauges do not come with the wire needed to hook up the sensors. You have two options when it comes to the oil, water, and tach. You can use the factory wires and change the terminals, or you can run new stuff. We decided on the latter because we needed to run new wires for the pulse converter anyway. All the wires were kept away from hot things like the exhaust system. We ran our new speedo harness right where the factory speedo cable was. 8 The gauges do not come with the wire needed to hook up the sensors. You have two option 9 With the wires routed from the sensors up to the dash, we started assembling the cluster. Since we ordered a predrilled version, all the gauges went right in. The Classic Dash piece also has all the correct mounting provisions for the other stuff like the headlight and wiper switches, and the heater controls. 9 With the wires routed from the sensors up to the dash, we started assembling the cluste 10 We ordered the LED lighting kit from Classic Dash so we would have turn and high-beam indicators. It comes with a red LED for brake, but we left that one off. The panel is not drilled for these so we chucked in a 5/32 drill bit and made three new holes. The housing of the LED is tapered, so once its all the way in the hole they are tight. 10 We ordered the LED lighting kit from Classic Dash so we would have turn and high-beam 11 Lucky Costa from Mobile Tech was already at the shop doing something else so we asked him to wire up the gauges. Following the wiring diagrams that came with the gauges he hooked everything up here on the bench and wired it all to 8-pin plug he got from the local industrial supply house. Instead of running six separate illumination and ground wires Lucky ran from one gauge to another, which left only one wire each to run down to the plug. The plug will make removing the cluster very simple if we ever need to get it out. 11 Lucky Costa from Mobile Tech was already at the shop doing something else so we asked 12 Lucky terminated the wires that were in the car to the other end of the plug. Since we had Lucky there we didn’t have to find a schematic of the factory wires, but to save you the trouble a quick breakdown is shown above (See Factory Wiring Color Guide.) 12 Lucky terminated the wires that were in the car to the other end of the plug. Since w 13 Now the cluster was ready to go in the car. The Classic Dash panel fit like it was designed, but we had a clearance issue with our dash pad. 13 Now the cluster was ready to go in the car. The Classic Dash panel fit like it was des 14 An upholstery shop covered our dash pad, and while it looked just fine the added thickness of the foam and vinyl was interfering with our cluster. Instead of trying to redo the covering on the pad we decided to pick up a new unit from Original Parts Group. The new pad has been reproduced to factory specs, with an ABS vinyl outer layer with foam underneath, and the correct grain. 14 An upholstery shop covered our dash pad, and while it looked just fine the added thick 15 The new dash pad fit like a glove and cured our clearance issue. It was pretty easy to install since we already had the dash torn apart and it comes will all new hardware. 15 The new dash pad fit like a glove and cured our clearance issue. It was pretty easy to 16a Now that the cluster fit without issue, we plugged it in and screwed to the dash right in the factory holes. The steering wheel we had on the car is from a second-gen Camaro and was not only missing the horn assembly the spokes covered most of the gauges from view. We decided to complement the stainless gauges with a new Comfort Grip wheel kit we got from Classic Industries. 16a Now that the cluster fit without issue, we plugged it in and screwed to the dash righ 16bNot only does the finish match the gauges, the spokes are laid out in such a way that we can see all the gauges clearly. We had to remove the little snap ring to remove the lock plate from the steering column to get it to fit, but we suspect that was due to the fact we had an adapter for a tilt column not a straight one. The wheel adds a ton of style to the overall look and allows us to see all our new needles. 16b Not only does the finish match the gauges, the spokes are laid out in such a way that 17 Since the illumination on the new gauges is LED, the factory headlight switch won't dim them like the incandescent bulbs, so we wired in the dimmer Auto Meter offers. It simply interrupts the main power feed to the light circuit and allows us to dim the gauges just like factory. We mounted it right below the cluster out of sight, but not out of reach. 17 Since the illumination on the new gauges is LED, the factory headlight switch won't di 18 The final piece of the puzzle is installing the lower dash piece from Classic Dash. This piece screws directly to the dash panel but the holes are not drilled just to give you a little room to adjust if needed. We drilled four 1/8-inch holes before installing the screws. 18 The final piece of the puzzle is installing the lower dash piece from Classic Dash. Th 19 With everything ready, we hit the key and the gauges acted like a new car and ran up, then came down to zero. Since the fuel gauge is made for our sender's ohm rating it reads a little over a quarter-tank, which is what it should be since we put in six gallons of gas in the 20-gallon tank. We fired up the motor and the rest of the gauges came to life. The last thing we needed to do was set the speedo per the instructions, which is basically put the gauge in set up mode and then drive a marked two miles. After that we just sat and stared at how cool all our new stuff looks, and you can tell by the lead image thing get even better at night. 19 With everything ready, we hit the key and the gauges acted like a new car and ran up, SOURCES Classic Industries 18460 Gothard Street Dept. CP Huntington Beach CA 92648 800-854-1280 www.classicindustries.com Auto Meter 413 W. Elm Street Sycamore IL 60178 866-248-6356 www.autometer.com Classic Dashes 5225 Grumman Drive Suite 100 Carson City NV 89706 866-882-3525 www.classicdash.com Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI) 1770 Saturn Way Seal Beach CA 90740 800-243-8355 www.opgi.com Mobile Tech 310-408-4260 By Calin Head Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!