Installing a Dakota Digital Instrument Cluster - 1967 Chevelle
My new favorite thing. That’s a dubious distinction with pretty stiff competition, especially when it comes to the features on the Chevelle. Dakota Digital rolled out this gauge cluster at the Street Rod Nationals. I bought one on the spot. Naturally, it took a while for one of the first batch to make it’s way to me. At that time, we didn’t offer anything from Dakota.
Which brings something I like to point out about merchandising . . . by and large, we serve as guinea pigs. If I wouldn’t use it on one of my own projects, I won’t try and sell it to our customers. That puts us out on a limb, on our own dime a lot of times. As in this case.
I know what you’re going to say after you click the link for this item. “This is the guy who was griping about an $800 radiator?” Here’s the thing, to me the driver interface is the most important part of a build. Is it comfortable? Is it appealing to you? Do you like the way the steering wheel feels? If these things are turn offs about your car, chances are you’re enjoying it a lot less than you should.
All that being said, I’ve long been a fan of wide-sweep speedometers of the late sixties and seventies. There was no way I was going to replace the factory style dash with round gauges. I said a few years ago that the company who figured out how to retain the rectangular shape and look, while delivering all the modern features would own the muscle gauge market.
That day came when I spotted the RTX prototype at Louisville. It’s really a work of art. The gauge face is modeled after a factory SS dash. It features to programmable LED windows that can deliver any vitals you wish. The backlit LED gauge faces needles and lighting are color customizable with a mobile app or via menus accessed with a momentary switch. The unit calculates miles/gal to empty, can record top speed, standing 1/8 and ¼ mile times and mph. It also displays cardinal direction. With added modules it can also give outside air temperature and gear selection. I opted to also employ Dakota’s GPS speedometer sending unit, gear selector servo (which also serves as neutral safety and backup light signal) as well as the ambient temp sensor.
Did I mention that I’m smitten?
I haven’t even touched on the best feature. When it comes to working on cars, one of the worst parts is contorting yourself into un-natural shapes to work under the dash. What if I told you that there’s one wire to plug into this thing to go live?
It’s true. All functions, lights and data are relayed to the display unit via a data cable. There’s also a plug in for the supplied momentary switch and buzzer. That’s it. On a cluster that’s as buried in the dash and difficult to reach behind as this one, that’s a big selling point as well.
The design of the system allowed me to fully assemble the dash and install it, complete, in the car. It also allowed me to create a central place, out of sight, under the dash to house all the important modules, relays and components. Also, in a place that allowed service and installation without getting your head behind the dash.
I matched the colors in my drawing to the standard GM color scheme in the 22 circuit harness and the wires on the supplied senders. As you’ll notice, there’s also a TACH WARN terminal. This allows the use of a shift light, to be grounded at your pre-set (via the app) RPM. In my next article, you’ll see how I incorporated this feature into the restored dash.
Did I mention that this thing is trick?