Jeff Ford
December 2, 2004
Contributers: Jeff Ford

Sometimes we wonder what Ford was thinking by building enthusiast cars that came with minimalist gauges, and sometimes no gauges at all. We've all seen the Boss 302 that had no tach or the Mach 1 packing a 429 Cobra Jet and idiot lights. It's downright frustrating. Sure, you can go '60s and slap a three-gauge pod under the dash and strap a tack on the steering column with a big ole worm clamp, but what if you want some style? We like the "Racer Dave" look on some cars, but when you're building a restomod with an eye toward clean, those "tri-pods" and zoomy tachs just don't hack it.

So what to do? Well, there are two very cool avenues open to you. One is a digital dash and the other analog; the top two companies in this arena are JME Enterprises for analog dashes and Dakota Digital for, well, digital. Both companies offer high-end, high-quality products that will fit the car and make it look classy. Dakota Digital has its own proprietary digital setup that can fit just about anywhere, and JME uses Auto Meter gauges, some of the best in the business. Both companies do

this while offering you the knowledge of what your Ford is doing under the hood. Keep in mind too that doing anything outside of the normal Mustang line will end up costing more because of the custom work involved.

Falcon '60-'63
This dash could go either way. We've seen Julio Mayen do some wonderful things with dashes that are something other than Mustang. A filler panel and some Auto Meter gauges via JME could fill out this panel nicely.

Dakota too could do wonders with the '60-'63 dashpanel. With its open area (once the fuel and temp gauge pane is removed), the gauge face is wide open for digital interpretation. This treatment would give the Falcon a high-tech look.

Falcon '66-'67
We have a vested interest in the '66-'67 Falcon panel, because that's what's in the '66 Ranchero we're hacking on every other night. In the next couple of months you'll see that we have given considerable thought to what we wanted to do to gain more control of what the car is telling us. For now, you'll just have to be content with what we're showing here. '67 Falcon owners will know we're using the '67 panel--we like this because it has two turn-signal indicator lights, as opposed to one from the '66. We got the idea for this layout from our Aussie buds and their XT Falcon GT.

Ford has always been fond of the longitudinal sweep style of speedo (hey, that's what the Mustang Recognition Guide called it). Because of this you get some pretty inadequate gauge layouts. The Galaxie has a pretty good setup with the two pods, but falls short on a place to put the tachometer. You can, like the owner of this Lightweight '63 did, plop a dial tach on the dash or go creative with a Dakota Digital setup that would fit in the two pods and leave the factory bar-style speedo alone. This would give you an oil pressure, temperature, and fuel gauge as well as a digital tach.

Fairlane/Torino '66-'67 & '70-'71
Of all of the longitudinal sweep-style speedos, the '66-'67 and '70-'71 Fairlane/Torino is the least informative. All you get are idiot lights for the oil pressure (yes, the generic "engine" light) and the "alt" for the charging system. Once again, Dakota Digital does a replacement that fills the center of the speedo area with digital gauges, complete with tach. You can even replace the analog gauges with digital counterparts if you so desire.

Torino '68-'69
Ford went through a phase with '68-'69 Torinos that was for the most part very positive, except they forgot to fill two of the holes with gauges. In playing with Rick Schmidt's '69 Fairlane Cobra, we found it striking that the car had neither the tach nor ancillary gauges, but was in fact populated with idiot lights. Once again, Dakota can help by providing "filler" for the four pods.

Mustang '65-'70
Both companies offer a great set of choices for the vintage Mustang. From JME you can get anything you want to fill that dash panel--from a complete replacement for the '65 that includes all the gauges, to a wild new analog dashpanel for the '69-'70 Mustang that clicks the stops on the cool-o-meter.

As for Dakota, it's the same thing only different. What Julio at JME does for analog, Dakota does for digital. With the digital stuff you can go just about anywhere in the Mustang line and have the vacuum fluorescent look that is Dakota Digital.

In The End
The choice is really up to you, and we hope we've whetted your appetite for some sleek stuff. Both companies offer something we haven't had before in the custom gauge market: choices. Both offer a product that, to our minds, is top-notch and worth the expense to give your Ford a clean, complete look. So, next time you decide to do gauges, you might consider doing it a bit differently and look into what's out there for your ride.