Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
September 6, 2013

Over the years, the classic Mustang's instrumentation has been hit or miss as far as the amount of information to the driver is concerned. Some of it has to do with specific model years and dash designs, while in later years, it was a matter of option packages that determined whether you sat behind full instrumentation or just the basic gauges strewn together along with some "idiot" lights. Today's classic Mustang owner wants to know what's going on with his or her ride. They have a lot invested in crate engines, overdrive transmissions, audio systems, and more. Monitoring these systems and their vitals via aftermarket gauges has pretty much been the norm since the advent of the three-gauge underdash panel in the '50s, however, we can do much better with today's technology.

Modern instrumentation today is a far cry from what you might have installed in your high school ride back in the '70s. Today you will find high-resolution, air-core needle movement electric gauges paired with calibrated sending units for accurate measuring of your car's vitals. Gone is the capillary tubing filled with hot oil, or the unwieldy coolant temperature thermocouple that's way too long and has to be coiled up under the dash. Gone, too, is the hard-to-see perimeter lighting of old gauges. Today's modern gauge designs mean through-the-dial lighting just like a late-model Mustang gauge face—many of them lit by LEDs too.

Modern instrumentation today is a far cry from what you might have installed in your high school ride back in the ’70s

Mounting gauges in classic Mustangs has become easier as well with modern gauge panel options. You can find gauge panels that replace the stock gauge cluster if you are looking to upgrade all of your gauges. However, if you just wish to add a few supplemental gauges, we've seen A-pillar gauge holders (holding two to three gauges routed up along the edge of the windshield) that will do the trick. A recent option for gauge mounting, specifically for the ever popular '65-'66 Mustang, is the speaker grille gauge pod conversion. We stumbled upon this trick mounting solution while perusing the latest National Parts Depot Mustang catalog. The vinyl-wrapped plastic housing replaces the dash speaker/defroster vent with a pod to mount three 21⁄16-inch gauges. The defroster vents included are round and can be positioned at any angle.

2. After removing the gauge panel and inspecting the mechanical lines, we found the oil pressure tubing leaking at the compression fitting behind the gauge. It was only a matter of time before the line would have failed, spewing hot oil all over the driver’s legs.

We found a '65 Mustang (Falcon style cluster with no oil pressure or volt gauges from the factory) that had a three-gauge underdash panel installed many years ago. Due to the underdash A/C installation, underdash space was at a premium, causing the owner to install the gauge panel to the far left of the dash and directly over the clutch pedal area. This makes getting in and out of the car a slow and purposeful situation, not to mention reading the gauges requires removing the driver's eyes from the road far too long to scan them. Installing the speaker grille gauge pod will put the gauges right in the driver's line of sight and make the dash less cluttered. We're sticking with the traditional three gauges most people install—water temp, oil pressure, and volts—but you can install just about any gauge you'd like, as long as it comes in a 21⁄16-inch diameter (some companies make their gauges as a 21⁄8-inch and they should fit, though they might require minor filing of the gauge opening). We're using Auto Meter's officially licensed Ford Racing gauges for our installation. The modern look with Ford Racing logo and white LED illumination through-the-dial face is just what the owner of this '65 coupe was looking for.

What We Installed
Description Part Number Cost
Auto Meter Ford Racing Oil Pressure Gauge 880076 $104.10
Auto Meter Ford Racing Water Temp Gauge 880077 $82.40
Auto Meter Ford Racing Volt Meter Gauge 880081 $73.60
NPD Speaker Grille Conversion Pod 04454-1CA $105.50
Total $365.60

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23. Stepping back a bit to view the overall driver’s position, you can see how much easier (and safer) it is to view the gauges on the top of the dash versus their previous underdash location. After just a few days with the gauges installed, the owner of this ’65 reports how much easier it is to monitor his engine now without taking his eyes off the road, and that’s certainly worth it in our book.