Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 21, 2014

The more we modify our classic Mustangs the more we need to keep track of vital systems like oil pressure, engine coolant temperature, and so forth. Installing add-on gauges often makes the Mustang's dash area a cluttered mess. Gauges hanging off the bottom of the dash, a tach strapped to the steering column, and so forth usually just get in the way and are hard to read due to being so far out of the driver's line of sight. Replacing the stock gauges with something more accurate that can offer up your engine's status at a glance (or even flash a warning message) means keeping the dash free of clutter and putting the gauges right where your eyes normally go for information. There are several gauge package options on the market today and one of the most interesting we've found is the new VHX gauge system from Dakota Digital.

This all-new gauge concept has been a big hit for Dakota Digital and the company now offers VHX systems for dozens of cars, including '65-'70 Mustang, '79-'89 Mustang, '66-'77 Bronco, '67-'79 trucks, and even earlier '50s-era Fords/trucks. The VHX lineup features fresh analog instrumentation in a brushed silver-gray or a carbon-fiber look pattern with blue or red accents, all with contrasting lettering and white needles for superior daytime visibility. At night, when the cluster is illuminated, you'll find your choice of red or blue “through-the-dial” LED lighting. Much like a modern gauge cluster that you'd find in your daily driver, the through-dial illumination offers enhanced legibility in nighttime driving without putting a strain on your eyes. Furthermore, you'll find modern ISO symbols buried in the gauge faces for items like check engine, cruise control, and more that only show up when illuminated.

The VHX gauge systems install in the stock Mustang gauge bezels with little-to-no modifications to the bezels themselves, and no modifications to your dash at all. You'll find each system comes complete with required sensors, mounting screws/adapters for the system to mount in your stock gauge bezel, and complete instructions. Dakota Digital offers expansion modules to provide even more data to the digital readouts in the bottom of the main gauges too. Modules include such modern features as outside temperature and compass heading, wideband oxygen sensor reading, air suspension pressure reading, and more.

1. The ’67-’68 Mustang VHX system is as complete as they come, including the gauge assemblies, sensors, wiring, and control module. The ’65-’66 version comes in a single housing, while the ’67-’70 kits require a little more assembly work (trust us, it’s easy).
2. While the VHX system was designed to fit original Ford gauge housings, Dakota Digital has checked the fit with popular aftermarket housings and has not found any issues. Since the ’68 coupe that is going to receive the new system was in need of fresh dash trim, we ordered up the black camera case pieces needed from National Parts Depot.
5. The three smaller gauges fill the upper portion of the gauge bezel and are installed with the provided screws. We did have a small plastic pin on the bezel preventing the oil gauge from seating fully. A quick pass with a hobby knife or razor blade will rectify the issue if your bezel is the same as ours.
7. Once you have secured the five individual gauges to the bezel, this pre-cut ABS plastic panel is installed. The panel features optional LED turn signals that light up through the gauge bezel’s turn arrows, and it secures the stock wiper switch in place as well.
6. Since the metal back plate of the stock gauge housing is not used in the VHX conversion, Dakota Digital provides a pair of these small brackets that are attached at the bottom of the two main gauges to replicate the factory gauge bezel retaining ears.
3. Dakota Digital’s VHX gauges feature the brake pressure differential warning light and high beam indicator in the gauge face. As such, the two areas of the gauge bezel require small block-off plates. These are provided in the hardware kit and are simply glued into place using a little dab of silicone adhesive (black or clear is best).
10. Dakota Digital’s solution for the three mounting holes found at the top of the bezel is this trick little aluminum insert that simply presses into each hole in the gauge bezel. A small amount of hand filing on the bezel may be required for them to seat properly, but in our case they snapped right in.
8. Due to the individual gauge mounting configuration utilized by Dakota Digital for the ’67-’70 gauge clusters, it’s necessary to connect the gauges together via the ribbon cables found on the rear of the gauges. The ribbon cables are clearly marked as to which gauges they attach to.
4. Dakota Digital provides complete instructions for disassembling your stock gauge cluster, but for the cost of a new bezel, it will save you disassembly time and keep your stock gauges intact. The two primary gauges easily seat in the bezel and are secured using the long Phillips head screws provided.
13. The new sending unit easily installs with one of the included brass thread adapters. The wiring utilizes a locking weather-tight connection; simply plug the wiring in and route the harness to the dash area of the car.
11. Complete, sans wiper switch, the Dakota Digital VHX system is ready for installation. The ’68 coupe that the VHX system is going into is Gillis Performance Restorations’ in-house project we’ve been following.
15. The ’68’s progress from when we last visited for our EFI wiring install (Dec. ’13 issue) included wiring the rest of the chassis with a new American Autowire harness. One of the reasons for our upgrade is the AAW harness does not support the stock ammeter gauge, plus Rusty Gillis from GPR wanted something along the line of the Mustang’s optional tachometer gauge cluster but with better lighting.
9. Since we had previously discussed the option with the owner of the Mustang, we will be using the stock turn signal locations on the gauge bezel versus the indicators found in the VHX gauge faces. The included two-wire harnesses simply plug into the LED indicators found in the ABS back panel.
14. The oil pressure sending unit on this 4.6L Two-Valve engine is threaded into the oil filter adapter. Using one of the included thread adapters, the sending unit threads right in here as well. The water temperature sensor is the two-wire sensor and the oil pressure sensor is the three-wire unit. Don’t mix them up.
12. Once arriving at GPR, we dug right in with swapping out the stock water temperature and oil pressure sending units with the provided pieces from Dakota Digital. Here, the stock coolant temperature sensor from the ’96 Thunderbird 4.6L engine transplant is removed from the intake.
16. Removal of the stock gauge cluster is simply a matter of a handful of Phillips head screws and one retaining nut directly above the ashtray. Once extricated, the only thing we needed off of the stock cluster was the wiper switch assembly.