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Classic Instruments Gauge Upgrade - Vital Signs
Monitor your Mustang's health with a bolt-in gauge solution from Classic Instruments
Our Mustangs aren't getting any younger, and while we constantly work to maintain and upgrade them for the best driving enjoyment, we often see people relying on 40-plus-year-old inaccurate gauges to monitor that brand-new $5,000 crate engine they just installed. We don't get it. For the cost of a full set of gauges, the peace of mind knowing your engine's oil pressure, water temperature, and so forth is pennies compared to that expensive engine. Not to mention upgrading your gauges is the perfect opportunity to customize your interior (further) and truly make your Mustang yours.
The lion's share of gauge upgrades that have been offered over the last few years have all focused on the uber popular '67-'68 Mustang. Be it the continuation cars being built, the Eleanor craze, or what have you, there is an abundance of gauge packages available for these dashes. But what if you have a '65-'66 Mustang? In the past, the main option was a Shelby R-model–style insert which gave the car a decidedly race car look. Most '65-'66 owners want to keep the stock five-dial look, or upgrade to it if they have the original Falcon type sweep cluster.
The folks at Classic Instruments launched their Mustang gauge line initially with a '67-'68 offering (you can see our install in the Aug. '07 issue of Mustang & Fords, or hit our website for the story). They've now launched their '65-'66 gauge kit and we're excited to get a first look at it here. One of the first things you'll see is that this kit requires a little more end-user work, as you have to mount the gauges in your bezel and do a little light wiring. Classic Instruments explained this was one way to keep the entry point (cost) down. There's nothing complicated about the installation, and Classic Instruments provides two manuals--a general gauge manual for wiring and programming, and a Mustang-specific manual for the installation portion of the project. It took us about an hour on the workbench (while taking photos and notes) to assemble the gauge kit, and then roughly another hour for the installation in the car; by far an easy Saturday afternoon project.
Classic Instruments offers the new '65-'66 Mustang gauge kit in three flavors--the G/Stock Series (black face, mint green lettering, orange pointer), the Velocity Series (white face, black drop shadow lettering, orange pointer), and the Hot Rod Series (black face, white lettering, white pointer). The kit comes with five gauges to fit your bezel and includes fuel level, oil pressure, charging voltage, and coolant temperature along with an electric speedometer. The oil pressure and coolant temperature gauges come with new sensors to install on your engine, while the fuel level is designed to work with the stock fuel level sender, thus there is no need to drain the fuel tank and swap out the sender. The electric speedometer includes a speed sensor that replaces your speedometer's driven gear.
Classic Instruments sells through its vast dealer network, but for us Mustang owners, obtaining Classic Instruments' new '65-'66 Mustang kit is no tougher than picking up the phone and calling your nearest National Parts Depot. NPD has both the '67-'68 fully assembled kit, as well as the '65-'66 gauge kit, in stock at all locations. Best of all, if you need a new bezel, bezel screw kit, or other dash components, you can order it all at the same time for one-stop shopping and save on shipping as well. For our '66 fastback, which just got a fresh small-block, we're ditching the stock gauges in favor of Classic Instruments' retro-cool Hot Rod style gauge kit for '65-'66 Mustangs (NPD PN 10848-8BA; $560.95). Check out the photos for more details on this easy, yet effective, upgrade for your Mustang.
Tach and Other Options
If you're looking for an elegant way to add a tachometer to your dash, you might want to consider the Classic Instruments optional Ultimate speedometer/tach combo gauge as well to your gauge setup. NPD stocks all three gauge styles with the optional Ultimate speedometer in the gauge kit too. Classic Instruments offers additional gauges in each line if you would like to add a clock or other gauge to an A-pillar mounting solution, or perhaps you'd rather have a separate tachometer for a Shelby gauge pod. Classic Instruments can handle that directly or through its dealers. Lastly, Classic Instruments offers LED bulb upgrades and LED indicators fitted to the face of the gauge. If you want a check engine light for an EFI conversion, or perhaps a small red LED in your temp gauge to let you know when your fan is engaged these custom upgrades are all easily possible through Classic Instruments' custom gauge program. Just give them a call for more details.
Upgrading to a Five-Dial Bezel
For those of you with an early Mustang that utilizes the Falcon style sweep cluster (or for you Falcon owners!), modifying your dash to install a five-dial instrument bezel isn't a big project. Compare these two photos of an early Mustang dash with its flat bottom, and a '66 Mustang dash with the clearance "notch" above the steering column opening. This area must be cut from your dash for gauge clearance and can be accomplished with a cut-off wheel, angle grinder, or even a plasma cutter (be sure to protect or remove all wiring, carpet, and so on if using anything that will throw sparks). Once you've made the notch, the only other modification is to bend the lower bezel mounting ears outward from their straight up position and you're good to go.
As far as wiring is concerned, the installation is the same, with the exception of having to cut the white/red stripe wire from the oil pressure warning light to use on the oil pressure gauge. You'll also need to separate the two turn signal indicator wires from your single turn signal bulb socket (so you have a true left and right indication). The only tricky part is the generator/alternator warning light wiring. Some people leave the bulb intact and leave it under the dash as a warning light (what we recommend), but if you really want to remove the light socket, you'll have to do some minor rewiring of the charging circuit. You can find several pictorial websites online that explain how to do just that if you want to go that route.