Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
August 6, 2014

You want the classic car, of course, and you may want vintage FE horsepower. That's perfectly acceptable, but when it comes to maintaining your vehicle's vitals, there are more accurate instruments on the market, and there is a better way to use them while making passes at the track.

Auto Meter offers product lines within it's instrument business, and previous experience with the company's Elite series reminded us that these were the gauges to have when building any sort of performance vehicle where you need to read the instruments while driving at speed.

When we’re in prime operating range, we decided to make all of the backlight colors white for a clean and simple look that is somewhat representative of gauges gone by. They’re just a little brighter now.

The Elite series are full-sweep electric instruments that are programmable in a number of ways. Not only can you change the background color at the push of a button, but you can also program a number of warning flashes and/or color changes for a given value on the gauge. The gauges also have data logging outputs, a peak recall button, and active control functions as well.

When it came time to equip this Super Stock-bound Fairlane with instrumentation, we wanted to take advantage of new technology that allows the driver to focus on getting the car down the track. With these Elite series instruments, we can use their dials to adjust things like engine idle speed and fuel pressure while the car is static. When it's in quarter-mile action, we can set the backlight to warn us that we are approaching a set parameter and then change the warning again when we exceed that parameter. There's no need to try and read the gauges; you just use your peripheral vision to catch a color change or a flash of the instrument. It's a lot safer for you and the car in the end.

For this project, we went with a very basic gauge setup utilizing Auto Meter's 3¾-inch street tachometer with progressive shift light, along with a trio of 21⁄16-inch gauges that include oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel pressure.

The programming of the Elite series Pro Control functions can be a bit like remembering lengthy traffic directions, but after you do it a few times, you get the hang of it. Now we just need to get the drivetrain in this stocker and go racing.

01. Auto Meter’s street tachometer with progressive shift light (PN 5690) simply mounts to your steering column or perhaps a rollcage bar. When deciding on where to mount it, give the tach enough room for you to adjust the line of sight to it, and enough room for the wiring harness to extend out the back of the body.

02. All of the Elite series electronic instruments feature plastic terminals for plug-and-play at the gauge. If you’re planning on fishing the wire through a hole or grommet, be sure to consider the size of the plug end.

03. The tach simply mounts to the column via a hose clamp. We used some classic braid wire loom from Painless Performance to cover the tachometer harness from the body to under the dash.

04. Joining the tachometer is a trio of gauges to monitor oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel pressure. Rather than mount the gauges individually, we opted for Auto Meter’s universal gauge pod (PN 5288). It’s sort of reminiscent of a Shelby gauge pod—especially considering we decided to mount it in the middle of the dash—and the black texture looks right at home in the Fairlane.

05. Since our Fairlane was waiting for the headliner to be installed, the front glass was out of the car. Car owner Rusty Gillis used some tape to simulate the location of the glass so we could mount the pod without worrying about it becoming an obstacle later on.

06. Once we had the pod in position, we marked the base with masking tape and then disassembled the pod so we could mount the base. The wiring harnesses have to pass through the base, so now is the time to mark your location(s) for the wiring holes.

07. After drilling pilot holes for the mounting bolt and wiring hole, we used a die grinder to open the wiring harness hole up to fit the terminal ends.

08. The small gauges are mounted to the pod’s front plate using the included hardware.

09. With the pod base mounted to the dash, we fed the three wire harnesses up through the hole, allowing enough slack to connect them to the back of the gauges.

10. Once you have the front plate into its mounting position, you can pull any excess slack out of the wiring to tidy things up in the pod—not that anyone will be looking in there, but you may need it at the other end.

11. The gauge pod is now loaded and ready for duty. Having them in the center of the dash keeps the driver’s view unobstructed, yet they are close enough that you’ll see the Elite series bright LED lighting when needed.

12. Under the pod and inside the dash, it’s looking a bit busy but not to worry. Auto Meter’s instructions are excellent and we were able to terminate four wires per gauge as we were not using the data logging functions of the gauges.

13. We cut those wires short (leaving enough room to connect them if needed down the road), and heat-shrink-wrapped them to terminate the ends safely. We were also able to trim all three power and ground wires and combine them into one ground and one 12-volt hot for the whole assembly.

14. Auto Meter recommends installing an in-line 2-amp fuse when you plan to connect the instruments to an MSD or similar ignition box.

15. Once you have made all of your connections, it’s time to power up the instruments and follow the included instructions on how to program them. You simply use a combination of pressing and holding the two front buttons to set things like the backlight color, warning color, and more.

16. The Elite series of instruments from Auto Meter offers seven different backlight colors. All seven colors can be changed and used for the Pro Control functions that alert you to various changes in set parameters. We have the water temp set to turn blue when it’s below 130 and red when it’s above 200. The oil pressure and fuel pressure gauges are both set for red and both ends of the operating range.