From nearly the invention of the automobile, motorists have relied on gauges to give them direct feedback as to how their car was performing. As time went by, more gauges were added to provide a host of information, but by the 1960s, cars became more affordable. With buyers less concerned about reading gauges, they were replaced with simple warning lights.
Although the warning light provided feedback once something had failed, it provided no indication that something may fail or was failing. A thermostat that was stuck open may keep a car running cool all summer, but once the weather turned colder, it offered no heat for the occupants… yet the warning light was never triggered.
Warning lights, as their name implied, only provided a warning when continued operation would damage other components or render the car inoperable. By the late sixties, warning lights were common in most American cars, although performance enthusiasts needed more and better information on how their engines were running to achieve maximum output and avoid damaging them.
This need for better instrumentation brought rise to the classic under-dash gauges common to most performance cars of the sixties. Certainly, aftermarket gauges existed from nearly the birth of the automobile, but by the start of the Muscle Car era they became commonplace. The under-dash gauge cluster likewise became a “must-have” by performance enthusiasts and those that simply wanted to be. But there is no denying the benefits of good gauges when pushing a car to its limits or simply taking a cruise down the highway.
We joined up with Ross Kiehl and Mark Simpson as they added a set of under-dash gauges to this classic 1968 Chevelle SS powered by a 468 cubic inch E85 fed horsepower monster. Kiehl admits the factory gauges have failed him a few times, but with this under-dash gauge upgrade, he’ll be able to keep things under control.