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Project Rebirth ’71 Suburban, Part 4: Gauge Gratification

Lowboy Motorsports Replaces Our Gauge Panel With Dakota Digital Products From Summit Racing Equipment

Bryan Fross
Jul 22, 2019

So, you're cruising your truck down the highway and look to check your current mph but the speedometer is broken. That would be a fairly easy fix. However, in the case of our '71 Suburban project, not only was the speedo out of order but the fuel gauge needle was stripped, making it do crazy things. In addition, the previous owner had relocated the temperature and oil pressure gauges into a pod under the ashtray pocket, further complicating the issue.

It was time to replace it all with a one-piece solution from Dakota Digital. We placed an order with Summit Racing Equipment for a set of VHX gauges on a Monday and had them in hand for a Friday installation as we wrapped up other items for this project. There's nothing quite like that feeling of excitement when ordering something you really want or need and the joy when that item shows up at your door.

Summit Racing carries a full line of the various Dakota Digital products for C10s and many other trucks, including a new gauge bezel, making installation simple. We chose the VHX Series analog gauge set for its classic styling cues and ease of use. On top of replacing the broken, wonky, and relocated gauges in the Chevy, the new set included a tachometer and analog clock that weren't part of the previous setup. Take a look at our installation at Lowboy Motorsports as we take another step toward improving the safety, reliability, and driveability of our '71 Chevrolet C10 Suburban.

Photo 2/29   |   Project Rebirth 71 Suburban Part 4 01
Photo 3/29   |   Our Dakota Digital VHX analog gauges from Summit Racing Equipment arrived with everything needed to get the gauges installed, connected, and correctly calibrated.
Photo 4/29   |   To get this gauge swap started, Seth used a couple of simple handtools to remove the old cluster.
Photo 5/29   |   There were a couple of connections behind it, so when it was unseated from the dashboard, he leaned it forward enough to access the backside.
Photo 6/29   |   Our old gauge cluster was disconnected from the factory electrical harness along with the speedometer cable. Our oil pressure and temperature gauges had been relocated previously, so those connections needed to be rerouted.
Photo 7/29   |   With the old gauges out, the factory harness was exposed and several wires from this harness will be used with our new parts.
Photo 8/29   |   Seth began working on a quick bracket for the VHX control unit. The unit can be mounted easily behind the new cluster or under the dashboard with or without a custom bracket.
Photo 9/29   |   After marking the aluminum for bends and cuts, he removed the excess from one side.
Photo 10/29   |   With the mounting holes drilled, Seth put the piece in the sheetmetal brake to make bends at the desired locations.
Photo 11/29   |   The VHX gauge kit comes with an electronic speed sender, oil pressure sender, and temperature sender pictured here, as well as NPT bushings with various thread pitch.
Photo 12/29   |   To prepare for the new senders provided with the Dakota Digital VHX gauges, Todd wrapped the adapters with Teflon tape to ensure a tight seal.
Photo 13/29   |   Under the hood, Todd installed the temperature-sending adapter in the manifold and routed the wiring through a factory grommet in the firewall.
Photo 14/29   |   Todd moved under our Suburban to plug the new electronic speed sender into the transmission so we can once again have an accurate reading of our speed and mileage.
Photo 15/29   |   With his custom bracket ready, Seth utilized a factory bolt in the firewall to mount it. These details will never be seen, but it's a clean way to keep everything in place, and those extra details are what keep clients coming back to Lowboy Motorsports.
Photo 16/29   |   Seth moved on to clipping the wires from the factory harness that are needed for the new gauges. These include power, ground, and accessory.
Photo 17/29   |   The Dakota Digital control box was mounted to our custom bracket and ready to be wired up.
Photo 18/29   |   After separating the necessary wires from the harness, Seth began to make the new connections to the control box with a small slotted screwdriver.
Photo 19/29   |   Our power, ground, and accessory wires are stripped then tightened into the marked locations on the unit.
Photo 20/29   |   The speedometer sender cable routed from the transmission into the cab was then hooked up.
Photo 21/29   |   Using a ratchet and screws, Seth mounted the gauge control switch, which will be used to calibrate and change settings on our new gauges. There were existing holes on the lower dashboard lip near the steering column, so he used those.
Photo 22/29   |   The cable for our control switch was cut to length after running it upward to the control box. Each wire is then stripped and secured to the control box.
Photo 23/29   |   Using the screws provided, Seth mounted the new gauge cluster to the new bezel.
Photo 24/29   |   The new Dakota Digital VHX gauges were ready for install in their new home.
Photo 25/29   |   Seth pluged the CAT5 control cables and clock power harness into the cluster.
Photo 26/29   |   With all the wiring connected to the control box and the gauges, we rested the cluster on the steering column and turned the key to "accessory" on the ignition to make sure everything was working.
Photo 27/29   |   The gauges were set in place and tightened down carefully while alternating holes to make everything set flat on the old Chevy dashboard.
Photo 28/29   |   To finish up the installation, Seth reinstalled the lower support bracket for the steering column that lays over the underside of the gauge bezel.
Photo 29/29   |   There's no denying these Dakota Digital VHX gauges from Summit Racing are a huge upgrade from the factory cluster styling. We now have a full grasp of what is going on under the hood and on the road. Check out Summit Racing to see what Dakota Digital has for your truck.

Sources

Lowboy Motorsports
Mesa, AZ
480-717-9256
http://www.lowboymotorsports.com
Summit Racing
800-230-3030
http://www.summitracing.com

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