Classic Instruments: Performance And Style For Your Car’s Dash


At the most prestigious car shows, one of the touches that separated the cars in the winner’s circle from the “also-rans” is a super-clean, custom-designed dashboard. The highlight of their dashes is typically a complete set of instruments that combines classic styling with a modern flair that seamlessly blend with the build of the car. Classic Instruments has been a staple in refining the dash of high performance automobiles and restorations for years.

Classic Instruments’ new Performance line of gauges are built to look great and also keep pace with the fastest of competitors.

By Racers, For Racers

Classic Instruments worked with both Jason Line (Three-time Pro Stock world champion) and Kyle Tucker (President of Detroit Speed & Engineering) to develop their new performance line of gauges. Both men know what it takes to win, and here’s what they have to say about their experiences with the new performance gauges.

What goals were established for the new Performance line of gauges from Classic Instruments?

Kyle: Historically, when you’re running a data logging system, you may have several sending units. Many times, the issue is finding enough real estate to create enough redundant info from various sending units. Having a dedicated feed for data-logging helps clean up the engine bay immensely.

It is a quality gauge and that they are sexy, is just a bonus.                    – Jason Line

Jason: I use them in my Stock Eliminator car. My fun car. Stocker guys tend to cool engines pretty significantly, and Classic Instruments was nice enough to make the gauges read lower for us. Not only do they have a lower reading, but also a wider operating range overall.

What real-world benefits were realized with the new Performance line of gauges? 

Kyle: CI’s Performance gauges are VERY stable; you always look for that. You also want something that is easy to read quickly so you can get your eyes back where they need to be. I like to see contrast and a full-sweep lets you easily spot where the pointer is and get back to driving.

Classic Instrument’s Line line of Performance Gauges.

Jason: Better gauges offer the ability to be more consistent, and better resolution simply aids in doing it better.

How would you guide enthusiasts to get the best gauge for their application?

Kyle: The first thing is that they look cool. These gauges are customizable to really set them apart. For performance, a must-have for me is full-sweep. I want resolution and functionality, and I like to see contrast. With CI gauges, I have choices to get the contrast I prefer.

Jason: No matter what your engine cost, you want to monitor what is going on. You can’t go wrong with good info! We use them because they work. It is a quality gauge and that they are sexy, is just a bonus.

Anything that you would like to add about your experience with Classic Instruments’ Performance line of gauges? 

Kyle: I trust them, and for me, it’s all about trust. I know what goes into our engines, tires, brakes, etc. If there’s one weak link, everything pays the price.

Jason: They’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing gauges. They give you enough options to fit your application, but not too many that it gets confusing. They are nice looking and there are options to make the gauge fit your car. Whether a race car or street car, I don’t want mine just like the next guy’s.

Expect More

This blend of drivability and great looks has raised the bar on every aspect of building our hot rods, and the dashboard is no different. Whereas a spartan set of gauges will definitely help you keep an eye on your engine, it might not catch the eye of a show judge or even match the rest of the gauges found elsewhere on the dash, let alone the build theme of your car. Introducing the garage-level enthusiasts to new standards, Classic Instruments has embraced the individuality of hot rodding and allows the customer an ala-carte form of ordering.

Beyond simply selecting the color and font used on the face of the gauge, Classic Instruments lets the customer design their gauge set to suit their needs. Enthusiasts can specify the engine, drivetrain, and sensor configuration so that their gauges will sync-up with their chosen powerplant. Enthusiasts can also choose various sizes, styles, and configurations of gauge layout to match their interior design and make it look factory original.

We spoke with John McLeod at Classic Instruments to find out more about the possibilities when ordering a set of gauges for a specific application. “The enthusiast now has unlimited possibilities. They can mix and match any of our thousands of options to any custom design they can imagine. We have design and sales team members on staff. If it is a simple bezel, pointer, or lens change, our sales team can handle that. If it is a truly custom gauge set they want, then we turn it over the Classic Instruments ICU (Instrument Customization Unit), and they will help them design the instruments of their dreams.”

More Than A Pretty Face

A beautiful set of gauges nestled within the dash will set it apart but the real test for a gauge’s abilities is how well it transfers information from under the hood to the driver. The rugged air-core movement and microprocessor technology offers long lasting precision and durability. Utilizing the latest transducer technology, Classic Instruments have teamed up with F.A.S.T. and Bosch to get the most accurate exhaust oxygen measurement possible. Their new full-sweep gauges provide an analog output for data logging systems, and each gauge is also equipped with a programmable warning light that illuminates the entire gauge face red when activated.

Vintage and modern-style gauges can now co-exist with modern drivelines and interiors, providing features once unavailable to DIY enthusiasts.

McLeod goes on to say, “This is where we had fun. The team added an adjustable internal warning light and an external warning light for low or high alarms. My favorite part is they can hook directly to a data logger through an output wire that we have supplied. No more extra sending unit or cutting and splicing is necessary.”

I trust them, and for me, its all about trust. – Kyle Tucker

They’ve also developed new software that allows the manufacturer to create and tune the instruments including a built-in buffer that helps with vibration control in extreme sports. Likewise, damping can be adjusted to limit the effects of sloshing fuel and to keep up with quick-revving engines for the tachometer.

The fuel level gauges are also programmable to any resistance range for compatibility with all fuel sending units and all temperature and pressure gauges come standard with the necessary temperature sending unit or pressure transducer.

Auxiliary gauges are available in both 2 1/8” and 2 5/8” sizes and 90-degree and full-sweep gauge faces. The full-sweep gauges also have two illumination settings to match white LED lights or incandescent lighting. .

From Cookie-Cutter To Custom

Classic Instruments offers full-sweep and 90-degree-sweep dials in both 2 1/8” and 2 5/8” sizes, they also have tachometers in 2 5/8″, 3 3/8” and 5” versions with speedometers in 3 3/8” and 5” applications. There are also options of having multiple gauges grouped together to help fit specific dash requirements. Once the general design of the gauge set is decided, customers can then choose to have flat or beveled glass covering their gauge faces, and several different pointer configurations to help pinpoint the information with individuality and style.

Additional options include indicator integration for high-beam and turn-signals. Customers can choose from LEDs or halo-style lighting.

Once the order comes in, they get started right away. John explains the process, “We proudly build all of our instruments in Boyne City, MI. Building every instrument to order allows the Classic Instruments team to be very efficient in filling customers’ needs, so we can ship every order in 48 hours.”

To increase customization, Classic Instruments offers several different bezel options, as well as flat glass or beveled. To set your gauges apart from all the others on the showfield, Classic Instruments also gives you the option of several different pointers. From left to right: Pool Cue, Tear Drop, Crescent Moon, Speedster, and Bomber.

Isn’t it amazing how far hot rodding has come? With so many turn-key, high-horsepower options and so many manufacturers making products for our cars, it’s hard to deny that today may just be the hey-day of hot-rodding. And now, thanks to Classic Instruments, even the custom touches inside the cockpit of our rides is well within reach.

About the author

Andrew Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying remote-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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