There's gotta be something wrong with this gauge?! We just finished installing our new Stewart Warner Maximum Performance gauges, and the oil pressure needle was flipping out on the highway, making huge random sweeps between 40 psi and something damn close to zero. Ugh. Better slow down then. Remarkably, the pressure leveled up at 40, once the engine speed got down to 2,500 rpm. Stepping hard on the brake made it dive all the way down to zero, at which time we confirmed the gauge wasn't the problem at all-it was the oiling system, specifically the budget stock oil pan we tried to save some money with.
The bottom line is, had we not installed new gauges when we did, we would've wiped out the main bearings very soon. We've been that route before, and it cost us plenty in downtime, machine work, and parts. These days, pretty gauges are big-money appearance items, but we were reminded once again of the real use for gauges: to save our engine, or even our ass.
The Stewart Warner Competition...
The Stewart Warner Competition gauges we're running in the Street Sweeper Chevelle come with standard light bulbs for illumination, but they also offer easy-to-install LED upgrade kits as an option.
When we ordered our SW dials, we did it for looks, and for the 411 on our engine. We selected Stewart Warner's Competition Gauges in matte silver, going with the smallest faces for a compact appearance (2 1/16-inch diameter for auxiliary gauges, and 3 3/8-inch diameter for the tach). We wanted to mount the tach on the steering column, out of the way of prying eyes and to distance ourselves as far as possible from the import look, in which the size and visibility of your gauges matter more than horsepower. Having lost an engine before due to low oil pressure, we knew we wanted that gauge. We've overheated regularly in our '76 Camaro (Project g/28), so we grabbed a water temp gauge, too. The last gauge to make the cut was a volt meter. (We can't say how many times we lost an alternator on the highway, but it's been a bunch of times.)
With our minimalist approach in mind, we needed a visible, yet unobtrusive place to mount the auxiliary gauges (oil, water, and volt), so we nabbed a three-hole gauge panel, also from Stewart Warner Performance. SW only offers this in chrome, so we toned it down a bit with some Dupli-Color gloss black to match the interior, and mounted it under the dash between the steering column and shifter.
Hmm. Something's missing. With the gauges chillin' in place, and the killer TCI Outlaw shifter sitting on our home-built podium, the only thing out of place was our clown steering wheel, which looked better than the stock one, but was better suited to a billet street rod. We'd been jonesin' for one of Grant's Classic Nostalgia steering wheels (we wrote about it in "New Products," Sept. '07), and finally laid out a C-note for one. It's made from authentic walnut and brushed stainless steel. The classic riveted wood look of the Grant tiller was period-perfect for the '68. Altogether, we laid out $529.70 for the Stewart Warner gauges and Grant steering wheel, which isn't bad considering we spend more time looking at this view than staring at the paint. Now all we've gotta do is swap out the old oil pan for the cool Moroso one we just ordered.
The Pilot's View
With the Stewart Warner gauges mounted and wired, we can now track the big-block's vital signs with confidence. Total install time was about three hours. It's a good thing we installed the gauges when we did. We discovered that we've got an oil windage problem with our stock reproduction oil pan. We thought we could save a few bucks on the oil pan and go without a windage tray, trap door, or kick-outs, but we've got severe oil aeration, which shows up as rapid dips or swings in oil pressure as the pump intermittently picks up foam. We've got a Moroso oil pan (with a built-in windage screen and crank scraper) that we'll install soon. We can honestly say that a $66 oil pressure gauge literally saved us from a bottom-end rebuild, which isn't cheap on a big-block Chevy.
You can see how we ran the...
You can see how we ran the ground, gauge power, and power for the lights to the gauges. A handful of zip ties help keep everything neat and orderly.
All of our Stewart Warner...
All of our Stewart Warner electrical gauges (except the volt meter) use sensors mounted to various spots on the engine.
On our big-block, the oil...
On our big-block, the oil pressure sensor (arrow) mounts down by the oil filter.
The gauge holder from Stewart...
The gauge holder from Stewart Warner was chrome, but we decided to tone it down with some leftover Dupli-Color gloss black.
Make sure you ground the system...
Make sure you ground the system properly, unless you want to chase electrical gremlins.
The water temperature sensor...
The water temperature sensor is mounted near the front of the intake manifold. Stewart Warner includes a variety of fittings to fit most intakes.
We then attached the supplied...
We then attached the supplied connectors to the red, white, green, and black leads from the tach per the instructions.
We mounted the tach to the...
We mounted the tach to the Chevelle's steering column using the supplied mount and some heavy-duty black zip ties to blend in visually with the black steering column.
This is the trim cover panel...
This is the trim cover panel that covers the steering column under the Chevelle's instrument panel.
The green tach signal wire...
The green tach signal wire was then run to our MSD Street Fire HEI distributor.
|Stewart Warner Maximum Performance Gauges |
|Where The Money Went |
|Item: ||Source: ||Part No. ||Price: |
|Shift-light tachometer, 3 3/8-inch dia. ||Summit ||SWW-114110 ||$255.95 |
|Oil pressure gauge, 0-100 psi, 2 1/16-inch dia. ||Summit ||SWW-114255 ||$65.95 |
|Water temp gauge, 100-260 degrees, 2 1/16-inch dia. ||Summit ||SWW-114273 ||$49.95 |
|Voltage gauge, 8-18v, 2 1/16-inch dia. ||Summit ||SWW-114201 ||$41.95 |
|Three-hole gauge panel ||Summit ||SWW-114833 ||$15.95 |
|Grant Classic Nostalgia steering wheel (Chevy) ||Summit ||GRT-967 ||$99.95 |
|Total: ||$529.70 |
|Street Sweeper '68 Chevelle |
|The Cost So Far |
|Item: ||PHR issue: ||Cost: |
|1968 Chevelle Malibu ||April 2007 ||$12,000 |
|V40 Wheels & Nitto NT01 tires ||April 2007 ||$2,041.98 |
|Vinyl graphics ||April 2007 ||$169 |
|CPP front suspension ||May 2007 ||$1,229 |
|M/T slicks & skinnies, Summit Star drag wheels ||May 2007 ||$927.60 |
|Currie 9-inch rear ||June 2007 ||$2,896.20 |
|Misc. parts for rear install ||June 2007 ||$57.90 |
|CurrecTrac rear control arms ||June 2007 ||$524.90 |
|Morris Classic Concepts seat belts ||August 2007 ||$325 |
|Rear springs, air bags, QA1 shocks ||September 2007 ||$906.88 |
|Howitzer 496 big-block Chevy ||October 2007 ||$7,523.37 |
|Engine install, trans, shifter, exhaust, fuel system, misc. ||November 2007 ||$4,861.72 |
|Inland Empire driveshaft ||November 2007 ||$470 |
|Breather system for engine ||December 2007 ||$351.28 |
|Stewart Warner gauges & Grant steering wheel ||January 2008 ||$529.70 |
|Total: ||$34,814.53 |