Every year, us lucky editors sit down with aftermarket manufacturers and listen to their best new product pitches. Going in, we never know if we’ll be stifling back yawns, or if a new product is going to grab us by the balls and say, “Hey, check me out!” At this year’s manufacturer’s conference, we got a nice surprise from Auto Meter with their new Elite series gauges. The Auto Meter Elite gauges were designed for the racing environment; a large, easily read face helps keep your attention on the road or track, an advanced design stepper motor improves durability and precision, and all Elite gauges have small solid-state data acquisition grade sensors. And while that stuff is definitely cool, what really got my attention was one feature that I’m kind of embarrassed to admit. Simply put: These gauges are perfect for us older guys whose vision isn’t the best.

As soon as the Auto Meter guy showed us that the dial changes color the moment it goes over (or under) a preset level, we were sold. Let’s face it—you just don’t drive around staring at your gauges. You’re looking at the road. We’re all familiar with shift-light tachometers, and the Elite line takes that idea to the next level. Set your gauge face to automatically change from green to red if, for instance, your coolant temp goes over 220 degrees. Even better, once your gauge changes color when it goes into the warning zone, it will begin blinking rapidly when it gets 10 percent higher than the preset warning level. I call it gauges in stages—and you don’t even have to be staring at the dial to know if your proverbial excrement is hitting the rotational ventilator. The warning is bright enough and big enough that you need not position the gauge directly in your line of sight. You are free to place the gauge in a more out-of-the-way location. For us, that means the A-pillar doesn’t have to be festooned with gauges like a refugee from the NOPI Nationals, nor will we have to drill a one-year-only dash for a bunch of gaping holes.

Wish we could say we thought of all that when we first saw the Elite gauges; it was actually Auto Meter’s new ’08-11 Dodge Challenger gauge pod that spurred the idea to drop a set of Elites in the Nova. During the same meeting, the guy from Auto Meter showed us that they had developed a three-gauge pod for late-model Mopars (PN 5287). He went on to say after they started the project for mother Mopar, they realized it could work for most muscle cars, and did we want to try one? Uh, you betcha. And if you don’t mind we’ll take three Elite gauges with that—oil pressure, water temp, and voltage. Those are the three essentials we needed to keep our Dart 400 SHP small-block healthy.

Meanwhile, Tech Editor Christopher Campbell had just finished a story on putting a ’69 Camaro SS console with factory-style gauges in Project EcoNova (see “Decisive Shift,” Mar. ’12). That was way cool, because the X-body shares a ton of sheetmetal with first-gen Camaros and the ’69 console fit like it was meant to be there. Only problem—the console, shifter, and gauges cost $1,100, and didn’t provide modern comforts like a usable armrest, cupholders, or a place to lay a cell phone. Our low-buck solution was to find a late-model console on eBay. We’d seen a couple of Novas at cars shows that had a center console from a late-model Dodge Neon, so we found one on eBay from a ’05 SRT4 for $75. The plan was to place the Elites in the Auto Meter pod, then mount the pod to the console. We even added an extra power point under the clamshell!

And speaking of “we,” that would be Outlaw Motorsports in Riverside, California. We recommend Outlaw Motorsports to anybody in SoCal who needs quality, affordable work on their muscle car. Ron Aschtgen runs the place, and he’s been wrenching on our Nova for the past year. He chewed through the install so fast, we had to hold him back to get the photos and video. (Speaking of video, head over to YouTube.com/PopularHotRodding and look for “1968 Nova—Auto Meter Elite Gauge Installation.”)

What To Get
Description: Source: PN: Cost:
Salvaged Dodge Neon center console eBay NA $75.00
Elite series oil pressure gauge, 0-100 psi Auto Meter/Summit 5652 $238.57
Elite series water temp gauge, elec. Auto Meter/Summit 5654 $207.46
Elite series voltage gauge, 8-18 V Auto Meter/Summit 5683 $197.09
Dodge Challenger 3-gauge pod Auto Meter/Summit 5287 $99.95

SOURCE
Outlaw Motorsports
800-924-1913
www.outlawMS.com
Auto Meter
413 W. Elm Street
Sycamore
IL  60178
866-248-6356
http://www.autometer.com