In the ’70s, most truck manufacturers decided that the average person wasn’t capable of interpreting the gauges on the dashboard. Evidently, it was done to make us feel secure--the sense of well-being that comes from gauges firmly planted in the normal zone. As a result the amp, oil pressure, and temperature gauges on our ’73 Ford never strayed far from center. In fact, the only one that seemed to go from one extreme to the other was the fuel gauge, and it did that with some regularity.

When we decided to make some updates to our project Hot Rod Hauler, one of the areas that definitely needed some help was the dash. Over the years, we added real gauges below the dash, but they certainly weren’t in our line of sight. So, when we changed to a transmission that had a sender for an electronic speedometer, that was all the excuse we needed to install a set of Dakota Digital instruments.

Dakota Digital has been manufacturing quality instrumentation and specialty electronics for 25 years and we’ve used them in a variety of street rods. As we’ve always liked the looks of them, and our truck could certainly benefit from their accuracy, we ordered part number VFD-73F-pu, a six-gauge instrument system for ’73 to ’79 Ford pickups that includes a speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, oil pressure, temperature, volts as well as indicator lights for turn signals and high beam (the included gear indicator requires an optional sender).

Installing the Dakota Digital instruments requires some modifications to the original instrument panel, which is what we’re going to concentrate on here. There is some rewiring that has to be done to accommodate the new instrumentation, however, there are some other electrical issues to deal with as well. First, we were installing an electronically controlled E4OD automatic transmission at the same time and will be using the speed sensor on the transmission for both the transmission’s computer and the Dakota Digital speedometer. But the bigger issue is the condition of the trucks electrical system. We discovered the ignition switch plug was damaged from overheating, a common malady with Ford trucks of this vintage. So, we’ve decided to concentrate on the modification of the instrument panel (and the installation of the transmission) this month and will address all the electrical issues, as well as a few other interior changes we want to make, next time around. Stay tuned, it’ll be worth it. CCT

SOURCE
Dakota Digital
4510 W. 61st Street North
Sioux Falls
SD  57107
800-593-4160
http://www.dakotadigital.com
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