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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 5:30 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:42 pm
Posts: 947
Unboxng and Overview of the 68-70 B-Body Gauge Panel from Classic Dash


This has been a long time coming...

Image

Back in the day, I had wanted to update the Charger's instrument cluster, but maintain the unique character of the Rallye Dash. When you are behind the wheel of a Rallye Dash equipped 68-70 B-Body, you just feel like you are in the cockpit of a fighter plane. The round gauge layout coupled with the over-sized rocker switches and ribbed dimmer offer up a unique blend of nostalgia and timeless good looks. I have been around and in a lot of cars over the years, but nothing has struck my fancy as much as the gauge cluster in the 69 Charger.

That, in and of itself, created the biggest problem. If this was a typical square/rectangular dash/cluster one could easily lay out some wood or sheet metal and go to town...The problem is, when I modify the Charger, I am doing it because I consider it a desirable upgrade. If the original aesthetics still blow away my MDF, Fiberglass, or brushed aluminum layout, what is the point? The new gauges would no doubt be nice, but there is plenty of real estate to mount a tach, or 3 gauge set-up elsewhere and maintain the stock look.

The challenge was to install aftermarket gauges, but keep (or improve upon) the factory's initial appeal. Again, if the Charger had a non-Rallye dash, this wouldn't be as complex as I could map out several viable options that would suffice my need to improve upon the original design, layout, and look.

Naturally, when you are at a cross roads in today's age, you go online and look for answers. It seemed like a great idea, you can only assume someone else thought so and figured out a way to make things work...

What I found was a menagerie of lackluster designs. Functional, yes. Easy, fairly. But aesthetically on par with the factory Rallye Dash, hell no. The things you would see ranged from galvanized sheet metal to an array of wood finishes, none of which looked half as good as the factory stuff.

I had the opportunity to attend MATS back in 2011 and was excited as I knew there would be a bevy of 68-70 Chargers I hadn't seen before...Many of which would be pro-street, resto-mods, or drivers that the owners had taken liberty to bring up to their standards etc. I honestly saw more Chargers with homebrew dashes than I did factory, and I saw nothing that was any better than the 1987 marbled-formica design you could locate on old Lycos based web pages. Again, nothing against that layout as it accomplishes the goal of getting modern, aftermarket gauges in place, and I can assume the owner of each is happy with the finish, but it just wasn't good enough reason for me to pull the factory dash and borrow the ideas...

Enter DodgeCharger.com...

I've said it many times, but I love that site. You don't have the trolling on larger Mopar sites, there is already an archive of helpful info, and everyone is up to help out. Granted, you don't have quite as many in the "modernize and customize" mindset, but there are enough to get feedback.

One fateful day, Himtan 149 posted up the question of aftermarket gauges in a stock dash...

http://www.dodgecharger.com/forum/index ... 711.0.html

The overall layout looks promising for that, but nothing really drops in, so it was just shunned off...I had seen some folks fit 2" (I think old AutoGuage stuff) BEHIND the bezel and lens, but they looked out of place when you had the factory clock and speedo lurking to the left.

Then DKM69 posted up a beautiful sight...He had successfully modified his factory bezel to house aftermarket gauges from AutoMeter. He nestled (2) 3 3/8" gauges in the larger holes with rubber isolators and (4) 2 1/16" gauges in the factory positions to the right.

Image

That was in 2006...Jump forward 4 years and YeahMate posted up his take fitting the same layout with a 5" Tach and 5th 2 1/16" Gauge along with some very helpful pictures. This is where I kind of got the bug...

Image
^YeahMate did an outstanding job modifying the factory bezel for his needs!

I didn't want to hack up my factory (and only) bezel, so I had to source some spares. These were repopped, but at the time you were looking at several hundred dollars just for the bezel...Obviously, it isn't fun to shell out $400 to cut something up when you might not get it right...

Luckily, again thru DC.com, I was able to pick up a few OE bezels. Before anyone panics, these were all in need of some serious TLC and were likely salvaged from wrecked Mopars of yesteryear...I consider it a service trying to bring them back to life really...

Now I, like many others who attempted this, didn't quite get it to turn out as good as DKM or YeahMate. The 4 gagues are very hard to fit. I know it can be done because I have seen it AND I had replicated the factory bezel to wood and had it laid out beautifully. The way the OE piece is structured makes it very tough to modify just right.

Speaking of that wooden piece...I was happy with it and figured I could get it cut out and painted for a pretty slick setup. That piece and my blue print, along with a factory cluster, sat at a water jet place for 2 years. I finally got it back and gave up on that route...

Had it come to fruition at the water jet place, I hope it would have turned out like oldcarnut's cluster:
Image

That is literally, the nicest metal dash I've seen. Very trick! He outlines it well on the DC.com thread linked earlier.

I've never been one to shy away from asking questions, particularly for really cool Mopar parts...In fact, I still send off about 3-5 times a year trying to talk someone into making grilles for 69 Chargers!

So, I started sending out requests to aftermarket vendors. One of them, Classic Dash, seemed like a good option because they had offerings for the 70-76 A-Body and 71-74 B-Bodies. I figured if they had wanted to make one for the 68-70 it would have already been done, but nonetheless I shot out the inquiry.

I heard back from JJ and he said they would love to give it a go, they just needed a donor bezel to line it all up...No issue! I had one I hadn't drilled out and was ready to send it...Right before I shipped it I had an e-mail from JJ saying they needed the other pieces...

My Charger doesn't have the factory radio plate and the trim piece above the glovebox is OE and my only one...I was back at a standstill. I didn't want to pay $$$ for a new repop set just to sacrifice them. I tried a few angles there and put up some wanted ads, but nothing panned out.

Luckily, Edward (hd4406z) on this very site had a really slick pro-street Charger (Check out his Project Thread: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=361) he was building and thought the cluster sounded right up his alley. I got him and JJ in touch and after a few long months, he had a prototype in hand. They went thru a couple of alterations and finally had something they were happy with bringing to market! I had posted on DodgeCharger.com that I had something "in the works" a year ago today...Sorry for the delay, but I think you'll agree it was worth the wait!

I was to be sent a black panel to unbox and do an install on, but it never came. I waited and got the SEMA story, then busy, then people forgot etc. I still want to think they will send it out, but as of right now I do not have it. Right when Classic Industries finally stocked these things (had to email them about it, I got a new catalog last week and it still isn't in there), I ordered the Carbon Fiber unit on one of their sales. I did this in good faith and planned to have it side-by-side with the black gauge panel to really show the difference in the two offerings.

I kept waiting on the black one, but after having the carbon fiber gauge panel out and in my car it started to really grow on me...I now have a solid plan for my interior and unless I get the black one and it just blows me away, I should be content. I ran this piece up to cruise night the last two months and folks were very impressed with it...even a couple of purists.

Needless to say, I got tired of waiting on the black one and decided to just unbox this one and give everyone an overview of it. I think it is a really nicely done product that provides a great option for those in my position who want to update their Mopar just a bit, but retain the classic styling they love. This isn't a piece for everyone, but for those of a similar mindset this thing is AWESOME!

In our initial discussion, I told JJ I wanted to see the piece as close to stock as possible. Basic points were to maintain the rocker switches, dimmer, and 2-4 layout for the gauges. As you can see, they wound up doing a 2-3-1, but I can understand that. As someone who drilled a bezel only to find the gauges wouldn't fit without dimpling, or sanding down the bezels, it is infinitely easier to just run the 3-1 setup. I did say I thought keeping the 2-4 set up would let them offer a 2-4-1 for a guy or gal who wanted say a "Boost" or "AFR" gauge. I suppose, you can mount that one in the ash tray, under the dash, or on the A-Pillar, lol. Classic did not punch out for the Left and Right Turn Signal Indicators, or the High Beam Indicator. I can assume their logic was that different people would want different things. My plan is to just run small LEDs in the factory position. I could see them thinking some might have it column mounted, a billet bar, or some other provision.

One of the changes they did make that was nice is the red lens being included for the brake warning light. It seems minor, but it is a definite plus! They also opted to include the radio plate and RH Trim above the glove box. I thought it should be two pieces, but to their credit it looks really good as one streamlined piece. It will easily be cut out for a single DIN radio, or can be left as is for those going with a Double DIN, or hidden stereo.

Overall, I can't tell you how nice this gauge pane is in person and how great it is for those of us in the Mopar community to have the option of just paying $280 to get a sleek solution for how to run aftermarket gauges in a stock dash. The money you'll spend on this piece is less than the factory repops and again, the updated look while retaining the classic feel can't be beat.

As mentioned, it comes from Classic Dash and is available in Black or Carbon Fiber. The retail price is $279.95. As of now, I only know of Classic Industries as another outlet.


Carbon Fiber Gauge Panel:
Image

Carbon Fiber Radio Plate and Trim Piece:
Image

I plan to get it installed when time allows and look forward to finally having the look AND function I was hoping for from the Charger's dash panel.

You can find the cluster here:
http://www.classicdash.com/shopping/Mop ... 70-B-Body/

Black:
http://www.classicdash.com/shopping/196 ... Panel.html

Carbon Fiber:
http://www.classicdash.com/shopping/196 ... Panel.html

Lastly, a big thanks to all those who tried this in the past and in particularly DKM69, YeahMate, and hd44406z. DKM69 gets credit as the first poster to my knowledge. YeahMate provided the best first-hand look at what DKM69 did, and without Edward sending in the donor pieces I would probably still be fishing for some good, reasonably priced components to send in...

I know this type of part isn't up everyone's alley, but it is a HUGE asset to those in the resto-mod, pro-street, and custom segments of the hobby. Even purists have to be pleased that this product will help keep factory bezels from being modified! Classic Dash did a great job on this piece and I can not wait to get it installed! I will have an article and video up outlining the installation as soon as possible. I still have a few other interior updates I want to get going as well...

As mentioned in the video, if you pick this dash up for your 68-70 B-Body please post up, or send in pictures of your finished installation so we can archive different gauge options and help folks chose what is best for their Mopar.


Founder, Amarillo Area Mopars
Founder, Lone Star Mopars


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