When poring over the pictures of today’s eBay find, I was reminded of something which perplexed me all the way back in my boyhood: cars whose tachometers didn’t rest at zero when the ignition was turned off. A little research suggests that not using a spring-load mechanism to pin the needle down when power was cut allowed more accurate, instantaneous engine speed readings, and a cynic could safely assume that it made for cheaper production. Either way, Mopars have traditionally been generous with their number of readouts, which were a rather fun way to show off an owner’s generously chosen specification.
As we know, the era which brought you such things as the talking dash was notable for conspicuous displays of “high-tech,” making digital dashes very popular. But there was nothing like a full set of analog gauges to clearly state a car’s (or marketing department’s) sporting intent, and as the ’90s wore on, these became less and less common. Especially noticeable are the lack of boost gauges in an era where the turbocharged, direct injection engines have become mainstream and I miss these most, especially when mounted where passengers could see them.
Lest you think I’m partial to Chrysler, check out this Rallye Gauge package from Oldsmobile. Six neatly sited gauges where a ribbon speedo and gas gauge would normally sit add an extra dimension to the most mundane drive to the grocery store, though as a package, it’s less ’80s-specific than the Laser’s set-up with graph paper background.
When it came to standard instrumentation, imports usually had the Americans beat, but Japanese offerings outside North America were available with a bevy of wacky digital dash options, and in the case of the e90 Corolla, also with a full-width analog set-up. Who knew grandma’s Corolla could be equipped with a 9,000 rpm tach and an oil pressure gauge where the radio usually went? Talk about missing out.
At least the Supra and 300ZX offered the same effect, if only for a lot more money. I’d list the analog version of the Z’s dash as having close to being my favorite comprehensive instrumentation package from the era, but something a little simpler, or at least more concentrated in one place would be preferable.
Could more carmakers not have simply offered such options through the dealer, as Volvo did? There’s no boost gauge on this 240, and the five-speed M47 gearbox confirms this isn’t a turbo (boo hoo), but there’s no denying the appeal of having all auxiliary gauge and switch slots occupied. The analogue tuner and overseas climate control panel complete the effect.
Now that you’re feeling inspired by all these shining examples of gauges gone wild, what are your favorite complete analog instrumentation set-ups from the era?