project land speed racer 240sx race dash
Project Land Speed Racer 240SX:  All the Right Gauges
by Stephen Quinn
Photos by Joe Lu and Chuck Johnson
Let's face it. There are hundreds, if not thousands of aftermarket gauges readily available for purchase. Most can tell you what you need to know in whatever color, shape, and size you desire. But an array of gauges strewn across the dash and up the A-pillar accompanied by a tachometer the size of your head isn't the most effective way of delivering essential information to the driver. An unorganized gauge setup is distracting and can be even more dangerous than not having the gauges to begin with.
Just a tad bit cluttered and distracting, this car has so many gauges, dials, and knobs you would think that it was on a hillbilly mission to Mars. 
For Project 240SX Land Speed Racer, we wanted to keep it clean and simple. After meeting with our driver Chuck Johnson, we decided we needed the following information for our high speed runs: speedometer, tachometer, shift light, boost gauge, water temperature, oil pressure, oil temperature, exhaust gas temperature, and air/fuel ratio.
 dohc 240sx gauge cluster
110 MPH max speed?  That's cute.  
Our stock Nissan instrument cluster provided us with some of the information we required but maxed out at a top speed of 110mph.  Additionally, the factory cluster gave us vague, inaccurate readings of water temperature and only a warning light if oil pressure was completely lost.  As the Nissan cluster was not meant for racing, response time of the gauges is also considerably slower than purpose built aftermarket gauges. 
 specialty cars fabrication race dash
The aluminum gauge cluster fabricated by John Kuchta of Specialty Cars was designed to hold a tach, speedo, and two Innovate Motorsports MTX-D gauges.  
With limited real estate available on our Specialty Cars custom gauge hood and a gamut of things to monitor, we had to make a decision of which gauges were most important. (For more on our custom dash click here.)  We decided to go with a "Life or death in the hood" mentality, keeping only the absolutely essential gauges in the dash – RPM, boost, speed, and oil pressure.
Autometer tach, lan speed racer
Our tachometer requirements were satisfied by a modestly sized Autometer Sport Comp 3-3/8" Tach. 
To keep important information in the gauge hood, we were planning on setting up a warning light system for any systems that went beyond their limits, but we soon found exactly what we needed: Innovate Motorsports' MTX-D Dual Function Gauges.
Innovate MTX-D boost and shift light guage
Innovate Motorsport's new line of MTX Digital Series "Dual Function" Gauges were exactly what we were looking for. Each gauge features two digital displays.  A large numerical readout in the center represents one value and the second, is represented through a sweep of digital lights around the circumference of the gauge. This means two channels can be monitored simultaneously on a single gauge face and the number of gauges required to monitor our setup could be essentially cut in half. 
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Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:35 AM
that first nissan 350Z interior shot looks like a road rally which has a massive element on timing... agreed it is a clusterfuck but there isn't really any neater way to do it unless you shell out for rally computers
Chuck Johnson
Chuck Johnsonlink
Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:28 PM
@ Martin- You're right, this picture was actually of a Z at the Siver State Classic Challenge. The picture was more to demonstrate the point of clutter, not to make fun. I kind of feel bad because the owner was actually a pretty nice guy.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:00 PM
That speedometer is pretty sweet. How many wires need to be hooked up? Is it something that could be installed in a street car temporarily for LSR events?
Friday, October 26, 2012 11:53 AM
Full disclosure, I work for Auto Meter Products.

Just wanted to point out that the tachometer is a Pro-Comp, not Sport-Comp. Splitting hairs, but I digress.

" We decided our only option was a GPS speedometer. Besides, we couldn't find an analogue speedometer that went past 200 MPH for the life of us. Go ahead, try... please."

We offer a few speedometers capable of this. Part numbers 4486 for a 3-3/8" 0-200mph electric speedometer with an analog pointer movement. Additionally, part number 4490 is a 5" version, also electric.

Because of the speed, I would worry about the speed signal possibly washing out on the factory sender. We offer a GPS module (PN: 5289) that works with all of our electric speedometers and most aftermarket speedometers. It puts out a 12v square wave signal and refreshes at 10hz, smoothing out the pointer movement further past the 5hz or 1hz GPS.

I am not saying that you should have used our products, but just want to point out that there are options, especially if you are looking for the analog movement over digital.
Chuck Johnson
Chuck Johnsonlink
Saturday, October 27, 2012 9:53 AM
Hi, Thanks for the correction on the tachometer. Slight oversight on our part.

In regards to the speedometer, I contacted Autometer a few months back and was told that there was not a speedometer available that went past 200 MPH. The two part numbers you listed appear to stop at 200 MPH. We are currently chasing a 203 MPH record and need to have a gauge that will go a minimum 10-15 mph higher than that. Any other suggestions? I would love to have a more budget option available.
Chuck Johnson
Chuck Johnsonlink
Saturday, October 27, 2012 9:57 AM
BTW, love that 10hz refresh rate of the Autometer GPS unit!
Monday, October 29, 2012 5:33 AM
So why not run a KPH speedometer with a signal conditioner? Lots of 240kph+ speedometers available.

The only downfall I see is if a signal conditioner would cause a lack of precision?
Stephen Quinn
Stephen Quinnlink
Thursday, November 01, 2012 1:48 PM
@ Martin - You're absolutely correct. The alternative to our gauge setup would be a Motec ADL/CDL system, Stack ST8100, or Racepak IQ3/UDX which are all out of our budget when combined with their respective transducers and thermocouples. We went with the Innovate setup because it was relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and it datalogs.

@ Dusty Duster - The speedometer is hooked up with a 12v+ switched and a ground. It would be extremely easy to hook it up to a cigarette lighter adapter and move it from car to car. I had it hooked up in my truck to test its functionality on the way home from purchasing it. The only downfall is you lose the high speed memory each time you power it down.

@ Nachtmensch - I apologize for the mix-up. We have always known Autometer for its affordability and reliability. Unfortunately their speedometer did not meet our minimum requirements for this project. We are running an Autometer tach and fuel level gauge however.

@ Tom - 240KPH equates to only 150MPH. We were looking for something that would max out somewhere between 225-250MPH (360-400KPH). Additionally, all land speed records are measured in MPH, and the last thing we need is Chuck trying to convert KPH to MPH in his head at 200+MPH!
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