Performance & Hotrod Business - April '15

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48 n Performance & Hotrod Business n April 2015 HOTROD By John F. Katz Who can deny that dashboards are fun, or that a full gaggle of gauges can pin our personal "cool" meter? But all those trick-looking instruments are there for serious reasons—namely, to monitor the internal workings of one very pricey, high-performance engine. A Dash of Class A certain nostalgia for yesterday's style, but infused with modern per- formance technology—that pretty much defines the hot rod hobby, no? So why should hot rod dashboards be any different? Jeffery Ross is the senior product manager at Continental Automotive in Allentown, Pennsylvania, whose many products include VDO gauges. When asked about industry-leading trends, he noted growing demand "in some segments of the market, for replacement gauges that more closely approximate the look of the original equipment"—oh, yes, and "GPS- based technology is also growing." Another common theme is the desire for more instruments. "In years past," recalled Glenn Cohen, president of Prosport Inc., in St. Petersburg, Florida, "most people added a few gauges to get more specific information. But now we see more and more full-dash replacements. We recently added a speedometer and tachometer to our EVO series, specifically for customers who are looking for a full gauge setup." And, "more than ever, customers want ease of use and installation," added Joseph Mills, director of marketing and end user experience for Auto Meter Products, Inc., in Sycamore, Illinois. "Years ago, it was totally par for the course to take a hole saw to a dash, or to fabricate a new panel to replace the existing cluster. These days, the average enthusiast is less likely to want to take that path, but instead expects the product to fit easily, without modifica- tion—in short, to be as 'plug-and-play' as possible." Gauging the Trends… So who doesn't want the best function they can afford? But gauges are also an expression of style—and by definition, style is ephemeral. "I am always fascinated with how much this market changes," Cohen commented. "As the technology changes, so do the trends. Right now a lot of people are using multicolored digital electronic gauges in older hot rods, for a mix of new and old." Demographics influences choices as well. "Younger customers want the latest gauges, with as many features as possible," Cohen continued. "They want something that will stand out at a show." Prosport scored a very specific hit with its EVO series of digital gauges. "They were the first dual-color digital gauges," Cohen explained, and the name was supposed to imply "a new evolution in gauges. Well, Mitsubishi Evolution owners flocked to them. The colors even matched the red and blue of their stock gauges. "Whereas older customers want to keep it simple; they gravitate toward traditional one-color gauges with pointers." Mills agreed that traditional hot rod- ders "want classic styling with modern function; while other niche markets defi- nitely have their own favorite styles. Diesel truck customers, for example, want gauges that look like they came with their trucks; hence our ever-expanding Factory Match series." A few simple styles—Mills cited Auto Meter's Ultra Lite (racey, black on brushed-aluminum, with red pointers) and Sport Comp (all-business, white-on-black, also with red pointers)—seem to span the entire old-car hobby. "Our retro-look instruments," Ross CARS sells a Clas- sic Instruments kit for 1955-'56 Chevrolet pas- senger cars that has the original chrome trim around the outside and a new six-gauge cluster, with modern gauges, set into the same area that housed the factory speedometer. (Photo Courtesy CARS Inc.)

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