THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business - April '15

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April 2015 n Performance & Hotrod Business n 49 reported, "our Cockpit Royale, Heritage Custom, and Series 1 lines remain very popular with the hot rod scene; while our newest series, Viewline, has caught on for vehicles from the '60s and '70s." …And the Tech In s t r u m e n t t e c h n o l o g y is changing as well. Twenty years ago, microprocessor-con- trolled stepper motors began to replace more traditional electro-mechanical movements. More recently, noted Gordon Hampton, owner of Hampton Engineering in Hampstead, North Carolina, LED lighting "has made the gauge faces look much better at night." Now even traditional hot rodders want their vintage-look speedometer, complete with wheel-style odometer, to feature a modern electronic movement, and to be programmable for easy calibration. "Older cars have different transmissions, rear end ratios, and tire sizes that can make it difficult to make a new cable-driven speedometer read correctly," Hampton added. "But a new electronic speedometer can be easily calibrated by simply pressing a button, driving two miles, and pressing the button again." Change the tire size and/or axle ratio, and the speedometer can be re-calibrated just as easily. "So we replace the speedometer cable with an electronic pulse generator that plugs into the transmission. Some of the later speedometers operate on GPS, and don't connect to the transmission at all." VDO recently debuted its GPS Speed Sender, "which easily converts any VDO electronic speedometer—and many other brands as well—to accurate GPS drive," Ross reported, while claiming "up to 25 times the speed resolution of other GPS- based senders." Auto Meter has offered automotive GPS speedometers for several years already. "We had built them for the marine market for a very long time," Mills recalled, "but the technology simply wasn't responsive enough to provide a seamless experience in a car or truck. But with the advent of more affordable, super-fast GPS receivers, we were finally able to release a product that met our own very high expectations at a reasonable price. We started with a stand-alone module that converted any Auto Meter electronic speedometer to a GPS-based unit, and these sold remarkably well. We engineered ours totally in house and printed the circuit boards right here in Illinois. Next we started to integrate that circuit into some of our most popular exist- ing speedometers. Not only did this save the customer a little more money, it was the ultimate plug-and-play solution. The integrated circuit also allowed us to pull down other information such as vehicle compass heading and coordinates. These quickly became our best-selling speedom- eters. We're continuing to expand the line and provide even more integrated-GPS speedometer options." The next big thing might be aftermar- ket gauges that plug directly into factory vehicle diagnostic systems. Significant demand already exists: "We're constantly asked about plugging gauges into an ALDL port, to simplify installation," Mills told us. Wood is Good All those new gauges may improve and expand instrument panel function, but nothing dresses up a dashboard quite like the look of real wood. Main Street Custom Finishing of Erie, Colorado, restores auto- motive woodwork and applies custom wood veneers to car and truck dashboards. Owner Matt Williams estimated that his work is 30-40 percent restoration and 60-70 percent custom, with the fastest growth in cars from the muscle era and perhaps a little later. He emphasized that "cus- tom" rarely means a clean-sheet- of-paper design, especially in a postwar car. "Most of the time the customer wants to modify what's already there," by adding extra gauges and/or wood veneer. "Where we're seeing an uptick is in cars like the mid-'60s Pontiacs and Buick Rivieras, which came with real but relatively plain wood trim. The originals were just veneers over .040-inch aluminum, which was then glued to the dashboard or console. We're replacing those plain veneers with walnut burls or other exotic burls that really make those interiors pop." We asked Williams how he accurately translates a customer's vision into hard- wood reality. "Lots of communication is absolutely key. And you have to listen, because you can pick up on things that they like or don't like"—even if they don't tell you explicitly. "And of course we make templates. We show them samples. We make a mockup of the dash, even if it's just on a piece of poster board, so they can sit down behind it and say, 'This is what I want, or this is not going to work, because the steering wheel is in the way.' Sometimes customers over-think it, and make it more complex than it needs to be. So we show them a mockup and say, 'We recommend doing it this way.' And sometimes they lis- ten, and sometimes they don't. "The most important thing is to make a plan and stick with it. It's also important to make sure that the color of the wood will work with colors of the carpet, the upholstery, and the outside of the car. If a veneer has a reddish tint, for example, you would not necessarily want to use it Auto Meter Products provided this gauge package for The Roadster Shop's "Hellfish" 'Cuda, helping to give the car's dash a clean, "racecar vibe." (Photo Courtesy Auto Meter Products Inc.) Auto Meter's Ultra Lite gauges feature racey, black on brushed-aluminum, with red pointers. (Photo Courtesy Auto Meter Products Inc.)

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