A/C Install Write Up

Autometer Gauge Install Write Up


The interior had to have a factory feel to it.  My goal was to be able to "forget" I was driving an "old car" even while I was behind the wheel of a 38 year old Camaro!  It had to be quiet, comfortable, functional, and still feel factory.   To that extent, I believe I have more than accomplished my objectives. 

 In one of best upgrades done in the entire car, the factory instrumentation was completely replaced by Autometer Sport Comp II's using a Covans Classic Instrument bezel.  The panel was ordered blank (not precut) so that I could install 5" gauges.  Both the gauges and the instrument panel are very high quality items.

Since I was trying to get an "updated" look for the interior while still retaining a "classic-ish" appearance, these Sport Comp II gauges were a perfect compliment to the rest of the upgrades.  However, while they do look great, it's the functionality that truly sets them apart.  These gauges are light years ahead of the factory instrumentation in terms of accuracy.  In addition, the backlight LED illumination is beyond comparison to the dim 1971 factory lighting- there simply isn't any comparison.  The clarity of these gauges at night is so spectacular that I actually have to turn down the brightness (as opposed to the factory illumination where I had to have it turned all the way up just to barely see them).  This is one upgrade that's relatively easy and I highly recommend.

I did a write up on the installation of the gauges to document how I did it.  It's in Adobe pdf format.  The write up is availalable here to anyone who wants it.   It details the basic installation of the gauges and how I installed a 5" speedo and tach.  Covans bezel was designed for 3 3/8" gauges, but I detail how to reinforce the bezel to house 5" gauges. 

Since the time I completed the write up, I've added several other features to the instrument panel.  They are show in the pictures below.

Below are some pictures of the finished instrument panel.

The factory dimmer switch does not work with LED lighting.  So Autometer's auxilliary dimmer switch was used and I was able to integrate it into the instrument panel.  The "stenciling" was done using a laser jet printer to create white letters on a black backround.  I then cut the labels out and glued them onto the panel with an Elmer's gluestick.  From the driver seat it looks like factory stencils.

The LED's used for the turn signals and indicator lights were purchased from Radio Shack.  The bezels match the Sport Comp II's and fit in nicely with the instrument panel as a whole.

I already had gauges in the center A/C duct on the dashboard (Autometer Z-series), so I replaced with them with Sport Comp II's. 


Here is the dashboard fully illuminated at night.

 Another great upgrade I did was the addition of an A/C system from Classic Auto Air.  The system was a Perfect Fit series kit for 1970-73 Camaros without original A/C.   It maintains the factory controls and air ducts to not upset the factory appearance of the vehicle.  Now, while the kit was very high quality in and of itself, my Camaro was in fact an original A/C car and had EFI, serpentine brackets, transmission cooler, etc, which meant there were several hurdles I had to overcome.   As with the gauges, I documented the installation in a write up.  Again, it's available here to anyone who wants it.

Now, with the newly installed A/C system in the car I noticed that the performance of the system wasn't optimum without the center A/C vents, particularly on really hot days.   But since I really liked the gauges, I had to think of another way of getting the additional vents.  Browsing some of the aftermarket A/C companies, I came across these round vents from NostalgicAir.   The vents rotate 360 and can shut off completely.  I put one in the instrument panel and one in the passenger side of the dashboard, attempting to integrate them such that they look like they came like this from the factory.  With these vents added, the A/C system really sprang to life. 


I also replaced the factory steering wheel with one from Momo.  It is fully leather wrapped and it makes driving much more pleasurable than the factory wheel. 

The seats are from Arizen Racing.  They are real perforated leather on the center section and simulated leather on the outer portions.  The seats are firm, no two ways about it.  But I actually consider them more supportive and prefer them over seats in late model cars.

With the leather steering wheel and the leather seats, why not a leather shift knob?   A knob from a late third gen fit right on my stock shifter

One of the coolest things I've done to the car is a keyless "push-button" start system.  I Went with Advanced Keys system after doing some research online. It's a fantastic, well thought-out kit and the tech-guys are great about responding to e-mail questions in a timely manner. It cost about $400 when all was said and done, but it's definitely worth it. Comes with an OEM Lexus button.

The RF ID recognizes the key fob and when I get in the car I simply depress the brake and push the button to start the engine. I then depress the brake and push the button to stop the engine.

Their set up also has provisions for wiring in other customized functions that get turned on and off automatically when the system recognizes the key fob (alarms, remote window operation, horn-chirps for arm/disarm, etc). I wired in a couple of anti-theft devices that activate/deactivate automatically depending on my proximity to the vehicle.

I don't have power door locks, so I have to use the key to get into the car, but after that it's keyless.

One "negative" thing is I had to disable the steering column lock to truly avoid using the physical key. But with my anti-theft features, the car is essentially theft-proof from a hot-wiring standpoint. Which means they'd have to tow the car if they wanted it that badly.

The Advanced Keys system is wired in parallel with the factory ignition in case it has a problem (I can always revert back to the key).

Here's video demonstrating operation of the system... Basically press the button once to turn on the system, then press again to turn on the ignitiaon. Then depress the brake and push the button to start the engine. Can also skip all that and depress the brake/push the button to start the engine immediately. It's up to the user.

One thing to note, it's a very non-trivial installation. You really need to know the vehicle electrical system well in order to integrate their system into it. But overall their instructions are very clear which is another great aspect to it.   Here's a photo of it installed.

Shown in front of the shift knob is a cupholder.  I found a generic universal transmission tunnel hump cup holder from the local autoparts store, cut the cup holder out of it, and integrated it into console.  It's sized just right for a large In 'N Out  drink.

Another upgrade I made was to the rear view mirror.   It has a built in digital compass, outside ambient temperature readout and map lights.  Wiring it in was easy- just a power and ground.  In keeping with the overall "updated classic" theme, it fits in very nicely to the rest of the interior.

Also, for night time operation, I installed LED's for all the courtesy lights.  It gives a very different look to the interior at night.

Since it's always nice to have music while driving, the sound system received some much needed attention in the form of a 1200 watt, seven speaker, CD stereo system.  

For the front speakers, rather than cut into the door panels for additional speakers, I decided to put in Kenwood 6.5" round  speakers in the kick panels.   This obviously required some fab work.  Specifically, some hard nylon mounting plates that were to be sealed against the chassis.  The back sides of the speakers would also have to be insulated against the elements since they were to be inside the air ducts.  In addition, holes had to be cut into the kickpanel trim pieces.  The driver side speaker grill is pretty tight behind the parking brake mechanism, but it does fit.  Below is the passenger side installation.   


Augmenting the front speakers are a pair of 4" Kenwood speakers installed in the factory location where the original paper cone speaker used to reside. 

For the rear speakers, I installed two Kenwood 6X9's in the factor location on the rear deck and from within the trunk, I enclosed them in individual enclosures.  I also installed a 12" subwoofer with an enclosure box I created to the recommended volume provided by the speaker manufacturer.  It's powered by a 600 watt Pyramid amplifier.  Needless to say it provides all the bass I'll ever need.

To help with outside noise control, I made extensive use of sound deadener.  With the interior stripped out of the car, I lined all of the interior chassis and door surfaces with self-adhesive roofing paper.  I then put down a layer of aluminum foil to block radiant heat, and then some jute padding from the local carpet store.  All this adds up to almost no engine, muffler, or road noise while cruising down the street or on the highway.   

Lastly, for those long cruises on the highway, I wanted to be able to give my right foot a rest by adding cruise control.  I turned to Rostra and ordered their basic kit.  Works beautifully.  Here's where I mounted the servo.  It's under the driver's side fender, mounted on the firewall.

Driving the car is a very pleasurable experience, yet it does not at all diminish the hot rod feel of the car.  It's a perfect blend. 



This site was last updated 12/30/13