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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.