001 ’69 Chevrolet Camaro RTX Instruments (PN RTX-69C-CAM-X)
Dakota Digital thoroughly tests every instrument before it is shipped. Here, ’69 Chevrolet Camaro RTX Instruments (PN RTX-69C-CAM-X) are being bench checked.

Installing Dakota Digital’s RTX Series Instruments in a ’69 Camaro
By Ron Ceridono

Photography by Nick Licata & Jason Scudellari

Many, many years ago, well before editor Nick Licata got his first skateboard as a kid, one of the additions performance enthusiasts made to their cars was a row of aftermarket gauges hanging below the dashboard. Even though they were often difficult to see mounted near the floor, the general consensus was they were better than factory gauges, which were inaccurate at best and useless at worst. Most factory gauges didn’t react very quickly or have meaningful numbers, making them only slightly better than warning lights that would normally illuminate about the same time some sort of mechanical carnage was taking place. As proof we offer the instruments in our ’69 Chevrolet Camaro.

Apparently, when our base Camaro was new the decision-makers at GM figured no one looks at gauges anyway, so we’ll save some money and go with just a speedometer, an extra-large gas gauge with warning lights for oil pressure, coolant temperature, and charging system status. (There were several gauge packages available that included such things as a tachometer, clock, oil pressure, temp gauge, and an ammeter, but they were extra-cost options.)

002 stock ’69 Camaro instrumentation
The stock ’69 Camaro instrumentation wasn’t the source of much information. The speedometer and fuel gauge were the extent of it.

When we decided to upgrade the gauges in the Camaro, we wanted everything contemporary instrumentation had to offer, but we wanted to retain as much of the original dashboard’s styling as possible. We were looking for the best of both worlds and we found it with Dakota Digital’s RTX direct-fit instrument package. It includes two gauges, a speedometer, and tachometer, each in individual CNC-machined housings.

003 69 camaro dash removal
While it is possible to install the Dakota Digital instruments without disassembling the dash, we removed the cluster to make things easier as we were also planning to install a new Classic Industries dashpad.

While the RTX analog speedometer and tachometer mimic the look of the original gauges with the engine off, turn the ignition switch and you’re presented with LED illuminated gauges with digital bar graphs that display oil pressure, coolant temperature, voltage, and fuel level. In addition, there are twin TFT message centers that display a full array of information, such as odometers (a million mile and two trip odometers) with estimated range/miles to empty, eighth- and quarter-mile performance, a clock, plus any of the six main gauge readings can be seen as well. If any expansion modules from the BIM series are in use, their data will also be displayed in the message centers. Of course, there are all the usual indicator lights for turn signals, high beam, plus several more, and other than the speedometer, each analog gauge has a red warning indicator if values fall below a preset level.

004 69 camaro steering wheel and column removal
With the dashpad removed, Jason Scudellari also removed the steering wheel and dropped the column out of the way before taking out the handful of fasteners that held the instrument housing in place.

Once the stock gauges are removed, installing the RTX assemblies is simple enough; they mount with existing holes in the original instrument housing, the wiring is plug-and-play, and all the necessary senders are included. In our case, at the same time Jason Scudellari handled the instrument panel update, he installed a new dashpad from Classic Industries. Both stock and custom padded dashpads are available with or without accommodations for A/C vents in all the factory colors.

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After the RTX instruments are in place, the necessary programing and calibrations are easily done with a push of the same rocker button that allows access to the message senders. The RTX system can also be configured with a mobile app and calibrating the speedometer and fuel level can also be done with a Bluetooth app.

005 69 camaro air duct removal
As our car had factory air, Scudellari removed the large duct that fed the center register in the dash.

Although the RTX system provides a wealth of information, Dakota Digital also offers BIM Expansion Modules that allow the addition of up to 16 gauges, such as compass heading, altimeter, outside air temp, GPS, as well as engine information from the popular aftermarket fuel injection systems.

Dakota Digital’s RTX instruments really are the best of both worlds. They look right at home in the Camaro’s dash while providing all the accurate information that performance enthusiasts want to see.

006 69 camaro Classic Industries (PN 6482249)
With the old gauge carrier looking tired and worn, we decided to get a fresh start with this new one from Classic Industries (PN 6482249).
007 69 camaro dakato digital trx
For a factory look, the new RTX instruments replace the stock lenses and indicator rings with new lenses and matte black aluminum trim rings.
008 dakota digital wiring harness 69 camaro
Wiring the instruments is plug-and-play; the supplied harness plugs into the Dakota Digital speedometer (arrow 1). The two threaded holes (arrows 2 and 3) secure the speedometer to the original housing.
009 69 camaro dakota digital wiring running
The Dakota Digital wiring harness runs through the large opening shown below the speedometer. The two provided screws and nylon shoulder washers secure the speedometer assembly to the housing via the existing holes.
010 69 camaro dakota digital tach
Installing the tachometer is just as easy; it’s secured with the supplied screws through existing holes and the wiring harness plugs in.
011 69 camaro dakota digital main harness
The main harness from the control box plugs into the interconnect harness that leads to the speedometer and tachometer.
012 69 camaro dakota digital tach wiring
There are options for a tachometer feed to accommodate any ignition system. In the case of our GM HEI distributor it was simply a matter of plugging the lead into the terminal on the cap marked tach.
013 69 camaro dakota digital sending units
Dakota Digital includes senders for their instruments. They must be used for the gauges to read properly and not damage the control unit.
014 69 camaro dakota digital sender sealants
To prevent faulty gauge operation always use only the specified sealant on senders. It’s also important that the engine is properly grounded (to the chassis and battery).
015 69 camaro dakota digital waterproof plugs
To prevent moisture from entering the connections the wiring harness has weatherproof plugs (this is the temperature sender).
016 69 camaro dakota digital control box
This is the Dakota Digital control box. It receives input from various sensors then sends signals to the instruments.
017 dakota digital control box wiring
All the connections on the control box are clearly labeled, as are the wires to make installation easy.
018 dakota digital expansion modules
Dakota Digital offers a variety of expansion modules to add additional instrumentation. This example is a GPS interface.
019 mounting dakota digital control module
Scudellari found a convenient spot to secure the control and GPS interface above the steering column bracket.
020 69 camaro dash install
With the instruments installed, the gauge cluster was put back in place. Classic Industries was the source for new headlight and wiper switches along with a host of knobs.
021 69 camaro dash pad retainer clips
This simple looking but necessary item is a new dashpad retainer clip from Classic Industries. We used a new set of six to secure the replacement pad.
022 69 camaro classic industries dashpad
To complement the updated instrument panel, Scudellari installed a new Classic Industries dashpad that is a duplicate of the original.
023 Classic Industries offers a complete 87-piece interior screw kit (PN SK518)
To make the dash and interior look factory fresh, Classic Industries offers a complete 87-piece interior screw kit (PN SK518).
024 69 camaro steering column install
With the instruments installed and the dashboard assembled, the steering column was bolted back in place.
025 dakota digital switch
This switch is used to change the display selection, reset readings, and set up the various system parameters. It should be mounted within easy reach of the driver.
026 dakota digital led lighting
HDX gauges feature LED lighting that be adjusted for brightness day or night and there are 30 color options for the needles, sweep color, and TFT display.
027 dakota digital hdx gauges
Dakota Digital’s HDX gauges provide accurate information in both analog and digital forms along with a variety of indicator and warning lights as well as performance meters.
028 dakota digital rtx console-mounted
For those Camaros equipped with optional instrumentation from the factory, Dakota Digital offers their RTX package with console-mounted gauges.

Source:
Classic Industries
(800) 854-1280
classicindustries.com

Dakota Digital
(800) 852-3228
dakotadigital.com

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