Special Instrumentation Package
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Some people call it the Gauge Package. Some call it the In-dash Tach. Others incorrectly call it the SS-dash. But from
1968 until 1976 the optional RPO-U17 Special Instrumentation Package was a set of extra gauges that helped build the sporty
image of the Nova.
First I want to clarify that RPO-U17 was NOT part of the Super Sport option. It was available on any V8 equipped Nova
those years. The Special Instrumentation Package did include 4 extra gauges: a tachometer, an ammeter, oil pressure and
water temperature. The tach was placed to the left of the speedometer in the location where the fuel level gauge was
normally placed. This was to make it easier for the driver to see (when in reality, it was really too small to see and
mostly blocked by the steering wheel). Because the fuel level gauge was replaced by the tach, it was moved to the console with the other 3 new gauges. The gauges were all electrical, so there is a special,
additional wiring harness need to power them. You will notice that I said the gauges were located on the console. This
means that if you wanted the U17 Special Instrumentation package you also had to order the RPO-D55 Front Compartment Floor
Console. And since the floor console wouldn't fit with a bench seat, you also had to order RPO-A51 Bucket Seats. All these
requirements made the U17 package a pricey option.
While the Nova console changed in 1975, the 4-gauge pod that bolted to the console stayed the same for all 1968-76 Novas.
It was also almost identical to 1967-69 Camaros except that Camaro had silver-faced gauges while Novas were black. Aside
from the color differences, 1967-69 Camaro and 1968-76 Novas pods will physically interchange. The gauge pod for automatic
and manual consoles are also the same. Consoles could be ordered without the gauge package and a block-off plate was
bolted to the console in place of the gauge pod.
The Special Instrumentation package was available on V8 equipped Nova only, but since there were many different V8 engines
available, this required different tachometers. If you ordered U17 with a small-block you got a 5,000-rpm redline tach. If you ordered U17 with the L34, 350-hp big-block you got a
5,500-rpm redline tach. And if you ordered U17 with the L78, 375-hp big-block you got a 6,000-rpm redline tach.
The instrument cluster itself changed in 1975. The fuel gauge and clock became round instead of square and the
corresponding 1975-76 tach became round as well. The speedometer went from 120-mph down
to 100-mph (120-mph for cars equipped with the 9C1 police package) . In 1977 the Nova instrument cluster got a complete redesign. The "sunrise" speedometer was replaced with 4 round gauges. Depending on optional equipment, the 4 gauges could be a few different
things. The second hole (from left to right) was always the speedo (80-mph). The standard, no option gauges cluster was
the speedo in the second hole and a large fuel level gauge in the third hole. Holes 1 and 4 were just circles with idiot
lights arranged in a circle. One option was the RPO-U14 Special Instrumentation package.
This was a tachometer in the 3rd hole, the fuel level gauge was moved to the top of the first hole with a voltmeter below
it. In the fourth hole was a water temp gauge on top with a clock below. Another option was the RPO-UF7 Fuel Econominder gauge package. This was basically the same as the U14 package
except a Fuel Econominder gauge (basically a vacuum gauge) was in the third hole instead of a tachometer. Because all the
extra gauges could now be placed in the instrument cluster, there were no need for console mounted gauges.
Some people love to install these gauges in their Nova but it's more than just a bolt in install. The gauges are expensive,
not very reliable and hard to read. A better option in my opinion (except for a correct restoration) is to buy a new panel made by Autometer that fits the factory consoles and allows you to install 2"
electrical or mechanical modern gauges. This panel even angles the gauges towards the driver.
Shiftworks, the company that sells shifter conversions for stock
shifters to work with modern 3- and 4-speed automatic transmissions, is now offering In-Dash tachometer conversions to replace the factory clock
(or block-off cover) with a 7000 rpm tach that looks factory installed. Currently they are only available for 1963-65 and
1968-76 Novas (sorry you 1977-79 owners). For 1968-76, the in-dash tach replaces the clock on the right side of the instrument
cluster, not the fuel level gauge on the left like the factory tach. It is also a round gauge that looks like the clock and
not a "sunrise" tach like the factory used. However, unlike the factory tachs that were for
V8 only, these will work for 4- and 6-cylinder engines.
Shiftworks has 3 different applications:
1963-65 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, part# S515, $125.00
1968-70 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, part# S517-G, $125.00 (green numbers)
1971-72 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, part# S517-W, $125.00 (white numbers) These will also fit 1973-76 Novas.
As you can see above, 1968-70 are different from 1971-72 because 1968-70 have greenish numbers where 1971-72 (and 1973-76)
have white numbers. If your dash is not original and from a different year Nova, check the color first before ordering. Why
Shiftworks only lists up to 1972 is unknown but 1973-74 Novas have the same instrument cluster as 1969-72 and these tachs
will fit. These tachs will also fit 1975-76 Nova clusters with no problems.
Shiftworks has also made these tachs available for National Nostalgic Nova
to sell. NNN sells these tachs for the exact same price however part numbers are different:
1963-65 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, NNN part# 31213, $125.00
1968-70 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, NNN part# 31214, $125.00 (green numbers)
1971-76 Nova In-dash Tachometer Conversion Kit, NNN part# 31215, $125.00 (white numbers)
Now, here's the bad news. These tachs are not built to work with an MSD box ignition system without an expensive MSD tach
adapter. However, according to Shiftworks they are aware of this problem and are working on a solution.
If you are interested, visit the Shiftworks website or email them at
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||Copyright © 2004 Scott Windle
||Created on: 09/01/04