Don't Try This At Home: Another 80s Japanese Digital Dash Added To My Collection

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

There’s no way I’m going to spot a junked 80s Japanese car with the optional super-futuristic digital dash and not go back and buy that instrument cluster. So, now I’ve got a genuine digital dash collection going on, adding the Cressida cluster to my ’84 Nissan 300ZX Turbo cluster and my ’83 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo cluster.

One great thing about Japanese cars of the 1980s and 1990s is that the instrument clusters are almost always easy to remove and install. There’s a fascia that comes off with a few screws, then another half-dozen screws hold the cluster in the dash.

On a Detroit car from this period, you’ll find all sorts of one-way plastic retainers that made it easy for the line workers to smack the cluster into place with a sharp blow from a rubber mallet, Mickey’s Big Mouth bottle, or whatever tool was handy. You’ll break all sorts of stuff while removing the thing, because the low-bidder plastic used for the retainers has a service life of maybe five years. Meanwhile, German clusters are even worse, with all manner of crazy hidden fasteners, in super-overkill quantities. I’ll stick with the Japanese stuff… for now.


Which reminds me: here’s how you remove the clock from a mid-70s Cadillac. No tools needed!

Unlike the 300ZX, the Cressida cluster’s harness doesn’t plug into sockets inside the dash. I cut the wires as far from the cluster as far as I could get away with. I’ll get a copy of the factory shop manual, which will give me the wiring diagram I need to control this cluster with an Arduino microcontroller. My collection still requires a Subaru XT digital dash. Did Honda do any digital dashes in the 1980s?

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Beelzebubba Beelzebubba on Nov 22, 2012

    Honda didn't have a digital dash until the 2000 model year- the 2-seater Insight and S2000 sports car were both introduced that year with digital instruments. The '84-'88 Nissan 300ZX had the coolest looking digital dash, IMO. The big wave graph for the tach was particularly amusing and simultaneously, provided little to no useful information. My sister had a 1985 Z-car, white with red velour interior and it had the optional Electronics Package that included the digital dash, digital auto climate control and a bunch of other techno crap. I learned to drive in that car (it was a 5-speed stick) and took my driver's license test in it. So I have fond memories, even if the interior was the color of a slaughterhouse floor! Nissan offered a digital dash on the Maxima at least thru 1997-ish, but only on the GLE models. I think you're wise to avoid the domestics., They rarely worked properly when installed in the vehicles. My best friend's first car was a 1984 Chrysler Laser XE Turbo (twin to the Dodge Daytona) in Chocolate Brown and it had a digital dash and it talked (16 or so phrases/warnings, such as 'door ajar'). He got it in 1991 and it had over 150,000 miles on it, so it was pretty much worn out. It had a nasty habit of blowing coolant hoses loose on a regular basis, then it would announce "Engine Overheating! Engine Damage May Occur!" repeatedly....I heard that phrase so many times, and I would respond back to it with "No Shit!". It had an uncanny ability to state the blatantly obvious...god I hated that car!

  • Ric65704567 Ric65704567 on Feb 24, 2023

    A late response I know, the Honda city turbo had a digital dash in 1984/1985. So a very early contender.

  • MrIcky Worrying about mileage is for poors.
  • ToolGuy A 'true' Volvo (pre Ford Motor Company). I would buy this and drive it for 3 years until I can get one of them 'Chinese' EV things. But I'm offering $1,850 against your $3,700 because you couldn't be bothered to pull it outside for pictures. 😉 And I will stick close to home with this one -- no road trips.In related news (Relevant and Connected!!): My new dishwasher is Swedish -- little outfit called Frigidaire, you may have heard of them. (On order, should be here in March)
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT Let me get this straight-It's OK for GM to make cars in China and ship them here-under a Buick name. But for the Chinese to directly do it is not OK.If the Big 3 had not a deserted sedans/low end of the market they wouldn't have anything to worry about.Yea...makes perfect sense.
  • Analoggrotto This must look great in your Tellurides
  • Dukeisduke Meanwhile in the EU, they're inviting Chinese manufacturers to build assembly plants there, especially in Italy. FIAT cut back production in Italy from one million vehicles a year, to 750,000, so the Italian government wants the Chinese plants for the jobs they'll create. They've contacted BYD about building a plant, but so far, BYD has only committed to building a plant in Hungary. A second plant in the EU will depend on demand for vehicles.
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