By on August 8, 2012

When I saw today’s Junkyard Find at my local self-serve junkyard, I knew that I had to own that incredible digital dash. You see, I’ve already got a Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo digital instrument cluster, which means I’m collecting this stuff now.
Someone had already started tearing up the dash before I got there, but the cluster appeared to be in good shape. I had only a Phillips screwdriver and a needlenose pliers with me (which I brought in order to grab the headlight switch from a ’68 Dodge D-100, in order to replace the flaky ’78 Dodge camper switch in my ’66 Dodge A-100), but that was all I needed to yank the 300ZX’s cluster. Just $20.99 at U-Pull-&-Pay! The 50 or so connectors on the wiring harness look intimidating, but I’ll grab a factory shop manual and puzzle it all out.
With the help of brainy geek and LeMons racer Quinn Dunki, I’m working on getting the Cordia cluster to function as a wall-mounted display in my office, operated by an Arduino microcontroller. Now, of course, I’ll need to do the same with this 300ZX cluster. After that, I’ll need a Subaru XT digital dash and maybe a touchscreen Electronic Control Center out of a late-80s Buick.

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28 Comments on “Don’t Try This At Home: Yes, I Bought the 300ZX Digital Instrument Cluster...”

  • avatar

    I enjoy living vicariously through you.

    • 0 avatar

      Its almost as if he reads my mind and actually does the stuff I only would like to know how/be able to do.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah exactly. It brings back fond memories of when I used to hunt in junkyards for nicer trim pieces and misc. parts back when I had cheap cars. Losing that is the worst part about owning a new(er) car.

  • avatar

    Murilee, I highly recommend ditching the Arduino Controller for a GHI Electronics .NET Gadgeteer Controller. Your life will be much easier.

    Besides, GHI is Detroit based and a great company to work with. Here’s a link:

    BTW, they have CAN and OBDII modules, so if you ever wanted to interface it with a real vehicle, you could do it.

  • avatar

    You might want to read this:

    Sounds like a fun project. Why don’t you supplement it with a assortment of voice warning modules? There is one in this car as well.
    I have a FSM, so if you need help, let me know.

  • avatar

    I look at that dash every day while driving my 84 300ZX.

    It is pure 80s awesome.

    All Z31 FSMs are available at

    • 0 avatar
      CA Guy

      The thing I miss most from my 300ZX Turbo is that amazing dash; every detail was fun. Loved the big digits that started appearing in the gas indicator when you hit the 5 gallons mark (and I seem to recall that when you hit 3 the “Fuel is low” voice command came on).

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    You need a Subaru XT instrument cluster to really spice up your collection, but do remember that the 1988 MX6 GT’s had a digi dash as well. Mine once had a bit of a space and showed an indicated 180, which was a bit of a surprise as I was parked at the time.

  • avatar

    Does it have a boost indicator for the turbo? If so that would increase the coolness factor of this 10 fold!

  • avatar

    I’d love to see a how-to for displaying one of these digital instrument clusters.

  • avatar

    That coulda been me who went to town on that gauge cluster. I was looking for a replacement for the ’86 300ZX 2×2 I had while at school in Greeley. Went with a traditional sweep needle instead.

    • 0 avatar

      Avatar theif! We must fight!

      seriously though, As soon as I saw the headline I said “oh I bet an Arduino could make that work, and sure enough….is there nothing those cool little things can’t do?

  • avatar

    Dig that crazy log scale on the tach… is there ANY reason RPM should be logarithmic?
    My 1985 Mustang GT had a little overhead car LED display to tell you if you had a door open or needed washer fluid… clearly Detroit envy.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the tach’s shape is supposed to reflect the engine’s power curve. The first use of LEDs as door and hatch open indicators that I can recall was in the 1977 Honda Accord.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not the shape – I just looked back and saw that the range gets heavily compressed the further up the scale you go: the whole spread from 3K through redline takes up less x-axis than 1K-2K!

        I agree – that’s kind of odd. I’d think that RPM in the meat of the power band approaching explodey-point is probably a heck of a lot more important to know than RPM in the parallel-parking range.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Ford had a thing for these overhead displays. My 1967 Thunderbird has an overhead display with reminder lights for door ajar, seat belts, low fuel and emergency flashers. Of course this 1960’s version has flashing incandescent bulbs rather than the LEDs found in 1980’s cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t see why the x axis would be log scale…that’s so analog! Must be some old school electronics hidden between the dash and the crank.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen a lot of theories of what the height of the bars represent on the curve.

      The best I’ve been able to tell is it is related to throttle position or fuel pressure/flow rate.

      This is through testing with my right foot and also messing around with the sensor connector on the fuel pressure regulator.

      Overall its hard to tell though. You get on the throttle and the bar height goes up, you let off and they go down. Is that boost, throttle, fuel, who knows.

      I have no issues seeing my redline but I also rarely look at my tach while driving. Also this isn’t a high revving engine where all your power is at the top end. It has a pretty wide power band.

  • avatar

    Ha! When I first saw the pic of that instrument panel, my first thought is “No way Murilee could resist it”. And I was right!

    That instrument panel in your Dodge A-100 van would blow people’s mind away, if you can get it to work in the staunchly electronic-averse old commercial van…

    • 0 avatar

      It might work. He could spin a small electric motor with the mechanical speedometer cable. The motor would generate electricity and he could measure the output. There are also encoder wheels available as well. everything else like the gas gauge I’m guessing is electrical, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually most of the early electronic speedos use a cable to drive them and they follow the SAE standard so it would likely be a matter of getting a custom speedo cable made or an adapter. Otherwise it would just be a matter of getting a speed sensor from a later Chrysler and possibly some electronics to change the pulse per mile to match that used by the Nissan if indeed it does not have a cable driving it since there is no SAE standard pulse per mile

  • avatar

    did you get the dash out of the (88 buick reatta sp.???) as well?
    Where is this wrecking yard: I am in Ft. Collins?

  • avatar

    Nice SEGA Master system you got there.

  • avatar

    For the Buick touch screen, I would recommend a 1989 Riviera screen. That was the most advanced version with a cool Buick emblem on startup and a function to set reminders. You will need the controller box, as the screen itself is just a dumb monitor. I always wanted to hack into my ’87 screen to extend the functionality, but I could never find good documentation on it. GM was about 20 years ahead of the industry on the dashboard touchscreen, and I thought it was well done for the time.

  • avatar

    forgetaboutit mr2bz, Murilee won’t tell you. I tried also!

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