Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Aircraft gauges

Has anyone out there done, or seen done, a retrofit of aircraft gauges into automotive applications ?
Is there a company who make automotive gauges in aircraft style ?
( A short google search comes up…short. Real aircraft gauges or automotive. )

The idea being floated is from a rock crawling jeepist who wants a tilt angle indicator and thought an airplane artificial horizon would look snazzy in his jeep.
Then he added to that a ‘‘what if’’.
What if he could retrofit the entire gauge cluster with aircraft, complete with altimeter and airspeed indicator.

The 83-85 Toyota Tercel 4wd wagon had these on its dash. If you are lucky, you might find one in a junk yard, but they are getting rare. Once in a while, one will appear on ebay.

Maybe he could get these

This is what it looks like:

Explore Justen Yehle

This is from an 83. The car just sold on ebay for over $3200.

You mean like these?

You’ll not find an Attitude Indicator (the correct name) among these, however. That’d include a gyro stabilized platform…in short, he’d need to install the whole unit and power it.

Try Googling “general aviation attitude indicator systems”.

Or, with a bit of creativity, some gimbles and clear plastic balls from the toy store, some model paint, and a tape weight, he could probably make one!

And aircraft instruments generally want more voltage than cars supply (14 or 28v). Expect to spend a grand on the attitude indicator alone unless you go to a boneyard and get stuff off of a junked plane.

When he says he wants to fit an airspeed indicator, does he mean a real airspeed indicator, or does he mean make his speedometer look like an airspeed indicator. Because you can do the latter with a laser printer and transparency paper, whereas the former requires you to mount a pitot tube to the outside of the jeep, and then you’d never get an accurate reading because airspeed is very different from groundspeed. You can do 40kts airspeed sitting still if the wind blows hard enough.

Another option would be to put an Android tablet in there:

Don’t Confuse Gauges With Instruments. You Want Instruments And You’re Searching For Gauges.


Ironically, I have a true airspeed indicator in my trunk as we speak for a test I’m running.

Anyway, your best source of these types of instruments might just be small rural airports. The really rural ones in the midwest where cropdusters commonly use the roads as runways might just yield some instruments. These places will sometimes have a local repair facility, and they sometimes have old junk hanging around. You might even get lucky and snag that pitot tube that Shadow mentioned.

And shadow is right about the voltage.

They came to me with this request because I am a pilot and a former Cessna 172 owner. But all my old connections at the airport have moved on or passed on. Can’t just waltz in there and start chatting up the current techs for used decertified parts. Heck, these days , you can’t even just stroll into an airport shop and hanger area without going through security.

Good point. I think perhaps the requester is going to have to befriend Google.

I’ve never retrofitted one but if he’s looking for an artificial horizon (that’s what I call them) he might consider checking with “The Yard Store” in Wichita, KS.
They deal in surplus aircraft metal, tools, etc. and generally they have some airplane gauges/instruments floating around there.

My memory is fuzzy on this but I think they were getting 25-40 bucks for an artificial horizon the last time I was there and had half a dozen or so of varying sizes. They have a website and ship UPS.
I go there quite frequently and feel like a pig in slop. :slight_smile:

As to other gauges I’d say they could be retrofitted without too much hassle but indicated airspeed might be a stretch. A Jeep with a pitot tube; that ought to get a few questions. :slight_smile:

Hope that helps.

Yah, who needs actual air speed when you’re rock crawling at a whopping .005 mph ?
I think he wants the air speed dial to use as the speedometer.
And if he can do a whole cluster in ‘‘aircraft’’ , he’ll play up the whole theme with the Red Baron goggles, white scarf and bomber jacket when at the rallies. (see to view videos of rallies )

Well in that case…

Scroll halfway down.

Cute, and that might be the way to finish the theme once he gets a tilt angle attitude indicator and has his jeep calibrated and red lines marked.

Avoiding imminent roll over is his primary objective. If he could first get an aircraft artificial horizon then he’d complete the aircraft theme. He’s been ''crap your britches" close to tipping over before.

I just thought of something. Would a dealer in heavy equipment sell inclinometers?

Wouldn’t a turn/slip indicator work?

Not if you wanted to know pitch.

coop2364, Have you seen rock crawling rallies ? A real big recent one was in Moab Utah.
The danger here is tipping and rolling the Jeep left or right.
In several areas my co-worker was at a point where he felt that if he took a deep breath or turned his head wrong it would upset the precarious balance and over he’d go. He even thought of using a person as a couterbalance outrigger like you see in yachting ( though you never see Jeepers doing this cuz if it does go over the outrigger person is in a perilous position for great physical harm. )

We have seen tip/level indicators for campers but they don’t include the steep angles the Jeep can take. I told him to buy four and glue them in a side by side arc.

Heavy equipment suppliers must have them. It’s criitical for an HEO to know the angle of his loader, excavator, or crane.