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New Original Stock: DIXCO Hood Mounted Tachometer

OK, let’s mix it up a bit and skip the sum of a car’s parts and just talk about the parts, specifically, the tachometer. Way back when there were certain manufacturers, like Pontiac, that thought it would be a good idea to mount a tachometer on the hood. It was a different twist on a performance equipment visual and placed the needed manual transmission gauge right in the driver’s line of sight. The idea caught on and just because you owned a car that didn’t offer such an option, you could get your own from Dixson Tachometer, hook it up (drill a hole or two) and you were off to the races. And for your review today, we have a NOS DIXCO tachometer from Dixson Inc. that is unused and uninstalled. It is located in Santa Cruz, California and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $375 with 37 bids tendered so far.

I always thought that a hood was a challenging environment for a gauge like a tachometer. It has to fight extreme temperature changes, moisture, bright sunlight (fading), and Ham-Handed Hank slamming the hood. Nevertheless, they were popular, and as you can see from the above image, Pontiac and its 1967 GTO, was one of the first devotees.

Dixson Incorporated was formed in 1958 by Bruce Dixson and his focus was on tachometers, a gauge that was frequently not found on U.S. domestic vehicles. Dixson ended up taking over the operations of General Meters in 1963, a financially failing company that supplied the DIXCO tachometers with its internal movements. In 1987, Dixson sold out to Ametek, a firm that continues to this day as an OEM supplier to a multitude of industries.

I have purchased tachometers over the years and particularly remember getting one through the Sears catalog back in around 1971 for all of about $15. More recent purchases have been small Auto-Meter under dash units – I can honestly say that the idea of buying a hood-mounted tachometer never occurred to me. I guess that I just assumed they were OEM specific to the marque and not necessarily a universal piece.

The seller of this tachometer likened it to the one that was installed on Yenko’s 1970 Chevrolet Nova “Deuce” and in fact, Dixson did supply the components that Don Yenko employed on his hot-rod Nova. If you’ll note the similarities, the biggest difference, among others, is the Yenko name stamped prominently in the lower center.

In trying to date this piece, I would suggest that it is from the mid-70s based on the instruction sheet which illustrates a GM Delco-Remy HEI unit. As I recall, the HEI unit was introduced in Model Year ’74 so this tach is from at least then and perhaps later. And that makes me think about value. Is this DIXCO tach rare enough that it should be consigned to a collection as opposed to being put into service? A company called Scott Drake does offer new hood-mounted tachometers but they retail for over $400 – then again, there’s no telling where the bidding will top out on this NOS piece. What’s your suggestion, keep this one, as is, for posterity, or go for it and just install it?

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    Everyone bought a tachometer in the late sixty’s and early 70’s dixco

    Like 3
  2. Cadmanls Member

    Still have this one sticker on my toolbox called the Illuminator

    Like 12
  3. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    Back around 1978, I acquired a discarded Sun aftermarket tach similar to the one pictured from my friend’s Cuda that he also unfortunately got rid of. I was kind of in between cars at the time, my sister had sold me her 74(?) 6-cylinder, automatic Hornet for $350, so I installed the tach in the dash in one of the unused “holes”. It actually looked pretty good, but I don’t think I ever saw the needle go over “3”.

    Like 11
  4. Moparman Member

    A relative of mine ordered a 68 Gran Prix with the hood mounted tach. It was sent back to PMD three times, but they were never able to get it to function properly!! :-)

    Like 4
  5. Camaro Joe

    I “inherited” Dad’s 64 Imperial (beater) hunting car to drive back to college after Christmas in early 1975. Since the speedometer didn’t work, I borrowed the aftermarket 2″ dash tach that I’d installed under the dash of my 62 Impala that was stored for the winter.

    The Imperial made it from PA to Kingston ON and ran good until I graduated. After a party, a friend and I went to an early breakfast with a couple girls we knew and headed for campus to take the girls back to their dorm.

    I came around a corner onto Johnson St, gassed up the Mopar 413 and went up the street about 15 degrees sideways for 1/8 mile or so. Kingston’s finest didn’t like that and stopped us.

    The conversation went . . . “You were going sideways.” “Yes Officer, but I was in my own lane and going straight.” “How fast were you going?” “Well I don’t know for sure, the speedometer is broken. But I can tell off the tach, knowing the engine RPM, transmission gear ratio, and rear end gear ratio, I can tell my speed.” “So how fast were you going?” “I don’t know, the tach light is burned out and I can’t see it at night. Plus the rear tires were spinning.” The last question was “where are you going?” HOME Officer, straight home.

    At that point he must have thought that I was sober enough to make it home
    and he knew that legal services could fight any charges long enough for me to graduate and get out of the country, so he let us go.

    BTW – the 62 Impala is still around, but it doesn’t need a tach. Just crank it up to 60 MPH (about 5200 RPM) and put the PowerGlide in drive. The tach sat on a pallet rack for 40+ years, but I put it in a 1943 MB Jeep with a SB Chevy, 6″ lift kit, and 36″ tires. Not that I intend to go fast with that thing, but it looks cool at the car shows.

    Like 10
  6. Howard A Member

    Finally, about time Jim mixed it up. Accessories and gee-gaws were just as much a part of our youth as the cars themselves. Parts stores made a KILLING on young punks like me, wanting to dress up grandmas Valiant, and a tachometer, no mater what make or motor, was a vital one. Even though, for most practical purposes, engines, especially smaller ones, didn’t have the carburetion to over rev, kind of a built in governor, of sorts, and a tachometer was merely something to watch. Later, it, to insurance companies, it indicated a reckless driver, with stats to prove it and I remember them charging extra if a car had one.
    Today, a tachometer is probably the most useless gauge, and every vehicle has one. Talk about gee-gaws making it into the 21st century. Like you’re really going to drive your Honda Fit around at redline all day. Hood mounted tachs weren’t very popular in the snow belt for obvious reasons and besides Pontiac,, the only other car I knew that had one was the AMC Machine, which was part of the hood scoop.
    Since we’re talkin’ must have doo-dads that didn’t require an engine hoist, there was the floor shifter, wheels of some kind and big tires, something to raise the car to make clearance for said big tires( there were several options) something to make it louder, and of course, THE MOST important, an 8 track stereo( and a 12v battery in the back seat for 6v cars) Feel free to add any I missed. No “cams”, or “headers”, just stuff you could do in the garage on a Sat. afternoon. After all, had to be ready to “cruise the avenue” by dark.
    For the record, “Ham-Handed Hank” never went under MY hood.

    Like 4
    • Cadmanls Member

      Howard I had an 4 track in my car right before 8 tracks, soon after could not get a 4 track tape cartridge.

      Like 6
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      Another thing was when you bought a set of BRAND NEW tires!
      I remember how cool it was when I had a set of T/A radials on Keystone-
      Classic rims on my ’72-1/2 Toyota RN 22 pickup.
      And I also put a Craig Powerplay 8 track player in it.I have one of
      those around here that I picked up,but never installed on any of my
      vehicles.Probably should sell it.

      Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        “New” tires were quite the luxury. There were so many used tires, my old man hung them off our pier to bump into. It didn’t matter if they matched, an F70-14 was an F70-14. Cars then burned tires off so fast, new tires was a poor investment, especially when dads worn out snow tires made excellent drag slicks,,

        Like 3
      • piston poney

        high school kids having every gauge at the parts house under the dash is still a thing, and some of us even have the big sunpro tack on the dash, and those that drive diesels have gauges on the a pillar. and yes we still buy used tires, and those of us that like to do burnouts, well, we find the hardest tires we can, as long as their isnt chunks of tread falling off them and not to meany cords showing we run them till we see about half the cords and those that can afford new tries usually dont get them anyway.

        Like 2
    • Barney

      I can’t calculate how many sets of high jacket air shocks installed on the back of cars for customers back in the early seventies. Another very popular accessory was those tube shaped head rests that attaché to the back of the front seats.

      Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        Air shocks? Where were you working, the post office? Air shocks, which was clearly the preferred method, were pricey. We all used those coil over helper springs that crushed the shock. You had to, to keep them from slipping. Some just bolted in metal bars in place of the shocks for clearance. If the springs weren’t enough, you could get those “extensions”. Coil springs weren’t so easy. Remember those rubber blocks you lost on the 1st RR track, those aluminum “turny things”, same thing, 1st big bump. Then there was the “cranking the torsion bars” on Mopars, all those things raised the body, but had detrimental effects on the handling, but at the time, who cared?

      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Howard and BF friends, No

        need for those air shocks, spring spacers or lift kits [no coil or leaf springs] on V8 Packard cars!

        In College I had a 1955 Packard 400 2-door hardtop with the Rare 3-speed & overdrive, and the Caribbean dual quad setup. That year Packard had introduced the Torsion Level Ride, and in addition to the interconnected 12′ torsion bars, there was a pair of 3′ torsion bars on the rear axle, the other ends connected to a 12v electric motor and gearbox. There was a sensor that would turn the motor on or off to automatically adjust the ride height to normal, regardless of how many bottle of booze you were smuggling into the county [whoops, I mean how much luggage you had in the trunk.].

        There was a switch under the left side of the dash that allowed the automatic torsion bar to be turned off. If I was in the mood to run the car like a racer, I would stand on the rear bumper until the back of the car was fully lifted [and the front bumper dropping about 2 inches], hopping off the bumper, I would flip the switch to “off”. Now I had the body rake so popular for the time.

        Packards had a push-pull switch just above the ignition switch, to raise and lower the antenna. I took one of those switches off a parts car and replaced the on-off switch with it, running a pair of power wires to the motor relays. Now I could raise and lower the suspension from the comfort of my padded leather driver’s seat!

        But I installed the switch to operate opposite the direction the switch was moved. Pushing up made the body drop down. Why? There was a reason to my madness. The local constabulary would hassle guys with the rear end raised, often citing them for not having the headlights set correctly.

        Twice I was pulled over for the rake situation, and by the time the cop asked me for my license & registration, I had already pushed the button up with my left knee until the car was level.

        What do you mean officer? My rusty 20 year ‘ol ’55 Packard — a race car? Doesn’t look like one to me!

        Like 2
  7. Howie Mueler

    $429 now with 5 days to go.

    Like 3
  8. Lynn Dockey Member

    Olds used the hood mounted tach too

    Like 2
    • 19sixty5 Member

      Curious as to what Oldsmobiles had a hood mounted tach. I know Pontiac introduced them in 1967, American Motors had one integrated into the factory hood on the Rebel Machine, and Buick also offered one on the GSX. Olds had tachs available on the console, in the dash, on the left side of the dash, and of course the tic-tock-tack. In the mid 70’s, the Hurst Olds offered a digital tach made by Harman Electronics that was also available in the Hurst Grand Prix. I graduated high school in 1970, have been around these cars all my life and just don’t recall an Olds with a hood tach… I’d love to know about it if there was one!

      Like 1
      • Lynn Dockey Member

        My mistake. I meant Buick. GSX 455

        Like 1
  9. chrlsful

    “…install it?…”
    depends on how many inches hi it is
    Drive for tq here so only needed w/curiosity, tunes, the PTO, etc…

    I could see it w/the ’60s muscle tho
    (or the revers & they need higher ‘numbers’).

    “…they retail for over…” See the price on any tach ina catalogue?

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Yes, no, what, if, however, & maybe – maybe if I understood what you’re trying to say.

      JO

      Like 4
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        I hear you Jim, I never understand there posting. Great article by the way! I put an old tach in my Willys, pretty much because it looks cool. Like my old buddy Howard said above this was more for looks. No real need for a tach with that hurricain flathead motor. You can hear when it is time to grab a gear. Take care, Mike.

        Like 1
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        Thank you, Mike!

        JO

        Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        Hey Mike, for the most part, they are for looks, however, they serve a useful purpose. While like you say, there’s very little danger or chance of over revving a flathead. More than once, the return spring broke or linkage jammed and it was a “dry wind” for the old flattie for a spell until you shut it off. Surely sounded like 20,000 rpms, but really, maybe 4 grand is all they’d turn. On machines with PTO’s and hydraulic setups, that have a specific “operating range”, a tach is essential. Mom’s soccer SUV, not so much.

        Like 1
  10. Camaro Joe

    Leiniedude, you’ve got me beat. My 1960’s tach is in a 1943 MB Army Jeep that my cousin built, but it’s got a SB Chevy, so there might be a little bit of a reason for it. With 36″ Desert Dogs and 6″ lift kit, I’m not racing sports cars. The tach is there to remind me to shift below 3000 RPM.

    And there’s the 9″ drum brakes. . . . In a panic stop situation, the fastest way to slow it down is downshift to second gear. It did crack a brake line after 74 years, so I gave it a dual master cylinder and new lines. It does have a roll bar and racing belts, but I gott’a work on better brakes and a fuel cell. Good luck with your Willys, mine is actually a Ford Jeep body and frame, but it’s built with a Chevy motor and mostly 1942 Willys parts.

    Like 1
  11. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Hey Camaro Joe, it sounds like a smart build. Best of luck! My wagon is mostly stock. Along with the tach I added a gun rack that is not for looks. And my favorite. Here is a pic of the hood ornament. You might have to click on the photo. Take care, Mike.

  12. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Howard,

    I have in my hands, a 1959 J C Whitney Auto Accessories and parts catalog, where I was able to find the spring “helpers” you spoke of. Pages 275 to 278 have items like:

    Coil Spring Booster, forged steel, 98 cents each.
    Rubber Coil Spring Stabilizer, set of 4, $2.98.
    Coil Spring Wedges, set of 4, $1.49. “Easy installation with hammer!”
    Easy-Ride Helper Springs, Coil fits over shocks, $6.95 pair.
    Air Lift brand Pneumatic Spring Control [air bags], from $13.50 pair.

    And on the next page is one of the best deals in the catalog:

    1956 Hudson Hornet 6 cylinder engine, 308 cu in, BRAND NEW complete engine including dual carburetors, even fanbelts! Less clutch & transmission. “This complete engine is offered for non automotive uses and Stock Car Racers”! The price? Only $229.00, FOB Columbus, OH.

    This kinda explains how AMC sold off their excess stock of Hudson engines, as the ad also mentioned regular Wasp single carb complete engines too! For 1956, Hudson only made slightly more than 8,000 Hornets, & I can imagine they had a fairly large excess of 308 dual carb “Twin H Power” engines waiting in the sidelines.

    Trying to separate Hudsons from Nash cars, in 1957 Nash kept their old 6 cylinder engines and Hudsons were now standard with either the new 250 V8 or the 327 V8, the old 308 dropped forever [Source Wikipedia].

    In 1951 Hudson began cleaning up in the stock car racing circuits as a result of the Hornet Twin H Power engine and the body’s low center of gravity, but by 1956, the engine was no longer the leader, and the Automotive Manufacturers Association was soon to place a ban on all racing support.

    Like 2
  13. Camaro Joe

    Nice hood ornament Mike. I had a 55 Willys wagon in high school, but I don’t remember it having a hood ornament like yours. There were only two 4WD vehicles in the school parking lot and the girl who had the other one didn’t have a tow chain. A lot of people went out of their way to be nice to me just in case they got stuck in the snow.

    Dad sold it in November 1971 after I went to college. All the people whose driveways I used to plow expected him to plow, so I got a note from Mom that the Jeep was gone.

    I always wanted another one, but ended up with the 1943 MB Jeep after my Cousin passed away. On the way home from the hospital his wife asked me if I wanted it, so I said sure. If I was drinking I would have an excuse for wanting something I shouldn’t have and don’t need, but I was stone cold sober in the middle of the afternoon.

    It sits way too high, the Desert Dog tires actually don’t have much rubber on the road, and it has way too much power, so it’s dangerous. I’m not scared of it, just very careful. It would be a great off road vehicle, but my Cousin gave it a big buck paint job and the body came from California, so it’s way too clean and nice to off road. It goes to a car show once in a while, otherwise it sits. I still want a Willys Wagon, but there’s no more room in the barn.

    – Joe

    Like 1
  14. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Jan 23, 2022 , 9:00PM
    Winning bid:
    US $635.00
    [ 47 bids ]

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