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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I bought an '81 El Camino this year, actually for a daily work car. It needs some work, but it's turning out to be a nice car. I had the 267 engine modified, so it's got some pep to it now.

The instrument cluster is next on my list. They work mostly, but they can be flaky, and the cluster trim is a mess. As I have been looking, I've been getting the impression that not only are the '81 panels the hardest to find, but I also suspect that whoever tried to restore this car didn't do a very good job. I have a feeling that this dash and instrument cluster may actually be from a '79.

My questions are:
  1. Is the cluster in my car actually from a '79?
  2. How interchangeable are the components?
For my purposes, I'm not looking for a restoration, but to take what's there and get it working.
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126804
 

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The gauge covers are interchangeable, although some changes were made from 83 on. Those put a switch on the lower right side. I can't remember the function of the switch. Your 79 looks very similar to my 78's.
 

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I've got an "84 and the gauge cluster looks just like what you've got. I had to replace the printed circuit after I bought it because only one dash light and one turn signal indicator worked. That fixed my problem but I just got it repainted and it sat at the body shop for four months and when I got it back none of the four gauges in the center worked. I seem to have good power and ground so I might have to replace it again. I also installed dimmable LED's while I had the dash apart, made a huge difference.
 

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I bought an '81 El Camino this year, actually for a daily work car. It needs some work, but it's turning out to be a nice car. I had the 267 engine modified, so it's got some pep to it now.

The instrument cluster is next on my list. They work mostly, but they can be flaky, and the cluster trim is a mess. As I have been looking, I've been getting the impression that not only are the '81 panels the hardest to find, but I also suspect that whoever tried to restore this car didn't do a very good job. I have a feeling that this dash and instrument cluster may actually be from a '79.

My questions are:
  1. Is the cluster in my car actually from a '79?
  2. How interchangeable are the components?
For my purposes, I'm not looking for a restoration, but to take what's there and get it working.
View attachment 126803 View attachment 126804
That’s not an 81 dash. I have a 1981 and they came with the earlier dash with the sliding mph guage with dummy lights for the most part.
the dash easily comes out with 4 screws below under the dash and 3 on top under your black trim.
 

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this is the early Gbody SWEEP Style speedo.. pic1
but they both have the dash pod connector that is usually the problem,,
it does not lock in, just makes contact when you push the pod in..pic2

as 464 has said,
try and wiggle the lower right corner of the pod, see if its loose, or
see if it makes any difference on the gauges..

sometimes you can remove the bezel loosen the mount screws and
wiggle it enuff to make a good connection, sometimes it needs cleaning/repairing..


GAUGE EARLY.jpg
gaugePC2.jpg
 

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gweimer1, you've got a really good looking car. Should be easy to restore or to upgrade, depending on your desire for it.
Many different items are interchangeable from 1978 to 1987.
JJLT1 is correct. I have a '78 with the sweep style, and a '79 with the gauge package (clock, would rather have the tach), but both years had models which were built in the opposite configuration as well.
Your pic looks like my '79 cluster, except you have a much nicer woodgrain look.
 

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I bought an '81 El Camino this year, actually for a daily work car. It needs some work, but it's turning out to be a nice car. I had the 267 engine modified, so it's got some pep to it now.

The instrument cluster is next on my list. They work mostly, but they can be flaky, and the cluster trim is a mess. As I have been looking, I've been getting the impression that not only are the '81 panels the hardest to find, but I also suspect that whoever tried to restore this car didn't do a very good job. I have a feeling that this dash and instrument cluster may actually be from a '79.

My questions are:
  1. Is the cluster in my car actually from a '79?
  2. How interchangeable are the components?
For my purposes, I'm not looking for a restoration, but to take what's there and get it working.
View attachment 126803 View attachment 126804
I bought an '81 El Camino this year, actually for a daily work car. It needs some work, but it's turning out to be a nice car. I had the 267 engine modified, so it's got some pep to it now.

The instrument cluster is next on my list. They work mostly, but they can be flaky, and the cluster trim is a mess. As I have been looking, I've been getting the impression that not only are the '81 panels the hardest to find, but I also suspect that whoever tried to restore this car didn't do a very good job. I have a feeling that this dash and instrument cluster may actually be from a '79.

My questions are:
  1. Is the cluster in my car actually from a '79?
  2. How interchangeable are the components?
For my purposes, I'm not looking for a restoration, but to take what's there and get it working.
View attachment 126803 View attachment 126804
 

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That looks like an 84 wood grain to me. Definetly didn't come with that color bezel and the maroon interior.
 

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I've got an 81 and looks exactly the same. Unsure if it's original. One thing I noticed when trying to search for a replacement bezel is the windscreen wiper switch (bottom left) which doesn't seem to appear on the replacement 82-87 that I've seen.
 

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I've got an 81 and looks exactly the same. Unsure if it's original. One thing I noticed when trying to search for a replacement bezel is the windscreen wiper switch (bottom left) which doesn't seem to appear on the replacement 82-87 that I've seen.
the wiper switch is on the dash for the 78-81 & not on 82-87, the 82-87 wiper switch is on the turn signal arm
 

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While gathering parts to convert my heat only '78 to a factory style A/C system, I ran across a very nice condition '81 A/C dash (minus instrument cluster) and A/C airbox.
With an upgrade conversion gauge kit and shadow box, I can use my old '78 cluster shell.
20200809_201814.jpg
20200809_201851.jpg
 

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the wiper switch is on the dash for the 78-81 & not on 82-87, the 82-87 wiper switch is on the turn signal arm
Do you know if it's possible without too much effort to swap to the 82-87 wiper switch on the turn signal?

It's much harder to obtain a replacement 78-81 bezel
 

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don't know? the wiring is different ?
 
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