Sixty years ago, you could find electrical engineer and innovative thinker, Vern Westberg, pouring sand castings in his family’s Illinois backyard. Today, if you spied your neighbor casting aluminum on a Saturday morning you might consider calling some national security hotline. But in 1957, it wasn’t all that unusual to find some resourceful citizen making their own car parts. Vern, as it turns out, was doing something particularly exciting: He was developing the very first AutoMeter gauges and, in turn, birthing a legacy.
A Rich History
AutoMeter has long been a name associated with precise and reliable performance-minded instrumentation. And, in fact, it’s been that way from the start. You see, ol’ Vern was tinkering in the backyard just as the horsepower wars were dawning. And while speed and performance were quickly becoming the name of the game, there simply weren’t parts available to stand up to high-power, high-heat racing demands. Something that is so simple today—finding quality gauges—wasn’t an option back then. Luckily, Vern went to work to change that.
In the early days, Vern cast the parts in his backyard and his sons helped him assemble them in the basement at night. By 1958, AutoMeter tachometers were sold in “some-assembly-required” kits through popular magazines and papers. Within one year, the business received an order large enough to merit a production move to a new facility in Elgin, IL. The next 10 years is where the company really went to work, though. Launching a Test Equipment division and establishing its trademark Super Bezel™ design, Auto Meter built enough momentum to take over nearly any industry with an engine. By 1969, the company covered everything from race cars and motorcycles to boats and aircraft, and released the first rev-limiting tachs.
Throughout the next three decades, AutoMeter continued to produce standard-defining products, including the industry-leading Monster tach, performance-minded Sport-Comp and Pro-Comp gauges, popular lightweight Ultra-Lite and Phantom series, revolutionary data-logging systems, and the Cobalt series—the first LED through-dial lit gauges. By the early 2000s, AutoMeter’s drive to continually develop and innovate new products and styles made it possible for the company to expand, systematically acquiring major names like F1-related STACK Ltd., drag racing-minded Dedenbear Products, and NASCAR-refined ProParts LLC.
Since the 1960s, it’s safe to say that you couldn’t go to an auto event without seeing AutoMeter gauges everywhere. Heck, I don’t think you could go to any internal combustion-driven faction without seeing that iconic badging. Today, AutoMeter offers over 70 lines of gauges that cover just about any application, in both mechanical and digital configurations. Additionally, the company has extended its renowned work with performance-minded instrumentation to the realm of modern driver technology.
In 2010, AutoMeter dazzled the street rod market with its Prestige Series. Available in a variety of finishes and either mechanical or digital formats, these gauges are the perfect blend of classic styling and modern precision.
Period-correct looks hide a bevy of technology, allowing AutoMeter to provide accurate readings with excellent readability, transforming both the form and function of the dash.
In 2013, AutoMeter snagged SEMA’s “Best New Product” award for its traction-enhancement Boost Controller. Giving drivers absolute control over power delivery, the AutoMeter Boost Controller can define boost pressure by either RPM or gear. The controller is built into a standard 2 1/16-inch gauge, making installation and monitoring simple and streamlined. It also provides a data logging feature that reports both vacuum and boost, a pro-control output that sends signals to other devices, and a self-diagnosing measure of its own tach and speed inputs.
By the next year, AutoMeter rolled into SEMA with two more revolutionary products: GPS-Accurate Speedometers and a fully-customizable LCD Competition Dash meant to withstand the most rigorous applications. The company proudly considers it to be the “next evolution of driver communication and data acquisition.”
With no intentions of slowing down, AutoMeter partnered with Palmer Performance in 2015 to develop OBDII-related products. The company’s incredible DashControl™ manipulates factory displays through a plug-in device to provide performance info with absolutely no modification required, making it warranty and lease-friendly. AutoMeter’s AirDrive module provides a similar plug-and-play solution by wirelessly transmitting data from your vehicle to an easy-to-mount gauge cluster. Everything is controlled via a free smartphone app, allowing for innumerable customizations and simple monitoring.
And speaking of smartphone apps, AutoMeter just redesigned its award-winning DashLink software, which allows users to display virtual gauges on any Android or iOS tablet by simply plugging a module into the OBDII port. Providing customizable displays, data logging, peak recall, GPS-track mapping, the ability to read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, and much more, DashLink represents the company’s commitment to providing cutting-edge performance instrumentation.
When you select an AutoMeter gauge it’ll do way more than simply look good. It’ll give you an accurate, real-time reading of the system of interest. Remember that cheap knockoffs are cheap parts, and pinching pennies means low-quality gauges with readings that will be off by a number of increments. When it comes to tapping into the system for a live reading of the condition of the running quality, whether it be oil pressure, engine temp, engine RPM or even speed, the idea of having an untrustworthy reading is simply not an option. An AutoMeter part will be more of an investment yes, but there’s simply no replacement for the accuracy, precision, and durability it provides. Owning an AutoMeter product means you own a piece of history. And that’s exactly what crowns them king of the hill in this segment of the industry.