From Vintage to Modern: Upgrading the ’94 Silverado with CFR Series
New Vintage USA
October 13, 2023
Follow Along as we Install CFR Series Gauges in a ’94 Silverado
We began our search for a shop vehicle on a chilly April day. We happened to come across a blue ’94 Silverado with an LS swap that popped up on marketplace in Ohio. Because it was only about an hour and a half drive, we decided to make the trip and pick it up. This truck could be helpful in more ways than one. The truck was pretty solid, and the owner was a racing enthusiast who had taken good care with the wiring and additional upgrades. After a quick tune-up and some extra cleaning, the truck was ready to become our new shop truck.
We chose the New Vintage USA CFR Blue Kit (Part #89311-05) to do something a bit different and totally change up the look of the dash. The unique design will be the basis for the rest of the design choices we make on the truck. New Vintage USA has kits for ’88-’94 and ’95-’98 GM OBS trucks in a wide variety of unique, bold styles to look great in your build. The kit and some wiring are all you need to update the dash on your OBS truck to NVU gauges.
We are all about cool gauges, so we had to decide what series of gauge would help define our interior. The original gauges looked dated, and we needed to make sure our LS engine was monitored. New Vintage CFR Series blue gauges were chosen for this truck, and we wanted to share our installation process with you. This entire installation was done in our garage without any special tools. Let us show you how it was done.
The original cluster needed some attention, so the CFR Series gauges would give the dash a nice, updated look, and keep our LS engine functions monitored properly. The New Vintage USA gauges have all the modern features that you would expect from a 2023 vehicle. These features include performance timers, turn signals, high beam, warning lights, shift indicators, and more. The Holley 3.5-inch screen has some of the information we needed, but it was just too small to see while we were driving. Now we have a wow factor when you turn the car on and see the exciting new graphics of the CFR Series.
The kit includes the pressure and temperature senders that match New Vintage USA gauges. Always use the matching sender for the gauge as the OE units will have different ranges which will not work on other instruments. Also shown is NVU’s LS Kit (Part #99009-04), which will adapt aftermarket senders to the LS ports. The temperature sender is M12x1.5 and the oil pressure M16x1.5.
Prep begins with the temperature and pressure senders. Use some high-temp thread sealant and apply an even coating to the threads. Leave the first few threads free of sealant to ensure a good “bite” into the engine. Most senders use resistance to ground for the signal, so good contact is critical for proper readings. Do not use Teflon tape as it will degrade under heat and can create a bad ground, causing poor sender performance and inaccurate readings on the gauge.
The senders may need adapter bushings (NVU includes quarter-inch, three-eighths-inch, and half-inch bushings) to install in the engine. We are using the NVU LS Kit here. To prevent damage to the sender and bushings, you should always bench-install the sender in the bushing. Hold the bushing in a vise and tighten the sender until snug. Some sealant will creep out of the top threads, indicating a good seal.
There are two ways to install an oil pressure sender on an LS/Vortec engine. The first method is to replace the stock sender. It’s located on the upper rear of the block, passenger side.
Here you can see the sender location, next to the cam position sensor. When installing the new oil pressure sender, remember to always tighten from the bushing, not the sender, to avoid damage to the sender and/or bushing.
If the engine has been installed, spend the $10 and get the oil pressure sensor socket. The sensor has rounded corners, so it is a bit of a struggle to remove without the proper wrench. If the engine is out of the vehicle, you can use a standard wrench to remove it.
Alternatively, the oil pressure sender can be installed on the block-off plate just above the oil filter. The plate can be drilled and tapped, or do what we did—use this adapter piece and install the sender here as we wanted to retain the oil pressure reading on the Holley 3.5-inch screen.
Most V-8 engines have at least two coolant temperature ports that are usually on the end of the cylinder heads and/or the block. On anything using fuel injection, the PCM requires a coolant sensor for adjusting various engine parameters. GM usually has this sender on the driver-side front. We will leave this in place so that the computer can monitor and adjust as needed.
Made in Detroit
Stepper motor technology
Real glass lenses
Stainless steel or e-coated black bezels
Waterproof up to 35 PSI from the front
Integrated turn signals, high beam, check engine, and two additional indicators
Easy direct-drive reduces wiring time by 75%
Unobtrusive mini-OLED displays give you the information without disrupting the design.
Performance timers (0-60, eighth mile, quarter mile)
Settable odometer mileage
Sequential shift alert
Auxiliary inputs for any temperature or pressure gauge on OLED without additional boxes, modules or drivers
Ten additional warning input choices on OLED screen
Most cylinder heads use the same casting side to side, just flipped around 180 degrees, which leaves a port on the rear of the passenger-side head that can be used. Clean any debris from the 8mm hex head and remove the M12x1/.5 plug fitting.
Once the plug is removed, some coolant may drain from the head. Don’t worry. We can top off as needed later. Clean the area so that the flat sealing washer on the adapter can sit properly on the head. Use high-temperature thread sealant on the adapter and install it in the head. Use a wrench on the adapter, not the sender, when installing to avoid damage to the sender/bushing. Once the sealing washer is flat, snug down.
Crimp the connectors on the sender wire and run into the cab. When running wire, leave some slack for engine movement whenever there is a transition from engine to vehicle. Use zip ties or cable clamps to ensure the wires clear any exhaust and to prevent chafing.
Remove the 4 T-15 torx screws holding the dash cover plate. Pull out and disconnect the three switches on the left side of the dash. They all clip-on. The dimmer switch also clips out of the dash from the back, so that may be easier than the plug itself. The bezel can be lifted from the dash now.
We have removed the cluster for clarity. Remove the four 8mm screws (arrows) and the cluster pops right out. The plug shown is not clipped into the gauge assembly. It should slide right out. Depending on your truck, you may have to remove the radio to access the upper right screw. Our truck has a gauge mounting there so it was wide open.
If you have an automatic column shift, the shift cable needs to be disconnected from the PRNDL assembly. Use some needle-nose pliers and unhook the cable loop from the clip, which snaps out by grasping the cable with the plier jaws. You will have to reverse this process when re-installing.
Now you can move the original PRNDL assembly to the NVU bracket. Remove the two screws, slide out from the bottom, and re-install in the new bracket. The NVU kit also includes a lightbulb with terminals, so the shift position will still be visible at night. It’s those little details that really add up to a great look.
If you have a repair manual that has your wiring diagram, that is a great place to start. With so many variations on trucks, it’s difficult to find out the exact wiring schematic to use. We prefer to start with a diagram if it’s available and then probe the plug to verify and sort out any questions. The great thing about these trucks is the printed flexible circuit has everything labelled for you. Just trace the items back to the plug and connect there.
Here we are using some LEDs as a test light to verify the pinouts on the cluster. LEDs are polarity sensitive, which makes it easier to determine power and grounds. Start with power, ground, lights, turn signals, and then work your way to the senders.
This is where we spliced it into the factory harness. You can cut and crimp, but we opted to leave the factory plug in place in the event we need to get in there and figure something out later. The connections are soldered and taped, and then we will wrap the end in electrical and cloth anti-chafing tape. Everything is tucked in for installation. The orange wire on the left is for the lighting. Always use the parking light circuit when using LED lighting in gauges. The original dimmer is just not up to the task on LEDs. In addition, this image shows the trimming of the back support we did to make room for the wiring and gauge cases.
This is the best part when installing all NVU kits: The minor gauges simply plug into the speedometer and tach; then the two main harnesses are color-coded to splice into the vehicle. Once your two main harnesses are sorted, just plug them in and the wiring is complete! What makes this a really clean install is the gauges are self-contained and there is no need for any additional wiring of boxes, modules, or drivers to operate the kit.
Attach the original bezel to the new bracket assembly with the supplied or OE screws. Plug in the wiring harnesses, attach the shifter cable, and set in place. Secure to dash with original or included screws. Now its staring to look like something!
Reinstall the factory pieces: radio, switches, bezel, etc. We will be adding on an AFR, boost, and EGT gauge in the next stage. Luckily, NVU offers all of the add-on gauges that have the same CFR design so we can have a nice cohesive look. Using the original cluster bezel really makes this look like a perfect fit when completed.
Everything is installed. Now, all we need to do is power up the gauges and set up our tach and speedometer. New Vintage USA makes this super easy. All the setup menus are step-by step and clear to follow along on the OLED displays. These look great, and with the hidden turn signals, high beam, and indicator lights, it works just like a modern cluster with some added class. These have set a high bar for the rest of the truck. Hopefully we can take the rest of the build this far.