FIT AN ELECTRONIC FITCENTREAN SPEEDOMETER CENTRE SPEEDOMETER
With classic aesthetics and modern digital workings, this new centre speedo from Smiths is a fantastic upgrade.
We can never help but get drawn in by the cool gadgets and flashing lights of the digital dash displays and instruments at the shows. They can look perfect in a modified car, and can be especially handy if you’re building a non-ASeries Mini and need a higher rev range or more warning lamps. For a more original car, it’s tough to beat a Smiths centre clock speedo though, as fitted from ’59 right through to the mid-‘80s on certain models. Not only do they suit the Mini’s basic aesthetics, they also include an integral fuel gauge and all the essential dash warning lights. It truly keeps things simple.
Caerbont Automotive Instruments, the manufacturer of Smiths instruments, has recently launched a new digital version of the classic centre clock, and it’s something we were very excited to get our hands on. This updated speedo is outwardly very similar, which is ideal, but internally it’s far more advanced. Turn the unit over and instead of bulb holders, a voltage regulator and a speedo cable drive input from the industrial revolution, there’s one simple plug connector on a billet aluminium casing. Perfectionists will most definitely approve, because the rear is usually visible from under the bonnet, often with a mass of untidy wiring and plastic cowling. There’s also internal LED lighting, a digital milometer and a choice of black or magnolia faces in either 90mph and 130mph designs.
But away from the aesthetics, the main advantage is that you can ditch the mechanical speedo cable and run a digital speed sender instead, therefore you can also reposition the unit more easily. Digital Speedos offers three different options for a Mini speed sensor – a speedo drive digital adapter (£29.95), a magnetic type for driveshaft mounting (£24.95), and a GPS receptor (£69.95).
The Mini-specific digital adapter is the closest to a direct replacement, although access is incredibly tricky, as you’ll probably know if you’ve ever had to fit a new speedo cable. The magnetic sensor may take a bit of mounting ingenuity, whereas the GPS sensor is the simplest solution of all. With the GPS option the reading is irrelevant of wheel speed, functioning like a sat nav, albeit much faster at 10Hz verses 1Hz. Of course the signal will cut out in longer tunnels, which could be an issue on Euro road trips. It is road legal and will pass an MoT but not an IVA test. Ultimately the best choice depends on your DIY skills/patience and car usage.
A replacement 130mph speedo costs around £175 new and 90mph options are only available second hand. This unit is £349.95 from Digital Speedos and other Mini specialists, plus the cost of the speed sensor. It’s just over twice the price, for the huge leap forward in both functionality and design, so these are sure to be very popular. Here’s how it fits…