Retro Future Nixie Corvair Instrument Panel

Closeup of the car dash with nixie tubes

The future we know today looks very different than the one envisioned in the 60s and 70s. For starters, it has far too few Nixie tubes. An oversight [nixiebunny] wants to address with his Nixie tube instrument panel.

All the essential info is there: engine temperature, tachometer, speed, battery voltage, and even odometer. You might have noticed that there isn’t a clock. The justification that [nixiebunny] gives is that he’s always wearing his Nixie watch, so a clock in his car seems redundant. There is also a gap in the panel to allow an oil pressure display. Corvairs are known for throwing belts next to the oil sender, so any attached sensor needs to be designed well and thought through. A Teensy receives engine telemetry data (no OBDII port to hook into — GM didn’t come out with the first OBD port until the 80s) from the engine bay. The data is transformed into SPI data sent to the 74HC595 shift register chain via a CAT5 cable. Details are a little sparse, but we can see a custom PCB to fit the shape of the hole in the dash with the different Nixie tube footprints silkscreened on.

We love seeing Nixie tubes in unexpected places. Like this POV Nixie clock or this Nixie robot sculpture.

21 thoughts on “Retro Future Nixie Corvair Instrument Panel

    1. Me too and I can attest to the issue of the belts, however, the solution to that was to not use CHEAP belts, the only belt I found that was a solution to the thrown belts was a Gate steel belted belt! My family had several Corvairs over the production years and we all used Gates belts. I drove my Corvair all through Highschool and saw the tach go over 6000 many times and as long as I had a Gates on those pulleys, NEVER had any problems. As for Ralph Nader, couldn’t have that unsafe at any speed!!! Of course my Uncle had an episode when he topped a bridge in our home town at over a 100 into the wind and the front came up and gave him a good scare. I learned from my Grandpa about that experience and I always kept that in mind along with a bit of iron in the trunk a lot of the times because I had a tendency to go as fast as I could far too often in that car. His was a turbocharged version which mine wasn’t but it was still capable of doing over 120. Those little cars in the turbo version sure gave a lot of Mustangs hell. Performance wise it was one of the first cars to break the 1HP per cubic inch from the factory. I would love to find another one and fix it up but at the age I am now, no real point in it. Mine was a 62 and I never really cared for the style in the early years, always preferred the 66 up style along with most people. I found one in Calif. that someone had replaced the stock engine with a front wheel drive Olds Toronado drive, engine and trans, the back seat was mostly done away with in that car but still had a little room there for small people. The dash in this one is obviously an early version as the later cars had dashes more like Camaros and Chevelles. I didn’t like those dashes either, but Grandpa would trade me his old well driven 67 for the 62 even after we restored it with an overhauled engine and swapped in 4 speed which the 67 already had. I sold mine back to him when I left for Calif and 17 years later I moved back home and one day found my old car still with the same license plates on it I put on in 1976, bought the car back from current owner but lost it in storage some years later after my first Heart attack, made me so mad. Now it’s almost impossible to even find one worth owning. This car went the same way all my cars have in life, down the road to someone else whether I wanted to get rid of it or not.

  1. Nice. I have many fond Corvair memories. My intro began when my parents bought a gold colored ’64 Corvair Wagon with hardly any miles on it. But money got tight and it was sold a few months later.

    Seven years passed and Dad changed employers. His company car was a ’66 Monza with automatic and a lot of miles on the clock. I learned to drive on her.

    In the early 70’s I bought a Corvair Greenbier Van that didn’t run. Rebuilt the motor and swapped it’s 3-speed with a 4-speed pulled from a junker 4-door Monza. It was a lot of fun to drive, but sold it to pay some bills.

    A few years later I bought a ’64 Monza. But was too busy to restore it. Sold it to another Corvair fan.

    Now I drive a 26 year old Ford Explorer that I factory ordered in 1996. Seems I have a thing for old tired cars.

  2. “Details are a little sparse…”
    If your definition of “sparse” is similar to “non-existent”, then I suppose I’d agree with you.
    It’s a very interesting project, I’d love to see some more “nuts and bolts” though.

  3. This is my car. I have been driving with this thing installed in my car for over 3000 miles, and it has had no problems with hot, cold, vibration or power. I plan to provide more details as soon as I get a chance to work out the few remaining bugs and mount it in the instrument panel housing where it belongs.

  4. This is so interesting! I’m currently swapping the entire drivetrain and electronics from a ’10 Prius into my ’64 Corvair Monza and among all of the other problems with that come integration of the Prius heads up display without looking bad. Something like this to show the current and voltage from the hybrid battery would be a good workaround.

    1. Mine was a 62 mona and I had 4by years , bought in 72 for $50 and drove it to Camp Pendeltin and back home to College Station …ie 1246 miles one way . I loved it but when I got station overseas my brothers drove it into a lake and left it . Got home 15 months later and nobody knew anything for 20 years then it came up one christmas and that how I found out what happen .after that came my 68 got judge and then life of married with children and no more cars except family . Boy I sure miss my mona thou

      1. I owned several Corvairs back in the day, and still have my 1965 Corsa Turbo. I’ve seen several EV conversions of them as well.

        GM built some Corvair EV prototypes themselves in 1964-66. They were pretty impressive performers. The Electrovair’s size, weight, performance, and range were essentially the same as the 1996 GM Impact EV (which became the EV-1). The Electrovairs had the same 100 HP AC induction motor, 3-phase inverter, no transmission, and high voltage battery pack as the Impact, 30 years earlier.

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