Dashing Success—An inside look at the Haltech IC-7 digital dash

In 1817, the German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn invented a device to measure machine speed and it was dubbed the tachometer. Fast forward to the 1960s and the first golden age of hot rodding saw its use became common in all types of vehicles. By the time the Mustang boom kicked off in the 1990s, an Auto Meter Monster Tach and corresponding shift-light became commonplace, along with a cowl-mounted fuel pressure gauge, as they were as much status symbols as they were tools for information.

Today, data is widely regarded as the world’s most valuable commodity. Mechanical gauges are still cool and useful, but with the sophistication of engine management systems, digital displays are common. The latest player to step into the arena is Haltech. For 34 years, the Australia-based company has designed and produced engine management systems. Late last year, the company announced the IC-7 digital display for use with all Haltech ECUs via the CAN network, and a second unit designed for use with OEM engine management systems via the OBD-II access port, also using CAN.

Nine-time NMRA QA1 True Street winner Mike Jovanis worked with Haltech for many years, so it was no surprise when he nabbed one of the first IC-7 digital dashboards from the company. We followed along as he installed it in his mid-7-second street car.

The IC-7 offers a 7-inch display screen with six buttons integrated into the housing for screen control. Engineers elected to skip a touchscreen capability after consulting with several racers and car builders, thus relying on buttons along the perimeter for dimming, cycling through the screens, and alarm controls. The purpose was to keep the display as clean as possible instead of constantly cleaning fingerprints off it.

Our first impression of the hardware was its high-quality enclosure and the use of buttons instead of a touchscreen, a move Haltech intentionally made to keep the screen clean of fingerprints.

The backside shows the simplicity of the IC-7 with the large 34-pin connector receives a pre-pinned and pre-terminated connector that is used for power, ground, turn indicators, parking-brake activation, etc. The round USB port connects the dash to the Elite ECU and Jovanis ran his wire behind the dash and out of sight.

The built-in shift indicators are made up of 14 LED lights and are completely configurable, including the color. They can also double up as warning indicators for any sensor that is run through the Elite engine management system. The tachometer in the IC-7 is dramatically more sophisticated than the one designed in 1817. It can be composed as a needle-style tach or bar graph, and units of measure for each can be imperial or metric—Lambda or AFR is also available for other sensors. Alarms and the aforementioned on-screen warning signal/shift light is available for any sensor, as well. The IC-7 carries an IP66 water resistant rating for those times when your topless whip gets caught in the rain.

Jovanis selected a blank panel from Florida 5.0 to mount the IC-7 in the Fox Mustang instrument cluster. The company offers panels to fit an assortment of other gauge and digital displays for ease of installation.

The first concern was the IC-7 fitting in the opening and also clearing the steering column. Jovanis used a template was used to drill the holes in the correct spots in order for the dash to fit in nicely.

We got our first glimpse into the IC-7 during the Performance Racing Industry trade show, held during the off-season in Indianapolis, Indiana. We got our hands one shortly thereafter when our buddy Mike Jovanis was one of the first to receive one. You should be familiar with Jovanis’ 1989 Mustang LX, as it has been the subject of quite a few technical stories in this rag and has been successful at NMRA events with nine victories in QA1 True Street. Jovanis also garnered a prominent amount of attention with his exploits during Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week a few years ago.

He drilled and cut the bolt holes and connection openings on the bench so the dash bolted on without any issues.

Once Jovanis bolted the panel/IC-7 into the car, the power and ground are achieved through a CAN connection while he had to wire in the indicators for blinkers and flashers, as well as the high-beam function for the headlights. The IC-7 then plugs into the Elite ECU with ease thanks to a single cable.

To review its running gear, a DiSomma Racing Engines 349ci small-block Ford with Trick Flow High Port 250 cylinder heads and box intake manifold powers the Fox Mustang, and the 8.2-deck bullet receives plenty of boost from a Garrett GTX 88mm turbocharger. The 1,600-horsepower street machine benefits from a Hughes Performance Powerglide transmission with a SSX bolt-together torque converter. Jovanis’ best time to date in the 3,300-pound vehicle has been 7.55 seconds at a top speed of 182 mph. Controlling all of it is a Haltech Elite 2500T engine management system, which was configured by Brian Friedentag, a New Jersey tuner who is more commonly known as Freezy throughout the Internet.

Haltech’s IC-7 software allows users to change various aspects of the display including the range of channels, including needle-style or bar graph tachometer, red ranges for various channels such as rpm, display units (metric, Imperial, Lambda, or AFR), channels displayed on the screen, the connection via Haltech CAN or OBD-II, shift-light rpm points and colors, and alarm thresholds for on-screen display and the reset methods of those warnings.

Adding the IC-7 to Jovanis’ Mustang was relatively simple; it replaced an older digital display due to desire to modernize the data stream for racing and street cruising scenarios. The IC-7 comes pre-programmed with six different screens for those who like a simple and standardized layout. However, for the creative and ambitious, the Haltech software allows full customization and nearly limitless screen configuration options. The added bonus is that you could work on the unique display designs from the comfort of your couch without the need to be connected to the device and simply upload them when you go back to the garage.

The diagnostics screen displays all of the sensors on the dash for easy and quick reference.

Here is another sample of the type of display that can be configured — this one has a speedometer and tachometer as well as the gear indicator and four major engine parameters on display.

Installing the hardware is easy with a variety of mounting solutions and Haltech includes a simple template to ensure the bolt holes are drilled properly. The IC-7 is connected to the ECU using a Haltech-supplied wire. Jovanis chose the blank version of Florida 5.0’s Fox Mustang dash panel which serves a perch for the IC-7 in the factory gauge cluster. The aforementioned template made it simple to drill the mounting holes. A few wires had to be traced for the blinker and high-beam indicators that are now integrated into the IC-7 LED lights, eliminating the need for an independent set of warning lamps that Jovanis utilized with his previous display.

Jovanis set a low threshold for the coolant temp alarm to illustrate the warning light capabilities of the IC-7.

The IC-7 can be configured off-line from the comfort of your couch or while hooked up to the Elite ECU in real-time.

Jovanis put the IC-7 through its paces during the Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout and he reported no visibility issues in the sunny conditions during the cruise or on the drag strip. Its dimming capabilities proved useful when the team jumped in the Street Car Shootout on Saturday night. It enabled him to reduce the brightness so it was far less distracting, but also very readable in the low light.

Adding the IC-7 fits form and function by offering a customizable data stream in a good looking package to enhance the appeal of your vehicle’s cabin.

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