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FORDMUSCLE.com
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by Jon Mikelonis

Introduction
In our March 2006 issue, FordMuscle covered the high level perspectives
and problems posed by offshoring the manufacture of speed parts within the article Port Job. From blatant knock-offs to private labeling to low-level sub-brands created by reputable names in the industry, US companies are turning to foreign labor in order to compete. The strategy is evident at all price points within most product categories. Employing foreign labor to produce speed parts destined for our american street machines is a hot debate between manufacturers and enthusiasts alike. The problem is, passion and loyalty for American made products can cloud our ability as consumers to make normal purchasing decisions based on the basic criteria of a good product, regardless of where a product is made.

To simplify the "is it right or wrong to buy speed parts made by cheap foreign labor" dispute, it is helpful to remove the "Made In America" element from the shopping experience and focus solely on quality and value when evaluating any product. By doing this, we place the competitive advantage back in the court of manufacturers who's research, design, and marketing, are founded in a keen understanding and close relationship with us, the enthusiasts. And nobody has the opportunity to understand enthusiast behavior better than an American company embedded in the hobby due to that company's proximity. It is here where the secret to the longevity of American made speed products exists, which this simple product category evaluation will expose.

Aftermarket Gauges
Gauges, more specifically mechanical oil pressure gauges, are a product
category for which there are numerous contenders in the performance aftermarket. The theater includes reputable players like Auto Meter and VDO, private labeling champions like Summit Racing, and "street" level names like Autogage (an Auto Meter brand). Rounding out the mix on the high-end is Stewart Warner, a John Deere supplier. On the low end, America's favorite retailer, Wal-Mart, has an offering under the Equus name.

So what's the difference between these gauges? Do they all measure oil
pressure the same? What would happen if you tried six gauges from six
different manufacturers on one vehicle? Would the readings be the same if the conditions were held constant? Other than size, what makes mechanical oil pressure gauges range in price from $7.28 all the way up to $49.95? If one eliminates the gauge itself, what included parts should you be inspecting when determining which gauge to buy? Or simply put, which manufacturer offers the the best option in terms of the basic criteria of a good product? We'll answer all of these questions and more in a simple gauge-by-gauge evaluation from Stewart Warner, Auto Meter, Autogage, Summit Racing, VDO, and Equus. Let's get started with the Stewart Warner 114521.

Stewart Warner Mechanical Oil Pressure Gauge
Part No. 114521
Retail Price
- $49.95
At the top of the price food chain in our evaluation sits the Stewart Warner 114521. With little brand recognition at the grass roots level, this oil pressure gauge could be easily overlooked, even with its very attractive "face-forward" design. The relatively high price among the other subjects chosen for this article raised our expectations and forced us to examine this gauge's fine details. We even put an anonymous and hypothetical consumer inquiry into the Stewart Warner tech line. Once connected we challenged the sales representative to tell us why we should buy their gauge over a well known Auto Meter Sport-Comp equivalent.


Although it is just ancillary to some, packaging says a lot about how a company views their own products. Sturdy, simple, and reminiscent of a pedestal, the Stewart Warner package showed us they gave a damn about what was inside.
 
By positioning the representative Stewart Warner gauge (right) adjacent to the very popular Auto Meter Sport-Comp, it's clear the Stewart Warner Gauge appears larger even though they are both 2-5/8" units. The more slender Stewart Warner bezel makes a significant difference.
     


After placing our anonymous call into the Stewart Warner tech line, we were made aware of their "Face-Forward" design as shown by this photo. The Stewart Warner is shown at left and an Auto Meter Sport-Comp is shown to the right.

 
We were impressed with the Stewart Warner up to this point, however the hardware package showed some shortcomings. At almost $50.00 we expected more integrated and ergonomic mounting hardware, like the kind found in Auto Meter brand gauges.
     

Speaking of hardware shortcomings, here we are picking up one of the extremely tiny irridite nuts we dropped on the garage floor.
 
Set adjacent to an Auto Meter gauge (right) within a standard 2-5/8" face plate, you can see that Stewart Warner doesn't give their mounting hardware the same attention that Auto Meter does with knurled fingertips nuts and a correct-appearing mounting bracket.
     

Stewart Warner bezels are ultrasonically welded to the casing while others crimp their bezels in place. Since Stewart Warner has contracts with manufacturers like John Deere, it is important that their gauges are protected from moisture and dust. The Stewart Warner is shown here on the left, note the smooth uncrimped bezel.
 
Speaking of moisture and dust, take a look at the Stewart Warner's light cavity. Of the 6 gauges we reviewed, this was the only one that protected this area with a sealed lens.
     

The Stewart Warner was the first gauge we connected to our test mule, Project MX. First we needed to hook up a steel braided line from the motor, through the firewall, and into the cab. Highly recommended.
 
Once up to operating temperature and in a Park idle of 1,000 RPM, we took the first reading of our evaluation. Just a smidgen over 40 psi at 190 degrees. Not bad for a 351C with an original bottom-end.

 

(Summit Racing and Auto Meter)

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In This Article:
Head to head product editorial has been non-existent in traditional media for decades. Why? Well, we'll let you take a wild guess. Still stumped? It has to do with the editorial staff keeping the corporate suits happy. As for FordMuscle, we've got another product quality evaluation this month. Check out what we found when we put six popular mechanical oil pressure gauges to the real-world consumer test.


We browsed through popular retail catalogs and even took a trip to Wal-Mart to purchase various mechanical oil pressure gauges for an evaluation. The gauges we selected ranged from $7.28 to $49.95.
 


Ever wonder if all oil pressure gauges measure oil pressure equally? In addition to close-up inspection of manufacture and analyzing "included hardware", we hooked each mechanical oil pressure gauge up to a 351 Cleveland. After a fresh oil change with Castrol 30wt, we brought the motor up to operating temperature and took readings at Park idle for all six gauges, one at a time.


 

 


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