|Classic Stewart Warner gauges
||Last updated on June 10, 2012|
Until a few years ago, gauges were something that I had always pretty much taken for granted. Having recently spent four years searching for the narrow
Halibrand magnesium wheels for the front of
my 1932 Ford roadster project, and not needing another expensive and time-consuming automotive
obsession, this was an area of hot rod history that I had deliberately avoided.|
After tracking down some very rare old hot rod and race car parts for the roadster, it became clear that in order to stay with the theme of the car, its list
of goodies would have to include a set of classic Stewart Warner gauges. Anything less just wouldn't be right.
In September of 2002, I located a Stewart Warner 150-psi oil pressure guage identical to the one shown here. It was made back in 1959, and was still in a
sealed bag in its original box. With its crescent moon pointer, curved glass lens, and smooth, brass bezel, this was something that suited the
It was at that time that I started searching for other Stewart Warner gauges in order to come up with a complete set of them. Thanks to the help of Mike
Abbott, Doug Clem, Bob Elston, Ed Norton, Tony St. Clair, and eBay, the set is now complete and many of my questions have been answered.
This Web page is one of the results of my research. Like
every page on the site, it grows as I continue to get closer to actually knowing what I'm
The early days
The Stewart Warner company's roots date back to 1905. The Stewart company's initial offering was an inexpensive magnetic speedometer that outsold those of
their main competitor, Warner.|
John Stewart's speedometers were first used on original Model T Fords. Shown on the right is a Stewart speedometer from an early-1900s Model T.
Following a legal and marketing battle, the Stewart and Warner companies merged. The Stewart Warner company was founded in 1912, when John Stewart and Edgar
Bassick started making vehicle instruments and horns.
In 1926 the company began supplying what would become hundreds of thousands of gauges to hundreds of manufacturers of cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses, and
boats, as well as to builders of a wide variety of material handling equipment and machinery.
While best-known for their gauges, Stewart Warner's product line also included air washers, bumpers, grease guns, horns, industrial measuring tools, paint
spray guns, home movie cameras and projectors, radios, record players, refridgerators, search lights, sirens, television sets, vacuum tanks, and the popular
South Wind automotive heaters.
This 1932 Auburn tachometer features a curved glass lens as well as Stewart Warner's distinctive crescent moon pointer.|
Unlike most of the other gauges shown on this page, this Auburn tach is commonly known as a rear-mount, meaning that it mounts to the rear of the instrument
panel instead of sliding through the front of it.
Gauges of this style were also produced in marine versions, which were commonly used by Chris Craft and many of their competitors. The marine tachometers
usually had graduations that increased in a counter-clockwise direction rather than clockwise.
By the 1940s, due to their diverse product line and all-around quality, Stewart Warner gauges became by far most popular choice for hot rodders.
Sizes of S-W gauges
Most Stewart Warner gauges were manufactured in five basic sizes.|
The smallest gauges have bezels that measure 2 1/4". The earliest versions of these fit in a 2" hole, which for some reason was later enlarged to 2
The second-smallest size gauges have bezels that measure 2 5/8", and mount in a 2 7/16" hole.
Most Stewart Warner speedometers and tachometers have bezels that measure 3 13/16" and mount in a 3 3/8" hole.
Many Stewart Warner speedometers and tachometers that were made for Harley-Davidson motorcycles have bezels that measure 4 3/4" in diameter.
Some Stewart Warner speedometers that were made for early Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles as well as for police cars have bezels that measure 5
Industrial and miltary gauges
From 1946 through 1960, Stewart Warner produced thousands of 2 1/4" and 2 5/8" gauges that were used by the United States military as well as in a wide variety
of industrial applicatiions.|
These military-style gauges show the distinctive smooth bezel and the Art Deco crescent moon pointer that is unique to this series of gauges. The brass bezels
on the industrial gauges were chrome-plated, while the military versions were painted dark green. These smooth bezels are almost impossible to remove without
damaging them, but the paint can easily be removed so the brass can be polished.
The distinctive Stewart Warner trademark crescent moon pointers inspired dozens of instrument and clock manufacturers to come up with their own versions, but
Stewart Warner's copyright continues to prevent anyone from duplicating their design. This pointer was only used in the industrial gauges, and very rarely, on
some of their later versions.
The 2 5/8" and larger sizes of industrial gauges also featured curved glass lenses which minimize glare, making them easier to read.
Many of us who build traditional hot rods consider these old gauges to be the ultimate. In a 1940s-style hot rod or race car, nothing else seems
As with many neat old parts, the demand for these gauges far exceeds the supply. The fuel gauges, which are among the hardest to find, have changed hands for
more than $400.
Another series of similar gauges was made with 2 1/4" bezels.
Unlike the 2 5/8" gauges in this style, the smaller gauges had flat glass lenses.
Both sizes of the industrial gauges have no name on the face, and have the Stewart Warner name stamped into the back of the case.
Stewart Warner "wings" gauges were made from 1948 through 1954. The original wings gauges are as highly sought-after by hot rodders as the industrial
The wings set in the early Stewart Warner panel shown above resides in Bob Elston's 1932 Ford five-window coupe.
Although they lack some of the character that only gauges with crescent moon pointers can have, the curved glass lenses remained. Like the industrial gauges,
the wings gauges were made in many types, including air pressure, amps, fuel, fuel pressure, oil pressure, oil temperature, vacuum, volts, and water
Big logo gauges
Stewart Warner "big logo" or "big block" gauges get their name from having their logo inside a larger block than the later gauges. They were made from 1954
through 1957. The lenses were curved in the big blocks that were produced in 1955 and 1956, and then flat in 1957. The '54-'55 gauges are known as "transition"
gauges, and are the more sought-after.|
As seen in the picture, big block gauges were made with both small and large lettering.
Small logo gauges
Introduced in the 1960s, this series is by far the most common style of the classic Stewart Warner gauges. Due to their small logo, they are commonly called
small logo or small block gauges.|
As is the case with most of the earlier gauges, most of the gauges in this series were made in 2 1/4", with the 2 5/8" being roughly ten-percent as common.
Stewart Warner didn't make very many clocks.|
This one is NOS, from the 1970s.
It has a white plastic body and a 2 1/4-inch gauge bezel.
Custom series gauges
In 1965, Stewart Warner produced the Custom series of gauges, which feature a green ring around the face and a brushed aluminum center.|
These are often called "green line" gauges.
Custom series gauges were used in some Yenko Camaros and Novas.
The Custom gauges were made in both 2 1/4" and 2 5/8" sizes.
Stewart Warner date codes
A - 1933|
B - 1934
C - 1935
D - 1936
E - 1937
F - 1938
G - 1939
H - 1940
J - 1941
K - 1942
L - 1943|
M - 1944
N - 1945
P - 1946
Q - 1947
R - 1948
S - 1949
T - 1950
U - 1951
V - 1952
W - 1953|
X - 1954
Y - 1955
Z - 1956
A - 1957
B - 1958
C - 1959
D - 1960
E - 1961
F - 1962
G - 1963|
H - 1964
J - 1965
K - 1966
L - 1967
M - 1968
N - 1969
P - 1970
Q - 1971
R - 1972
S - 1973|
T - 1974
U - 1975
V - 1976
W - 1977
X - 1978
Y - 1979
Z - 1980
1 - January|
2 - February
3 - March
4 - April|
5 - May
6 - June
7 - July|
8 - August
9 - September
10 - October|
11 - November
12 - December
Stewart Warner panels
Stewart Warner panels were used by many boat builders as well as hot rodders. Shown on the right are the Master (also known as the Hollywood) eight-hole panel,
the Ensign five-hole, and the five-hole Navigator.|
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