Shopping Cart

No items.

History of Instrumentation
History of Automotive Instrumentation

OS Speedometer


The History of Automotive Instrumentation.




The intention here is to bring together information from various sources on the History of Instrumentation and the companies and individuals that were responsible for their development.



Speedometer, tachometer, gauge, cable & sender sale, repair, restoration and re-manufacture from the early 1900's through to current models along with the sale and installation of vehicle control systems are the cornerstone's of our business.
A day at work at Howard Instruments does not lack variety!


The History of VDO




Progress with tradition. 



VDO is today one of the world's leading automotive suppliers and one of the largest providers of parts and services for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The company has been a byword for progressive electronic and mechatronic solutions since the birth of the automobile.


The 125th anniversary of the invention of the automobile is not just a reason for celebration for the vehicle manufacturers. That is because the history of the supplier industry also began here, without which Daimler & Co would never have managed to get their "coach with combustion engine" moving in the first place. VDO can also be considered one of the pioneers of the early days of the automobile. The company is today an important brand within the Continental Group and one of the world's leading suppliers of parts and services for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The roots of the company stretch all the way back to the birth of the automobile.


At the very latest, VDO became a familiar brand to every driver along with the worldwide success of the VW Beetle. It was in this vehicle that the masses first came across the three-letter trademark from 1939 onwards. It was displayed on the speedometer of the most successful car in the world, as VDO produced the speedometer exclusively for Volkswagen. However, the history of the company extends back as far as the 1920s. It was then that Otto Schulze invented the speedometer, which was manufactured by the OSA Apparate GmbH company of Frankfurt Senator Adolf Schindling from 1923 onwards. A merger with parts of Deutsche Tachometerwerke GmbH (Deuta) resulted in the formation of Vereinigte Deuta OTA in 1928. This represented the birth of VDO Tachometer AG, whose three letters established themselves worldwide in the following years as a synonym for reliable and precise measuring instruments. In 1938, VDO was the largest and most capable manufacturer of measuring instruments for motor vehicles in the whole of Europe. The Frankfurt plants alone produced over 100,000 units every year, which were supplied to almost all renowned German automotive manufacturers for installation on the production line.


VDO manufactured products capable of measuring and controlling almost all characteristics of passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The initial products were largely mechanical but subsequent products came to rely increasingly on electronics. The company was also able to establish itself as an instrumentation specialist for other modes of transport: ship's captains, pilots, even excavator operators and train drivers came to trust the indicators from the measurement specialist VDO.


The Second World War was a setback for the company because most of the production plants were destroyed. Production was restarted in 1949. The first new products after the war were speedometers for bicycles and mopeds, which developed quickly into a great success. However, measuring instruments for motor vehicles were also in high demand worldwide. The company profited from and grew with the German "economic miracle" and, alongside display instruments for bicycles and automobiles, other products were added to the range such as parking meters.


Now under the name of "VDO Adolf Schindling" and operating as an independent corporation since 1973, the company introduced numerous innovations which went on to enjoy worldwide success: VDO invented the electric cruise control system, installed the first quartz crystal clock directly into the cockpit, developed the instruments into a central information system with integrated on-board computer and became, for example, the first manufacturer to introduce a comprehensive head-up display.


After first being taken over by Mannesmann, then merging with parts of Siemens AG for several years, VDO became an important brand of the Continental AG corporation in December 2007. Today, the company is driving the change from analog to digital tachographs in commercial vehicles, is a byword for technological expertise in telematics and fleet solutions and provides an unmatched infrastructure of services for commercial passenger and goods transport.


Today, the VDO brand is a central pillar of the Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket (CVAM) division of Continental and is represented worldwide with an extensive network of sales and service companies. Under the brand, Continental, as one of the worlds leading automotive suppliers, markets electronic products, systems and services which make commercial and special-purpose vehicles safer, cleaner and more economical while also allowing them to operate more efficiently on a day-to-day basis. The product range thus includes, for example, control and monitoring systems for powerplant and on-board electronics, components for instrumentation, panels and cockpits as well as fleet solutions for trucks, buses and special-purpose vehicles. Furthermore, the range also includes a wide range of products and services for specialist motor vehicle garages and spare parts for the independent retail sector and independent garages. VDO also ensures the supply of genuine parts once automotive manufacturers discontinue production of a vehicle.


Milestones and important facts in the history of VDO

1902       Otto Schulze registers a patent for the eddy current speedometer; sales start in Germany from 1908 onwards through O.S. Autometerwerke E. Seignol in Frankfurt/Main.

1921       Together with Georg Häußler and Heinrich Lang, Adolf Schindling founds

                OSA Apparate GmbH (OSA = Otto Schulze Autometer).

1923       The first in-plant manufacture of a speedometer.

1925       Renaming of the company to OTA Apparate.

1928       Merger with speedometer division of Deuta-Werke to create VDO Tachometer                    AG– Vereinigte Deuta OTA, or VDO for short – the VDO trademark is created in                 1929.

1939      A mass-produced VDO speedometer is installed for the first time in the VW                       Beetle.

1951       Renaming of the company to VDO Tachometer Werke Adolf Schindling GmbH.

1957       First foreign factory in Australia (VDO Instruments Australia Ltd., Melbourne).

1972       Renaming of VDO Tachometer GmbH to VDO Adolf Schindling GmbH.

1973       The company becomes a stock corporation: VDO Adolf Schindling AG.

1986       VDO Adolf Schindling AG is floated on the stock exchange.

1991       Mannesmann takes over a majority shareholding of VDO Adolf Schindling AG.

1994       Complete takeover of VDO by Mannesmann AG.

1997       Renaming of company to Mannesmann VDO AG.

2001       Merger of Siemens Automotive and Mannesmann VDO to create

                 Siemens VDO Automotive AG.

2007       Siemens AG sells the Siemens VDO Automotive division to Continental AG.




The History of Smiths




If you've ever driven a British car made before the 1970s, there's a good chance that you've stared at a set of Smiths gauges. The U.K.-based company supplied speedometers, tachometers and various other gauges for the instrument panels of Austin Healey, MG, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce and just about every other British-based automobile manufacturer. 


Founded in London in 1851 by Samuel Smith as S. Smith and Son, the concern got its start making watches and clocks as well as selling jewellery and precious stones. Success allowed them to expand to a larger location and open additional shops in the 1870s when Samuel Smith, Jr. took over. Their reputation had grown near the end of the 19th century such that they advertised as "Watchmakers to the Admiralty and the Royal Observatories." But it was with the dawn of the automobile that Smiths really came into their own.


Although some sources indicate that Smiths built the first odometer in the U.K. in 1900, known as a "mileometer," they didn't start into speedometers until a few years later. This part of the business rapidly grew to become the primary concern and a new publicly traded company was established in 1914: S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd, with the third generation Allan Gordon Smith as its director and also a patent holder of an early speedometer. As the automotive business took off, so, too, did the aviation business with World War I, a time when the firm supplied aircraft instrumentation, in addition to other products essential to the first mechanized war.


Throughout the decade following the war, Smiths' gauge business flourished, as did other facets of their automobile supply business. They purchased M.L. Magneto in 1919 and K.L.G. Sparking Plugs in 1927, the same year they acquired the rights to produce Jaeger instrumentation for the British market under license. British Jaeger gauges are essentially re-branded Smiths gauges. But in 1930, Smiths sold off all of their businesses related to lighting, starting and ignition, including M.L. Magneto, to Lucas, and the two companies agreed not to manufacture products that the other already had an established foothold in. It's hard to believe such a deal would pass antitrust muster today. If you've ever wondered why a car full of Smiths gauges typically had a Lucas ammeter, it's because Smiths left that business to Lucas.


With the Second World War, Smiths continued to prosper. In 1939, the fourth generation director, Ralph Gordon Smith, presciently opened a factory in Cheltenham, some 100 miles west of London, fearing exposure to bombing at their main plant, which was partially damaged during the Battle of Britain in 1940. During the war, Smiths re-organized once again, this time changing the company name to S. Smith and Sons (England) Ltd, with four divisions: Motor Accessories, Industrial Instruments, Aircraft Instruments and English Clocks. By the 1960s, with an additional marine division, Smiths automotive division was making spark plugs, car radios and entire instrument panels, and the name changed to Smiths Industries.


As with many facets of British industry in the 1970s, the automobile business took a beating, and by 1984, Smiths sold off the motoring division to Lucas, who in turn flipped it to another company before VDO acquired it some years later. The German gauge maker, having acquired a rival, decided to do away with the wholly owned division and shut down the Welsh factory. The local management team acquired the operations and formed Caerbont Automotive Instruments which continues to engineer and manufacture Smiths gauges in Wales. 

Feature Article from Hemming’s Sports & Exotic Car

June, 2012 - Terry Shea


The History of Jaeger Car Clocks




The history of the development of the Jaeger car clocks begins back in 1880 when the great French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger (1858-1922) established his company in Paris. He devoted his life to developing mechanisms for measuring speeds and was a pioneer in the development of chronometers, tachometers and automobile and cockpit clocks. 


At the beginning of World War I, Edmond Jaeger collaborated with Jacques-David LeCoultre to develop onboard instruments intended for aviation. The speedometers and tachometers manufactured in the Vallée de Joux soon came to equip most planes in the French, English and U.S. air forces of this period. These instruments were so highly regarded during the first world war that many Germans equipped their planes with Jaeger instruments obtained from downed English and French planes. It is said that one of these instruments was found fitted to the plane of the famous German ace Manfred von Richtofen (the Red Baron) when it was shot down.

At the start of the 1920s, Jaeger and LeCoultre decided to utilise their experience and skill in producing aviation instruments in a new venture involving the production of dashboard instruments for the automobile industry. In addition to producing autotmobile speedometers and tachometers they also began to produce high quality 4 and 8-day automobile clocks. This new venture proved to be remarkably successful with large numbers of automobile instruments produced and exported throughout the European and American automobile markets. To avoid the protectionist measures adopted by the British government, the two entrepreneurs founded a company in London specialising in dashboard instruments, which at one point employed up to 700 people. In parallel, they laid the foundations in Paris for the future Jaeger factories in Levallois, which would host a 1800-strong workforce.


From Rare Car Relics
 Thanks to Clive Hammond
Stewart Speedometer



Instrument Repairs

These days vehicle electronics are becoming more complicated.

No longer can you just drop down to the wreckers and plug another instrument cluster into your car.

If  your car does start what about the odometer reading?

Have you bought the same problem you currently have?

Our repairs offer a viable alternative to buying a new or second hand item.



Marcos Dash

We enjoy doing restorations and talking to you about your project; we are car enthusiasts as well!

Ian has a 1923 D3 Stoewer.

Craig also has a few 1920's cars and a 60's Valiant.

Rodger has Mini's and a Marcos.

Restorations do however take some time particularly if you want something different so please plan well in advance.




vdo catalogue

Follow the link to our catalogues that you can view or download.

We have current catalogues and an archive of old material in our library.



calibration & testing

Calibration & Testing

We provide a data logged and documented speedometer testing service.

We use mechanical and electronic devices for calibration or adjust the instrument itself where possible.




We manufacture any speedometer and tachometer cables to sample or specification. We make some throttle cables and have push-pull cables manufactured to sample or specification.




We restore all chronometric speedometers and tachometers including maximum hand models from all era's. Rodger uses Chronometric instruments in his Marcos.


cruise control

Cruise Control

We have Cruise Control Kits for Cars and Commercial Vehicles with Mechanical or Electronic Engines.

The New range of VDO E Cruise controls make it easier to install cruise control to modern vehicles with electronic engines



Clock Repairs

Clocks have been in cars since the early days of motoring but unfortunately their quality was particulrly poor during the 50's, 60's & 70's.

We repair a lot of clocks but be aware it takes time for this to occur.



commercial repairs

Commercial Repairs

Commercial Instruments


commercial INSTRUMENTS

Kenworth Odometer Display Repair

Commercial Instruments





We screen print traditional flood lit dials and modern back lit dials.We can print in all colours and finishes including metallic and fluorescents.Our dial library is always increasing.Please allow plenty of time for your new dial project to be completed.



Digital Odometer Reset

We can reset most digital odometers.

In all cases we require a Statuatory declaration from individuals or a trade order from automotive businesses. 

In some cases we require the vehicle.


display & backlighting

Display and Backlighting

Many instrument clusters from the past 15 years suffer from missing pixels or backlighting failure.We are able to repair most of these clusters and individual instruments.


engine rpm control

Engine Speed Control

We can install an engine rpm control system for mechanical or electronic engines which will regulate the engine speed under load without affecting engine performance up to and including the specified rpm.


fleet management

Fleet Management

We supply Bigmate GPS/GSM Vehicle Monitoring as a standalone Fleet Management Solution. We can also integrate Fleet Management with our Road Speed Limiting Solutions to include single or multiple geo-fenced speed limits.


fuel senders

Fuel Sender Repairs

There are very few fuel senders over the past 100 years that we cannot repair or match to a different gauge.

We also have an extensive range of new fuel senders



Gauge Accessories

We have a wide range of Gauge Accessories to help in the  application of your gauges.




GPS Tripmeter Speedometer

GPS speed sensors are used in many applications as an alternative to a traditional speed sensor. We have GPS sensors, tripmeters and speedometers.




Halda Speedpilot Tripmaster Twinmaster

We stock a range of parts to help in the repair or restoration of Halda Rally Meters along with the cables and t gears necessarry to apply them to your vehicle.



Motorcycle Repairs

We restore an wide range of Motorcycle Instruments including Chronometric SSM and RSM Shallow Magnetic.





Cobra kit car gauges were the catalyst for HISpecials. We now make a number of gauge series most with through dial illumination.




Our HIWhite gauges are one of the few gauge series with through dial illumination. We can supply a full set of gauges for your car or truck.




Road Speed Limiting

We provide Road Speed Limiting Solutions for almost any vehicle.

Forklifts,Trucks, Cars, Utes and Baggage Handling Vehicles are amongst our recent applications.



Second Speedometer

Our Driving School Second Speedometer is the only plug & play kit on the market to our knowledge that shows the same speed that the driver is seeing.




Signal Interfaces

Signal Interfaces



Switch Modules

Switch Modules




Senders and Switches

We have a signifigant numbers of sensors available.






Tachographs not only record the use of the vehicle over time, they are also an integral part of the vehicle management system in many modern commercial vehicles.We can supply and install new tachographs or repair and calibrate existing ones.




Kimax Weight Management

Kimax Weight Management Systems are designed for accurate measurement of the weight of commercial vehicles.

Recently we have added Kimax 1 for Forklifts to our Product Range.

If accuracy is not your primary factor but cost is we can supply you basic pressure gauges to approximate the same function!




VDO has been the 'name to know' for many years and we have been associated with the brand since our inception.

We carry over 1000 VDO items in stock and are the closest VDO outlet to the VDO warehouse in Melbourne.



FW Murphy Commercial Products

FW Murphy is a leader in Commercial Engine Monitoring Systems.

For more than 70 years their product range has included instruments to monitor critical functions. They have J1939/CAN instrumentation, compressor controls, custom panels auto start/stop controllers and more



Smiths Classic Instruments

Smiths style is timeless.

We have the best range of new Smiths Instruments in stock in Australia.

We restore many Smiths and Jaeger Instruments going back to Edwardian Vehicles.







Road Speed Limit





  • Halda Overview
    • Speedpilot
    • Tripmaster
    • Twinmaster
    • T Gears
    • Cables
    • X and Y Gears

HI Specials



FW Murphy


  • Overview
    • GPS Tripmeter
    • GPS Speed Alert
    • GPS Speed Sensor


Cruise Control

Gauge Accesories



On Board Scales



ProViu ASL360

360 Degree 4 Camera System





Chronometric DialsChronometric Dials.



We now have metric dials and odometer gears for most Porsche Speedo's up to the late 1980's.




Newly released Dual Fuel and Dual Voltage Gauges.




We can restore your Halda to as new condition.




The best stock of Smiths gauges and accessories in Australia.




We fill Capillary Temperature gauges every friday.




We have a wide range of bezels in stock to give your gauges a lift.


Changed your 60-70's car to electronic ignition?

We can help make your tacho work again.



We now have a complete set of truck gauges available in Cobra and HIWHITE styling.



If you need an alternate speed input we have a GPS speed sensor available.