posting this info up for posterity and future searches for people in the same boat. parts list and ordering info is at the bottom. the story is that my truck has been running hot, or so i thought after seeing the stock temp gauge red line while running long distances on the freeway. never any hesitation or other symptoms from the engine that i noticed. ended up replacing the thermostat, water pump, fan clutch and radiator. everything. they were all shot at around 176K and needed replacing. problem was that the overheating issue seemed to persist. complete BS i thought. elimintated the head gasket as a problem with sniffer test at the shop. only other issue could be the bent AC condenser that the PO left me with. figured not enough air was getting by to properly cool the system down. about 1/4 of the fins were bent way down and tweaked preventing normal air flow. substantial enough to create the problem while at speed. around town the truck ran fine and didn't overheat. meanwhile, i the pegging of both temp and gas gauges would happen maybe once a month or so. heard cleaning the contacts worked for a while, but wasn't permanent so i didn't bother. after all that, finally i installed a mechanical temperature gauge to see what the hell was really going on. hard numbers. my test numbers: freeway driving at 70MPH = 200F freeway driving at 70MPH w/ AC = 215F that's not far off the normal 195F i've read as being 'normal'. insert big sigh of relief. truck has been reliable over the last year i've owned it and was glad to know i wasn't killing her. probably my only gripe with the cruiser overall is the crappy stock gauges. i could have probably bought new OEM and still not known the actual numbers, but that would have been useless for me. here's what i bought to make this happen: Auto Meter Phantom Analog Temperature Gauge # ATM-5732 http://tinyurl.com/hdtm2 Metric Adapter, Mechanical Temperature, 5/8 in.-18 UNF to 16mm x 1.5 # ATM-2275 http://tinyurl.com/hv7cg Auto Meter Gauge Panel, 2 1/16 # ATM-2237 http://tinyurl.com/h7hy9 drilled a hole in the firewall, removed stock temp sender, ran tubing to it and screwed adapters in with some gasket sealer. wired up the lighting and voila - easy peasy. i might alter slightly the angle of it to look up at me a little more. fine as is though and will post up pictures tonight hopefully. i still have yet to deal with the condenser issue, but have the part in hand and will do it when i get to an AC shop to reclaim the R12 in the system. will then replace the condenser and dryer and then probably just fill up with Freeze12 as i've heard it works fine. hope this helps someone else in the same boat. if your cooling system is in good condition, make sure the gauge is not flaking out.