Restoring a vintage vehicle to like-new condition is a passion for many Mopar collectors. Returning a 50-year-old car to showroom condition is like reclaiming a piece of history. (It can also be profitable, if you’ve been watching the Speed Channel lately!) There is an equally enthusiastic group, however, who like to infuse modern technology into a vintage shell. New suspensions, brake systems, and power trains are high on the list, giving restomod enthusiasts the perfect blend of classic style and modern reliability. If you’re in that group, an up-to-date stereo is one of those mandatory additions sure to transform your vintage classic into a true grand touring machine.
The first step is to assemble a collection of compatible components. We chose a Pioneer Super Turner III head unit, capable of AM/FM/XM and with an iPod connection. The 4-channel, 50 Watt unit is powerful enough to drive the mids and highs without a separate amplifier, and it can also control a remotely-mounted 6-CD player. Its built-in equalizer allows fine tuning. Mid range and high frequency sounds in the car will be handled by four Pioneer component sets. The smaller units for the kick panels combine a 1-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch midrange speaker in a compact housing. The slightly larger pair of 6X9 coaxials will be installed in the rear package tray. In the trunk, a 12-inch sub mounted in a commercial enclosure will be powered by a separate amplifier, rounding out the acoustic mix.
Noise reduction is an important first step, since even the finest systems can’t compete with high levels of road noise. Thinking ahead, our 1969 Dodge Charger returned from the upholstery shop with sound suppression material already in place under the new carpet. We added a layer behind the door panels and also did the trunk.
The photos show how to add the components, and, once they are in place, the final step is connecting them. The head unit is wired to any switched 12 volt power source and a ground. Run a second un-switched (always hot) wire to maintain the clock and presets. Head units have a colored-coded harness, and the individual speaker wires are connected in accordance with the instructions. We used 16 gauge wire for the mids and highs in the kicks and package tray, 12 gauge for the sub, and connected the amplifier to the battery using 4 gauge wire and a fused connection. The Remote wire from the amp plugs into the back of the head unit, automatically turning the amp on with the radio. The DIN connector on the 6-CD player is plugged into the back of the head unit, allowing full control.
The difference between the original factory dash-mounted speaker and the new multiple speaker set up is like night and day. The Pioneer head unit has a built-in equalizer that allows precise adjustment of all the frequency levels, while the new, quieter interior enhances the listening experience even more. Follow along as ace installer Mike Ohren of Jacksonville, FL shows how adding a basic system can be an easy weekend project.
Power for the trunk-mounted amplifier begins with 4-gauge wire and a fused connection from the battery. Always use a grommet to protect wires passing through the firewall. We ran wiring under the door sills, ensuring that the power wires were on one side and speaker wires were on the other, thereby eliminating the possibility of alternator whine.
Since the dash in our Dodge had been cut by a previous owner, we chose a single DIN head unit to fit the space. If your dash is uncut and you’d like to keep it that way, there are many aftermarket radios that will fit the original.
We trimmed our opening slightly to fit, then installed the metal box that holds the unit.
A small screw driver is the perfect tool to push the tabs on the box outward and lock it in place.
The radio snaps into the box...
...and a trim ring finishes it off.
One of the easiest ways to install speakers in the kick panels is to purchase ready-made speaker enclosures from a commercial source like Q Logic (www.qlogicenclosures.com) . Q-Form enclosures replace the original panel in minutes. Unfortunately, they weren’t available for the Charger, so we removed the factory panel and, after ensuring there was adequate room in the fender well, used the speaker grille to trace the outline of the speaker on the panel.
The panels are easily cut with a saber saw or, in our case, an air-powered hack saw.
With lengths of wire attached, the speakers were fastened to the panel with screws, and the panel was screwed back in place.
The speakers in the rear package tray were just as easy to install as the kick panels. The Pioneer 6X9 speakers add depth to the front stage and help to balance the output from the sub woofer. Again using the grille, we traced a pair of openings in the rear package tray. Before cutting, look inside the trunk to ensure that the cuts will not interfere with support brackets or wiring. Our air-powered hacksaw made quick work of the lightweight sheet metal, and, after dropping the speakers in place, we fastened them with sheet-metal screws.
There are many ways to add bass to the system, but a single vented enclosure is one of the easiest. Commercially made sub boxes are available, tailored to match the air space requirements of the speaker, with prices ranging from $50 to $150. Before we mounted the box in the trunk, we applied sound deadening to the trunk floor, then added carpet.
Simply screw the speaker to the precut opening in the box and run the wiring through the small hole in the rear.
We used L-brackets to attach the box to the trunk floor. When it’s time to run the Charger through the quarter-mile, it’s a simple process to store the fairly heavy box on the sidelines until the race is over.
While the Pioneer head unit is more than adequate to power the component sets in the kick panels and rear package tray, the sub needed its own power source. We chose a 2-channel Kicker amplifier rated at 800 watts and mounted it next to the amp. Using a painted plywood platform to ensure adequate air circulation beneath the amp, we screwed the platform to the trunk floor and then mounted the amplifier to the board. The amplifier is also easily removable when it’s time to race.
Even though the head unit will play a single CD, we decided to round out our entertainment options with a 6-CD player. Initially we thought about mounting it in the trunk on the sub box but, for convenience, we decided to locate it under the passenger seat. Small brackets hold it in place and, with just a little effort, it is fairly accessible.
The radio came with an antenna, and, since the Charger already had a hole drilled in the fender, we used the new one. If your car doesn’t have a hole drilled, a hidden antenna is an option.