Weight versus vehicle enhancement is a battle that many street enthusiasts consider before modifications. We want it all: light, very effective--and cheap if possible. The affordable power-to-weight winner is nitrous, of course: only a few extra pounds, hundreds of extra ponies, and big-time cheap! Other mods, like beefy rears, bigger axles, cages, etc. aren't as much fun to make, but can be justified as necessary due to power levels, track rules, and safety.
However, upgraded stereo systems are in a gray area. As street cruisers, pulling every ounce of weight out of a vehicle--like the stereo, A/C, and insulation--can turn a pleasant cruise into an uncomfortable experience real quick. But don't forget that you're driving a performance GM, either: adding hundreds of pounds of speaker boxes, amps, and insulation might make music sound great, but it will negatively affect your ride's performance.
As I purchased this 1SC-code "stripper" 2001 Camaro specifically for its rare hardtop and few options--and corresponding light weight--throwing in tons of speaker equipment would be flat stupid. In fact, the previous owner had gone the complete opposite way while attempting to build a race car, as the factory Monsoon deck had been chucked--along with all of the factory speakers--and replaced with an aftermarket deck running two puny front speakers. And this thing sounded flat awful, it couldn't even overpower my exhaust system!
I needed to upgrade, but I had no intention of dropping big money on a new system. And as I live in Queens, New York, the more invisible it could be, the better. So that meant I'd be looking for an affordable stereo system that could be hidden within the F-body's factory interior, and only add a few pounds to the flyweight Z.
During a conversation with C5 owner and Sony employee Andrew Sivori, I told him about my plans for a great-sounding, light weight, and affordable system that could be installed in a way to keep prying eyes away. Sivori, who is a big-time street performance and drag race enthusiast, thought it was a good idea, and the two of us started poking around the Camaro's interior to formulate a game plan. The five-speaker, single-amp Sony system that he recommended is explained in the captions, and it includes products that offer many of the latest and most high-tech stereo features, for only a few pounds more than the factory stereo. And even when considering the amp installation kit, this entire package would run less than a thousand bucks!
So check out the photos and captions to see how it was done. The pros at Car Tunes on Long Island did the installation for me, and did a hell of a good job. But considering that some of you might want to do this type of install yourselves, I've included several handy tips to not only avoid problems, but to maximize your system's potential. Now let's get this F-body rockin'.
Sony's CDX-GT820IP CD receiver ($229) will be the brains behind this system, and it brings serious technology to the table: first off, it has an iPod Direct connection in the rear for your favorite music player. It is Satellite and HD Radio ready, will control a CD changer, and will play CD, CD-R, and CD-RW discs with MP3, WMA, and AAC formats. In the power department, it pushes 52 peak watts x4 (17 watts RMS x4), more than enough with the proper speakers and installation techniques. Three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs (front, rear, sub) provide clean signals. And to make my life easier: a detachable face, CD Text to show what's playing, EQ3 Parametric equalizer offering seven adjustable presets, a front input jack, 18 FM presets/12 AM, a wireless remote, and Quick-BrowZer to search for a track on a CD or iPod by category. That's a lot for that price!
Paul takes a moment to hook up an iPod and demonstrate the 820iP's abilities. I am immediately blown away by the clarity and strength of this system as Metallica rocks 1SC-YA! Initially there is a ton of bass, but I play with the EQ3 to reduce the sub's dominance and balance the mids and highs out. Even though the deck is powering the two rear speakers and the component fronts, there is more than enough crisp sound to complement the deep lows. Those A/C vent-mounted tweeters are ultra-crisp and look super trick, and can be turned toward or away from occupants to provide a low-tech treble adjustment! I try hard rock, rap, and even a little folk music for the hell of it, and all genres sound perfectly clean and well balanced.
The Camaro's rear plastic panel is replaced, and the install is complete. With the Sony deck's face off and the six speakers behind grills and vents, the only tipoff that I might have anything besides a stock system in here is the sweet, red Sony sub which can easily be covered up. Though this car--with some gear whine and a loud exhaust--is not the perfect vehicle for great sound, this Sony system is a fantastic, affordable, and lightweight mod that has greatly enhanced my driving experience.
Special thanks to Andrew Sivori and John Malakassis for their assistance with this article.
45 Route 110
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Sony Electronics, Inc.