Sounds Are Still Important

Installing an Audio System in Malitude

Mark Stielow Mar 16, 2005 0 Comment(s)

On the Malibu with attitude that I call "Malitude," I'm doing a lot of things that I have never done before. That includes an automatic transmission, twin-turbos, and an overall vehicle size that's significantly bigger than I've ever built or owned. Along those lines, I've never had a car with a really good sound system. Usually, I just get a head unit from the local stereo shop and a couple of old school 6 x 9 speakers to throw in the package tray and call it good. It's different this time around.

I gave Kicker a call to ask about the recommended components that I would need. Now don't get me wrong--there's a lot of systems on the db Drag Racing tours that make the system you see here look silly. What you'll see here are cool parts that package into a muscle car very well, aren't too obtrusive, and sound great for the money.

After all the components arrived, I wasn't sure how all this stuff went together (to be quite honest). Everyone has a friend who's into audio stuff, right? I do too, my buddy Ryan Kuhlenbeck. He'd built a few speaker boxes in the past and has installed a number of systems and said he would give me a hand. That buddy thing is an essential part of any installation.

Before I knew it, we were at the lumberyard getting wood to build a speaker box. Since I don't own any wood working tools, I let Ryan tackle the box construction. The right custom boxes are airtight and bulletproof (not literally, but strong enough to throw tools and luggage at it without sustaining significant damage). You need wood to mount the amps, so don't forget about that part.

Once the job was done, I must admit that I'm happy with the way it all turned out. However, expect at least a weekend job to get all the wiring and carpentry finished. Follow along to see how we made out and know that next month, we should be on the road.

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Though some might argue this point, I feel that the most important item in a car audio system is the head unit. For the Malitude, I chose a Pioneer example (PN DEH-P8400MP) that particularly has control over the subwoofer and has a 4-volt pre-out max output. This head unit can also control a CD changer and is XM-radio compatible (you need to buy another module and antenna for XM, which I strongly suggest). It also has a cool display that with a lightshow of moving graphics.

The first item that needed building was the subwoofer box. We chose to use two Kicker 10-inch subwoofers (PN CVR10) and constructed the box from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), much like you'd use for trim around your house. Following Kicker's recommendations, the interior volume of the box should be 0.8 cubic feet for each speaker, so the box needs to be divided up so that each speaker has 0.8 cf. Be sure when you build a box it is air tight--it'll improve the sound tremendously and keep out the dreaded rattles.

After the box was built and trial fit, we then need to load it into the trunk. Sounds obvious (like those silly photos you see in engine buildups of the cam or rod and piston assemblies going into the block!), but it's a big task when you consider the weight. Between the enclosure and the speakers, the box is nearly 60 pounds! My buddy Ryan gave me a hand with hoisting the box--don't try to do it yourself. Because we mounted the 6x9s in the package tray (you gotta love those things...) the corners of the box are angled to clear the bottoms of the speakers up top.

We mounted the box directly over the rear axle since the mid-60s A-body cars have a good flat section to work with. This way, the speakers are facing forward and will "fire" through the back seat. Since the subs are designed to exclusively deliver low frequency sounds, they'll penetrate the rear seat without a problem. We mounted the box from the bottom with some wood screws and from the top with a couple of angle brackets to tie it into the package tray.

Now it was time to go back to the lumberyard to get more wood for mounting the amplifiers. For the amp board we chose to use some Marine-spec 3/4-inch ply wood. First, we laid out the two amps and the crossovers on the board and drilled for both the mounting holes and the holes for the wires to pass through.

Once we had predrilled the wood, we glued some black rubber diamond plate to the board for a cosmetic touch. After waiting for the glue to completely set (you don't want that mess on your hands), we drilled the rubber and mounted the amps and crossovers on the board.

The amp board mount is mounted in the trunk behind the subwoofer boxes. I use some 1x3, 1/8-inch wall tubing to space the board out and to mount the board in the trunk. The board ties into the spacers and some angle brackets off the package tray.

To keep the amp board looking clean, we routed all the wires through the back of the board.

When wires were needed to pass through the board to the face, we laid them out so they would pass through and connect to the components in an organized way.

The finished amp board is mounted in the trunk on the rubber diamond plate background. Per Kicker's recommendations, each amp is fed power by 4-gage wire. This stereo stuff takes some heavy-duty wiring. On the board are a Kicker SX700.4 amp to deliver up to 700 watts to the 6X9s and the 6-inch mids and tweeters, a Kicker SX650.1 amp to power the two subs with 650 amps and the cross over for the front mid and tweeters.

I chose to mount the 6-inch mids and tweeter in the kick panel where the air vent used to be. To do this I need to block the old air vent hole in the kick panel and make an enclosure for the speaker. This problem stumped me for a while until I found some 7-inch salad bowls in the supermarket! They are the perfect size to hold the speaker and were only $3. I cut some 18-gage sheetmetal to close out the old kick panel and then welded the salad bowls to the sheet metal. Who knew? I guess you people, now.

After I welded the bowls to the plate and installed the speakers, I used Dynomat insulation on the back of the enclosure to make sure it wouldn't rattle.

Here are the Kicker speakers (PN SS56.2), specifically designed and mounted in the kick panels. Installing the speakers in the location of the old vents does two things. First, it provides a convenient location for front speakers without cutting up the dash or doors.

Secondly, it seals the vent for better A/C performance. In some of my previous cars, the A/C didn't work that well until I sealed up all the air leaks and the A/C worked great.

For a robust and reliable system, all the electrical connections were soldered and protected with heat shrink tubing. It takes a little longer to crimp the butt connectors, but once completed you know it's done right.

I mounted the Kicker 6x9s (PN K69) in the rear package tray. Because a '64 A-body vehicle only has a single speaker mounting hole in the rear package tray, I had to make a couple 16-gage sheetmetal adaptors to mount the speakers and stiffen the area were I wanted to mount the speakers.

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