Audio systems have come a long way in the last 30 years from when factory-equipped FM was cool and an eight-track was high tech. CDs are the norm today, but fitting an in-dash unit into an older classic or musclecar is impossible without hacking up the dash.
Our '70 Monte Carlo needed some help in the audio department, namely because what was there wasn't working very well, and our singing doesn't sound as good in the car as it does in the shower. The dash was uncut and still had the original AM radio installed. The previous owner, not wanting to cut the dash, had hung a generic stereo below it.
The Monte is not a rare model, it's not an SS or highly optioned, so the thought of cutting the dash to install a new DIN-sized in-dash AM/FM/CD unit entered our minds. After all, it's not as if the dash couldn't be replaced later if we wanted to, and this car is a daily driving so ease-of-use is of the utmost importance.
We then decided that a more interesting and prudent option would be to install Custom Autosound's Secretaudio system. This option offered all the conveniences of a modern audio system and 100 (4x25) watts of power but could be installed anywhere in the vehicle and operated with a wireless remote control or small, wired controller.
Remote-controlled headunits are not new, but what makes this particular system different is that it has a Radio Frequency (RF) remote as opposed to an InfraRed (IR) remote-Custom Autosound offers systems with either remote. The difference is that the RF remote will work up to 40 feet away even if the tuner is mounted in the trunk, whereas the IR remote must be pointed at an exposed LED panel to work.
The install took less than a day, even with doing a few custom touches, and should not be out of the skills of most enthusiasts. The only wiring is for the tuner which consists of a power lead that comes on with the ignition, a battery lead to maintain memory, and a ground. The speakers are just positive and negative to the tuner, and the rest is plug-in cables.
Now that we have some basic tunes, our next step will be to add some more speakers and a couple of amplifiers because we can never leave well enough alone-so stay tuned.
The original knobs were then installed back into the stock dash locations. The volume side was no problem, but the tuner side required the backside of the shaft to be cut and mushroomed at the end to hold the knob tight against the dash. These modifications rendered the original radio useless, but ours was an AM base unit that wasn't working anyway.
We decided to mount the tuner unit up inside the dash behind the controller. We used the supplied bracket as a template to mark the holes that needed to be drilled through the dash to mount the unit. The bracket was then mounted on the metal brace that runs across the bottom of the dash using nylok nuts to ensure that it wouldn't start to rattle.
Luckily for us the dash pad was easily removed on which enabled us to work from both the top and bottom when it came time to mount the tuner. Once mounted, the tuner tucked up nicely and had plenty of room for the wiring.
We then mounted the controller within the stock opening. It fits the opening perfectly in on our Monte Carlo and is snug enough that we were able to slip it in without having to secure it.
The only place we had to mount the CD changer was in the trunk. We would have liked to have had it under the seat to make access a little easier, but it would not fit there in our Monte. It was mounted under the package tray to keep it up out of the way of cargo hauled in the trunk. The unit can also be mounted flat or at 90- or 45-degree angles.
Wiring the CD changer to the controller couldn't get any easier, just plug the cable in and it's ready to go.
We decided that the easiest way to get to get the best sound at this point up front was to use Custom Autosound's kick panels with 6 1/2-inch speakers. Our Monte Carlo was equipped with A/C, which was no problem as they have panels for both A/C and non-A/C-equipped models. The original panels came right out after we removed the sill plates and A-pillar trim.
Our windshield antenna was not pulling in the stations like we wanted, so we decided to install Custom Autosound's hide-away antenna that sticks to the inside of the windshield. In order to run the cable up to it, we had to file a small indentation into the A-pillar trim's rolled edge and the dash edge (neither of which is visible once the dash pad and trim is in place).
Once the cable was safely routed, the antenna was secured with double-sided tape to the upper-right corner of the windshield. With the factory-tinted windshield the antenna can't be seen from outside and is barely visible from the inside.
The new kick panels and speakers slid right in place and look OEM. Although they protrude slightly into the interior, it's not enough to get in the way or interfere with the emergency brake pedal.