Creating the ultimate car is a combination of different characteristics. A powerful engine, a slick-shifting transmission, a bulletproof rear, a suspension that makes the car handle like a Formula 1 car, a comfortable interior, a great paint job, and a spiffy wheel and tire package-these all move the car on down the path to righteousness.
Back in the musclecar days of old, slapping on a set of glasspacks and running dumps or open headers was considered music to a gearhead's ears. Loud exhaust systems and open headers will always remain cool. But the drone of that big-block will eventually start to wear on your nerves, especially on a long trip.
Enter the stereo system. While the radio-delete option was available to those just looking for speed and light weight out of their Nova or Chevelle, a decent sounding stereo system is more the norm on the cars rolling off of the assembly lines today. In addition, newer cars have quieter exhaust systems, allowing drivers to hear the tunes coming from the factory radios quite easily. If you swap out that measly 307 for a rompin' stompin' 383 stroker sporting a high-performance exhaust system and headers, though, you'll find yourself cranking the volume level up more and more to hear the tunes over the exhaust notes coming out of the tailpipes. If blowing out those factory speakers and listening to music degraded by the rattle of a busted speaker is annoying, then stepping up the power level and quality of your sound system is the last stop to making your Chevy the ultimate car.
With that in mind, we decided to install a full Alpine stereo system in this 1998 Z28 Camaro. The Fourth-Gen F-body came from the factory pretty well loaded up, with one of the options being the Monsoon stereo system. The Monsoon was pretty good for a factory system. Built with a higher-output head unit, a 12-disc CD changer, a Delco amplifier, and six speakers, one of which was a small subwoofer, the Monsoon held its own for a while. After many a trip down to the Jersey shore with the T-tops off, the windows down, and the music cranked up over the SLP Loudmouth exhaust (which we all know is one loud system), the speakers finally took a dive. They were replaced by a shop in New Jersey, but the replacements were of less quality than the price indicated, and a few months later, we were back to square one with the car. Add into that an hour commute to the Super Chevy home base and a busted CD changer, and it was time to upgrade the stereo before the driver (yours truly) lost his mind.
What we learned in doing this install is that putting a stereo system together is much like putting together an engine. Just as the heads, camshaft, intake, carburetor, and other engine components must be matched up to produce optimum performance, the same consideration must be paid to choosing stereo equipment. Gino Santaguida of Gino's Auto Sound and Security in Piscataway, New Jersey, was kind enough to sit down with us and explain the intricacies of installing the perfect system.
"When putting together a stereo system, in any car, care must be given to the components you choose," Gino explained. "The head unit must be able to work correctly with the amplifiers, and the amplifiers must have enough juice to power the speakers, components, and subwoofers. A wrong choice with any of the pieces you choose will lead to diminished sound. A good system will have a great bass level, astounding clarity at any volume level, and little to no distortion or noise."
In addition to choosing the right components, planning the system out and coming up with the proper wiring schematics is also key to making the music sound great. "When we put a system together, we have to be engineers, fabricators, electricians, and assemblers," Gino says. "I think what most people fail to realize is that there is much more that goes into improving the quality of your stereo system than just hooking up huge subwoofers, a couple of amplifiers, and installing new speakers and a head unit. Making everything work well with each other and having it look good at the same time is difficult."