Corvette Audio Upgrades - Classic Sound

Retrofit Audio Components For Your Corvette

Robert Eckhardt Feb 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
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If you want to add a CD to your '68 to '76 Corvette and keep the stock radio look, the Model KNW-801 is what you want. This AM/FM cassette radio has the controller for a CD changer built into the buttons.

"We're in the restoration market," proclaims Johnny Ray, general manager at Custom Autosound. "We don't consider ourselves car audio people because we are providing an original-looking, working piece for our customers who need to finish their restoration." That seems like an odd thing to say, coming from someone whose primary business is manufacturing brand new audio components. But Custom Autosound combines new radio components with original-style radio faceplates to create excellent-performing audio systems that fit right in with older-generation vehicles. Best of all, most of Custom Autosound's products mount directly into the dash without any cosmetic modification of the vehicle.

Carl Sprague began Custom Autosound in 1977, modifying Pioneer, Jensen, and Kenwood radios into mid-year Corvettes featuring the vertical-tuner configuration. Most of their radios have nonfunctional AM faceplates, which allow the new radio's digital-station identification numbers to shine through when the radio is turned on. When turned off, it looks like the original AM radio again. AM/FM radios are available with or without cassette players or AM/FM cassette with CD changer (where the CD unit hides in the trunk). XM Radio-capable units should soon be available, as well.

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The difficult part of installing a new radio into an older car is the wiring. Custom Autosound makes plug-in pigtails to adapt the new radio's wiring to the car.

For the driver who wants to keep the original radio in the dash for a perfect show car, Custom Autosound makes Secretaudio, which includes a 140-watt tuner/amplifier and a 10-disc CD changer that is usually mounted in the trunk or other remote area. A remote controller operates everything. The display is 1 1/2 inches high by 4 1/4 inches wide and only 3/4 inch thick. Many owners program their stations into the mini-display, disconnect it, and run everything from the remote. GM's special projects division has used this type of radio in some of its concept cars.

Custom Autosound also makes replacement 140-watt speakers with left and right channel in a single speaker for the classic dash installations. The company also makes its own kick panels with speakers that attach directly to the panels. A six-speaker sound bar mounts behind the rear seats (without drilling) and locks in place by bending aluminum tabs over the existing Corvette framework.

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One person performs the final quality-control check on every radio before it's shipped. With the volume of product that goes to distributors and dealers, he is one busy man.

One of the most popular Corvette speakers is a 6x9-inch unit that consists of two tweeters mounted in a big cone, with left- and right-channel hookups and the ability to handle 140 watts. If you want the old OE sound, Custom Autosound also makes a 50-watt original-style speaker.

Other Custom Autosound products on the way include a spare-tire speaker, a hidden antenna, sound-deadening material, and a battery lifesaver product using pulse technology to keep the battery posts clean. Custom's sister companies produce high-end amps, woofers, and video screens, and three-point retractable shoulder-harness retrofit kits for '56 to '75 coupe and convertible Corvettes.

If you are restoring an early Corvette or just want to update your car with modern audio components, Custom Autosound probably makes a radio combination that will slide right into your dash.

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