In our last installment on Scarlett, our ’72 coupe project car, we prepped the lower dashpads for installation and installed the white-faced gauges in the center console as we slowly make progress toward buttoning up the dash. This month, we were back at Street Shop in Athens, Alabama, to assemble the upper dashpad with its vent grille and speakers, and install a new, modern radio in the center console beneath our gauges.
In keeping with our almost-right design language, instead of going with a modern-looking radio with a digital dial, we sourced a factory-appearing radio from Volunteer Vette Products, who also supplied the center console in which the radio mounts. While maintaining the appearance of a factory-style radio (including the black roll-over dial), the AM/FM stereo has digital tuning and a jack for auxiliary input (read iPod). Additionally, the underdash body of the radio is substantially smaller than the factory radio, which is a nice bonus when you’re shoehorning as much extra ducting and wiring under the dash as we are. While we were at it, we also ordered a set of Kenwood speakers to pair with the radio. Although we ordered factory-correct speaker harnesses as well, the radio came with a convenient multi-pin connector that let us splice the speaker wires directly to it, and it did away with the need for the harnesses. We just plugged the Kenwood speaker wires to their respective spade terminals and slid them into the connector, heat-shrinking as we went.
The alert reader will notice, however, that we’ve converted anything with a dial, including all the gauges and the A/C control, to white-faced, and the radio was no exception. While we made an abortive attempt to do the conversion ourselves, including carefully polishing the black paint from the back of the radio lens so we could repaint it white, we ran into too many problems to overcome on our own. We did locate a company who was willing to do the conversion, so long as we wouldn’t tell who they are. We boxed up the disassembled radio with a can of the “correct” white spray paint to match the gauges and sent it off. In the due course of time it came back, flawless.
Fortunately, during the wait, the company that manufactured the radio, Antique Automobile Radio, released a Bluetooth adapter, which we promptly ordered, and had the radio reprogrammed to accept. Consisting of both the adapter, which is powered by a standard 12v power point (aka, “cigarette lighter”) and a cord that’s used to connect it to the radio’s auxiliary input, it lets you sync an iPhone or similar Bluetooth-equipped device with the radio and control it through the buttons on the adapter.
Although we had already ordered a petite iPod Nano for this project, the Bluetooth adapter gave us the added flexibility of using an iPhone—although, really, with over 600 horsepower banging out of 4-inch sidepipes, the odds of making any calls while driving aren’t really high. Since we had already planned to put a 3.5mm headphone jack somewhere in the car to connect the iPod to the auxiliary jack in the rear of the radio, we used the supplied cord to mount the jack in the ashtray on the shift console, locating it in the vertical face near the lighter. We carefully located it in the lower left corner of the vertical face, where a cord, once installed, would still be able to get past the Bluetooth adapter plugged into the lighter. We also purchased a small Bluetooth sending unit for our Nano, so we have the option of either plugging the iPod directly into the jack and hiding it in the ashtray, using the Bluetooth adapter and clipping it someplace else unobtrusive, or using an iPhone instead. Basically, we went for maximum flexibility.
01. Before we could put the Corvette America upper dashpad back in place in Scarlett, we needed to reassemble it. We started with the brace that holds the dashpad to the birdcage. It came out of the car in rusted bare metal, but we bead-blasted it and painted it black before putting it in with new screws.
02. Our factory vent grille was warped and at least one of the mounting tabs was broken off. We replaced it with this new reproduction item sourced from Corvette America. It took a little twisting and bending to get it in, but it went, and was promptly screwed in place.
03. These are the speakers that were in the car when we tore it down. Note that the speaker is held in place in a cast metal mounting bracket. Like the new Kenwood speakers that we replaced these with, they’re not a direct fit to the dashpad. Unfortunately, one of the brackets was broken, which precluded reusing them.
04. Back under the category of having machine tools and not being afraid to use them, we used the CNC plasma cutter at Street Shop to design and cut a pair of speaker mounting brackets to fit the Kenwood replacement speakers. While the speakers had an integral bracket, it was too small to get the speakers to screw directly to the dashpad. (Note the deep recess underneath the speaker grille.)
05. Once the brackets were fit to the dashpad and the speakers, we riveted them to the mounting holes that were already in the speaker brackets.
06. When we finished the bracket, we painted it black, and, after riveting the speaker into place, screwed the whole assembly into the factory mounting holes in the upper dashpad.
07. Although we ordered the factory speaker harnesses with the speakers, the Kenwood speakers came with their own wires. To make assembly easier, the positive and negative spade terminals are different sizes. Note that the “-” terminal is a negative that is wired back to the radio, not a ground.
08. We sourced a new radio from Volunteer Vette Products that features digital tuning but retains the appearance (and fitment) of the original radio, including the AM/FM rollover dial. Notice also how shallow the radio is. That’ll be appreciated with all the extras we’re stuffing under the dash. The only problem is that it has a black dial, while the rest of our controls are white.
09. We were fortunate enough to find someone willing to convert our radio to white-faced, even if they preferred that we not tell who they are. In addition to inverting the coloring on the radio’s lens, they also changed the rollover dial and its cage to the correct color of white to match our other controls.
10. Since the new radio fits in the center console without modification, it only took a bit of careful alignment to slip it into place and then put washers in place on the stems that will hold it into the console.
11. The new radio kept all the original specifications, including the nuts that hold the radio in place. Unfortunately, these nuts have an unusual thread pitch (and are very thin), and you can’t find them at the local parts store. We wound up pulling a pair off a badly-battered first-gen Camaro radio, blasting off a little surface rust, painting them black, and screwing them on.
12. Once the radio was bolted into place, the rest of the assembly was easy, and self-explanatory. It started with slipping the faders over the knobs then pressing the knobs into place. In keeping with the original look, the knobs also maintain a factory appearance.
13. In addition to clear, detailed instructions, the radio’s wiring is printed on the back. In addition to just doing a basic installation, it’s also configurable with extra speakers, amps, power antenna, etc. Perhaps most importantly, it’s also got an auxiliary input jack for the omnipresent iPod.
14. The wires coming from the back of the radio all meet in one connector, to which this color-coded pigtail plugs, so that if the radio or center console needs to be removed, you simply unplug it all with this connector. We used butt joints and heat-shrink tubing to make the necessary connections and sealed off the unused wires with heat shrink doubled over on itself.
15. While the radio was being refaced, the manufacturer introduced a Bluetooth adapter for it, so we ordered the adapter and had our radio reprogrammed to use it. The adapter is powered by a standard 12v socket, and plugs into the auxiliary input on the radio. It comes with another adapter that plugs into the radio on one end, and on the other end provides a jack into which the Bluetooth adapter can be plugged.
16. The jack end of the auxiliary input cord is simple enough: it fits through a hole and is held in place with a nut. Since we wanted to keep it as unobtrusive as possible, we started looking for a way to mount it in the ashtray. Since it has a sliding cover, we’ve used the ashtray before to conceal everything from a toggle switch to a discreet nitrous pressure gauge.
17. We then drilled the hole for the auxiliary input jack. While we ultimately opened the hole up from the rear, the best way to get it started and keep it located properly was to drill a pilot hole from the front. The angle at which the drill bit has to come in makes this more of a challenge than it sounds.
18. The finished jack installed in the ashtray. We located it in this face of the ashtray to keep it as unobtrusive as possible (and because vertical jacks have a way of collecting debris), and put it low and to one side so the plug would still clear our Bluetooth adapter when it’s plugged in.
19. Since we had an all-new shifter console, we also replaced the factory lighter (right) with a new one. Note that there are two parts, including the outer housing that screws over the lighter and keeps it in place.
20. The console mocked up with the Bluetooth adapter and iPod. While we can run the iPod using the auxiliary plug, also note the Lilliputian Bluetooth sending unit that plugs into the iPod. Basically, we opted for maximum flexibility.
21. The center console in place with the radio mounted. Other than bolting it to its support bracket, all that’s really left is to plug it in.
Check out the previous installments for Scarlett Project Car:
1972 Chevrolet Corvette Scarlett Project Car - LS3 416 Installation
1972 Chevrolet Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Sidepipe Install
1972 Chevrolet Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Six-Speed Manual
1972 Chevrolet Corvette Scarlett Project Car - EFI Fuel System
1972 Chevrolet Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Cooling System and Hydroboost
1972 Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Vintage Air Gen 4 Underhood Components, Part 1
1972 Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Vintage Air Gen 4 Underhood Components, Part 2
1972 Corvette Scarlett Project Car - Replacing the Factory Wiring Harness