August 6th, 2003 : 1955 Chevy Radio
When I got my truck it had an old radio/cassette player in it ...
... and four speakers, but I wanted to upgrade everything, so I purchased a new AM/FM Cassette Chevy stereo from Brothers Trucks. Unfortunately, the radio they sent me was a total mess!!! I couldn't believe what I saw ... first, there was no chrome face, as ordered -- it was black -- plus, there were scratches on the LED screen, a gouge in the upper left corner where it was suppose to say "eject" -- instead it said "--ect" -- and even worse, all the buttons for setting the clock and for storing radio station presets, etc. were not only missing, but there was a piece of black electrical tape stretched across the holes where the buttons were suppose to be!! Can you believe it?? I sure couldn't. I called them about it and they were suppose to send me another radio, but after two months of waiting (and listening to ridiculous stories about, "We're waiting for parts from Japan ...") I told them to cancel my order. And while I'm venting about my present dislike of Brothers Trucks I may as well also tell you I had been waiting 3 months for a headlight retaining nut that they charged me ten dollars for! Three months, man!
The Truck Shop sold me a beautiful heavy chrome headlight retaining nut for only $6.00, which I received in three days ... and Classic Parts sold me a 1955 Chevy Radio (pictured below) for less money -- and all the buttons are in place, too!
Anyway, my dash had been butchered by some previous owner, so I had to figure out the best way to work around the mess that had been made. The easiest route was to put another radio in the same place and create a face-plate that would serve to cover up all the screw-holes, etc. After adjusting the spacing between the two knobs on the new radio, to fit the old knob-holes, I secured the radio in the dash. As you can see in the first photo above, wires are visible behind the dash ... I cured that problem with a piece of black Flex-Foam ... aka "Foam Sheet" -- a perfect solution!
Then, I fabricated a paper template out of posterboard. This will be used to cut a piece of 1/8-inch plywood, which will get covered with vinyl once I get around to doing the interior and buying the colors I want to use.
Using the paper template, I traced it's design onto the plywood and cut it out with a jig-saw. After testing it's fit, I beveled the edges with a hand-plane and a file.
As you may be able to tell by the picture above, the faceplate doesn't hug the dash as it should -- the dash is rounded and, of course, the plywood is flat. So, I wet the plywood by running some tapwater over it and clamped it as seen below, to put a bend in it. This worked out really well! After it was all clamped, the water had mostly evaporated, so I sponged it down one more time and set it aside to cure overnight. The radio knob retaining nuts will hold this in place and if the bend is more than it needs to be (which is what I'm hoping for), tightening those nuts should pull it into perfect position. I left a little less than a 1/16-inch gap around the radio (center opening) to accommodate the vinyl when I cover the faceplate.
It worked! The faceplate hugs the dash-curve ... now, all that remains is to cover the faceplate with vinyl.
I wired everything up to my two speakers -- see June 27th, 2003 : Designing & Building Speaker Cabinets -- and tested the radio and cassette player out. It was glorious! The radio from Chevy Duty was way better! 100 amps (instead of 64 ... or 24 ... I never could get a straight answer about that from Brothers Trucks). I turned the volume up to the max, cranked the bass and treble up to max, and not a stitch of distortion!! Glory Days! All the preset buttons worked, I was able to set the clock, and the cassette player sounds even better than the radio.
I had motor noise with the engine running and the radio on ... and if I touched my shifter, I was getting antenna interference ... but after installing a couple of filters, those problems disappeared.
This is the USA-1 radio sold by Classic Parts and manufactured by Custom Autosound. I talked to a guy who installs stereos and he said "... that is a good unit you bought -- I have installed 4 of them. It should last you a long time!" It features :100 Watts System PowerCheck out my speaker system -- Click Here
Electronic Tuner -- PLL Synthesized
Digital Display / Digital Clock
6 AM and 12 FM Presets
Seek and Scan Buttons
AUX-IN for CD Player
Separate Treble / Bass Controls
Pre-Amp Line Out Jacks for Amplifier
Update: November 25, 2006
I finally covered the faceplate with some black vinyl ... I installed a 1955 Buick Dash Clock and didn't care to see more bare wood in my interior, so I bought some black vinyl and did up both the radio and the clock. It sure makes a nice difference!
NOTE: I've since covered the faceplate with moose leather -- PHASE TWO of this project is HERE