classic cars will never be so safe or efficient, like their modern counterparts. There are certain security features, such as seat belts , which you can install yourself without too much trouble, but for the most part, classic driving means fewer little amenities and innovations that we take for granted. You are probably never going to plant anti-lock braking system to your Chevy Bel Air, and even upgrading things like air conditioning or power steering can be a challenge, but for most people, the biggest sticking point is the difficulty of replacing a classic car radio.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a classic car radio that still works the same way it did the day it rolled off the assembly line, your entertainment opportunities will be strictly limited. The first AM/FM car radio did not even appear until the 1950s, and cars and trucks with AM-only radios were still available into the 1980s. Car stereos weren’t technically even until the 1960s when the first car audio systems with separate left and right channels began to appear.

The problem is that aftermarket car radios are basically in line with standard DIN and cars made before the 1980s tended to use radios that were a pretty mixed bag in terms of size and shape. Thus, although head unit upgrade in a car that has been built in the last 20 or 30 years is usually a fairly simple matter, replacing a classic car radio can be much more of a challenge.

Problem with classic car radio

Whether you’re stuck with an 8-track player, a cassette deck, or a classic car radio that’s literally a car radio, some of the more modern portable media formats can look quite appealing even if you’re adamant about sticking to your classics. If you really want to listen to CDs, MP3s or even internet radio in your classic car or even broaden your horizons just to go from AM FM radio just on AM/FM radio, there are several ways: this, and most of them don’t even require you to drop the look of your classic dash.

The main problem you will run into is that most classic car radios and the dashboards they were designed with do not fit well with the modern DIN standard. Many classic car radios are well integrated into the dashboard, and even more modular models typically use a «mine» style radio, which is not common today.

In the case of cars designed for «shaft» type radios, the dashboard will typically have two holes for the shafts and a small rectangular hole in the middle, and a good fit in a DIN head without cutting into the dashboard.

Replacing a classic car radio with a standard DIN block

In some cases, it is actually possible to replace a classic car radio with a standard DIN aftermarket head unit. This is usually achieved by installing a new under-dash stereo system, which has both advantages and disadvantages. The main reason for installing a modern DIN head unit under the dashboard of a classic car is that it allows you to take advantage of all the features available on newer ones. car radios today without going into the dashboard.

The trade-off is that mounting the head unit under the dashboard of your classic car usually doesn’t look good, and it might even get in the way. If you mount it far enough under the dash that it’s not an eyesore and your passengers won’t bang their knees on it, then actually controlling it while driving can be a problem as well.

In terms of hooking up a modern DIN head unit to a classic car, your experience will depend a lot on the car you’re dealing with. You should be able to use the same power, ground, and antenna connectors, and use the same speaker wiring. The main problem is that if your car comes from the factory with a mono car radio, you will have to use new speaker wires. And if it comes with less than four speakers, you might have trouble finding where generally place new speakers .

Direct replacements for classic car radio

If you’re not too interested in fitting a modern DIN head under your panel, or cutting into the panel to make room, there are two options you can explore. The first option, which will work with literally any combination of make, model and year you can think of, is to use a stealthy car stereo.

Since hidden car stereos are literally designed to «hide» in your glove compartment, under your dash, under your seat, or wherever you want, there are no compatibility issues. In a typical scenario, you would leave your old car radio in place for aesthetic purposes, but instead the hidden device would be connected to a power source, antenna, and speakers.

Hideaway car stereos are often controlled using a portable remote control, which is a little less convenient than just turning knobs on the dash the way you’re used to. Some can also be controlled with smartphone or tablet . In any case, for convenience, the dashboard can provide easy access to your chosen control method.

Another option is to use a semi-universal replacement for a classic car radio and a bezel kit that matches your specific vehicle. These blocks usually follow a «shaft type» design aesthetic, and the actual shafts are often horizontally adjustable to fit various classic cars.

Due to the size limitations associated with direct replacement for a classic car radio, these units are usually much smaller. This means you won’t usually find a direct replacement for your classic car radio capable of playing CDs right out of the box. However, they often include features such as RCA or 3.5mm audio inputs, USB ports and even slots for SD cards which open up many different possibilities for listening to music and other audio content in your classic car.

Preserve the factory look with the replacement of a classic car radio

If your classic car came with a «mine-style» radio with two shaft holes and a rectangular hole in the middle, then you can probably find a modern replacement. If you’re looking for a catch, the price might be a little less attractive compared to single basket DIN heads, but the tradeoff is that you should be able to get close to OEM. ,

This is achieved through the use of handle and faceplate sets, which are available in a wide range of designs. This allows you to identify a set of knobs and a bezel that matches exactly with the rest of your dashboard and pair them with a head unit that has where more options than static AM radio .

Another option is to find a replacement radio specifically designed for the make, model, and year of your vehicle. For more popular models, this is quite an acceptable option. For the less common classics, you’ll be better off using a device that accepts customizable bezels and knobs.

Other benefits of a direct replacement for a classic car radio

The main motivation for replacing the classic car radio may be to simply go beyond AM radio, but modern replacements have so much more to offer. In addition to multiple audio sources such as listening to music from a USB stick or connecting an MP3 player via the auxiliary input, you can also enjoy features such as Bluetooth speakerphone streaming audio files or the Internet without wires. radio or even direct iPod control .

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