Copyright 2006 by BUCKAROO COMMUNICATIONS
All rights reserved.
INSTALLING A NOT-SO-CLASSIC STEREO
IN A CLASSIC VINTAGE MUSTANG
Story & Photography By Matt Emery
We like the look of classic vehicles, and that goes for the
look of a classic dash panel. The one thing we never liked was
the need to cut up the dash to install a newer stereo system.
Now, thanks to the folks at Custom Autosound, those days are
over. Now you can install a Custom Autosound system in a
vintage ride without having to "carve" it up, and you don't
need to be an electrical engineer.
The owner of this '65 Ford Mustang is a typical example of a
Custom Autosound customer. She wanted a modern system that
would, of course, incorporate everything she was looking for
in a stereo (i.e., great sound and CD capabilities), but one
that would also fit into the stock opening. She also wanted
the system to retain the look of the stock unit right down to
the adjustment knobs. She listens mostly to the "standards"
station on an AM channel, but over the years the stock
dash-mounted speaker has been damage to the extent that the
sound emanating from it was really bad. She also had a
collection of CDs form her favorite crooners that were doing
her no good sitting at home, so she decided to upgrade the
audio system. However, she liked that the 'Stang was in its
original state, and she didn't want to cut the dash just to
fit a normal stereo system. She wanted to have her standards
and listen to them in an undamaged car while not altering the
look of her retro ride. Luckily for her, Custom Autosound has
exactly what she was looking for.
Since 1979, Custom Autosound has been producing
state-of-the-art stereo systems that fit the stock radio
opening. It was back then that Custom Autosound owner Carl
Sprague designed just such a unit, one that would fit without
having to alter the interior of his car. Since then, he and
his crew have expanded the products offered by Custom
Autosound to include systems for more than 400 different makes
and models ranging in years from the '40s through the '80s.
There is even a Secretaudio unit for those who have smoothed
or modified their dash so that no opening exist anywhere.
Here we will chronicle the installation of a Custom
Autosound USA-6 unit in an early Mustang. The installation of
the unit is fairly straightforward, and one that most folks
with a base knowledge of a vehicle's electrical system and
stereo-based electronics can do at home. So, Follow along as
Custom Autosound brings this Mustang audibly into the modern
age, but with its great looks intact.
The heart of the matter is the Custom Autosound head unit.
This model is the USA-6. It features AM/FM stereo and 140
watts of power and is capable of operating a CD changer. It is
the one Custom Autosound unit that doesn't have a cassette
player (but, really, who needs that function nowadays, as CDs
have taken over---at least for now and until MP3 obsoletes
them). It even has a cool Mustang running along its face. Oh,
don't let the numbers on the dial fool you--they are only
there for looks; the unit uses LED numbers to display the
station and the CD readout.
The Custom Autosound CD changer
holds 10 disc that are easily installed into the magazine. All
controls for the changer are found on the head unit.
Custom Autosound has devised these dual voice-coil speaker to
fit in the place of the stock dash speaker.
They are pre-wired
as they come from Custom Autosound, so installing them is
simply a matter of plugging them into the main radio wiring
harness. It can handle 140 watts of power.
4. Gone also are the days of having to
cut a hole in your door panels to mount speakers. Custom
Autosound has eliminated that drastic step with its
kickpanel-mounted speakers. These unit are black, high-density
molded ABS plastic, so they can be installed as is, or they
can easily be painted or covered with upholstery if the
interior of your ride is another color. They feature a 6½"
coaxial (two-way) speakers that are capable of handling 80
watts of power each. As with the company's other speakers, the
units are pre-wired with male and female ends, so there is no
chance of a wiring problem.
5. The stock unit did a great job of
delivering the mono-based signals of the '60s, but what you
need today are stereo capabilities.
6. The first step when working on any
automotive electrical system is to remove the negative lead on
7. You've got to start somewhere, so the
first step was to remove the stock dash speaker. Thankfully,
Ford eliminated the need to reach under the dash by installing
the unit form the top. After removing the mounting screws, the
speaker grill was lifted up and removed.
8. Using an angled screwdriver helps
with the tight confines when removing the mounting screws, and
the stock speaker is lifted out.
9. The head unit is held in place with
nuts on the adjustment post, as well as from behind with a
10. After the hardware is removed, the
stock head unit is removed.
11. After that, the stock kick panels
removed. It is advisable to remove the stock items and install
the new speakers first. This way, the lead wires can be run to
the new radio wiring harness.
12. After the lead wires are separated
and marked (L and R), the dash speaker is set into place.
Again, the angled screwdriver comes in handy when installing
the mounting screws.
13. Connecting the speaker to the main
harness is simplicity itself. Simply find the right harness
wire and plug in the speaker wire.
14. The only difficult part of the
operation is finding the hot wires needed. Since the Custom
Autosound unit has electronic presets, a constantly hot
wire, as well as a
keyed hot wire, needs to be found. The stock radio hot wire is
keyed, so that one is easy. The constantly hot wire can be
found in the fuse block or even the headlight switch. Also, it
should be said that the ground lead should be solidly fixed to
a non-painted metal surface. A bad ground is usually the
reason an automotive electrical device won't work properly, so
take care when doing this step.
15. The new style of connecting wires is
a new take on the old wire nuts. These butt-end connections
are strong and simple to use-- just twist the wires, slip on
the connector and crimp.
16. The kick-panel speakers are put in
place an will be help tight with screws.
17. The CD changer will be located in
the trunk, so the lead wire is run beneath the driver's-side
doorsill and up under the back panel of the rear seat. Note
that the changer gets its power from this lead, so there is no
need to run a power wire.
18. With all the wires connected
to the radio harness, and that harness plugged into the rear
of the unit, it's time to install the Custom Autosound head
unit. The unit is carefully slipped into place.
19. One of the tools of the trade is the
deep-throw nut driver. But for those of us at home, fingers do
a good job of installing the nuts, and a small wrench is
enough to tighten them. Just remember that you are not holding
down the Queen Mary, so don't over-tighten the nuts. Using the
rear-mounting strap is equally important, as the act of
driving will jostle the unit enough to possibly damage the
post if the strap is not there to hold the rear of the unit
20. There is some prep needed before
installing the CD changer. The plates that cover the ends need
to be removed to get to the items beneath.
21. Three screws hold the internals
together so that no damage occurs during shipping, and they
must be removed at install or the unit won't work. Also, there
is an orientation knob that also must be set. If the unit is
going to be mounted flat, the knob is set to "0". If the unit
is mounted in the upright position it must be set to "90".
22. Mounting plates are also supplied,
and they are affixed to the screw holes where the shipping
plates were mounted.
23. The mounts are affixed with
self-tapping sheet metal screws (just make sure you look
beneath the area
so you don't screw into anything that could be
24. With the lead wire plugged in and
the magazine filled with your favorite CDs, the changer is
ready to, well...change CDs.
25. The cover plate for the dash speaker
26. The last step is to reattach the
battery lead, and the job is done.
27. Ready to rock...well in this case we
guess it's "ready to croon." Anyway, the Custom Autosound
system is in place and ready to provide years of audible
pleasure to the driver and passengers of this classic Mustang.
Chevy Truck Install | USA-66
Mustang Install | Mustang Install | Wire Diagrams