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1st gen custom radio "build"

Discussion in '1969-1972 K5 Blazer | Truck | Suburban' started by bp71k5, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    With all the build threads going on lately, I thought this might be fun for me to post the start of my "build" that I've been researching for a few months now. This might be a fun read for anyone trying to get nice audio system in their 69-72 but keep the stock vintage radio looks. This will be a long post, but I thought I'd dive in and update it over time as I go along. It's still a work in progress so I will also need some tips along the way. Plus after seeing Greg72's very cool audio setup pictures, it motivated me to get started.

    My problem is that the PO cut the dash opening to add a modern size stereo, but I like the old fashioned vintage look of old interiors. (See picture)

    In addition, I've had more stereos stolen from cars than I care to remember so I dislike advertising an expensive stereo just to have someone steal it. Plus I don't like the idea of hiding the new stereo in the console or under the seat because I didn't want to spare the space or hack into anything else I didn't absolutely have to. More in next post.

    Blazer1 006_320x240.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2007
  2. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    So I started researching options to convert an old AM style radio to add FM+ stereo plus allow me to add some kind of auxillary input to run my iPod as well as some pre-outs for amplifiers.

    I found some online services that gut the old radio, refurbish it, and add new
    components to it giving you new tech sound for ~ $600. This sounded like a lot of $$$ for a radio with quality I have never heard of, so I thought I'd look into some kind of DIY kits that have digital AM/FM tuners and maybe try to squeeze it into the box. I could then just have some extra knobs hidden to switch between AM/FM. But this still did not give me high quality sound or any extra options for iPod, etc.

    Researching some local vintage parts "collectors" I found some AM/FM versions can go for $600+ in working condition on ebay. Yikes, for that kind of money I could get GPS and a DVD player thrown in!

    One other option was to swap in a newer GM radio with FM and stereo. But again, I found newer GM radios have mounting knobs that are all 5-3/4" apart so I couldn't use those since mine are supposed to be 6-1/4" (if the PO hadn't "removed" them for me)

    I found some new radios that are designed to fit these trucks and other classic cars while I was at Classic Industries in southern CA. These are probably the best option with least amount of effort and aren't that expensive, but I wasn't so sure of the quality and the design just didn't fit the look I wanted. It still looked like a newer radio.

    Anyway, none of those options were turning out to be what I wanted plus lots of work and/or lots of money so I thought, why not just get a new modern radio and modify it to fit in a vintage radio case?

    Built-not-bought right?!

    First, since my dash was cut for a modern radio, I had no radio to hack up in the first place. I went to my local pick-n-pull looking for one and luckily found one in decent shape. I also found a straight un-cut dash section in a 71 C-10 truck right next to it. After some careful :hack: :grind: , both of them were mine for a total of $35.99 :woot:

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  3. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    There's not much to these radios in terms of design (which is why I like them), but the biggest visual clue that it's vintage (other that how it mounts to the dashboard) is the push style preset buttons and the two knobs which are 6-1/4" apart. Any "new" radio I created had to include those at a minimum or this was a waste of time. (maybe it is anyway! )I also wanted to keep the chrome faceplate and "GM" logo which this radio had.

    So once I had a place to put the new "franken-radio", I searched around for a similar type modern car stereo that I could either fit the old knobs onto or maybe retrofit new knobs onto the old radio dials. I found a Kenwood MP-335 in-dash CD player with AM/FM stereo, detachable face, 3 pre-outs, 50wattsx4 channels, USB input for iPod, Satellite and HD radio ready, plus a remote control. The only thing I would have wanted to include was a CB radio or a DVD player with small monitor, but I figured that would be excessive. :D

    I bought it for $179 + tax wondering if I should get 2 of them in case I break the first one. I took my chances and just got the one. Remember, I'm trying to "build" not "buy"!

    KDC_MP335.jpg
     
  4. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    So now I had the parts and just needed to figure out the plan. I detached the bezel on the AM radio and took a look at how it was assembled. The AM radio bezel sits mostly behind the dash panel so this was a good sign. If it stuck out a lot, the new stereo screen would have to be much farther away from the old AM faceplate screen with the numbers on it. The new stereo face was also much wider than the hole in the dash so it couldn't be in front of the dash either.

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  5. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    I then disassembled the new detachable faceplate stereo to see what was going on in there. If I did manage to get the internal components from the new faceplate into the old, I wanted to make sure everything would fit without having to remove any visible part of the old faceplate and ruin the vintage look of the radio.

    The first problem I found is that the new faceplate has knobs about 5-3/4" apart instead of the 6-1/4" I needed. I obviously didn't want to drill new holes in the dash to fit the new radio! I obviously had to find a way to move these two knobs apart to get them to fit in the stock knob locations. I decided to un-solder the little rotary "encoders" on the PC board and re-connect them with wire to allow me to space them apart the right distance. It's not quite done, but will take some pictures in a couple days to show the result if it still works.

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  6. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    The next problem was that the active area of the new display screen is a little taller (~2mm) than the hole in the AM radio faceplate. It is close, but ideally I wanted to be able to see everything on the screen while driving and needed to open the hole up by ~2mm. So I sent the AM bezel out to a machinist friend to do a little surgery on the back side where you won't see it. I'm just adding a bevel to the back side so the opening gets a little wider towards the back where the new screen will sit. In addition, I needed to make room for the new screen to fit as close as I could get inside the old faceplate without damaging any of the visible parts you would see. I'm waiting on the results of the machining now and will post pictures when I get it back.

    Stay tuned...

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  7. BobK

    BobK 1/2 ton status

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    That's alot of work man...but you'll get what you want then,right?

    Nice going:bow:
     
  8. Greg72

    Greg72 "Might As Well..." Staff Member Super Moderator

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    This looks like a cool project!

    So is the idea to use the old radio to control the "new" functions....or somehow hinge the old faceplate to fold down and reveal the new stero hidden behind it??? :dunno:
     
  9. Yukon Jack

    Yukon Jack 1/2 ton status

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    You need to check out this thread as you are working on your project to see if anything Frizzle Fry did will be of assistance http://67-72chevytrucks.com/vboard/showthread.php?t=229621

    Look forward to seeing more on your project. Right now neither of my trucks have radios but if I could do something with a stock style, that sure could get tempting, at least for the K5.
     
  10. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    The idea at the moment is to use the old style knobs "mounted" on the new contol electronics. The new radio has two knob style controls which do more than just rotate. They also pressin/out and move left/right/up/down to control the menus like a joystick. The knobs will look stock, but function the "new" way. The new electronics will be behind the old faceplate. No hinging faceplates or dummy radio that controls another radio. Think of it as mounting the old faceplate on the new radio. It's a lot more than that, but is the easiest way to explain until I have more pics.

    I purposely choose a new radio that didn't have a lot of extra buttons. I wanted to be able to control all the radio functions with the two knobs and the preset buttons. There is one button I do need to use which is the "source" button which switches between all the different inputs, so I may try to hook that up to one of the AM station preset buttons or see if there's some way to switch presets in a menu instead of using a dedicated button. Probably not the easiest way to use a radio, but this is a special situation.

    Also, the preset buttons on the new radio PCB are actually not little switches, they are just small contact traces on the board that each button presses against to "complete the circuit". This will make it much easier to adapt the AM pushbuttons to control station presets. I may be able to glue the new radio buttons onto the back of the AM buttons. Maybe something better than glue is in order, but you get the idea.
     
  11. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    Update - Moving the knobs

    Ok, here's an update on how the process of moving the knobs outward to fit the old AM faceplate. I had to move each knob/dial thingy outward about 1/2" so they end up being spaced out 6-1/4" like the stock AM radio. This involved unsoldering the devices from the PCB and then re-connecting them with wire so I could mount them where I need.

    moveswitch.jpg

    linesupnow.jpg

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  12. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    One problem I ran into is that taking off soldered components from a very delicate PCB is tough. If you use too much heat and I did in one case, you can melt the tiny copper traces on the board right off which breaks the connection. Hopefully this trace is only on one side of the board and I can find a jumper wire to solder in it's place. You need a really fine tip soldering iron to do this. The wire is about the width of one hair.

    The burned trace is right about where the arrow is. Sorry about the picture quality, but my camera can't get that close without a blur.

    badsolder.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  13. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    Next I need to hollow out the back of the AM faceplate so the display screen can sit closer to the front of the faceplate which will sit right about the same spot as the old AM window made of plastic. You can see the extra gap in the picture. Since I can't cut the PCB, I needed to send the faceplate out for some :hack: surgery. You won't be able to tell the difference when it's installed, but will make the radio modifications non-reversible.

    gap.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  14. Greg72

    Greg72 "Might As Well..." Staff Member Super Moderator

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    This kind of project is cool...... keep those updates coming, I'm excited to see how this is all going to look when it's finished.
     
  15. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    Fitted the new electronics on to the am faceplate

    Small update, I ended up having to cut off more material than I originally planned on from the AM radio faceplate. The new electronics were just too big so I cut both ends off of it and hollowed out the back a bit. The last picture shows the final faceplate after hacking it up with the dremel cutoff wheel.

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  16. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    and here's how it looks with the new electronics behind it. The original plan was to slide the new stuff in from the bottom so I could keep the original mounting points on the metal faceplate (where the knobs were). After all the cutting, there was just no more material left to keep it together without being too fragile.

    In the second picture you can see the numbers on the display and if you look close, you can see the station preset switches on the board right where the old black buttons on the AM radio were. Pretty cool if I can figure out how to have those old buttons activate the station presets.

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    Last edited: Apr 17, 2007
  17. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    Next I took a look at the knobs to see how I could attach them to the new electronic encoders. I was pretty pleased to see the holes in the knobs looked pretty close to the diameter of the electronic encoder dial. I used some calipers to check and it's perfect, all by coincidence. I just needed to remove the little metal clip inside the knob and fabricate a smaller one to keep the knob from rotating on the dial.

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  18. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    Here's a shot of what it looks like positioned on the dash panel which I'll weld in later.

    I now need to have a new plastic window made to replace the old one I took out. Lots of the "new" radios from LMC keep the little numbers on the faceplate for the AM frequencys so it looks stock when it's off. That's a little too vintage for me, so I decided to have a new clear window made which can do double duty for some other things I need.

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  19. bp71k5

    bp71k5 3/4 ton status Premium Member

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    What's happening now is that I designed this window as a small plastic part for my machinist buddy to fabricate for me. This part will do 4 things:

    1. Form the plastic window to see the screen through
    2. Hide the green board and electronics you can see in the pictures.
    3. Give me mounting points to hold the new electronic knobs which are just hanging on by wires now.
    4. Hold the metal faceplate to the new electronics similar to how the detachable faceplate was put together.

    It's pretty easy since I just email him the 3d file (along with some cash) and he sends me back the part. Here's a small image of what it should look like. The square hole and the octagon shaped hole are just big enough for the electronic encoder "knobs" to press in from behind. Since the part will be transparent, the metal faceplate will go on top of it and allow you to see the screen which is beneath it. Pictures will help explain when I get it back hopefuly next week.

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  20. Yukon Jack

    Yukon Jack 1/2 ton status

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    So eager to see your finished product!
     

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