Let's take a trip back in time to the days when an AM radio was all there was to listen to in your car. Do you remember CONELRAD? That was the emergency broadcast system identified by the two CD (civil defense) triangles on an AM radio dial at 640 and 1240 kHz. By law every radio manufactured from 1953 to 1963 had to have the CD symbols at those frequencies so they could be found easily if those pinko commies attacked or there was some other national disaster. Remember driving down the road while trying to "dial in" a station playing your favorite song? Or picking up one of the "border blaster" stations out of Mexico that didn't have to conform to U.S regulations limiting broadcast power? Wolfman Jack was on the air from south of the border on XERF (and later XERB). With five times the power of North American stations, he could reach kids all over the country with music and ads pedaling everything from libido-enhancing Florex pills to 100 baby chicks for $3.95. Those were the good old days of AM radio.
When FM radio became available in cars it was an instant hit, then along came "reverb" for that "concert hall" sound followed by four-track tapes, eight-tracks, and finally cassettes. But while all that stuff was cool when everyone on the STREET RODDER staff had a full head of hair, it pales in comparison to what's available now. Contemporary automotive sound systems offer AM/FM and CD players, USB MP3/WMA connections, auxiliary inputs for satellite radio and other premium services, connections for amplifiers, and more. Now the challenge is to integrate all those features in a package that fits into an early car.
Back in 1979, Carl Sprauge designed an improved sound system to fit his 1963 Corvette that didn't require modifying the opening in the dash—that was the beginning of Custom Autosound and today the company offers systems for 400 makes and models of cars from the 1940s through the 1980s. There are units that fit in the stock openings as well as their Secretaudio remote control designs that are hidden from view.
When Matt Love decided to upgrade the original sound system in his 1956 Ford he wanted all the latest electronics in a package that looked like it belonged in the original dash—he found just that in Custom Autosound's model USA 630. This unit has OEM-style push-buttons for a classic look and includes an AM/FM receiver with additional features, like a USB input on the back of the radio with a 14-inch extension. This allows an MP3/WMA playback device to be hidden in the glovebox or ashtray for easy access with no wires or plugs hanging out of the front of the radio. Love also opted for a six-disc CD changer and an interface that allows the operation of an iPod that can also be placed out of sight.
Installing a new Custom Autosound system was easy, the wires for the radio and all components are color-coded to correspond to the installation instructions and are labeled individually. Best of all it gave Love everything he was looking for—all the latest and best sound system options with the classic look of an OEM radio. We'll bet the Wolfman would really dig it.