Korean War Veteran Upgrades Audio in Classic Cadillac
A very interesting client came to us this spring from Woodbine, Maryland. He was looking for a classic car stereo upgrade in his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. That’s right, 1976! This was the last year that an American car company made a convertible for quite some time. It was the end of an era! To top it off, this classic car has 6200 miles on it and this gentleman was the second owner! But wait, this story gets even better. The owner was in his 80’s and was wearing a Korean War hat! I asked him if he served and he said yes…… In 1953! We were getting more excited by the minute. I probed a little more and found out he has been married to the same woman for fifty-five years! As you can imagine, the respect meter was pegged at this point.
Classic Car Stereo Consultation Creates Confidence
He had driven the car the day we met him so we did our audio consultation right then and there. What an amazing classic car! A beautiful shade of red with a white top and white leather interior. Can you imagine cruising down your favorite road on a nice summer evening with your loved one by your side? I think you are getting the picture. But there was something missing. To say that this classic car stereo was lacking is a big understatement. The Caddy had two 3.5” speakers in the dash that were almost 40 years old! You can imagine how they sounded. As we got to know this gentleman better we realized that he had been into home HiFi for over 40 years. He wanted an incredible sounding stereo system to fit his incredible car. What he did not want was any major changes to this classic, and any work needed to look like Cadillac put it there. He also wanted his original Cadillac radio/8-Track player to work if possible. This was going to be a big challenge but those are the kind we love the most. Our client confidently agreed to allow us the honor of working on his pristine ride.
Speaker Placement Is Critical In Any Car Audio System
We knew from the beginning that we had to come up with a good speaker placement for the front of this vehicle and cutting into the doors was not an option. This can be tricky when designing any high-end classic car stereo. We looked at the design of the front kick panels and thought that we may be on to something. We proposed a custom designed kick panel based on a second set of factory kick panels. We explained that we would be able to bolt the originals back in if he ever wanted to return it to 100% original condition. He loved the idea. We started with the factory kick panels and used them as templates to create our own set out of fiberglass. We finished them with a special texture that gave them a look just like the original ones. We dyed them red to match the rest of the lower dash area and painted part of the speaker grill white to pick up on the white theme so prevalent in the Cadillac. We modified the emergency foot brake slightly so it would clear the speaker when it was depressed.
German Maestro EV5008 speakers were installed in the kick panels in a coaxial configuration with the tweeter mounted in the center of the woofer. This gives us great point source imaging of the music and eliminates the need for an externally mounted tweeter, further maintaining the integrity of this classic car. Our master installer aimed the kickpanels in such a way that when you sit in either front seat you get a great sounding stereo image. “Wow” was the first word out of my mouth when I heard it. For rear speakers we used the factory speaker locations behind the rear seat and installed a set of German Maestro EV6508 speakers, again in a coaxial configuration.
Classic Car Stereo Systems Need Bass Too!
Any great car stereo system has a subwoofer. This is true even when building a great classic car stereo system. In the trunk we designed a custom fiberglass enclosure on the driver’s side to hold a JL Audio 12W3v3-2 subwoofer. We designed the enclosure in such a way so it could be removed and the trunk put back to stock because we did not want to hurt the value of this incredible car. Hushmat was installed in multiple areas throughout the vehicle to remove any chance of rattling or sound resonation negatively coloring the music.
“Secret” Source Supplies Signal for System
For his source unit, or radio as many of us call it, we chose a Custom Autosound Secret Audio SRMS system. What is unique about this piece is that nothing gets installed into the dash. Everything is controlled by a hand held unit that works via radio frequency from up to 20 feet away. We tucked the main control unit under the seat. The controller has a display which has all the controls you would normally have on an in-dash stereo system. He had AM/FM radio, a 6 disc CD Changer that we installed in the trunk, an iPod/iPhone controller, and satellite radio.
Arc Audio Provides Power
Power for the new classic car stereo system was provided by an Arc Audio XDi805 amplifier that we were able to hide under a front seat to continue our stealth theme. This amplifier provided 80 watts to the front and rear speakers and 400 watts to the subwoofer. This vehicle will not have a problem sounding loud and clear while parked at a traffic light or cruising down the highway at 65 MPH!
The Fine Details. AKA Leaving No Stone Unturned
As you can imagine we did not want to have the satellite radio antenna in a visible spot on the outside of this car as it would detract from its good looks. We determined that the continental Kit in the rear of the vehicle is made of fiberglass. Since the satellite signal can pass right through fiberglass, we installed the antenna inside the continental kit and put a metal plate under it to help improve reception. It worked beautifully.
While we had the vehicle in the shop we realized that someone had installed a poor fitting trunk carpet kit. We pointed this out to the client and he had us correct this situation. We created a custom carpet kit and re-upholster any of the carpeted trim items in the trunk to look new. What an improvement that made.
One of the last requests we took on was getting the original stereo system to play. We found that the original radio did in fact turn on. In the course of running all new wiring for the new stereo system, we ran new speaker wires up to the dash and installed a new pair of 3.5” speakers in the factory location. We turned it on……. And it played! We designed a circuit so either the new stereo or the original stereo would control the power antenna. While we were working on the antenna we realized that the person charged with installing the power antenna before us left a large amount of wiring and antenna cabling coiled up under the dash. Needless to say we corrected all of that.
Backing Up Is Hard To Do….. Not When We Were Done!
So now this classic car stereo project was complete. The car looked and sounded amazing. The client was overjoyed at the finished product. He did not think a car stereo system could sound that good, and surely not in a 40-year-old classic. But this customer had one last request. He said to us “you know, this is a big car, and when I am backing up it can get hard to judge exactly where the continental kit is in relation to another vehicle. Do you have anything that could help me with that?” So we scoped it out and realized we could install a collision avoidance system into the base of the continental kit just like we install on modern vehicles. So now, starting at about 6 feet away, the collision avoidance system will go from a slow beep to a fast beep, and eventually to a constant tone. It worked out great.
Humbled To Have Such a Classy Classic Client
All in all this was one of our favorite builds to date. Starting out with a Korean War veteran and a man who truly understands commitment in a marriage, to being an older gentleman that was still crazy about great sounding music, to an incredible classic car that had 6200 original miles on it. And topping it all off was the fact that we exceeded the client’s expectations on all fronts. This man could have gone anywhere and we are extremely grateful and humbled that he trusted us with this truly beautiful automobile.
At WSS Westminster Speed and Sound, we specialize in classic car stereo systems and builds. If you would like to learn more, please give us a call, contact us, or better yet, stop in!