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Radio Daze

Recapturing the sounds of the ’60s

Larry Weiner - March 15, 2012 10:00 AM

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Dashboard with factory installed Delco AM pushbutton radio. In particular, note the chrome-trimmed plate that accents the center of the dashboard, framing the heater control, radio and ash tray. This trim plate must be removed to replace the radio. (Note the four Phillips head screws located at the bottom of trim plate that retain it to the dashboard.)

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Remove ashtray by pulling straight out from dashboard. This reveals an additional screw at the upper center that was obscured by the ashtray. After removing the lower screws and the upper center screw, slip the ashtray receiver back behind the dash and down for removal.

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Remove the chrome metal and black plastic radio tuning knobs by pulling them straight off the radio tuning posts. This will provide access to the hex head nuts on the radio tuning posts. Using a deep wall socket, remove the nuts. Then, remove the radio faceplate.

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With the radio faceplate removed, lift up slightly on the dash trim plate to release it from the plastic retainer at the top and remove.

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Remove the harness plug from back of radio by pulling it out of the receiver and unclip the plug just above it from the back of the radio. Unclip the fader control plug from the back of the radio, if so equipped.

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Remove the two Phillips head screws that attach the radio to the dashboard. The screws are located next to each radio tuning post.

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Pull out the antenna cable from the port in the back of the radio. Next, remove the bolt located at the right rear of the radio that is used to attach the support bracket to the radio. The radio can now be removed by lowering it down behind the dashboard.

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Compare the bottom of the AM radio in Photo 8A with the AM/FM radio in Photo 8B. The major visual difference between them is the location of the heat sink. On the AM radio, it is located inside the radio case at the rear, behind the vents. On the AM/FM radio, the heat sink is larger in size and requires more air, necessitating the external mounting.

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Compare the bottom of the AM radio in Photo 8A with the AM/FM radio in Photo 8B. The major visual difference between them is the location of the heat sink. On the AM radio, it is located inside the radio case at the rear, behind the vents. On the AM/FM radio, the heat sink is larger in size and requires more air, necessitating the external mounting.

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The harness plug receiver on the AM unit, like the heat sink, is located internally; on the AM/FM radio, it is mounted externally. Both are located at the right rear of the radio and accept the same harness plug.

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Many Delco AM/FM radios of this era were offered with a four-speaker Stereo Muliplex system as an option. If the radio was to be used without Multiplex, Delco installed a special 12-pin plug as a bypass. The plug is retained with a small screw to prevent it from loosening. If the plug is not pushed all the way in, the radio will not produce any sound.

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The AM/FM radio installs in the dashboard exactly the same as the AM radio it replaces. Slip the radio in behind the dashboard and attach it to the rear support bracket with the retaining bolt that was used on the AM radio.

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With the AM/FM radio in place, install the harness plug in the receiver and clip the plug for the fader control onto the opening in the back of the radio case near the antenna port.

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After re-installing the dash trim, radio faceplate and hex head nuts, slip the wire harness for the fader control through the opening in the face plate. Next, place the fader control knob on the radio tuning post and push on, followed by the matching bass/treble knob on the opposite tuning post. Finish by installing the chrome knobs.

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The three-wire fader harness end pushes into the plug on the back of the radio. Next, install the antenna cable into the port.

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We will be using the original 1967 Camaro package shelf speaker covers.

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These NOS Delco rear speakers have cloth covers over the cones to protect them from exposure to the sun. Note the wiring with the unique connector that is designed especially for these speaker terminals and the molded-in clip that locks it in place. Do not over tighten the screws that hold the speakers to the package shelf.

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After measuring the wires, a simple two-wire speaker harness is created. The darker blue wires are the positive leads and connect to the original factory blue wire, while the lighter blue wires are the ground wires. We wrapped the harness, supported it with factory clips, located an existing hole for the ground wires and attached them using a small hex head screw and star washer.

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This page from the 1967 Camaro Accessories brochure illustrates and explains all of the radio, stereo and 8-track tape player options available for the 1967 Camaro.  

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Magic. Some cars have it, most don’t. But when it comes to vintage Chevrolet muscle cars, they have magic in spades. In many cases, it’s the reason that enthusiasts are so passionate about owning and driving them.

Magic can take many forms, like the thrill that comes from dropping the clutch and smoking the tires, the exhilaration of top down motoring, or simply admiring the gorgeous body lines of a classic. But nothing can compare with a vehicle that’s capable of transporting you to another time and place. That’s real magic. And none do it better than cars from the golden era of high performance.

In addition to a strong visual and tactile feel, among the senses, sound was just as important. And, we’re not just talking about the rumble of the exhaust system. In the Camaro Options section of the New Camaro brochure that was released in the fall of 1966, Chevrolet encouraged buyers to “Stamp totally you on your Camaro with special options and custom features” that included a wide range of audio entertainment choices.

While it may be hard to believe today, all radios were optional, and it was not uncommon for ultra high performance Camaros to be delivered as radio-delete cars. However, the vast majority were equipped with one of several available Delco all-transistor radios. The choices included a base AM, AM with pushbuttons, AM/FM and an AM/FM stereo with a Multiplex four-speaker sound system. In addition, an 8-track stereo tape system was also available.

Back in the late 1960s, this author’s first vehicle was a nearly identical SS350. Among the many features that the long-lost original Camaro and this one share is the factory Delco AM pushbutton radio and optional rear speakers. In 1969, I had the good fortune to acquire a Delco AM/FM radio that had been removed from a ’67 Camaro that was being converted into a purpose-built race car. Finally, I had an alternative to AM radio, especially with the advent of rock music being broadcast on FM. Looking back, like so many things about the original Camaro, I can still hear the sound of the Delco AM/FM radio playing through the factory speakers, and after much soul searching, decided that an important part of the ownership experience for me was to equip this Camaro with the same system.

For those enthusiasts who prefer a more modern approach, there are many different choices available today when it comes to audio entertainment. The power output and sound clarity of the latest components is far superior to what was available in the 1960s, although some of the trend-setting head units may require modifications to the dash, or at the very least, an adapter plate.

And for those who want the best of both worlds, radios are available that replicate the original factory appearance, while offering the latest in sound technology and compatibility with devices such as iPods and MP3 players. Additional items to consider when choosing a modern sound system include a CD player, the number of speakers and even a subwoofer.

At the other end of the spectrum are original radios and speakers. These are low tech by today’s standards, but if you want the exact same sound the vehicle had when it was new, the only way to truly recapture it is with original components. Much like audiophiles who savor the timeless sound of classic vinyl, the original radio and factory speakers emit a sound uniquely their own, further enhancing the vintage driving experience.

Having made the decision to replicate the original F-body Delco AM/FM system, we contacted NOS Vintage Parts in Yucaipa, California. NOS Vintage Parts offers many NOS and original parts for vintage muscle cars. Fortunately, they had an original Delco AM/FM radio from a 1967 Camaro in stock. We sent the radio to Ray’s Auto Stereo in Sacramento, California, to be serviced as needed. Ray’s Auto Stereo has been in business since 1968 and specializes in repairing vintage automotive tube and transistor radios manufactured from the 1930s to the 1980s. Larry at Ray’s inspected the Delco AM/FM radio and informed us that it needed only minor parts and repairs to play like new again.

After getting that good news, we asked Larry for his recommendation regarding rear speakers, since both were missing. As luck would have it, Ray’s had a limited number of NOS Delco 6x9 rear speakers available for sale that were modestly priced. Although these speakers are not an exact replica of the originals from 1967, they are compatible with the power output of the radio and produce the same sound as the originals. Ray’s also provided wiring with the proper plugs for the speakers.

There is no question that the sound of a 44-year-old radio and speakers does not compare with the incredible clarity that can be achieved with the latest systems. But, it’s the flaws in the sound that make it authentic, and like Christopher Reeve’s character in the movie classic, Somewhere in Time, I really wanted to get it right. Now, not only do the engine and transmission sound just as I remember it, even the music sounds exactly like it did back in the summer of ’69.

Follow along with us as we remove the standard AM push button radio in the Camaro and replace it with an original Delco AM/FM all-transistor radio and rear speakers. Listen closely and you’ll hear the magic.

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