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Installation guide: Installing an aftermarket radio in a C3

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Old 04-02-2012, 08:55 AM   #1
KevinG
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Default Installation guide: Installing an aftermarket radio in a C3

Warning: you can risk burning your car down by incorrectly doing electrical work on your car. I will not be held responsible if you do so.

I got around to installing a new radio (DIN size) in my 1969 C3 project that I'm getting close to completing. Now, before you decide to go ahead with this project, you will have to understand that either you will (A) have to purchase an aftermarket DIN size cutout gauge bezel, or (B) modifiy your existing one using cutting tools (not NCRS **** approved )

I have been in the car audio scene for a little over 16 years now, and have a good understanding of the various brands and their pros and cons. My 2nd head unit I installed in my HS/college car was an Alpine and I've been satisifed ever since. There is other good brands out there (Kenwood, Pioneer, Sony, Clarion, etc), so its a matter of personal preference and what features you are looking for.

Right about now is a good time to consider restoring your gauge bezel. There are a few threads about that on here. I basically cleaned it up, taped off the chrome trim and used Krylon's indoor/outdoor "Satin Black" color - turned out great!
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You will need this installation piece: American International FP-306. This is basically a plate that will make your new radio fit flush against the oem gauge cluster. This may not be required for aftermarket gauge bezels that are pre-made for aftermarket radios.
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So, this is the 2012 Alpine CDE-HD138BT. It has 50 watts x4 channels, 4 volt preouts (for better external amplifier signal strength), bluetooth audio streaming and phone use, and a USB input for digital music/iPhone & IPod use. Found a $20 off coupon from Cruthfield with free shipping, can't beat that.
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And here she is, all out of the packaging and the box.
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Before you get started, I would highly recommend that you detach the faceplate of your new radio. You don't want to risk scratching or damaging this piece while doing all the test fittings/working with tools, etc. Mine came with a case, so set aside in a safe place she went...
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Gauge Bezel Modification
There is a "sleeve" in which radios will slide into when they are installed. Simply use a small flathead screwdriver to get this piece off from the radio. There are two tabs on the side, just gently pry up and push back at the same time and it'll slide off freely once its past that point.


Now the installation trim piece will need to be modified. It still has the standard cutouts for a **** style radio. On the backside, you will see indentation channels for the cutout. I used a Dremel with a cutoff wheel to get it cut. Cut the piece out going from the backside. You'll see what I mean when the plastic starts to "gunk up" from the backside. This keeps the front as clean as possible and a razor around the opening will knock off any extra that the Dremel didn't cut. Use caution around the corners and just take your time.
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Test fit the cage into the plasic trim and make sure it fits nice and snug.

Now comes the time for cutting out the bezel if you are modifying your oem one. The big part will be cutting out the radio "slot" out of the factory gauge bezel. Take your time on making this cut, as you do not want to make it sloppy or too big, otherwise you'll have fitment problems. I used a dremel with fiberglass cutting wheels. An air powered cutter would be a good start for the long cuts you'll need to make. WEAR EYE PROTECTION AND RESPIRATORY MASK for safety. Here's what I was working with, so you get the idea. I had to modify Bubba's cutting (pictured below) to make a better fit. Mine was already cut out by the previous owner (so no criticizing from any NCRS ****s ) I used my dremel which seemed to do the trick good. Be sure to knock off any sharp edges to avoid cuts when sliding the radio in.

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Test fit the radio sleeve and plastic trim into the bezel and see if everything fits well, and it should look like this:
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There are numerous tabs on the cage and you need to bend out in order to "lock it into place". Using a small flathead screwdriver, start bending in order to lock it behind the bezel. There are a bunch of smaller ones that you can get creative with. Once the tabs are bent, you have the option of epoxying these tabs to the backside of the bezel. Be careful not to go too crazy so it doesn't leak to the front side. I used 5 min epoxy and mixed up a thick batch to avoid this.
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Wiring
Now that the epoxy is drying, lets start wiring up the wiring harness that came with the aftermarket radio. For my '69, there was 3 wires at the wire loom for the radio (grey, black, yellow). On the aftermarket radio harness, you will be using the red, black, yellow, and orange. The best option is using spade connectors to connect straight into the dash wiring harness. Afterall, you don't want to "Bubba" up your own C3 buy cutting off the harness or using wire taps.

I recommend using solder instead of wire nuts when attaching wires. So i took some spare speaker wire, crimped the spade connectors onto and then soldered them onto the aftermarket radio wiring harness and used shrink tubing to seal the wires. The colors you will need to solder these spade connectors to are only red, black, orange. (We'll get to yellow in a bit)


The yellow wire is a continuous 12 volt source. Some may prefer to tap into the cigarette lighter, clock, run a straight line to the fuse panel. I do not recommend doing so as this is big risk in my opinion.

What I did was run a seperate 14 guage wire straight to the battery area. I crimped on an eyelet to attach to the battery terminal that was large enough. BE SURE to solder in an in-line fuse on this wire. Again, you do not want to risk burning your car down. I went with a 15 amp fuse.
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When that line is fished through the parking brake console/shift console area, solder this wire to the yellow wire (12V constant) on the aftermarket radio wiring harness and use shrink tubing to seal the wire.
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Now you can connect the spade terminals that you attached to the aftermarket radio harness. These spade connectors will slide right into the factory dash harness. I would recommend wrapping with electrical tape when done to avoid any contact since they are exposed. The color connections go in this order for a '69: (Other years may vary in wire colors/number of radio wires)
Dash harness -> Aftermarket radio harness
yellow -> red (switched power)
black -> black (ground)
grey -> orange (illumination)

If you are not using an external amplifier, you will need to solder and pull speaker wires to the aftermarket radio harness and pull to speaker areas in your car. Since I am planning on an external amplifier, I simply taped off the ends of any extra wires on the aftermarket radio harness and zip tied

Connect the radio to the radio wiring harness, turn on the ignition and see if it powers up. If it does, then you're in business. Now you can slide the radio into the sleeve, making sure you lock the side tabs into place. Your gauge bezel should now look like this:
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Now you can enjoy your new tunes after you've re-assembled your dash.

Last edited by KevinG; 04-18-2012 at 10:36 AM. Reason: grammer
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Old 04-02-2012, 09:22 AM   #2
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Kevin, That looks great!
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:20 AM   #3
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thanks for the detailed post. I am in over my head on this radio install, but you showed me exactly what needs to be done. Thank you!
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:39 AM   #4
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Wonderful--much appreciated!

Please let us in on the external amp install, okay?

I'm interested in knowing what wattage the big amp will be--obviously, you're not "bi-amping" as you're not running speaker wire to the head unit.

Subwoofers? Off of same amp? Or a dedicated sub-amp?

It is my belief that a "perfect system" (as if such a thing exists) would run TWO subwoofers, one per channel. Any thoughts on this? (I realize there's near-zero real estate in a C3 for such largesse, but if there was room, what would you do?)

Again, many thanks!
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:46 AM   #5
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you will laugh at me for this, and it is well deserved. I could not figure out how to anchor the harness sleeve! I had no idea those little cutouts were bendable braces! I may still burn my car up - kidding. I have had great fortune with my electrical efforts so far. I think I just got done installing a new turn signal assembly. It went well for the most part.
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Old 06-19-2013, 08:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinG View Post


What I did was run a seperate 14 guage wire straight to the battery area. I crimped on an eyelet to attach to the battery terminal that was large enough. BE SURE to solder in an in-line fuse on this wire. Again, you do not want to risk burning your car down. I went with a 15 amp fuse.
I think that running a wire directly to the battery is a good aproach, both from a safety and from a noose suppression standpoint. I'm sure that this stereo has much better noise suppression than old time units, but there isn't much reason o take a chance.

I put a separate fused terminal block in the battery compartment.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:01 AM   #7
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Thanks guys.

My stereo items included:
5 channel amp (4 channels for the 4 speakers and 1 channel for a singe subwoofer)
6.5" component speakers for rear
5.25" componenet speakers for front
10" dual voice coil subwoofer

For the amplifier portion, I built a custom "stereo wall" for the back compartment thats about 3" in depth. After careful measuring and planning how to mount, this is what I designed and built:

Planning out the layout:
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Everything marked and pre-drilled:
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Rear mounting system (have to drill holes in rear wall of storage compartment, do lots of measuring and do not drill through your gas tank. length of the bolts are very important in this step)
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Test fitting into position:
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Speakers and wires ran through on the backside:
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How things look on the front:
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Last edited by KevinG; 06-19-2013 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:12 AM   #8
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Mounting into position:
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Mounted, bolts tightened up on backside (subwoofer came last):
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How things look from side window view looking into car, still somewhat stealthy and you wouldn't know its there unless you looked hard:
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The subwoofer box I custom made to fit in the jack storage compartment and also made a custom cover plate for the storage area to but up against the new speaker box assembly.

It went from this:
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To this:
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Here is my thread on that:
http://forums.corvetteforum.com/c3-g...ure-build.html
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:50 AM   #9
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Great Thread. Should help me a lot with the wiring when I get to that point. I'll need to figure out what wires go from amp to stereo...


I bought all my stuff 2 years ago now and got side tracked with the body off restoration. Can't wait to get it all in and crank it up...hopefully this winter.

I may have gone a bit overboard with my speakers.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:24 PM   #10
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This thread will make me redo my stereo for something more sensible.....getting too old for my other system.

I bought an Alpine last year very similar (if not the same) as the one in post #1. It's on a shelf in my garage. I still sport the Alpine Tape deck (yes, lol) with remote 6 disc changer in my car that I bought back in '95. Later I went nuts and added two 15" JL Audio subs driven by an XTant 1001, two Alpine 6x9's set as mids on a Kicker and tweets up front. Yep, 180A alternator.

Had to remove the rack from the back as it was hitting too hard. Anyway, time for something more sensible.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PUNISHER VETTE View Post
[/URL]
whats the deal with that Hyndai Kenwood radio? I like the 2 **** look. looks like you can get them on ebay for decent prices.
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Old 06-19-2013, 02:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
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whats the deal with that Hyndai Kenwood radio? I like the 2 **** look. looks like you can get them on ebay for decent prices.
I LOVED the two **** look which is why I got it.
Model EZ500

It's been discontinued for a while now so I couldn't find any new versions when I was looking. I think they came in the Tibourn for a year or two...so that's why the Hyundai symbol is on it.

I paid $75 on ebay for mine 2 years ago.

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Old 06-20-2013, 12:36 PM   #13
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Thanks. did some research on them. I guess they have a NON Hyundai version also that has a rear aux input. sounds like a cool radio for the price.
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Old 09-02-2016, 07:22 PM   #14
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Default Radio stays on

I followed KevinG's thread and installed the same alpine stereo in my '68. KevinG's instructions are spot on. I didn't have to mess with the bezel because my project car came with a bezel already set up for a new single DIN head unit. My stereo works and sounds great, but my yellow wire from the dash harness is always hot. This means my stereo won't shut off. I can turn the radio off, but it turns right back on.

No matter if the ignition key is on or off, the yellow radio wire from the dash harness is hot. I know it is supposed to be switched, but apparently mine is not. Initially I thought it must be the ignition switch. I tried another ignition switch I had laying here, and the result is the same. The yellow wire is always hot. I just removed the ignition switch and guess what; the yellow wire is still reading 12v.

Does anyone know the location where the yellow wire is supposed to switch? The yellow wire comes straight from the fuse panel and doesn't route through the ignition switch. That's what the AIM shows and that's what I've traced out so far in my car. I'll be following that confounded yellow wire all the way to Oz this weekend.

Anyone have any ideas? I'm guessing the ignition switch is supposed to switch another switch that effects the yellow wire???

Thanks,
Nathan
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Old 09-03-2016, 11:56 AM   #15
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Nathan,

What year is your car? Different years had different wiring and color coding. Also, if it's an earlier car, I'm betting that someone added an unstitched wire to the fuse panel. Not hard to do and you pretty much need a continuous power wire for modern stereos to retain the presets.
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Old 09-03-2016, 12:10 PM   #16
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Perfect timing on this. I was about to put together a list of things to buy to do.

Thank You

vetfever
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Old 09-03-2016, 07:59 PM   #17
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Default Radio stays on

I have a 1968 vert. All the wiring appears to be per the AIM, so far. I have the 3 wire radio connector with the yellow, gray, and black wires as shown in the AIM and as KevinG shows in his pictures above. I know the yellow wire has 12v on it at all times, the gray wire has 12v on it when I turn on the lights, and the black wire is ground. I ran my own red 14 gauge wire from the battery with a fuse for the constant hot.

The problem is I have no switched power to the radio. The radio won't go off because it always has power. The red 14 gauge wire I ran myself is for preset memory is always hot, as it should be. The yellow wire in the radio dash harness connector is always hot too, but it should be switched.

The yellow wire from the dash harness radio connector runs to the 3rd slot from the top on the fuse panel. This all jives, as this is where the AIM shows it to go and the fuse panel has this 3rd slot even labeled as radio.

The AIM shows a brown wire come from the ignition switch and it tees into the yellow wire between the fuse panel and bulkhead connector. This must be how the ignition switch is supposed to switch the power on the yellow wire. I will be testing this brown wire next.

I'm still hopeful its just the ignition switch, but I have 2 different ignition switches that do the exact same thing. What are the odds that I have 2 bad ignition switches? Both ignition switches actually seem to work as they should, its just this dang yellow wire that won't switch. I'll be doing some more testing before I spend $40 on a new ignition switch.

I guess its also possible the ignition switch tumbler is my problem. I only have one tumbler, so it was used in both switches when I was testing them. The tumbler's operation seems to be pretty simple and I'm not seeing what could go wrong with it. Does anyone know of a tumbler going bad or something?
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Old 09-04-2016, 12:48 AM   #18
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I wish that plastic bezel was available when I had my Din radio. I had to make my own out of sheetmetal.
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Old 09-04-2016, 01:51 PM   #19
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Since a subwoofer signal is non-directional and our C3'3 have very little room, this was my solution. My goal was to incorporate worthy lows into the existing equipment to try and keep things looking as if Chevy themselves did it.

I was able to get an 8" Infinity subwoofer designed to operate in around a .33 cubic ft areas perfect for this application into the area that once held the jack. I built the box from 3/4" mfd and the top was 1/2" Birch. I was able to use the stock trim molding. Looking at it in the car, you'd NEVER guess this was a subwoofer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mid-Years Forever! View Post
Wonderful--much appreciated!

Please let us in on the external amp install, okay?

I'm interested in knowing what wattage the big amp will be--obviously, you're not "bi-amping" as you're not running speaker wire to the head unit.

Subwoofers? Off of same amp? Or a dedicated sub-amp?

It is my belief that a "perfect system" (as if such a thing exists) would run TWO subwoofers, one per channel. Any thoughts on this? (I realize there's near-zero real estate in a C3 for such largesse, but if there was room, what would you do?)

Again, many thanks!

Last edited by Patro46; 09-04-2016 at 01:53 PM. Reason: Content
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