Tiny Radio Head Unit

Discussion in 'Discussion Forum' started by AKimball92, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. AKimball92

    AKimball92 True Classic

    I have a 1978 X1/9 with the early dash. The dash was never cut for any radio but come spring, I would like to have a radio installed. If I install a radio, I would like to keep it relatively hidden for both aesthetics and theft prevention. There are two places in the dash I think a radio would fit.

    A CD player is not necessary anymore as they are obsolete so the size doesn't need to fit the CD required parts. I honestly like listening to the radio as times as I like the local morning talk shows and winning concert tickets. Internet streamed radio delays too much to attempt contests.

    Location options
    1. Has anyone found a multimedia unit that would fit in the ash tray compartment? It's like 1.5" x maybe 5". I haven't done accurate measurements yet and am willing to slightly modify that cutout. The screw holes for the center console panel are already cracked so the part is not pristine.
    2. Installing a cutout on the passenger side dash speaker panel and fitting the head unit behind it. No CD depth allowed here either unless I cut into the wiper linkage compartment in front. That is doable but I would rather not.

    In both cases a little flap would conceal the head unit away to deter any would be thieves. In rural southern Indiana, I've already had items stolen out of my 124 Spider. I couldn't imagine what driving in metro Detroit would invite if a decent sound system is easily visible.

    I'm in no rush, just casting and seeing if I get a good bite.
  2. davejake

    davejake It's Running!!!

    Lakeville, MN
    I've seen these installed in boats and contemplated them in classic cars so as not to cut into the dash
  3. JimD

    JimD Waiting for Godot... Moderator

    Missouri, USA

    You could use a remote mounted stereo in the frunk or possibly the spare tire well. SecretAudio is just one example I have looked at in the past. You end up only needing to find a place to mount the LCD remote unit. The remote is described as follows:
    So it is fairly small. Certainly bigger than the ash tray opening you described. :(
    AKimball92 likes this.
  4. AKimball92

    AKimball92 True Classic

    I wonder if that "remote" is bigger than the ash tray and by how much. I'll have to take some accurate measures an not thumb up, tongue out, eye closed approximations.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2018
  5. AKimball92

    AKimball92 True Classic

    If I go the ashtray route I would need something rectangular to fit. The search option above for the marine field would get me closer. But if i go with the speaker box option, a quality good user interface DIN radio (minus the CD player) would probably be best. Honestly DIN 1.5 or 2 could fit in the speaker hole pattern. I was thinking along those lines to use some push to open or close latches like kitchen cabinets to secure the door.


    Otherwise fitting in the spare tire well is always a good option if the remote is accessible.
  6. AKimball92

    AKimball92 True Classic

    A plus for the marine unit is the water proof or resistant architecture. In a convertible that is important. It was a requirement for my hard top Spider where the top was left at home if I went out.
  7. When I bought my car in 1974, the only radio that would fit in the X was that crappy AM-FM unit that the dealers installed in the center of the dash. The installation tore a pretty good sized (and ugly) hole in the center of the dash as well as holes in the door cards for the crappy speakers. I required a solution that did not permanently destroy the interior, had good sound, and the latest technological marvel - a cassette deck. I ended up installing a Boman Astrosonix - one of the very few AM-FM-Cassette units available (8 tracks were still in). In order to do that, I needed to increase the available depth behind the passenger side speaker grill where the radio would be placed. This was done by creating a vertical incision in the firewall (I think I used a Dremel and cut off wheel) on each side of where the back of the radio would protrude, and then cutting a horizontal slit across the bottom. The "flap" of firewall metal was then bent up to form a roof over where the radio protruded. The sides were then fiberglassed and everything was painted black so it would not be seen under the grill in front of the windshield. So far, no leaks or issues in 44 years.

    As sports cars with wood dashes were still in back then, I made a front panel out of a piece of mahogany:

    1974 X19 Stereo Installation.jpg

    I suppose if I did it today it would probably just be a black piece of something. The radio shown was installed in 1995 (just before the engine blew) along with a 12 disc changer in the frunk. It has the advantage of a remote control which is velcroed to the side of the driver's seat. This unit has an auxiliary input, and I found a Bluetooth receiver for under $5 so nor sure I'll keep the changer. With today's electronics, you could probably conceal everything and run it all from a small control panel or smartphone.

    Since I wanted to have some decent speakers, there were few choices in location where they could fit. I built some kick panels out of particle board and cut some round holes in the sheet metal behind them for the magnets to fit. I think the units in there now are 6.5" two way units.

    1974 X19 right kick panel speaker.jpg

    The sound quality is great with the roof on and loud enough with the roof off. The removable faceplate gets locked in the glovebox when necessary.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2018
  8. lidox19

    lidox19 Daily Driver

    Cheltenham UK
    I have the same dilemma with an uncut dash. I was thinking about buying one of these DAB radios.
    and mounting it under the dash in the passenger foot well with one of these

    As it looks like an old 70's radio I would be surprised if anyone would nick it.

    Alternatively I could use one of these and not have the radio/handsfree unit.

    There must be other options out there.
    AKimball92 likes this.
  9. bpimm

    bpimm Brian Pimm

    Washougal, WA
  10. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Sin City
    About a year ago I wanted to do the same thing on one of my other project cars, here are my thoughts on it. I looked at all options I could find but none of them satisfied my needs for various reasons.

    The "secret audio" type of hidden units were o.k., but more expensive than I had budgeted, and frankly more expensive than I thought their features/quality seemed to warrant.

    The really inexpensive BlueTooth units (image below) looked ideal so I ordered one. Turned out to be about what you'd expect for the money (less than $10) - it did not work properly.

    Units with a regular DIN face size but no CD are really short (front to back) so they will fit in limited spaces (perhaps the speaker grill area in your case). But the front of them look like most all modern stereos, so it isn't a theft deterrent - and they tend to have lots of flashing lights, etc. I ended up putting one of them in yet another vehicle and it functions great. There was a discussion about these not long ago, can't recall who started it.

    The ones that are supposed to look 'vintage' but have modern internals was intriguing. But when I looked at them in person I did not care for their appearance - they really did not look all that old, just a bit cheesy.

    I considered something like the "marine" one referenced above. I found a couple similar to it. For me the shape of their controller/display units did not fit in with my dash and the 'vintage' design of that car.

    I considered taking a non-working 'old' radio (circa 1970's), stripping out its guts, and installing the internals of a new unit. But after looking at a couple of them it wasn't a easy project.

    Just today at the SEMA Show I saw one that is a basic Bluetooth device that connects to speakers. You use your phone to control it and feed the signal (radio, MP3 or whatever you have on your phone). So nothing is mounted on the dash. I'm not a big fan of phone based devices so I did not pay too much attention to the details. If that option interests you perhaps you can find one online.

    I don't recall what other options I looked into. But like I said I did not find anything I liked, so I still don't have an answer. It will be interesting to see what you can come up with.

    Cheap BlueTooth unit:
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  11. I have a Bluetooth receiver that looks similar to the one in your photo. It worked great for about 6 months and recently died. I plan to do a failure analysis on it but I think it has a problem in the charging circuit. It had one cool feature I had not seen before in that it could connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. It cost about $4 on eBay. I'll probably buy another one and treat them as disposable items like AA cells which they resemble physically.
  12. kmead

    kmead Old enough to know better

    I wasn’t able to find the unit you have a pic of, it seems like an ideal unit as I generally don’t value the way modern audio units deal with lighting, design etc. This has all the things one would want: Bluetooth,USB, AUX and a chip reader (which I love on my Blaupunkt, I can have a huge catalog of music always in the car).

    If you are still at SEMA and bored feel free to look at that device you found.

    I have had mechanism-less units in my cars for years now and appreciated the reduction in size. Ultimately if there was a system that was just a USB cable as a conduit to the unit It would be the thing to have, my phone needs a charge regardless.

    Found it:

    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    AKimball92 likes this.
  13. kmead

    kmead Old enough to know better

    Something like this could be packaged into the space of the standard ashtray, it would be a nice repurpose of a useless item.

    As it is decoupled, the USB etc could be pointed into the void behind and just have the three buttons visible on the face of the ashtray/new cover. The USB/AUX could come come out wherever you want or be put away when you want. One would still need an amplifier which could be placed elsewhere with this driving it.

    Cheap too, likely to not last so one would want to get a few...


    AKimball92 likes this.
  14. AKimball92

    AKimball92 True Classic

    I do like that USB version, from KMEAD. I couldnt tell but does this have a decent radio receiver? I do listen to radio and honestly prefer to not have to use my phone for much in terms of audio. I am not a fan of everything being based on the smart phone. One I only use a company phone with minimal storage and 2 do not like to pay for subscriptions to satellite radio.

    The Gaffermart item might fit as well. I am doubting the 41mm dimension. That's less than 2 inches. maybe in height that makes sense but not the width or length of the panel shown.

    Thanks all, this thread is really pointing to feasible options for our vehicles. Simply removing the ashtray would be very easy to the hands and to the heart. :D No one likes cutting up their babies any more than necessary lol. That sounds bad but I will keep it.
  15. darwoodious

    darwoodious Darin Nelson

    Seattle, WA
    I picked up a super small amp that will fit where the existing door chime is under the dash on the passenger side:

    The idea is to just use phone or tablet if I need audio. To control it safely and easily, I also got a small bluetooth controller from the same company that will fit where the lighter is on the early cars:

    This allows for on/off, play/pause, skip/rewind and importantly volume up/down. I haven't installed it yet but I did hook it up and it sounds good.
  16. Niklas Andersson

    Niklas Andersson Daily Driver

    Eskilstuna Sweden
    While looking at your link, I stumbled onto these players:



    The form factor seems to be almost exactly what you are looking for.
    It seems like you would need to find a suitable amplifier for them though.
    Haven't tried them myself so I cant vouch for the quality.
  17. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Sin City
    Those little players like I showed a pic of, and Karl discussed, and dllubin had, etc - honestly do not waste your time and pocket change on them. After the one I got was bad, I looked into them more. EVERYONE that has ever bought one had the same experience as dllubin and myself. They are utter crap, which is why you can buy them for $3. There's several versions of them; slightly different look, size, functions, etc but they are all the same quality wise. Many of them are not even stereo, but mono. The problems with them go on and on and on. I agree they seem to be a good answer, but look for something better.
  18. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Sin City
    Sorry, I doubt I'll be able to get back over to that side of the show (it is a lot bigger than you can imagine). I do recall it saying something about a "smart speaker". I guess that is something like those home devices? But I don't really know what that means.
  19. I think the term "Smart Speaker" is now being applied to those devices you can talk to in order to access a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri.
  20. I recently found a Bluetooth unit specifically designed for adding that capability to a car radio with an auxiliary input. It runs on 12V so no internal battery to deal with. It also has no buttons to push. Once you pair a device to it, it will automatically reconnect when you get in the car so it is pretty much transparent. I installed it behind the dashboard so it is not even visible. It works so well, I just ordered another one for the system in my workshop.

    Here is a link to the one I bought:


    There are a number of different ones on eBay. I paid $14.99 for this one. You can also get them shipped from China for about half that price.

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