Retro car radios: fresh sound for oldtimers and youngtimers

From the outside the oldtimer sounds full. Deep bubbling, light sipping. But inside, only squawking sounds can be heard when the radio is turned. Old radios in oldtimers can spoil the ride. That’s why manufacturers like retrosound have specialized in new radios with an old look, and tinkering specialists are breathing hard rock back into old classic radios.

Christoph de leuw of "computer bild" sees no alternative in many car radios trimmed for old age. "the radios often turn out to be cheap and not worth the money," he says. Customers should look for a look that matches their car.

"in extreme cases, an H license plate is not possible with a modern radio, because it does not correspond to the original impression."dimensions and connections are seldom a problem, but it’s still a good idea to take a look at the electrical system in your own car before buying.

"Some U.S. oldtimers have different shafts, very old vehicles have a six-volt system, and on British vehicles, plus runs through the bodywork," explains de leuw. With the bremen SQR46 DAB+, Blaupunkt offers a car radio with modern technology in the look of the 1980s.

It has a DAB+ tuner, bluetooth and connections for USB, jack and SD card. "the radio works and sounds good, but at around 450 euros, it’s no bargain," says de leuw.

Restoring old car radios

mercedes often used to have a becker radio. For this purpose, there were a large number of installation kits for a wide variety of manufacturers such as aston martin, jaguar, porsche or VW. a few years ago, konigs-klassik-radios took over the stock and can now overhaul or restore becker radios from 1940 to the mid-1990s with new original parts. new interior in old radios is not offered, but an aux-in-input, over which often additional modules can be plugged in.

A combination of radio and navi in the standard radio DIN slot is interesting for classic car owners. "permanently installed and visible systems in old vehicles are not nice, however, and are often not accepted during an H-approval," says jan hennen from deuvet, the federal association for oldtimer-youngtimer. Hidden installations are sometimes a better solution – or navigation via an app on the smartphone.

Whether a good sound can be integrated into a historic vehicle does not necessarily depend on the radio, but also on the vehicle itself. "some cars are so loud that no good sound is possible at all," says de leuw.

"or there is not enough space for good loudspeakers. a renault alpine A110 might be a hopeless case for a good radio sound." on the other hand, speakers can be replaced in other cars.

bluetooth speakers can be an alternative. "they are uncomplicated and comparatively inexpensive – for under 200 euros, there are small bluetooth speakers with decent sound," says de leuw.

"but they have to be fastened securely, so that they don’t skid through the car in case of a full brake application."in addition, there is a holder for the smartphone, which disturbs the visual impression. In addition, using the smartphone while driving is a quick distraction.

modernize car radios with bluetooth

de leuw advises against buying old radios on auction platforms. "as a rule, the radios are just as old as their own, which interested parties want to replace."it is different if the original radio has been professionally refurbished.

Peter wallich of youngtimerradio in ellerdorf specializes in exactly this area. For 15 years, he has been repairing, maintaining and modernizing radios from the 1930s to the late 1990s. Owners of youngtimers, i.e. cars up to 30 years old, are the main users of his services. "no matter whether at BMW, audi, opel, mercedes or porsche. It’s not just the sheet metal that gets old, but also the radio," says wallich.

For example, the electrolytic capacitors often used in radios dry out and no longer store any current, contacts corrode, and buttons fall off. "then the only thing that helps is replacing the defective parts and overhauling the electronics in conjunction with sound optimization," says wallich.

Very old radios without FM reception can be retrofitted with a special module. "the sound of old tube radios can also be optimized by a discrete power amplifier"."

In addition to repairs, he modernizes music sources with bluetooth or jack connections. How drivers can connect the radio to their smartphone or MP3 player. With a small additional remote control, the songs can be fast-forwarded, rewound or selected. a modern bluetooth module fits in most radios, even in one from 1934.

New car speakers provide fresh sound

Radios from U.S. vehicles wallich completely guts and uses modern technology. "you can’t see them, but you can hear them all the better. the radios sound great again," says the tinkerer. Even the controls for volume or station search remain the same. He advises customers to keep the original radio and have it modernized. "because it has been part of the car from the very beginning, it is an original part."

For a good sound in the car also provide other components such as an active subwoofer, speakers, amplifier and an antenna system. "they have to be matched so it sounds clean," says wallich. " to get more sound volume, a separate power amplifier can also help."

If old broadband loudspeakers become porous and cracked, the speakers start to buzz. "for many vehicles, there are new loudspeakers that sound much better and fit into the old holes," promises wallich. Then the sound is right again. Outside as well as inside.

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