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Article from
APRIL 2006

All rights reserved.
Story & Photography By Matt Emery

     We like the look of classic vehicles, and that goes for the look of a classic dash panel. The one thing we never liked was the need to cut up the dash to install a newer stereo system. Now, thanks to the folks at Custom Autosound, those days are over. Now you can install a Custom Autosound system in a vintage ride without having to "carve" it up, and you don't need to be an electrical engineer.
    The owner of this '65 Ford Mustang is a typical example of a Custom Autosound customer. She wanted a modern system that would, of course, incorporate everything she was looking for in a stereo (i.e., great sound and CD capabilities), but one that would also fit into the stock opening. She also wanted the system to retain the look of the stock unit right down to the adjustment knobs. She listens mostly to the "standards" station on an AM channel, but over the years the stock dash-mounted speaker has been damage to the extent that the sound emanating from it was really bad. She also had a collection of CDs form her favorite crooners that were doing her no good sitting at home, so she decided to upgrade the audio system. However, she liked that the 'Stang was in its original state, and she didn't want to cut the dash just to fit a normal stereo system. She wanted to have her standards and listen to them in an undamaged car while not altering the look of her retro ride. Luckily for her, Custom Autosound has exactly what she was looking for.
     Since 1979, Custom Autosound has been producing state-of-the-art stereo systems that fit the stock radio opening. It was back then that Custom Autosound owner Carl Sprague designed just such a unit, one that would fit without having to alter the interior of his car. Since then, he and his crew have expanded the products offered by Custom Autosound to include systems for more than 400 different makes and models ranging in years from the '40s through the '80s. There is even a Secretaudio unit for those who have smoothed or modified their dash so that no opening exist anywhere.
     Here we will chronicle the installation of a Custom Autosound USA-6 unit in an early Mustang. The installation of the unit is fairly straightforward, and one that most folks with a base knowledge of a vehicle's electrical system and stereo-based electronics can do at home. So, Follow along as Custom Autosound brings this Mustang audibly into the modern age, but with its great looks intact.


1. The heart of the matter is the Custom Autosound head unit. This model is the USA-6. It features AM/FM stereo and 140 watts of power and is capable of operating a CD changer. It is the one Custom Autosound unit that doesn't have a cassette player (but, really, who needs that function nowadays, as CDs have taken over---at least for now and until MP3 obsoletes them). It even has a cool Mustang running along its face. Oh, don't let the numbers on the dial fool you--they are only there for looks; the unit uses LED numbers to display the station and the CD readout. 2. The Custom Autosound CD changer holds 10 disc that are easily installed into the magazine. All controls for the changer are found on the head unit. 3. Custom Autosound has devised these dual voice-coil speaker to fit in the place of the stock dash speaker.

They are pre-wired as they come from Custom Autosound, so installing them is simply a matter of plugging them into the main radio wiring harness. It can handle 140 watts of power. 4. Gone also are the days of having to cut a hole in your door panels to mount speakers. Custom Autosound has eliminated that drastic step with its kickpanel-mounted speakers. These unit are black, high-density molded ABS plastic, so they can be installed as is, or they can easily be painted or covered with upholstery if the interior of your ride is another color. They feature a 6" coaxial (two-way) speakers that are capable of handling 80 watts of power each. As with the company's other speakers, the units are pre-wired with male and female ends, so there is no chance of a wiring problem.

5. The stock unit did a great job of delivering the mono-based signals of the '60s, but what you need today are stereo capabilities. 6. The first step when working on any automotive electrical system is to remove the negative lead on the battery. 7. You've got to start somewhere, so the first step was to remove the stock dash speaker. Thankfully, Ford eliminated the need to reach under the dash by installing the unit form the top. After removing the mounting screws, the speaker grill was lifted up and removed. 8. Using an angled screwdriver helps with the tight confines when removing the mounting screws, and the stock speaker is lifted out. 9. The head unit is held in place with nuts on the adjustment post, as well as from behind with a mounting strap.

10. After the hardware is removed, the stock head unit is removed.  11. After that, the stock kick panels removed. It is advisable to remove the stock items and install the new speakers first. This way, the lead wires can be run to the new radio wiring harness.  12. After the lead wires are separated and marked (L and R), the dash speaker is set into place. Again, the angled screwdriver comes in handy when installing the mounting screws.  13. Connecting the speaker to the main harness is simplicity itself. Simply find the right harness wire and plug in the speaker wire.  14. The only difficult part of the operation is finding the hot wires needed. Since the Custom Autosound unit has electronic presets, a constantly hot

wire, as well as a keyed hot wire, needs to be found. The stock radio hot wire is keyed, so that one is easy. The constantly hot wire can be found in the fuse block or even the headlight switch. Also, it should be said that the ground lead should be solidly fixed to a non-painted metal surface. A bad ground is usually the reason an automotive electrical device won't work properly, so take care when doing this step.  15. The new style of connecting wires is a new take on the old wire nuts. These butt-end connections are strong and simple to use-- just twist the wires, slip on the connector and crimp. 

16. The kick-panel speakers are put in place an will be help tight with screws.  17. The CD changer will be located in the trunk, so the lead wire is run beneath the driver's-side doorsill and up under the back panel of the rear seat. Note that the changer gets its power from this lead, so there is no need to run a power wire.  18.  With all the wires connected  to the radio harness, and that harness plugged into the rear of the unit, it's time to install the Custom Autosound head unit. The unit is carefully slipped into place.

19. One of the tools of the trade is the deep-throw nut driver. But for those of us at home, fingers do a good job of installing the nuts, and a small wrench is enough to tighten them. Just remember that you are not holding down the Queen Mary, so don't over-tighten the nuts. Using the rear-mounting strap is equally important, as the act of driving will jostle the unit enough to possibly damage the post if the strap is not there to hold the rear of the unit steady.  20. There is some prep needed before installing the CD changer. The plates that cover the ends need to be removed  to get to the items beneath. 

21. Three screws hold the internals together so that no damage occurs during shipping, and they must be removed at install or the unit won't work. Also, there is an orientation knob that also must be set. If the unit is going to be mounted flat, the knob is set to "0". If the unit is mounted in the upright position it must be set to "90".  22. Mounting plates are also supplied, and they are affixed to the screw holes where the shipping plates were mounted.  23. The mounts are affixed with self-tapping sheet metal screws (just make sure you look beneath the area so you don't screw into anything that could be damaged). 24. With the lead wire plugged in and the magazine filled with your favorite CDs, the changer is ready to, well...change CDs.  25. The cover plate for the dash speaker is reinstalled.  26. The last step is to reattach the battery lead, and the job is done.  27. Ready to rock...well in this case we guess it's "ready to croon." Anyway, the Custom Autosound system is in place and ready to provide years of audible pleasure to the driver and passengers of this classic Mustang.

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