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Can You Put a New Radio in an Old Car?

Every driver wants a brand new radio in the car, but not all of us drive new vehicles.

Because of that, many ask themselves whether they can put a modern car stereo in an old classic car? Well, let’s find out.

It is possible to install a new radio in an old car. First, you need to ensure that the radio is the right size to fit into the dashboard and has the correct connections and a mounting bracket. Another way is to install a brand new radio that does look like a vintage one but has the full functionality of modern car stereos.

As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.

Tip: If you want to install new car radio in the classic car but do not want to have the radio’s modern look or the touchscreen, you can purchase an original “vintage look” stereo from Retro Manufacturing (link to Amazon).

Although they fit and look like original ones from the ’60s, these radios have functionality from new radios and are equipped with many features like USB, Bluetooth, RCA ports, or even SiriusXM.

In the article below, I will guide you on installing a new radio in an old car.

What Radio Types Are Factory Installed in Old Cars?

In the old days, cars had AM radio, which played only mono sound. Then, in the late ’60s, FM radios became available in vehicles, but they were still only playing mono sound.

It was not until the early ’80s that car stereo systems with two speakers and stereo sound were introduced.

Regarding the radio’s sizes, the original radios in the old cars were usually small. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, most cars had radios about 5″ wide by 3.5″ tall.

Retro Manufacturing HI-304-68-78 Hermosa Direct-Fit Radio for Classic Vehicle (Face & Ivory Buttons and Faceplate)

Modern car stereos are much larger these days, with some touchscreen models as large as 7″ wide by 10″ tall.

Another difference between the old vintage radios and modern car stereos is the lack of auxiliary inputs and USB ports because those technologies were not available back then.

What Radio Sizes Can Fit the Old Cars?

Most modern radios will not fit into the dashboards of the old cars unless you make modifications.

To avoid that, you can purchase a “retrofit” kit that will allow you to install a modern radio in your classic car without making any permanent changes to the dash.

These kits are usually specific to certain makes and models of cars, so be sure to get the correct one for your vehicle.

There are also universal retrofit kits available, but they may require some modification to the dash or console to fit correctly.

Can I Have a Bluetooth in the Old Car?

You can have Bluetooth in the old car. You just need to get a radio with Bluetooth built-in or purchase a separate Bluetooth adapter that you can connect to the radio via AUX wire.

If you want to keep the original look of your car’s dash, some companies make modern radios that look like the original ones. These radios usually have modern features like Bluetooth and USB ports, but they will fit into the original dash without any modification.

One example is Retro Manufacturing (link to Amazon) which makes not only radios but also other car audio products, speakers, kick panels, subwoofers or antennas.

How to Connect a New Car Stereo to the Old Car?

Connecting depends on the type of car and radio you have. Most modern vehicles have a standard ISO connector for the radio, which means unplugging the old radio and plugging in the new one.

If installing a standard DIN size radio in an older car, you may need to purchase an adapter kit to connect the stereo with the dashboard or even modify the dashboard to accommodate the larger stereo.

Apache Radio with Installation Bezel, Chrome Knob Kit and Vintage Overlay Compatible with 1954 Chevrolet Truck

Regardless of the radio type you want to install, below are the key steps to follow:

#1. Start by disconnecting the negative terminal of your car’s battery to prevent any electrical shorts. This is important because otherwise, you will work with wiring connected to the battery.

#2. Remove the trim panel and the old radio from the dash. In most cars, this will involve removing a few screws and pulling the radio out of the dash.

#3. If your new radio does not have an ISO connector, you can use a Scosche adaptor kit (link to Amazon) or wire all individual wires.

Since all new radios have standard harnesses, I recommend connecting all wires in the dashboard to the harness.

#4. Connect the new radio to the car’s electrical system. This will usually involve connecting the power and ground wires to the corresponding wires on the vehicle.

You may also need to connect the amplifier turn-on wire to the new radio.

#5. Connect the new radio’s antenna to the car’s antenna. In most cases, this will involve adding the wire extension and screwing it to the original antenna’s wire.

#6. Before permanently placing the radio in its place, test it to ensure it is working correctly.

To do this, reconnect the negative terminal of your car’s battery and turn on the radio. Then, if everything is working fine, you can screw the new radio into the dashboard.

How Much Does It Cost to Put a New Radio in an Old Car?

The highest cost is the cost of the radio itself.

The new radio can be anywhere from $30 to over $1,000, depending on the model, but if you decide to install a brand new radio with a vintage look, be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars.

For example, Apache for a 1954 Chevrolet Pickup Truck (link to Amazon) costs over $200.

Apache Radio Compatible with 1955-59 GMC or Chevrolet Truck with Installation Bezel, Chrome Knob Kit and Vintage Dial Screen

The next cost is the installation kit, which will be specific to your car. These can range in price from $10 to $50.

If you need to modify the dash or console to get the new radio to fit, that will add to the cost.

And finally, if you are uncomfortable doing the installation yourself, you will need to pay someone to do it for you. Depending on the job’s complexity, this can cost anywhere from $50 to $200.

So, you can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to over $1,500 to put a new radio in your old car.

Which Radios Are Best for the Old Cars?

When choosing the radio, I recommend the modern ones that look like original vintage radios.

They are equipped with modern features and functionality, but they will not require any modifications to the dash.

It can be just me, but they add a little of a classic look and taste to the old vehicles, while the new ones with large touch screens just do not fit there.

For example, the radios from Retro Manufacturing (link to Amazon) are simple plug-and-play.

If you are looking for something different to give your old car a modern look, I recommend checking out the double DIN stereos.

These stereos are twice as tall as a standard radio and can offer features like navigation, Bluetooth, and hands-free calling.

However, installing a double DIN stereo in an older car can be more challenging and will likely require modifications to the dash.

Sometimes, you may need to build a wall in the glove box and install the new radio there.

Conclusion

Installing a new radio in an old car is not as difficult as it may seem. With patience and the right tools, you can easily install a new radio in your classic car.

The most important thing is to make sure you have a suitable kit for your car and that you follow the instructions carefully.

If you are not comfortable doing the installation yourself, many professional car stereo installers can do it for you. Just be prepared to pay a little extra for their services.

So there you have it. Now you know how to put a new radio in an old car. Just follow these simple instructions, and you’ll be listening to your favourite tunes in no time.