Can You Put a New Radio in an Old Car? Revamp the Retro




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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.

You can install a new radio in an old car. Modern radios can be adapted to fit older vehicles with specialized mounting kits and wiring harnesses. It’s essential to ensure compatibility between the car’s electrical system and the new radio, and professional installation is recommended for a seamless fit and optimal functionality.

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.

Considering an upgrade to your car’s audio system? You need to understand the car stereo features first. Check out our article for a detailed explanation.


Ah, the golden age of classic cars. Remember when cruising down the boulevard in that shiny vintage beauty was the height of luxury?

Now, imagine enjoying the same ride, but with a twist of modern entertainment – streaming your favorite songs, making calls hands-free, or even navigating the bustling city with GPS. This is why upgrading the radio in your classic car is such a tempting idea.

Why Someone Might Want to Upgrade an Old Car Radio

#1. Modern Features in a Classic Setting: Picture this – you’re driving a 1969 Ford Mustang, and while you’re absorbing the nostalgia, you’re also listening to a podcast streamed from your phone. How?

Through a modern radio system! The fusion of classic and contemporary can be both fun and functional.

#2. Enhanced Audio Quality: Older radios might have a nostalgic charm, but they can’t match today’s sound quality. Modern systems offer clear audio, bass boosts, and even surround sound capabilities.

#3. Example: Think about how vinyl records, though vintage and treasured, have certain limits in sound quality when compared to today’s digital formats. It’s somewhat similar with old car radios versus the new ones.

#4. Increased Car Value: An old car in mint condition can fetch a good price. But an old car with both its original charm intact and upgraded utilities? Even better. By merging the classic look with contemporary features, you might boost the car’s market appeal.

#4. Specific Fact: According to a survey by Classic Car Restoration Club, over 65% of classic car enthusiasts appreciate modern amenities in vintage vehicles, with updated audio systems ranking high on their list.

#5. Safety and Convenience: Today’s car radios are about more than just music. They integrate with phones for hands-free calls, provide GPS navigation, and even display important notifications, ensuring that the driver isn’t distracted.

Remember the time when you had to pull over to read a map or make a call? Modern radio systems eliminate such inconveniences, ensuring a smoother and safer drive.

Why Upgrade Your Car Radio?

Have you ever thought about how much time you actually spend in your car? If you’re like most of us, it’s quite a bit. With all those hours on the road, it’s no wonder we want our cars to be as cozy, modern, and entertaining as our homes.

And, while a plush seat cushion might improve comfort, upgrading your car radio can drastically enhance your driving experience. Let’s dive into why:

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.

Other Modern Features: Touchscreens, GPS, app compatibility, etc.

It’s not just about the music anymore. Today’s car radios are basically mini-computers offering:

  • Touchscreens: Interactive, vibrant, and intuitive, touchscreens bring your dashboard to life.
  • Example: Ever tried searching for a radio station with old dials? Now, with just a swipe or tap, you can access a world of entertainment.
  • GPS Navigation: Getting lost is so last century. With built-in GPS, you always know where you’re headed. Plus, real-time traffic updates help avoid those pesky jams.
  • App Compatibility: Spotify, Apple Music, or even podcast apps; modern radios integrate them all for an uninterrupted entertainment flow.

Aux To Bluetooth Conversion

If your car is from the era where aux ports were the rage, but you don’t have Bluetooth, don’t fret. Converting aux to Bluetooth is simpler than you’d think. There are nifty little gadgets available that plug into your car’s aux port and transform it into a Bluetooth receiver.

Choosing the Right Stereo for Your Car

Stepping into an old car always gives a nostalgic feeling – the smell of leather, the vintage design, and the memories associated. But let’s face it; old school car radios may not always offer the best sound quality or modern features we’ve grown accustomed to.

So, the question stands: how do you choose the perfect stereo for your timeless vehicle?

Find a Stereo That Fits Your Needs

Before you even begin shopping, it’s essential to define what you’re looking for.

Are you someone who prefers crystal-clear sound? Or maybe you’re more into high bass? Perhaps, hands-free calling is a must-have for you. List down your requirements.

  • Sound Quality: Look for stereos that boast superior sound clarity and enhanced bass.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB, and aux inputs are almost standard now.
  • Smartphone Integration: A bonus if you’re into streaming music or using navigation apps.

Find a Stereo That Fits Your Car

Just like clothes, not all stereos are a one-size-fits-all solution. Some cars have more space while others might require specific mounts or fittings.

Always check the dimensions of the stereo unit and compare them with your car’s available space. A misfit could lead to both aesthetic and functional challenges.

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.

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.

Further Reading About Car Radios

If you like this post, there are a few more related to this topic that you may find interesting. If you do, click the link below and enjoy another article.

How to Set Up a Pioneer Car Stereo?

Installation and setup are crucial for the performance of your Pioneer car stereo. Gain insights on how to set up a Pioneer car stereo in our comprehensive guide.

How to Bypass Parking Brake in Pioneer Car Stereo?

Certain safety features, while crucial, might need adjustments for specific uses. Learn the method to bypass parking brake in Pioneer car stereo.


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.